Text: Jan Bobek

Illustration: Piotr Forkasiewicz

Luftwaffe command assessed in 1944 that it could no longer deploy twin-engine bombers for day operations, it wondered how to deal with the surplus crews. Several bomber units, including KG 6, were selected to have their pilots retrained on the Bf 109s and Fw 190s. From the end of the year they thus bore modified designations, in the case of the unit mentioned above it was KG(J) 6, the “J” standing for Jagd, a fighter unit. One of the Luftwaffe priorities was to use the experience of bomber pilots to fly in poor weather conditions. Their experience in operating twin-engine machines was also to serve as a good basis for eventually switching KG(J) units to the Me 262 jets. At the same time, their aircraft received elements of the Luftwaffe rapid identification system, which was introduced in the second half of the war. In the case of KG(J) 6, these were black and red squares. 

The three KG(J) 6 Gruppen were converted to single-engine fighters from the end of 1944 at Ruzyně (German: Prag-Rusin) and Kbely (Prag-Gbell) airfields in Prague. They also used the Klecany (Groß Kletzan) airfield north of Prague. The Kommodore of this Geschwader was Obstlt. Hermann Hogeback, who was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War and spent most of his war career with KG 6. He was shot down twice by a night fighter and became a recipient of the Knight's Cross with oak leave and swords.The I. and II. Gruppe of his unit were equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109 G and K. The CO of I./KG(J) 6 was Major Ernst Haller, a veteran of KG 26 “Löwen”. For most of the time II./KG(J) 6 was undergoing retraining for fighters, its CO was Hptm. Hans-Joachim Faulhaber, who had previously served with KG 77 and was awarded the Knight's Cross. In 1942 he escaped night fighter over England and returned with a damaged plane. Faulhaber was replaced at the end of March 1945 by Hptm. Wilhelm Kunze, who had seen combat on the Western Front with KG 2 and was also shot down by a British fighter.

For the boxart of this kit Piotr Forkasiewicz depicted the encounter that occurred north of Prague on 31 March 1945 between seventeen airmen of KG(J) 6 and the same number of pilots on P-51Ds from the 309th FS, 31st FG. The American formation, led by the executive officer of the 31st Fighter Group Lt.Col. Fred C. Stoffel, spotted the 109s at 2.00 pm over the Klecany airfield while flying among the clouds at 6000 feet. Only two of the American airmen had downed aircraft in previous combats. There was confusion on the German side because after announcing visual contact with the Americans, the Germans were given a nonsensical order to land! The Mustangs pounced on the Messerschmitts flying below and a manoeuvre fight ensued from which the more experienced American pilots emerged victorious. They reported 18 kills, the Germans actually lost nine machines. Four pilots were killed and three were wounded, belonging to the 2. and 4. Staffel of KG(J) 6. Commander of 4./KG(J) 6 Hptm. Erwin Zöllner was among those killed. 

Germans reported only one seriously damaged Mustang, which is consistent with the fact that the 309th FS commander Maj. Simon H. Johnson Jr had to make an emergency landing with the damaged machine at a British-controlled airfield in Croatia. The rest of the unit returned safely to Mondolfo Air Base in Italy. 

A week after this encounter, the Luftwaffe command decided to disband Stab, I. and II./KG(J) 6, representing approximately 1,000 Luftwaffe personnel. Some of the airmen were transferred to III./KG(J) 6, which was rearming with the Me 262 at Prague-Ruzyně and reached operational status in mid-April. However, its pilots had made limited combat engagements with the Me 262s in the preceding weeks. The number of jet aircraft of this unit hardly exceeded ten. Its mission was to intercept Allied four-engine bombers. In the last weeks of the war its airmen achieved a few more aerial victories. The unit continued to operate almost until the last day of the war. It was involved in attacks on Red Army ground forces advancing from the northwest towards Prague and also in the fighting against the Prague Uprising. One of its last tasks was the defence of Ruzyně Airport against the units of General Vlasov's Russian Liberation Army (ROA), which had originally fought on the side of the Germans and briefly joined the Prague Uprising.