Bf 109E-7/Trop, Hptm. Erich Gerlitz, CO of 2./JG 27, Ain-el-Gazala, Libya, summer 1941
Erich Gerlitz, originally from Linz, Austria, began his military aviation career in the Austrian Air Force in 1930. In 1935 he completed his studies at the Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt. After the Anschluss of Austria, he continued flying with the Luftwaffe. At the beginning of World War II, he commanded 3./JG 51, followed by service with JG 2 and JG 1. On April 17, 1941 he took
command of 2./JG 27, with which he subsequently participated in the deployment in Africa. During his time with JG 27 in Africa
he added to his previous three kills another 13, two more kills achieved in III./JG 53 which he commanded from May 20, 1942.
The last kill was achieved by Maj. Gerlitz in I./JG 5, which he commanded from January 25, 1944. Death caught him on March 16,
1944, when he was shot down during a dogfight with a P-47. He bailed out from his damaged Bf 109G-6 but did not have enough
height for the parachute to open. Bf 109E-7s used in North Africa were fitted with a desert filter, reducing the amount of fine
dust particles in the air intake of the engine. The camouflage used on the European battlefield was replaced by paints to better
camouflage the aircraft during their deployment on that continent.
Bf 109E-7, WNr. 3523, Lt. Wolf-Dietrich Widowitz, 5./JG 5, Petsamo (nowadays Pechenga, Russia),
Finland, April 1942
Originally produced as the Bf 109E-1, this aircraft was withdrawn in the second half of 1940 for upgrade to the Bf 109E-7/Trop
standard. It means apart of all the necessary equipment it was also camouflaged with RLM79 paint on the upper and side surfaces, while the lower surfaces were sprayed with RLM 78 paint. Although it was prepared for service in the hot African skies,
there is no record of the aircraft operating in Africa. It was sent to JG 5 operating in northern Europe instead. The camouflage
was repainted in the RLM 74/75/76 colors, and the engine cowling received yellow paint. The serial number was covered with
tape when the camouflage colors were applied, but its base color remained original. The WNr. 3523 was sent to JG 5 on March
22, 1942, the following day it became the personal mount of Lt. Wolf-Dietrich Widowitz. Its appearance in northern Europe was
short-lived. On April 4, 1942, while escorting a Bf 110 the unit was attacked by four Mk.IIb Hurricanes from the 2nd GIAP was
Widowitz forced to make an emergency landing on the frozen lake of Shonlgul-javr (Finland). Widowitz was rescued with minor
injuries, some of the instruments and weapons were removed from the aircraft and the rest was left in place. In August 2003,
a rescue operation was launched during which the Messerschmitt was recovered from the water, treated and is currently at the
Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, California.
INFO Eduard - December 2021