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Old 04-26-2010, 06:20 PM
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Default a couple LW stories...

Not from Knoke this time but Oberleutnant Hans Hartigs, 4/JG26, 25th June 1944: "At this time I had a splendid wingman, Oberfahnrich Wolfgang Marx. The boy could fly but he couldn't stay with me. After each mission I came home alone. It was enough to make one vomit. One time I had had too much and I threatened to send him back to the Erganzungsgruppe (operational training unit). Flake off once more and the ticket was ready. He was flying with me again today. After a couple of hours at Sitzbereitschaft (cockpit readiness) we received the order to take off.

We sixteen Fockes were vectored perfectly to a Lightning formation 1000 meters [3300 feet] below us. We had obviously been reported to the Lightnings because they began to climb but our attack out of the sun was a complete surprise. Two fell away in flames. As my Gruppe climbed away from its attack, the sky was suddenly empty - no more Lightnings or Fockes. As I banked around to find my little brothers, I spotted two Thunderbolts, flying straight and level just above the clouds at 4000 meters [13,000 feet]. The wingman was too far behind - a perfect target. I closed on him and opened fire. His leader, 'an old hare' pulled up immediately. I lost sight of him and then, just behind me, there appeared a gigantic snout.

Badly frightened, I sought my salvation in a steep climbing turn. The boy was still there. I shoved the stick forward and to the left; all of the trash in my cockpit whirled around me as I dived for the ground, pulling out just above the trees... I saw an Allied airfield and raced across it at top speed, hoping that the gunners' late reaction would catch the fighter behind me. But nothing happened. I would have bailed out but he had not yet opened fire. Was his pepper mill empty? The fighter gradually gained on me and pulled alongside. Marx! It had been Marx all along! I waved at him and led him back to the field. After landing he came up to me and said, "Congratulations, Herr Oberleutnant, on your victory! That was the craziest mission I have ever flown. How many were there behind us? I never looked around. I was trying so hard to stay with you - and I did it!"

from: "The JG26 War Diary: Volume 2 1943-5", Donald Caldwell, Grub Street 1998, p.290.

"12th October 1940: I had hoped for a posting to an operational unit this month. Unfortunately, training is far behind schedule because of the bad autumn weather.

We have a rough time in training here also. There have been one or two fatal accidents every week for the past six week in our Course alone. Today Sergeant Schmidt crashed and was killed. He was one of our section of five.

We have spent several days on theoretical conversion training before flying the Messerschmitt 109, which is difficult to handle and dangerous at first. We can now go through every movement in our sleep.

This morning we brought out the first 109 and were ready to fly. Sergeant Schmidt was chosen as the first of us, by drawing lots. He took off without difficulty, which was something, as the aircraft will only too readily crash on take-off if one is not careful. A premature attempt to climb will cause it to whip over into a spin, swiftly and surely. I have seen that happen hundreds of times and it frequently means the death of the pilot.

Schmidt came in to land after making one circuit; but he misjudged the speed, which was higher than that to which he was accustomed, and so he overshot the runway. He came round again and the same thing happened. He began to worry; for Sergeant Schmidt had obviously lost his nerve. He was coming in and making a final turn before flattening out to touch down, when the aircraft suddenly stalled because of insufficient speed and spun out of control, crashing into the ground and exploding a few hundred feet short of the end of the runway. We all raced like madmen over to the scene of the crash. I was the first to arrive. Schmidt had been thrown clear and was lying several feet away from the flaming wreckage. He was screaming like an animal, covered in blood. I stooped down over the body of my comrade and saw that both legs were missing. I held his head. The scream were driving me insane. Blood poured over my hands. I have never felt so helpless in my life. The screaming finally stopped and became an even more terrible silence. Then Kuhl and the others arrived but by that time Schmidt was dead.

Major von Kornatzky ordered training to be resumed forthwith and less than an hour later the next 109 was brought out. This time it was my turn.

I went into the hangar and washed the blood off my hands. Then the mechanics tightened up my safety belt and I was taxiing off to the take-off point. My heart was madly thumping. Not even the deafening roar of the engine was loud enough to drown out of my ears the lingering screams of my comrade as he lay there dying like an animal. I was no sooner airborne than I noticed the stains on my flying-suit. They were great dark blood-stains and I was frightened. It was a horrible, paralysing fear. I could only be thankful there was no-one present to see how terrified I was.

I circled the field for several minutes and gradually recovered from the panic. At last I was sufficiently calm to come in for a landing. Everything was alright. I took off immediately and landed again. And a third time.

Tears were still in my eyes when I pushed open the canopy and removed my helmet. When I jumped down from the wing I found I could not control the shaking of my knees.

Suddenly I saw Kornatzky standing in front of me. Steely blue eyes seemed to be boring right through me.

"Were you frightened?"
"Yes, sir."
"Better get used to it if you hope to go on operations."

That really hurt. I was so ashamed I wished the ground would swallow me up.

14th October 1940: This morning I was one of the six N.C.O. officer candidates who acted as pallbearers at the funeral of Sergeant Schmidt.

Late this afternoon there was a mid-air collision over the field. Two pupils in No.2 Flight were killed instantly. Once again I was amongst the first to reach the crash and dragged one of the bodies out of the wreckage. The head was a shapeless pulp.

At this rate I shall soon become hardened to the not exactly pretty sight of the remains of an airman who has been killed in a crash."

From: Heinz Knoke, "I Flew for the Fuhrer", Corgi Books 1967.

It is estimated that 10% of 109s were destroyed in landing and take-off accidents, as well as many pilots, but despite its vices it was the favoured mount of most of the major aces of the Luftwaffe.

"I remember one occasion [in the Battle of Britain 1940] when a lad who hadn't, as we used to say, tasted much English air, lost sight of our formation after some frenzied twisting and turning about the sky; he had dived steeply and was over the outskirts of London. He should have stayed with the Staffel instead of chasing off on his own. When he grasped the situation he called for help: "Come quickly! I'm on my own over London."

He hadn't called in vain. By return post, as it were, his Schwarm leader, whom he couldn't see but who could see him clearly and had followed astern and above him, gave the comforting message: "Hang on a second and you'll have a couple of Spitfires behind, then you won't be alone any longer.""

Told by Pips Priller of JG51/JG26 and quoted in Mike Spick's very useful book, "Luftwaffe Fighter Aces: The Jagdflieger and their combat tactics and techniques" Ballantine Books 1996.
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