(Special Interest Group Luftwaffe in Norway)
When 1942 became 1943 the Third Reich was in trouble, real trouble. In Afrika the Afrika Korps was retreating to Tunis, and von Paulus' 6th Army was still surrounded in Stalingrad. In Europe the American 8th Air Force and the RAF had finally got their day and night bombing campaign underway and began to do some serious damage on the German war production. In the far north however the frontlines were relatively quiet, only in the skies was the fighting every bit as ferocious as in other fronts. But there were to be few events of major importance here, the world would have its eyes on other theatres of war.
There were to be few organisational changes in JG 5 in 1943. Before looking into them, lets briefely examine the status of Jagdgeschwader 5 in the beginning of 1943.
By January 1943 JG 5 had 4 Gruppen. I. and IV./JG 5 were stationed in Southern Norway, being equipped with the Fw 190A-2s, A-3s and A-4s. I./JG 5 had its bases on Lista, Stavanger-Sola and Forus, Kjevik, and Herdla. IV./JG 5 were distributed on bases around Trondheim also having Bf 109Fs and Fw 190As. It was left up to II. and III. Gruppe to fight the Russians on the Polar Sea Front; at this time they were solely equipped with Bf 109F-4s. Stab, 4./JG 5 and 6./JG 5 were stationed in Alakurtti, 5., 8., and 9./JG 5 were stationed at Kirkenes and 7./JG 5 was to be found at Petsamo. This deployment was in no way permanent and changed according to operational needs.
At this time the Command structure of JG 5 was as follows:
Geschwaderkommodore: Oberstlt. Gotthardt Handrick
Gruppekommodore I./JG 5: Hptm. Gerhard von Wehren
Adjutant: Oblt. Rudolf Muller
Staffelfuhrer 1./JG 5: Lt. Max Endriss
Staffelfuhrer 2./JG 5: Hptm. Gerhard B¸chel
Staffelfuhrer 3./JG 5: Oblt. Franz Menzel
Gruppekommodore II./JG 5: Hptm. Horst Carganico
Adjutant: Oblt. Rudolf Glockner (?)
Technische Offizier: Oblt. Lorenz Bauer
Staffelfuhrer 4./JG 5: Lt. Wolfgang Lamprecht
Staffelfuhrer 5./JG 5: Oblt. Franz Wienhusen
Staffelfuhrer 6./JG 5: Oblt. Heinrich Erhler
Gruppekommodore III./JG 5: Hptm. Gunther Scholz
Adjutant: Oblt. Rudolf Luder
Technische Offizier: Lt. Friedrich Schumann
Staffelfuhrer 7./JG 5: Hptm. Hans Curt Graf von Sponeck
Staffelfhurer 8./JG 5: Oblt. Hermann Seegatz
Staffelfuhrer 9./JG 5: Hptm. Gerhard Wengel
Gruppekommodre IV./JG 5: Hptm. Hans Krigel
Adjutant: Oblt. Gerhardt Beyer
Technische Offizier: Lt. Joachim Hoffmann
Staffelfuhrer 10./JG 5: Oblt. Hans Schneider
Staffelfuhrer 11./JG 5: Unknown
Staffelfuhrer 12./JG 5: Hptm. Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn
There were some important changes in this structure as the year progressed. Listin all with take too much space, but the more important are mentioned below.
The most important was probably a change in Geschwaderkommodore. In June 1943 Oberstlt. Gottardt Handrick was transferred to 8. Jagddivision in Austria, being replaced by the Gruppekommodore of III./JG 5, Major Gunter Scholz. This replacement had far reching consequenses for some of the other Staffels.
In February 1943 the Gruppekommodore of I.Gruppe, Hptm. von Wehren was replaced by Hptm. Gerhardt Wengel. 1./JG 5's Staffelfuhrer Lt. Endriss was replaced by Oblt. Gerd Senoner, Endriss taking up command of 3./JG 5 after Oblt. Franz Menzel. In 2./JG 5 Hptm. Wrobel gave way to Oblt. Edgar Habermann from September.
In II. and III./JG 5 there were changes caused by the promotion of Scholz (see above). Erhler, the Staffelfhrer of 7./JG 5 took over command of III.Gruppe, his place in the Staffel was taken
by "Theo" Weissenberger, another young and promising fighter pilot. He was in charge of this unit till September when he took over command of his old 6./JG 5. Oblt. Segatz was also transferred, going to JG 1 on the Western front. He was superceded by Oberstlt. Horts Berger. In 9./JG 5 Hptm. Wengel was replaced by Oblt. Widowitz in February who was again replaced by Hptm. Hans-Hermann Schmidt in August.
There were few changes in IV.Gruppe. The leader of 12./JG 5 was selected in February to command the new Jabostaffel 14.(J)/JG 5 (more about that below), and his place was taken by Oblt. Rudolf Luder.
OUT OF NORWAY
1943 were still to have profound changes for JG 5 in store; not in unit designations but in operational bases. In late July 1943 it was rumoured that I. Gruppe was to leave Norway for good! In the beginning of August the rumours are verifed, I./JG 5 is ordered to Fredrikshavn in Denmark, arriving on the first days of that month. Only 2./JG 5 remained in Norway, more precicely Lista, but only for a few months before they joined the parent Gruppe. Not many operational missions were flown, the most important was an escort mission for the Heavy Cruiser "L¸tzow" on its along the West Coast. And before they left Norway, several pilots was lost in accidents. Strangely, the pilots are not unhappy about leaving Norway! Their fellings are summed up in the following poem:
"Heute gibt es Fischmehlsuppe,
das Nordlicht ist uns auch schon schnuppe!
Die Berge und Fjorde sind uns gleich,
Wir wollen nur eins, heim ins Reich!"
Suggestion for a direct translation would be the following (by René Thiel):
"Today we draw fishfloursoup as rations,
the northern lights are already all the same to us !
About the mountains and the fjords(?) we don`t care,
the only thing we want, is the Return into the Reich!"
On 15. November 1943, the I.Gruppe is ordered to move again, this time to Romania where they arrive through Dresden, Prag, Pressburg, and Budapest. Their mission here is perhaps obvious; protection of the Ploesti Oil Refineries. The new base is called Targsorul-Nou. The Gruppe is still called I./JG 5, but they are now placed under the command of Luftflotte 1 and it is destined to stay in Targsorul-Nou for the remainder of 1943.
Towards the end of 1943, yet another Gruppe of JG 5 is ordered to another front. This time it is II./JG 5. The Gruppe departs on 3. November through Kemi, Pori, and Reval. Distributed on airfields South of Leningrad, they will fly escort missions for ground-attack units. Stab II./JG 5 is based in Pleskau-South, while the rest of the Gruppe can be found in places like Idritza, Dno, Goskina-Guba and Dorpat.
There were no changes in operational structure of the Zerstorerstaffel. The last Staffelfuhrer in 1942, Hptm. Karl-Fritz Schlosstein commanded the unit until June 1943 when Oblt. Hans Kirchmeier took over. He was replaced by Hptm. Herbert Treppe in September who held the position for the rest of the Zerstorerstaffel's life in JG 5.
The major structural change in 1943 concerned the establishment of a Jabo (JagdBomber - Fighterbomber) unit within JG 5. Designated 14.(J)/JG 5 it was formed at Petsamo in mid-February 1943, using elements from 11./JG 5. The unit was equipped exclusively with the Fw 190A-2 and A-3 which was modified for the Jabo-role (se below for details).A new 11./JG 5 was formed to fill the gap in IV./JG 5. The unit commander was Hptm. Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn, popularely known as "Straks". He had previously commanded 12./JG 5 and his place in this unit was now taken by Oblt. Rudolf L¸der.
The task of this Jabo unit was straighforward. They were to attack enemy ships with bombs and do as much damage as they could. In light of their small numbers they did remarkably well. In fact they did so well that even the F¸hrer himself congratulated them! In May 1943 the unit was responsible for the sinking of two submarines and two freighters within three days, Strakeljahn claiming the two freighters! Both Generaloberst Stumpff (C-in-C Luftflotte 5) and Hitler promptly sent their congratulations by telegram. By years end the 14.(J)/JG 5 has sunk no less than 39 000 BRTs of Russian shipping. Over 1000 sorties had been flown, and Strakeljahn himself was a Jabo-ace with 9 russian fighters destroyed.
All available records indicate that the II. and III./JG 5 were equipped with the Bf 109F-4 exclusively by the beginning of 1943. It is possible that the F-2 variant was also used, but although Rodeike/Prien claim that all gruppen were issued with this variant, it is hard to identify the Fs as such on photograhs. Most I have seen on photos appear to be F-4s. The F variant was still used through the first months of the new year by these Gruppen. I. and IV.Gruppe had both Bf 109Fs and Fw 190A-2a and A-3s. The E-7s however, were definitely gone by this time, at least from the inventory of JG 5. A single Bf 109E-7 was flying with the Luftdientskommando Kirkenes in October 1943, and this was probably an ex-JG 5 machine. It is not known how this Messerschmitt was marked or if it was used on combat missions (most likely it was not).
Then, in April 1943, I./JG 5 converted to the new Bf 109G-2. The differences between the F-seris and the early Gs are quite substantial and will not be dealt with in detail here. Suffice to say, the G-2s were the first standard fighter of this series, having a non-pressurized cockpit. A new engine (DB 605) provided extra horsepowers, but this was more or less conterbalanced by an increase in weight and a decrease in responsiveness. Still, the G-2 was a good fighter, especially if flown by an experienced pilot who knew how the get the best out of it.
Loss records for Fliegerhorst Herdla suggest that the conversion was not complete. The Fw 190As were still used, at least to late July 1943. In fact, the Fw 190A-2 and A-3s were prominent in the loss records throughout May, June and July 1943, the first I./JG 5 Bf 109G-2 accident not appearing on record until 25. July. A few of the pressurized G-1 fighter also found its way into I./JG 5 as evidenced by the loss reocrds. One of them had an accident on Herdla on 1. May 1943. Another G-1 (fitted with the R-6 Rustsatz, consisting of two 20 mm canon under the wings) crashed in the sea due to engine trouble outside Egersund on 11. November 1943. This fighter is now under restoration at Flyhistorisk Museum Sola (Aviation Museum Sola). (More details about these pressurized Messerschmitts below).
The conversion to the new fighters were not without its problems. 2./JG 5 suffered two accidents in April in which Fw. Kaddatz and Fw. Graupner both lost their lifes. In May the Gruppe suffered several seemingly unexplainable accidents with both focke-Wulfs and Messerschmitts, many of them fatal, and moral was affected. Sabotage was suspected, but to date it is not known if these accidents was caused by unfortunate circumstances or if sabotage really was the cause.
II./JG 5 and III./JG 5 also received Bf 109G-2s in 1943 and the remaining Fs were probably operated until lost or inreperably damaged. II. Gruppe recieved their G-2s in February, whilst II. Gruppe hung on to their F-4s a little longer. Their transition was not without its problems either, at least one pilot lossing his life due to technical faults. As numerous photos show the Gruppen operating on the Eismeer front often fitted two 20 mm cannon gondolas under the wings of their fighters (the R-6 Rustsatz). This Rustsatz has not been documented in use on Bf 109Gs of I. or IV./JG 5, but their use cannot be ruled out, of cource.
IV.Gruppe also operated a mix of Bf 109Fs and Gs and Fw 190As. The G-2 version was the most widely used variant,but contrary to popular belief (see Prien/Rodeike, "Bf 109F, G & K, An Illustrated Study") the G-4 version was also delievered to IV./JG 5 in 1943; but probably only in very small numbers. The loss records for Herdla indicate that one, W.Nr. 16 125, Stammkennzeichnen CD+WU, had an accident there on 31. August 1943. Looking at the records it is clear that IV. Gruppe also received a few G-6s in late 1943, but so far hard evidence as to when and where this happended have not been found (also se below).
On 30. November 1943 the fighter force of Luftflotte 5 was deployed as indicated below:
Stab JG 5 2 Bf 109G-2 at Petsamo
Stab III./JG 5 2 Bf 109G-2 at Petsamo
III./JG 5 34 Bf 109G-2 and 3 Bf 109F-4 at Petsamo and Alakurtti
Stab IV./JG 5 2 Bf 109G-2 at Lade
10./JG 5 5 Bf 109G-6 at Gossen and Lade
11./JG 5 21 Fw 190A-2/A-3 at Sola
12./JG 5 12 Fw 190A-4 at Herdla
Some sources indicate that II./JG 5 converted completely to the G-6 in June 1944 while they were resting in Germany. Photos show that both I. and II./JG 5 definitely had some G-6s on strength by spring 1944, probably sooner. For instance, a photo taken in Sofia on 3. January 1944 showing Lt. von Podewils from 3./JG 5 with a G-6 from this unit, could indicate that the Gruppe received some "Beulen" by late 1943, perhaps when staging through Europe. This particular Messerschmitt was equipped with the R-6 Rustsatz. Another photo shows the G-6 of Oblt. Schwanecke from 4./JG 5 after his 400th "Einsatzflug". This photo is dated 22. March 1944. For now, the exact inventory of these Gruppen is rather uncertain, but the available evidence strongly suggests that some G-6s began to filter through to I., II., and IV./JG 5 in late 1943. It was also at this time that the G-6, the most numerous Bf 109 variant of them all, became available to the Luftwaffe in quantity.
13.(Z)/JG 5 was also in for re-equipment. In the first weeks of February they received their first Bf 110G-2s. This was the last version of the dayfighter and Zerstrer. 13.(Z)/JG 5 apparently received some of the first production batches as most had the earlier type canopy and rudder used on preceeding variants. Apart from the engines and refined cowlings and spinners, there were few other external diffeences betwenn the G and other versions. The MG FF cannon were replaced by the much better MG 151s, the installation of which could be identified by a small external bulge under the fuselage between the wings (try to find that on Arba's conversion kits!).
14.(J)/JG 5 received Fw 190A-2 s and A-3s configured for the Jabo task (there were never many A-2s in the unit). This meant that they were the only Fw 190s used on the Eismeer front, except for a short period in fall 1944 when a few other Staffels briefly used Fw 190 to cover the withdrawal from North-Norway. It is quite possibly that these and subsequent Focke-Wulfs delievered were fighters that had been overhauled by a major repair shop. The history of the W.Nr. 2219, the Fw 190A-3 being restored for Gardermoen Aviation Museum may indicate this. This machine was delievered to I./JG 5 in summer 1942, and suffered 35 % damage during a bad landing at Herdla on 10. August 1942. This kind of damage could not be repaired at Herdla, and the machine was sent to Kjeller, the major repair facility in Norway. Here it was repaired, probably in winter 1942/43. On 22. May 1943, W.Nr. 2102, Black 3 of 14.(J)/JG 5 was lost to Sovjet Flak near Tayp Navolok, the pilot Claus Biwer losing his life. This machine was in all possibillity replaced by W.N.r 2219, also marked as Black 3. Finally, on 5. October 1943, W.N.r 2219 was lost when the pilot had to abandon the plane due to fuel starvation.
The modification to fighterbomber configuration consisted of an ETC 501 rack. The installation of this necessitated the installation of rounded pieces of metal in the inner edges of the wheel wells, and the removal of the wheel doors. This was also to be seen on later version of the A-series that were converted to the Jabo-role, prior to the introduction of the F-8. It is also clear that at least some of the Jabos were fitted with the exhaust flaps of the A-5 variant. It appears that the A-2s had no holes or flaps at all in the area of the exhausts, but this may not apply to all of them. All Jabos had the mid-wing MG FF cannon and their underwing bulges removed.
Some authors have assigned the designation A-2/U and A-3/U to these converted fighters, but I have seen no firm evidenmce that this was used by the Germans.