Schlachtgeschwader 1

Schlachtgeschwader 1

© Henry L. deZeng IV

Stab/SchG 1

The Stab of the Geschwader was formed on 13 January 1942 at Werl, near Dortmund, using personnel from the Gruppenstab of II. (Sch)/LG 2. Training was completed by the end of April and the Geschwader was ordered to the Crimea for duty with IV. Fliegerkorps of Luftflotte 4. The Stab departed for Itshki-Grammatikovo on May 2nd.

After arrival operations started almost immediately with ground attack missions in the Eastern Crimea from 8 to 15 May, and then switching to the Izyum Salient southeast of Kharkov to the end of the month. Altogether SchG 1 flew 1467 sorties during the month with 1028 Bf 109, 259 Hs 123 and 180 Hs 129 missions. The Stab later moved to Tatsinskaya in July and Tusov in August to support the advance on Stalingrad under command of IV. Fliegerkorps and VIII. Fliegerkorps.

On 22 November the Stab was forced to blow up two of its unflyable Bf 109E-7s, three days after the opening of the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that eventually encircled the German 6th Army. The Stab was forced to abandon its base at Oblivskaya on 26 November and withdraw to the west, probably to Morosovskaya and then to Millerovo or Voroshilovgrad.

During early 1943 the Stab remained in the Donets Basin area and was stationed at Barvenkovo-South in May. The Geschwader's two Gruppen continued operations during the spring and summer while converting one at a time to the Focke Wulf Fw 190.

Headquarters locations for the Stab are not known with certainty after May 1943, but it was probably at either Barvenkovo or Varvarovka in July at the time of the Kursk offensive (Operation Zitadelle), and then gradually withdrew to Kiev where it was stationed in October 1943. On approximately 18 October the Stab was disbanded and the personnel used to form the Stäbe of IV./SG 9, NSGr 3 and NSGr 7.

Kommodore:

Obstlt. Otto Weiss13/1/42-6/42
Obstlt. Hubertus Hitschhold 6/42-3/43
Obstlt. Alfred Druschel3/43-10/43


I./SchG 1

The I. Gruppe was formed on 13 January 1942 at Werl by renaming II.(Schlacht)/LG 2 which was still in central Russia at Dugino, north of Vyazma. It continued to operate with Bf 109Es from Dugino until mid-March, mainly due to the critical situation along the front west of Moscow, before transferring to Werl to rest, refit and reorganize.

Its organization was perhaps unique for the very methodical Germans in that I. Gruppe controlled four Staffeln, 1., 2., 3. (all from II.(Sch)/LG 2), and 8./SchG 1. The latter was redesignated from the independent 10.(Sch)/LG 2. It retained its original Hs 123A biplanes until it arrived at Werl which then were transferred to the newly formed 7. Staffel. Normally the subordinate Staffeln of a Gruppe were numbered in sequence, but not Schlachtgeschwader 1 as all the Henschel-equipped Staffeln were put under II. Gruppe.

Outfitted with Bf 109E-7s, I./SchG 1 was ordered to the Crimea during the first week of May. After arriving at Itshki-Grammatikovo, the Gruppe was assigned to VIII. Fliegerkorps for support of 11th Army's reconquest of the Kerch Peninsula (Operation Trappenjagd). Attacks were carried out against Soviet positions along the front and on troop and supply columns immediately behind the front with such a concentrated effect that the German infantry assault units were able to break through the forward defenses on May 8th, the first day of the attack. The German spearheads moved rapidly across the peninsula and took the town of Kerch on 15 May. Losses to the Gruppe were limited to two Bf 109E-7s on 11 May over the eastern tip of the peninsula, both probably shot down by AA fire around Kerch.

With the entire Crimea now firmly in German hands, excluding the fortress of Sevastopol, I./SchG 1 transferred north to Konstantinovka to stem a Soviet offensive launched from the Izyum Salient and directed at Kharkov. The Gruppe was heavily engaged in ground attacks against Soviet armor, troop concentrations and supply columns until the salient was eliminated on 28 May. The Gruppe then moved to Kharkov-Rogan for its next assignment which was to support the 6th Army during the drive to the Don, and later Stalingrad, which began on June 25th. Few losses were recorded during intense action against retreating Soviet troops, but the Gruppe did lose two Bf 109E-7s, one shot down over Voronezh and the other along the Don south of the city, both on 4 July. The rapid advance of the German forces resulted in the Gruppe being transferred to Tatinskaya in July and then to Frolov-West, a small airstrip a few kilometers from Oblivskaya, near the end of the month. Around mid-August, a further move was made to Tusov which was to be the home base for the Gruppe until late November.

Operations in the Stalingrad area were continuous but at a reduced level throughout the autumn and a number of aircraft were damaged by Soviet infantry and AA fire, but only a few outright losses were recorded. One exception was the Staffelkapitän of 3. Staffel, Oblt. Heinz Frank, who was severely injured in a crash landing at Tusov on 15 October.

The Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad erupted on 19 November causing total surprise and mayhem. Four Bf 109E-7s were lost between 30 November and 19 December, at least two of these to Soviet fighters, as the Gruppe was forced back to Millerovo. On December 31st, the 3. Staffel lost its new Staffelkapitän, Oblt. Josef Graf von und zu Hönsbröck, who was killed by ground fire. Because of the critical nature of the whole southern front, operations continued under terrible flying conditions during January 1943 from Shachty, northeast of Rostov and from Voroshilovgrad.

In February, support missions were flown from Gorlovka in an attempt to blunt the onward advance of the Red Army through the Donets Basin with two Bf 109E-7s from 2. Staffel lost to enemy fire at Kramatorskaya on 10 February. A few days later, on 16 February, the Soviets recaptured Kharkov and the Germans began a counterattack, famous as the "Back-hand Blow" to retake the city two weeks later. The Gruppe supported this effort, and as soon as the city was back under German control it moved to Kharkov-North on 14 March.

With a temporary lull in the fighting, the Gruppe began conversion to the Fw 190 which was completed by the end of April, though a few Bf 109s remained on strength. By mid-May another move had been made to Barvenkovo and Varvarovka, just behind the front lines southwest of Izyum. In heavy fighting over the next six weeks, two Fw 190A-5s, a Fw 190F-3 and a Bf 109G-4 were lost to Russian fighters and AA fire around Izyum. Another four Fw 190A-5s and F-3s were lost between 4 and 7 July in the same area as the long-delayed German offensive at Kursk got underway. Russian strength in the area was substantially greater than German estimates and the attack ground to a halt by the end of the first week.

I./SchG 1 was ordered north to Orel to help break up the Soviet counter-offensive in that area. In bitter, non-stop operations between 8 July and 2 August, the Gruppe lost at least eight Fw 190s to AA fire, including a Fw 190F-3 piloted by Obstlt. Horst-Wilhelm Hossfeld, a general staff officer pressed into service as an acting Staffelkapitän, on 17 July. As the Soviets continued to advance, Orel fell on 4 August and I. Gruppe was forced back, first to Karachev and then to Bryansk. At the beginning of September, the Gruppe was shifted south to Konotop and then to Nezhin in the northern part of the Ukraine to fly missions against the Soviet spearheads aimed at Kiev.

Hptm. Johannes Meinecke, Staffelkapitän of 1. Staffel was killed when his Fw 190A-6 was shot down by AA fire near Mutino on 4 September. Nezhin fell on 15 September and the exhausted pilots and ground personnel moved to Kiev-South to continue operations as best they could. Three Fw 190F-3s were lost on 27 September and another F-3 and an Fw 190A-6 were shot down by AA fire on 6 October. The latter was flown by the recently appointed Staffelkapitän of 1. Staffel, Hptm. Josef Menapace, who was killed. A week later, on 13 October, two more Fw 190F-3s were shot down by Soviet fighters northwest of Starnevka with the loss of both pilots.

On or about 18 October 1943 the Gruppe was renamed II./SG 77, except for 1. Staffel which was disbanded and its assets incorporated into the other Staffeln.

Kommandeure:

Maj. Alfred Druschel13/1/42-3/43
Maj. Georg Dörffel3/43-9/43
Hptm. Siegfried Steinhoff 9/43-10/43


4.(Pz)/SchG 1

This independent Staffel was formed on 13 January 1942 at Dugino on the central sector of the Eastern Front as a component of II./SchG 1 with Bf 109Es provided by the disbanded II (Schlacht)/LG 2. It flew out of Dugino and Rzhev under VIII. Fliegerkorps until early April. The available literature indicates that it received 16 Hs 129B-1s by 28 March, presumably at Lippstadt, and then left for the Crimea, arriving on 6 May.

It commenced operations on 7 May from Grammatikovo/Crimea with some 15 Hs 129s as part of of II. Gruppe, although the rest of the Gruppe was still enroute. Over the next several days 4. Staffel attacked various ground targets, shot down an I-16 fighter and destroyed an estimated 40 other aircraft during a low-level strafing attack on an enemy airfield in Eastern Crimea. In mid-May the Staffel moved north to Konstantinovka with the rest of II. Gruppe and took part in the heavy fighting against Soveit incursions in the Barvenkovo-Izyum-Chuguyev-Kupanysk sector to the south and southeast of Kharkov. Ordered to Kharkov-Rogan in early June for outfitting with the new underbelly MK 101 30mm cannon installation, and took these armor-piercing weapons into action against Soviet tanks retreating from east of Kharkov towards Voronezh on the Don River. Apparently operated without loss until July 1942, when a Hs 129 belonging to 4. Staffelwas reported lost in the Kobyla-Sterya area on July 6th and another Hs 129 was shot down by Russian fighters at Voronezh two days later. No information has come to light about the Staffel's operations or whereabouts from 8 July to mid-December 1942.

Following the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad the Staffel was deployed along the Chir front west of Stalingrad. On 22 December, while the rest of II. Gruppe pulled back to Voroshilovgrad, 4. (Pz) remained forward at Tatsinskaya until Russian tanks approached the airfield two weeks later and then withdrew to Stalino. Two Hs 129s were reportedly lost in action on 27 and 28 December. On 5 January 1943 another Hs 129B-1 crashed, killing the Staka, Oblt. Eduard Kent. After withdrawing to Stalino it was subsequently re-equipped with the new Hs 129B-2, which was just then coming off the production line, and ordered to transfer to Poltava on 14 March and then to Stalino-North during the first half of April. By the beginning of May, the Staffel was flying in support of hard-pressed German ground forces on the Taman Peninsula, southwest of Rostov, losing two Hs 129B-2s near Krymskaya on 8 and 13 May.

In June the Staffel was sent back to Germany, possibly to have all or a number of its B-2s fitted with the new 30mm MK 103 armor-piercing cannon, and then returned and was stationed at Varvarovka for the upcoming Operation "Zitadelle". Losses were heavy in July with seven Hs 129B-2s falling to Soviet AA fire and at least three more heavily damaged between the 12th and 30th. Three pilots were killed and two missing in these engagements. Meanwhile the Staffel had been ordered from Varvarovka to Orel-West around 15 July to bolster the defense against the Soviet counter-attack towards Orel that commenced 13 July. As Soviet forces drove the Germans westward, 4. (Pz) pulled back to Konotop during the first half of August and then moved to Poltava at the end of August. A Hs 129B-2 was destroyed on the ground at Zaporozhye-East during a Soviet low-level air attack on September 5th and another five were lost over the course of the month as the Staffel retreated through the central Ukraine. It was at Kiev-Post Volinski on 21 September, at Askania Nova (123 km WSW of Melitopol) on 30 September, and on 6 October it was ordered to transfer to Orsha on the central sector of the Eastern Front, but there is no evidence that this was carried out. On or about 18 October, it was renamed 10.(Pz)/SG 9.


II./SchG 1

The II. Gruppe was raised at Lippstadt on 13 January 1942 with 5., and 6. Staffeln equipped with Hs 129B-1s and 7. Staffel with Hs 123As, the latter unit taking over the aircraft of 8. Staffel in April. After formation and workup was completed by the end of April, it was ordered to southern Russia for assignment with Luftflotte 4.

The first combat loss occured on May 9th when a Hs 129B-1 was shot down by Soviet AA fire, possibly over the eastern Crimea. The pilot, Hptm. Max Eck, was listed as missing. In mid-May, while based at Konstantinovka, operations centered on the Izyum Salient and around Stalino. It was there that three Hs 129B-1s were shot down by Russian AA fire on 23 May, a sever blow at this relatively early stage of the war for this newly formed unit.

The main effort shifted to the Kursk area and east towards Voronezh at the end of June and into the first half of July. The Gruppe was temporarily split up during this period with the Staffeln operating independently from Volchansk, Kharkov, Shatalovka, Orel, and Kursk on the central sector of the front. While flying from these airfields 6. Staffel lost two Hs 129B-1s to AA fire on 28 June and three Hs 123As from 7. Staffel failed to return from the Shchigry area northeast of Kursk on 29 June.

From mid-July the Gruppe concentrated on supporting the drive to Stalingrad, moving to Tatsinskaya. Frolov, and Tusov by mid-August. Toward the end of the month 5. Staffel was sent back to Orel and temporarily attached to JG 51. A strength return for 20 September reported a total of 46 Hs 129s and Hs 123s on hand with 28 serviceable. Losses that autumn in the Stalingrad area were very light. Lt. Josef Menapace, Staffelkapitän of 7. Staffel was wounded on 13 September when his Hs 123 was shot up by a Soviet fighter over Stalingrad, and 6. Staffel reported Hs 129 losses on both the 2nd and 11th of November. 7. Staffel received some Bf 109Es during the summer to supplement their stock of Hs 123As.

Meanwhile 5. Staffel was transferred to Jesau, in East Prussia, in October to rest and refit with Hs 129B-2s. It departed for North Africa on 5 November and arrived at Tunis-El Aounina on 29 November after being delayed enroute by bad weather. It flew its first combat mission the next day against British tanks and vehicle columns near Tebourba, followed by numerous successful missions to the end of the month. It was renamed 8.(Pz)/SchG 2 in January 1943. A new 5. Staffel for SchG 1 was formed a few weeks later in Germany with Fw 190s.

The Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad on 19 November brought a rapid turn of events. After moving from Millerovo to Frolov and Oblivskaya by November 26th, the Gruppe began a maximum effort around Stalingrad at the cost of at least eight Hs 129Bs, Hs 123As and Bf 109Es lost in ground attack missions or blown up to prevent capture by the on-coming Russians. From around December 6th, the Gruppenstab and 6. Staffel were operating from Rossosh, just west of the Don River and to the northeast of Kharkov, shooting up Russian tanks that were driving deep into the Romanian Third and Italian Eighth Armies, while 7. Staffel appears to have remained in the Stalingrad area with its Hs 123s, flying from Morosovskaya. By the 22nd of December, what was left of II./SchG 1 had pulled back to Voroshilovgrad.

In a summary of the year's operations, II. Gruppe reported flying a total of 3128 Hs 129 sorties, 1532 Hs 123 sorties, and 1938 Bf 109 sorties since formation, claimed 107 aircraft shot down or destroyed, while losing 20 Hs 129s, 16 Bf 109s, and 5 Hs 123s due to enemy action.

While operating from Voroshilovgrad II. Gruppe claimed 13 tanks destroyed. In mid-January 1943 the surviving personnel left for Deblin-Irena in Poland to rest and convert to the Fw 190, except for 7. Staffel which continued to fly the Hs 123. A few Hs 129s and crews from the other Staffeln were also left behind in South Russia. The Gruppenkommandeur, Hptm. Frank Neubert, was shot down and wounded by Soviet AA fire on 30 January near Skurbiy.

Based at Nikolayev-East from 6 February, the conversion to Fw 190A-5s was completed by the first week in March. The Gruppe was then transferred to Pavlograd in the east-central part of the Ukraine for a month of training and workups before moving back to the front in mid-April.

Its new home was Anapa in the North Caucasus where it remained until the beginning of July. The ground attack missions from Anapa in support of 17th Army, cut off in the constantly shrinking Kuban bridgehead, were intense and costly. The Soviet Air Force had concentrated vastly superior forces in this sector and out-numbered the Luftwaffe four to one, and, in addition, had heavily reinforced the numbers of AA guns in the area. Anapa was bombed on April 19th for the loss of two of 7. Staffel's Hs 123s. Between 10 and 17 May at least seven Fw 190A-5s were shot down while attacking targets around Abinskaya and Krymskaya, most falling to AA fire. The Russians bombed Anapa again on June 12th, destroying a Fw 190A-6. The month of June also saw the arrival of some of the new Fw 190F-3s which were better designed for the ground-attack role and featured better armor protection. One Fw 190F-3 was shot down on the 17th and two more destroyed in a runway collision at Novorossisk on 1 July when a bomb on one of them accidentally detonated.

The Kursk Offensive took priority over support of the Kuban bridgehead and the Gruppe was ordered north to Varvarovka on July 2-3 to operate against Soviet forces along the Donets River southeast of Kharkov. Operation "Zitadelle" commenced on 5 July, but II./SchG 1 did not get mixed in with the heavy fighting until Russian spearheads began to close around early August. In five days, between August 3 and 7, one Fw 190F-3 and a Hs 123A were shot down by Russian fighters, six more Fw 190s were damaged in action south of Kharkov, and a further four Fw 190s were destroyed or damaged in a Soviet raid on Varvarovka. It was forced back to Rudka and from there flew continuously in the defense of Kharkov, losing at least four Fw 190s, with two more damaged. The Red Army finally took the city on 22 August. By mid-September, II./SchG 1 was again forced to withdraw to the west, this time to Kiev-South, where it flew missions against Soviet armored columns driving rapidly on the Ukranian capital. Losses during September and October were extremely light, averaging only about one aircraft a week. On or about 18 October 1943, II./SchG 1 was renamed II./SG 2, with 5. Staffel becoming 8. Staffel and the others retaining their previous numbers.

Kommandeure:

Hptm. Paul-Friedrich Darjes 3/42-9/42
Hptm. Frank Neubert10/42-9/43
Hptm. Heinz Frank9/43-10/43


8.(Pz)/SchG 1

8./SchG 1 was renamed from 10.(Sch)/LG 2 on 13 January 1942 at Dugino in central Russia, where it continued to operate under VIII. Fliegerkorps until the beginning of April. It then returned to Germany, disbanded, and was then immediately reestablished with Bf 109E-7s. The Staffel's Hs 123s biplanes were turned over to 7. Staffel. Although 8. (Pz) was organizationally a component of I. Gruppe from 13 January 1942 until the Geschwader's reorganization in January-February 1943, it is carried separately here because of its conversion to the Hs 129 in January-February 1943 and redesignation as a PanzerjŠgerstaffel.

It was transferred to the southeastern part of the Ukraine via Lvov, Poland on May 5th and flew support missions in the fighting around the Izyum Salient in May, but didn't report any losses until July 26th, when a Bf 109E-7 returned to Morosovskaya-West badly damaged after being shot up by a Russian fighter. It remained active in the Stalingrad area with bases at Tusov in September and Morosovskaya in early December, but by mid-December was withdrawn for rest and conversion to the Hs 129, probably in Germany.

It was then redesignated as 8.(Pz)/SchG 1 and was semi-independent. It returned to southern Russia by the end of February and reported some training crashes at Zaparozhye-East on 22 February and at Kharkov on 21 March. At the beginning of April it was sent to the North Caucasus to support operations in the Kuban bridgehead, with bases at Kerch and Anapa. Very heavy losses were suffered in the bitter fighting over the beleaguered Kuban. A Hs 129B-2 went down to AA fire on April 5th, two more were lost in the Krymskaya-Bakanskaya area on 16 April; another on 3 May; two fell to AA fire on May 5th; two more on May 27th and the last was lost to Russian AA fire and fighters on 29 May.

The survivors were withdrawn to Zaporozhye in the southern Ukraine in early June to rest, refit, and re-equip. On 2 July, and now back to strength, 8. (Pz) was transferred to Mikoyanovka, 8 kilometers southwest of Belgorod, for Operation "Zitadelle", the German offensive against the Kursk salient. Losses were again heavy as the Staffel pounded Soviet armor east of Kursk. As the Germans were forced over to the defensive at the height of the battle, the Staffel was ordered to Orel-West around 15 July to help blunt the powerful Soviet counter-attack toward Orel that had begun two days before. By the end of July it was based at Karachev, about 75 kilometers west-northwest of Orel, probably at Konotop during August and then moved to Poltava around the beginning of September. From there the Staffel was committed in the fierce rear guard fighting between Kharkov and Kiev before transferring on 21 September to Zaporozhye. After losing five Hs 129B-2s over the course of the month, the next move was to Kiev on or about 30 September as the Soviet spearheads approached Zaporozhye. While based at Kiev 8. (Pz) was renamed 11.(Pz)/SG 9 in October 1943.


Erg.Staffel/SchG 1

This was formed on 13 January 1942 by renaming Erg.Staffel (Schlacht)/LG 2. Its base locations are not known although one source places it at Novocherkassk, 36 kilometers northeast of Rostov, in the late summer and early autumn of 1942. It was disbanded in December 1942 following the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad and the withdrawal of SchG 1 from the front for conversion to the Fw 190.


An earlier version of this appeared in Luftwaffe Verband Journal 8 and 9, October 96 and January 97.


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