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Jg 27

Jagdgeschwader 27

Active 1939 – 1945
Country Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Branch Air Force
Type Fighter Aircraft
Role Air superiority
Size Air Force Wing
Nickname Afrika
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Eduard Neumann
Aircraft flown
Fighter Bf 109

Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27) Afrika was a World War II Luftwaffe Geschwader. It was most famous for service in the North African Campaign, supporting the Deutsches Afrikakorps.

Formation

The Geschwader Stab (headquarters staff) and I. Gruppe/JG 27 were formed in Handorf, Germany on 1 October 1939. The emblem of I Gruppe, featuring a map of Africa, originated with the Gruppenkommandeur in 1940, Hauptmann Helmut Riegel (killed in action 20 July 1940) who was born in German South West Africa.

II. Gruppe was formed in January 1940 in Magdeburg. In July 1940, I./JG 1 was transferred to JG 27 as III. Gruppe.

From July 1941, a Spanish contingent flew with the Geschwader as 15./JG 27. IV. Gruppe was formed in June 1943 in Kalamaki, Greece.

Wartime service

Western and Eastern Europe

JG 27 saw considerable action both during the Battle of France as part of VIII. Fliegerkorps, scoring heavily against Allied bombers during the crossing of the Meuse river. 285 claims for aircraft destroyed were made, Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar (of 1./JG 1, by July renamed 7./JG 27) becoming top scorer of the campaign with 24 air kills and 13 ground kills. Hauptmann Adolf Galland the Geschwader adjudant to Geschwaderkommodore Oberst Max Ibel, also made 14 claims during the campaign.

Based near Cherbourg for the Battle of Britain, JG 27 had a relatively inauspicious campaign, claiming 146 aircraft downed although losses of pilots were heavy with 83 Bf -109Es lost, and 58 killed, missing or POW by December 1940. In November JG 27 redeployed back to Germany for re-equipping and rest. From 24 September - 5 November, JG 27 was based at Saint-Inglevert, Pas-de-Calais.[1]

In April 1941 the Geschwader briefly served in the Balkans, before (with the exception of I./JG 27) participating in the opening offensive against the Soviet Union on the central front in June 1941. On the first day of action Major Wolfgang Schellmann bailed out over Soviet territory when he collided with an I-153 Chayka fighter flown by a Lt. Kuzmin. Kuzmin was killed in the collision but Schellmann managed to bail out, but failed to make his way back to German lines and was captured and later executed by NKVD troops.[2] In September a Spanish Air Force volunteer staffel was attached to JG 27, becoming 15.(span.)/JG 27. Recalled to Spain in January 1942, 460 missions were flown on the Eastern Front for 10 air kills claimed. In November the Gruppen were returned to Germany for re-fitting. After a short stint in the Eastern front the Jagdgeschwader 27 left for Africa.

North Africa

I. Gruppe had been sent in April 1941 to Gazala, North Africa in order to support the Afrikakorps. Under the astute command of Hauptmann "Edu" Neumann, one of the Luftwaffe's most capable field commanders, I. Gruppe would quickly improve its performance. On 19 April I./JG 27 claimed its first four victories in air combat: one by Oberleutnant Karl-Wolfgang Redlich, Staffelkapitän of 1. Staffel, provided I./JG 27 with its 100th victory of the war.

In September, the group was joined by Hpt. Wolfgang Lippert’s II./JG 27, which had achieved 43 victories in a three-week stint on the Eastern Front. II. Gruppe was now equipped with the Bf109F-2/Trop . The arrival of II. Gruppe permitted I./JG 27 to rotate back to Germany, one Staffel at a time, to exchange its war-weary "Emils" (Bf 109Es) for brand new "Friedrichs" (109Fs). The whole process would take well over a month. With the arrival of III./JG 27 from Russia in late October, by December the whole of JG 27 was in North Africa. The Geschwader units on the Eastern Front had claimed over 270 aircraft during operations in 1941, for just 16 aircraft lost in air combat.


The Geschwader had an immediate impact on the campaign, which had up until then been dominated by the British Commonwealth's Desert Air Force. JG 27 now became synonymous with the Afrikakorps and the campaign in North Africa, providing Rommel's army with fighter protection for virtually the whole Western Desert campaign, from late 1941 until November 1942.


Fighting against the Desert Air Force's generally inferior Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss P-40s, which were often flown by inexperienced and under-trained pilots, the Bf-109s inflicted heavy losses, although serviceability in the harsh conditions and chronic fuel shortages greatly reduced the effectiveness of the Geschwader. On March 24, 1942, Leutnant Korner shot down a Douglas Boston, the 1,000th victory for the Geschwader.

On 23 March III./JG 27 sent a small detachment to Kastelli, Crete. On 5 May, a fourth Staffel was added to the Gruppe: 10.(Jabo)/JG 27. Jabo or Jagdbomber was the German term for fighter-bombers.

Leutnant Hans-Joachim Marseille and Oberfeldwebel Otto Schulz were each awarded the Knight’s Cross on 22 February (for 50 and 44 victories respectively). Schulz was promoted to Oberleutnant, although he would be shot down and killed after 51 claims on 17 June.

On 7 August a Schwarm from 5./JG 27, led by Oberfeldwebel Emil Clade, chanced upon a Bristol Bombay transport of No. 216 Squadron RAF. The Bombay was carrying a special passenger: Lt Gen. William Gott, who had been appointed Commander of the British 8th Army, only hours previously. Clade’s first pass forced the lumbering Bombay to crash-land. All but one of those remaining inside, including Gott, were killed when Unteroffizier Schneider carried out a strafing run. Gott was the highest-ranked British soldier to be killed by enemy fire in the Second World War. His death led to the hurried appointment of a replacement commander for the 8th Army, a relative unknown named Bernard Law Montgomery.

On 1 September 1942, as the Afrikakorps assaulted Allied positions at El Alamein, JG 27 had their best day. Hpt. Marseille alone claimed 17, destroying eight P-40s in 10 minutes during one sortie over Alam Halfa. However it believed that at least two, and as many as four of Marseille's "kills" were not shot down.[3]


However, author Stephen Bungay pointed out the limited military value of shooting down fighters rather than the bombers of the DAF which, by 1942, were attacking DAK and Italian ground units and convoy routes with increasingly damaging effects. He points out that on that day the DAF bombers were able to attack the Axis ground troops and rear echelons with impunity; while Marseille probably shot down 15 fighters, while the rest of the Luftwaffe pilots shot down another five confirmed aircraft:

The British lost no bombers at all. [...] The commander of JG 27, Eduard Neumann, commented after the war that 'most of the pilots in Marseille's Staffel acted in a secondary role as escort to the "master"'. Internal rivalry over star status took precedence over military effectiveness[4]

The 100 figure given by Bungay represents the Geschwader's strength, and not the number of German pilots that took part in the three missions of 1 September. The number of German fighters pilots that participated was 50, at most.

Major Robert Tate of the United States Air Force seems to reject Bungay's notion of internal rivalry. Tate argues that the Allied Squadrons were far more competitive for kills:

This points out another very basic difference between German and Allied combat philosophy. While the Allies tended to hunt in packs and compete vigorously for kills, the Germans, at least in North Africa, tended to let the best pilots "have at it" while the novices would tend to sit back and enjoy the show. This is one reason the loss of an asset like Marseille was so devastating to the Luftwaffe in Africa. That kind of emotional destruction would not likely occur in Allied squadrons.[5]

In late 1942, the Allied superiority in numbers began to tell. In the space of three weeks, Jagdgeschwader 27 was rocked by the deaths of three top aces: Leut. Günter Steinhausen (40 kills) in air combat with Hurricanes of No. 127 Squadron RAF, followed 24 hours later by Leut. Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt (59 kills) in air combat with a Spitfire from No. 601 Squadron RAF and on 30 September 1942 Hpt. Hans-Joachim Marseille, "The Star of Africa" (158 kills) was killed in an aircraft accident. By November, the intensity of operations was such that JG 27 often had fewer than a dozen fighters serviceable.

Understandably, high combat fatigue and low morale meant the Stab, I. and III. Gruppen of JG 27 were withdrawn to Sicily in October, to operate over Malta. They returned briefly to North Africa but then the whole of JG 27 was withdrawn from the theatre for the final time in December 1942. 'JG 27 was then replaced by JG 77.

I./JG 27 claimed 588 aircraft shot down in the period of April 1941–November 1942. Stahlschmidt, Steinhausen and Marseille accounted for 250 of these; a huge 42% of the unit's total. The total claims in North Africa for JG 27 were 1,166 aircraft: the Stab flight claimed one kill, I. Gruppe claimed 588, II. Gruppe 477, and III. Gruppe 100 aircraft shot down. JG 27 lost some 200 aircraft in action. The surviving top scorers were Lt Werner Schröer (I/JG 27) with 61 claims and Hpt. Gustav Rödel (II/JG 27) who by now had claimed 52 kills.

Most of JG27 avoided the final defeat of Axis forces in Africa, in Tunisia. After withdrawing to airfields in western Cyrenica, and having abandoned a large number of its aircraft along the way, the unit passed the remainder of its aircraft to JG 77 and were then evacuated from North Africa on 12 November. II./JG 27 remained nearly a month longer, based at Merduma airfield. During that month the Gruppe lost three pilots killed for six Allied fighters destroyed. The last of these kills, a Kittyhawk, was the first kill for Leutnant Hans Lewes of 6. Staffel, in the final sortie by JG 27 in Africa, on the morning of 6 December 1942.[6]

Overclaiming

Australian author Russell Brown has cast doubt on the accuracy of aerial victory claims by JG27 pilots in North Africa. Brown, who has researched the records of individual Desert Air Force squadrons, suggests that Luftwaffe claim confirmation in North Africa was less stringent than it had been during the Battle of Britain.[7] Brown points out specific, documented examples of spurious verification, such as one "confirmation" by a Panzer commander, who merely saw a "cloud of dust", after an Allied plane passed behind a sand dune.[8] He also lists several dates on which there was significant, demonstrable over-claiming by JG27 pilots. For example, pilots from JG27 were credited with destroying 19 or 20 P-40s from No. 239 Wing (No. 3 Squadron RAAF, No. 112 Squadron RAF and No. 450 Squadron RAAF) on 15 September 1942. Marseille alone claimed seven kills in six minutes. However, the records of the individual Allied squadrons show a total of five aircraft lost to enemy action that day and one lost to friendly AA fire. This analysis is supported by other authors.[9] Brown states: "clearly in the combat of 15 September, there could not have been seven accurate eyewitness reports, let alone twenty [emphasis in original], but Marseille's seven victory claims were accepted without question ... [and] other recognised Experten, Schröer, Homuth and von Lieres submitted a total of six further [accepted] claims between them."[8] During September 1942 some pilots including Karl-Heinz Bendert were involved in falsifying claims.[10]

Back to Europe

In 1943 I./JG 27 was posted to Luftflotte 3 (Air Fleet 3) in Northern France, while II./JG 27 went to Sicily and Brindisi and were tasked with the protection of the supply convoys from Sicily and Tunisia. Lt Willi Kientsch emerged as the top scorer during these operations, adding 25 claims to the 17 scored in Africa. II gruppe then returned to Germany in August 1943 for Reich air defense duties based in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Merzhausen. The gruppe, under the command of Hpt. Werner Schröer, first saw action on 6 September 1943, claiming 9 B-17's shot down. In May 1943 IV. JG 27 was formed in Greece, and was posted to defend the Rumanian oil fields at Ploesti.

I gruppe found the transition from desert warfare to anti-bomber operations difficult; many of the pilots were fresh recruits and the experten left were unfamiliar with the European theater. Gruppenkommandeur Hpt. Heinrich Setz (132 Soviet kills) was killed in March 1943. Hpt Erich Hohagen, a JG 2 veteran, was posted in to command I./JG 27, although he was badly wounded in July 1943, and the gruppe were transferred to the South of France soon after.

III./JG 27, Stab./JG 27, and IV./JG 27 remained on Crete and the Greek islands and were in action against the unsuccessful British landings on various Greek Islands in the fall of 1943. The Geschwader claimed its 2,000 kill on 29 September 1943. While based at Wels I./JG 27 increased its establishment of personnel and aircraft to double its usual complement, as the unit undertook training for experienced junior pilots from other units to become formation leaders.

On 14 May 1944 Unteroffizier. Stadler of 7. JG 27 scored the last of JG 27's victories in the North African and Mediterranean theaters when six Savoia-Marchetti SM.84s of Italian Co-Belligerent Air Force were shot down over the Strait of Otranto. JG 27s last casualty, Unteroffizier Gerhard Siegling was shot down and killed in this action. He was the last of 150 German pilots killed in the theatre.[12]

In June 1944 the invasion of France prompted I, III. and IV./JG 27 to be thrown into the battle, initially stationed on airfields around Rheims. By September the Jagdgruppen in France had been decimated, with JG 27 alone losing nearly 200 aircraft and 87 pilots killed and 62 wounded. (146 Allied aircraft were claimed shot down.) They were withdrawn to Saxonia for re-formation. In the meantime II./JG 27 were based in Austria, "working up" on the Bf 109 G-6/AS high altitude fighter.

By November JG 27 was back serving with Reich air defense, flying operations in the Southern Germany and Austria against the USAAF 15th Air Force bombing raids. On 2 November JG 27 suffered its highest losses on a single day, losing 53 aircraft with 27 pilots killed and 11 wounded, to the P-51 escort fighters of the USAAF, in return for six USAAF P-51 Mustangs shot down[13]

The Geschwader also took part in the ill-fated Operation Bodenplatte attacks on Allied airfields on New Year's Day 1945, losing 15 pilots.[Notes 1] The IV Gruppe was disbanded in March 1945 to provide reinforcements to the other Gruppen.[15]

By 8 May, the remains of JG 27 were based near Salzburg, Austria. JG 27's commander surrendered to the American forces nearby. Although official records were lost at the end of the war, research suggests Jagdgeschwader 27 claimed over 3,100 kills for some 1,400 aircraft lost, and lost approximately 827 pilots killed, missing or POW during 1939-45.

Twenty-four JG 27 pilots earned the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes.[16]

Statistics

Victories KIA MIA POW wounded injured
Stab/Jagdgeschwader 27
Battle of France
10 May 1940 – 25 June 1940
18 0 0 0 0 0
Battle of Britain
July 1940 – November 1940
1 0 0 1 0 0
Balkans
April 1941 – May 1941
1 2 0 2 0 1
Operation Barbarossa
June 1941 – October 1941
13 1 0 0 0 0
North Africa
10 December 1941 – 2 December 1942
1 2 0 0 1 0
Sicily
April 1943 – June 1943
5 0 0 0 0 0
Aegean Sea
July 1943 – February 1944
6 1 0 0 1 0
Defense of the Reich
February 1944 – June 1944
25 4 0 0 0 0
Invasion of Normandy
June 1944 – August 1944
12 2 0 0 0 0
I./Jagdgeschwader 27
North Africa
18 April 1941 – 16 November 1942
590 16 8 8 10 8
II./Jagdgeschwader 27
North Africa
16 September 1941 – 6 December 1942
433 23 6 19 18 4
Jagdgeschwader 27 total

Some of the Luftwaffe aces attached to JG 27

JG 27 Commanding Officers

Geschwaderkommodore

Oberstleutnant Max Ibel 1 October 1939 10 October 1940
Major Bernhard Woldenga 11 October 1940 22 October 1940
Major Wolfgang Schellmann 22 October 1940 21 June 1941 KIA USSR
Major Bernhard Woldenga 21 June 1941 10 June 1942
Oberstleutnant Eduard Neumann 10 June 1942 22 April 1943
Oberstleutnant Gustav Rödel 22 April 1943 29 December 1944
Major Ludwig Franzisket 30 December 1944 8 May 1945

Geschwaderadjutanten

Hauptmann Joachim Schlichting 1 November 1939 13 February 1940
Hauptmann Eduard Neumann 13 February 1940 20 July 1940
Hauptmann Herbert Nebenführ July 1940 12 June 1941
Hauptmann Hermann Schultz June 1941 30 March 1942 wounded
31 Mar 1942 26 May 1942
Hauptmann Ernst Düllberg 26 May 1942 16 October 1942
16 Oct 1942
Oberleutnant Jost Schlang 4 January 1944 KIA
5 Jan 1944 9 March 1944
Hauptmann Geert Suwelack 10 March 1944 6 October 1944
7 October 1944 8 May 1945

Gruppenkommandeure

I./JG 27

Hauptmann Helmut Riegel (1 October 1939 – 20 July 1940)
Major Eduard Neumann (21 July 1940 – 7 June 1942)
Hauptmann Gerhard Homuth (8 June 1942 – November 1942)
Hauptmann Heinrich Setz (12 November 1942 – 13 March 1943)
Hauptmann Hans-Joachim Heinecke (acting) (17 March 1943 – 7 April 1943)
Hauptmann Erich Hohagen (7 April 1943 – 15 July 1943)
Hauptmann Hans Remmer (acting) 1 June 1943
Hauptmann Ludwig Franzisket (15 July 1943 – 12 May 1944)
Hauptmann Hans Remmer (acting) March 1944
Hauptmann Walter Blume (acting) 3 April 1944
Hauptmann Ernst Börngen (13 May 1944 – 19 May 1944)
Major Karl-Wolfgang Redlich (20 May 1944 – 29 May 1944)
Hauptmann Walter Blume (30 May 1944 – 11 June 1944)
Hauptmann Rudolf Sinner (12 June 1944 – 1 August 1944)
Hauptmann Siegfried Luckenbach (acting) 30 July 1944
Hauptmann Diethelm von Eichel-Streiber (August 1944 – 30 November 1944)
Hauptmann Johannes Neumayer (1 December 1944 – 11 December 1944)
Hauptmann Schüller (acting) 11 December 1944
Hauptmann Eberhard Schade (12 December 1944 – 1 March 1945)
Leutnant Buchholz (acting) 1 March 1945
Hauptmann Emil Clade (3 April 1945 – 8 May 1945)

II./JG 27

Hauptmann Erich von Selle (1 January 1940 – 1 February 1940)
Hauptmann Walter Andres (1 February 1940 – 30 September 1940)
Hauptmann Ernst Düllberg (acting) since 8 August 1940
Hauptmann Wolfgang Lippert (acting) (4 September 1940 – 1 October 1941)
Hauptmann Wolfgang Lippert (1 October 1940 – 23 November 1941)
Oberleutnant Gustav Rödel (acting) until 25 December 1941
Hauptmann Erich Gerlitz (25 December 1941 – 20 May 1942)
Hauptmann Gustav Rödel (20 May 1942 – 20 April 1943)
Hauptmann Werner Schröer (20 April 1943 – 13 March 1944)
Hauptmann Fritz Keller (14 March 1945 – 7 May 1945)
Major Walter Spies (acting) KIA 12 December 1944
Hauptmann Herbert Kutscha until 25 December 1944
Hauptmann Gerhard Hoyer KIA 21 January 1945

III./JG 27

  • Hauptmann Joachim Schlichting, 9 July 1940
  • Hauptmann Max Dobislav, 7 September 1940
  • Hauptmann Erhard Braune, 1 October 1941
  • Hauptmann Ernst Düllberg, 16 October 1942
  • Oberleutnant Franz Stigler (acting), 1 October 1944
  • Hauptmann Dr. Peter Werfft, October 1944
  • Oberleutnant Emil Clade (acting), February 1945

IV./JG 27

  • Hauptmann Rudolf Sinner, June 1943
  • Oberleutnant Dietrich Boesler (acting), September 1943
  • Oberleutnant Alfred Burk (acting), October 1943
  • Hauptmann Joachim Kirschner, 19 October 1943
  • Hauptmann Otto Meyer, 1 February 1943
  • Hauptmann Hanns-Heinz Dudeck, July 1944
  • Hauptmann Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert, 2 January 1945

JG 27 pilots killed or missing in action

  • JG 27 KIAs and MIAs

Notes

Footnotes

Citations

References

  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allen. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • Bungay, Stephen (2002). Alamein. London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-85410-842-5.
  • Manrho, John, Pütz, Ron. Bodenplatte: The Luftwaffe's Last Hope–The Attack on Allied Airfields, New Year's Day 1945. Ottringham, United Kingdom: Hikoki Publications, 2004. ISBN 1-902109-40-6
  • Mauermann, Helmut. "Fliegerhorst Störmede. Eine Chronik in Wort und Bild.(2005) ISBN 3-00-015708-5 Störmede was the base of I./JG 27 in spring 1945
  • Prien, Jochen & Rodeike, Peter & Stemmer, Gerhard (1998). Messerschmidt Bf 109 im Einsatz bei Stab und I./Jagdgeschwader 27 1939 - 1945. struve-druck, Eutin. ISBN 3-923457-46-4.
  • Russell Brown, 2000, Desert Warriors: Australian P-40 Pilots at War in the Middle East and North Africa, 1941-1943 Banner Books: Maryborough, Queensland; ISBN 1-875593-22-5, p. 281
  • Shores, Christopher & Hans Ring, 1969, Fighters over the Desert. Neville Spearman Ltd, London.
  • Shores, Christopher and Hans Ring- Fighters over the Desert: The Air Battles in the Western Desert, June 1940 to December 1942' (Arco 1969)
  • Shores, Christopher- ' Mediterranean Air War' (Ian Allen 1974)
  • Trevor Constable & Col. Raymond Toliver - 'Horrido!' (Bantam 1977)
  • Various- 'The Battle of Britain- Then & Now'(Plaistow Press 1987)
  • Weal, John (2003). Jagdgeschwader 27 'Afrika'. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 1-84176-538-4.
  • Wübbe, Walter. Hauptmann Hans Joachim Marseille Ein Jagdfliegerschicksal in Daten, Bildern und Dokumenten (in German). Schnellbach, Germany: Verlag Siegfried Bublies, 2001. ISBN 3-926584-78-5.

External links

  • [1]

Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II

Template:Knight's Cross recipients of JG 27

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