Text: Jan Bobek

Illustration: Piotr Forkasiewicz

Surprise over Heesch

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-14/AS with

a number one on the side of the fuselage

was found at the end of the war at Twenthe

airfield in the Netherlands. In the past, there

were disputes about the colour of the stripes

on the fuselage, the colour of the fuselage

number, or whether its serial number was

786930 or 786938. In our kit, we leaned towards some selection of these possibilities.

The machine probably belonged to III./JG 6,

although it lacks the III. Gruppe marking and

the bands on the fuselage, which are rarely documented on this unit, should be three,

two red and a white one in the middle. The

question is how this Messerschmitt got to

this base. Because JG 6 did not have a base

at Twenthe and did not operate in this part of

Europe from early January 1945. It cannot be

ruled out that “1” participated in the attack on

Allied airfields on New Year's Day 1945, the

so-called Operation Bodenplatte.

JG 6 “Horst Wessel” is one of the lesser-known Luftwaffe units. As its combat name

suggests, the I. and II. Gruppe were formed

at Königsberg in July 1944 by the re-designation of I. and II./ZG 26 “Horst Wessel”. Their

pilots switched from twin-engined fighters

to Fw 190s. The III. Gruppe had a different

origin, however, and was formed in October

1944 by the renaming of I./JG 5 “Eismeer”

equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109s. It was

commanded by the well-known fighter pilot Theo Weissenberger, who had 200 aerial

victories to his credit at that time. At the

end of November, he left this unit to join

November 2022

JG 7 armed with Me 262 jets to take over

its I. Gruppe. He was replaced by Major

Helmut Kühle, who previously commanded

II./JG 52 and before that, in 1943, had the Slovak

13./JG 52 under his command.

The commander of the entire JG 6 was

Austrian Obstlt. Johann Kogler, originally

a Bf 110 pilot and a veteran of the Battle of

Britain. He learned of the plan to attack Allied

airfields at a briefing in early December. The

target of JG 6 was to be the Volkel airbase in

The Netherlands. He briefed some of his officers about the operation and its target and

even had a model of Volkel airfield built so

that the raid could be well prepared. When

the offensive in the Ardennes began to take

place, Kogler was surprised because the order to raid the Allied airfields had not come.

He was even more surprised when the order

eventually came on December 31, 1944, the

raid was to be carried out on New Year's Day.

Everything seemed to be in perfect readiness and three Ju 88 night fighters from

III./NJG 5 were on standby at each Gruppe to

guide the attacking formations to their targets in flight very low over the terrain. The

first wave of the attack was to be carried

out by Focke-Wulfs from I. and II. Gruppe,

while Messerschmitts from III. Gruppe were

to provide altitude cover. The Germans, however, had no idea of the newly built Allied

air bases at Heesch and Helmond, which

were on their flight path to Volkel. During the

flight to the target, the formation even flew,

to the surprise of both sides, over Heesch

airfield, where Canadian Spitfires were based. Moreover, while navigating to Volkel,

where two Wings of Tempests and Typhoons were based, an error was made, and the

JG 6 formation did not find the intended target at all. Instead, I./JG 6 mistakenly attacked

Eindhoven, while II./JG 6 together with

III./JG 6 attacked Helmond also by mistake.

The worst losses were suffered by III./JG 6,

this unit lost 13 of the 20 Messerschmitts

deployed. It was attacked by several Spitfires from No. 401 Squadron RCAF while still

flying towards the target. The German fighters reported the Canadians to Kühle, but he

ordered them to continue to the target. Then

the Canadians managed to shoot down two

Bf 109s. Only then did Kühle order part of his

unit to engage the Spitfires.

After the action, JG 6 claimed the destruction

or damage of 43 aircraft on the ground and

the shooting down of six fighters in the air.

However, the operation ended disastrously for this unit. Kommodore Kogler and

Major Kühle were hit by flak, the Kommodore was captured while the commander

of III./JG 6 was killed. Total 43% of the 77 aircraft deployed were destroyed or damaged.

The unit lost 23 pilots who were killed,

missing, or captured.

JG 6 was withdrawn from combat after this

action in order to be reequipped. Its new

Kommodore was Gerhard Barkhorn, and

it was to fight on the Eastern Front until

the end of the war.

INFO Eduard