Last de­fence of the Re­ich

Fw 190 to the end of the war

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS -

The fi­nal year of the Sec­ond World War saw the Al­lies land­ing in Nor­mandy and push­ing east, while the Sovi­ets drove the bat­tered Ger­man armies west­wards. Above it all, the Fw 190 con­tin­ued to fight on the front line dur­ing in­creas­ingly des­per­ate bat­tles against the Amer­i­can, Bri­tish and Rus­sian air forces…

Dur­ing the spring of 1943, as both Amer­i­can day­light bomb­ing and Bri­tish night bomb­ing in­ten­si­fied, the Luft­waffe came un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure to pre­vent it. While ef­fec­tive tac­tics had been de­vel­oped which en­abled the Fw 190 to tackle Amer­i­can B-17s and B-24s, the RAF’S bombers were more dif­fi­cult to stop. When com­bined into a sin­gle stream, it was im­pos­si­ble for Ger­man con­trollers on the ground to di­rect twinengined two-seater Messer­schmitt Bf 110, Junkers Ju 88 and Dornier Do 217 night fighters on to in­di­vid­ual tar­gets. In ad­di­tion, from April 1943, the Bri­tish were able to jam the Ger­man Licht­en­stein B/C radar and then the C-1 that fol­lowed it. While the ‘battle of the beams’ went on, with both sides try­ing to im­prove their radar and radar jamming tech­nol­ogy, Ger­man night fighter pro­duc­tion failed to keep pace with the sheer num­ber of bombers that the RAF was able to field night af­ter night. An in­no­va­tive so­lu­tion was de­vised by Luft­waffe pi­lot Ober­stleu­tant Hans-joachim Herrmann. He thought that sin­gle seat day fighters, work­ing closely with search­lights and flak on the ground, could be sent up at night in­di­vid­u­ally to spot en­emy bombers by sight alone. This, he thought, would not be too dif­fi­cult when faced with a huge for­ma­tion. The Fw 190 was his weapon of choice for th­ese op­er­a­tions, which were dubbed Wilde Sau or ‘wild boar’. An im­pro­vised unit was set up, Nacht­jagdver­such­skom­mando Her­mann, on April 20-22 and train­ing of pi­lots be­gan. The first ma­jor Wilde Sau op­er­a­tion took place on July 3, 1943, over Köln. The flak and search­lights com­pletely ig­nored their in­struc­tions, light­ing up the bombers and Her­mann’s fighters in­dis­crim­i­nately while the flak seemed to fire at ran­dom. Nev­er­the­less, the Wilde Sau op­er­a­tion suc­cess­fully shot down six Bri­tish bombers in­clud­ing a Lan­caster and a Hal­i­fax. Now Her­mann was given a mixed force of eight un­mod­i­fied Fw 190s in­clud­ing A-4s, A-5s and A-6s, plus 33 Bf 109G-6s and a sin­gle Bf 109T. The unit was ini­tally dubbed ‘JG Herrmann’ but re­named JG 300 on Au­gust 20, 1943. Op­er­a­tions con­tin­ued from the end of July through to Septem­ber 26 when two ad­di­tional units were formed – JG 301 and JG 302. The only Gruppe of th­ese to fly the Fw 190, how­ever, was II./JG 301 and it shared its air­craft with I./JG 11, which used them dur­ing the day. Fly­ing a sin­gle seat fighter at night with­out the aid of radar and with ra­dio fre­quen­cies of­ten heav­ily jammed was ex­tremely danger­ous and losses were high. Pi­lots were trained to sim­ply bail out if they be­came con­fused, ran out of fuel or suf­fered dam­age, rather than risk a crash land­ing in dark­ness. Kurt Tank was re­port­edly im­pressed by this pre­vi­ously un­fore­seen use for his fighter and set about de­vel­op­ing a ver­sion of the Fw 190A-6 equipped with a FUG Nep­tun air­borne in­ter­cept radar. Suc­cess­ful ex­per­i­ments were con­ducted with the FUG 216 Nep­tun V, the air­craft fit­ted with it be­ing able to in­de­pen­dently de­tect en­emy bombers in any weather.

A num­ber of th­ese ex­per­i­men­tal air­frames were used in com­bat by 2./JG 2 to shoot down a num­ber of Hal­i­fax bombers in Novem­ber 1943. In De­cem­ber a Fw 190A-5, WNR. 181703 CI+PU, was fit­ted with the FUG Nep­tun 216 R tail warn­ing radar.

‘Big Week’and Ber­lin

A new air fleet, Luft­flotte Re­ich, was formed on Jan­uary 1, 1944, and it in­cluded Fw 190equipped Grup­pen of JG 1, JG 11, JG 300 and JG 302. Four days later JG 1 and JG 11 were in ac­tion against Eighth Air Force heavy bomber for­ma­tions, and their fighter es­corts, at­tack­ing tar­gets across both France and Ger­man. Fur­ther raids took place on Jan­uary 7 and 11 but by far the largest was on Jan­uary 29 when more than 800 bombers and 630 fighters tar­geted Frank­furt. Fw 190-fly­ing I./JG 26 and II./JG 26 in­ter­cepted them over France both on the way there and on the way back, claim­ing just 11 B-17s, five B-24s and five fighters de­stroyed. Three Fw 190 pi­lots were killed. An­other raid the fol­low­ing day had a sim­i­lar out­come for the Al­lies but this time with 11 Ger­man pi­lots killed. Frank­furt was hit again on Fe­bru­ary 4 and again on Fe­bru­ary 8. Fur­ther raids fol­lowed and on Fe­bru­ary 19 the Amer­i­cans launched ‘Big Week’ or Op­er­a­tion Ar­gu­ment. This in­volved 1000 bombers and hun­dreds of fighters – ev­ery op­er­a­tional fighter avail­able to the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. The goal was to crip­ple the Ger­man air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers and tar­gets in­cluded the works of Arado, Heinkel, Erla, Junkers and Ago. I./JG 11, I. and II./JG 1, and II./JG 26 all at­tempted in­ter­cep­tions with their Fw 190s but to­gether they only man­aged to de­stroy 21 bombers and four fighters. The fol­low­ing day, more than 860 bombers hit more fac­to­ries and this time Luft­waffe air­fields were also at­tacked. The pound­ing con­tin­ued un­til Fe­bru­ary 25 with a grand fi­nale attack on Messer­schmitt’s fac­to­ries at Augs­burg and Re­gens­burg with a force of 754 bombers and 899 fighters. ‘Big Week’ did not have the over­all im­pact that the Al­lies hoped, and although Ger­man air­craft pro­duc­tion was af­fected for a few weeks, by late March 1944 most of the dam­age had been re­paired. The Ger­man fighter force, on the other hand, had not faired well. Around 240 pi­lots were killed and an­other 140 had been wounded across all units. The ma­jor­ity of four-en­gined bombers shot down had been dis­patched by Messer­schmitt Bf 109s. There was no time for re­flec­tion how­ever, as the Amer­i­cans next turned their at­ten­tion to at­tacks on the Ger­man cap­i­tal, Ber­lin. The city was bombed by 730 B-17s and B-24s on March 6, es­corted by 801 fighters, and a to­tal of 345 civil­ians were killed. The Amer­i­cans, how­ever, paid a high price for this attack, with 69 bombers shot down, a stag­ger­ing 347 dam­aged and 11 fighters de­stroyed. One of the B-17s had even been rammed by a Fw 190 of Sturm­staffel 1. The Luft­waffe be­lieved it had in­flicted a telling blow on the en­emy but two days later there was an­other attack on Ber­lin, this time with a de­pleted force of 470 bombers but 891 fighter es­corts. On March 18 there was a large-scale bomb­ing raid on air­fields in the Mu­nich area and I./JG 11 man­aged to de­stroy 10 B-24s with­out los­ing a sin­gle Fw 190. Ber­lin was at­tacked again on March 23, this time by 768 bombers. The Fw 190 units con­tin­ued to score vic­to­ries but it was clearly not enough since the Amer­i­cans were able to re­place ev­ery lost air­craft and ev­ery lost crew with an­other in a mat­ter of days. This pat­tern con­tin­ued through­out April and May, when the Amer­i­cans switched their at­ten­tion again, this time to Ger­man oil pro­duc­tion. The end of May saw Al­lied bombers hit­ting tar­gets up and down the French coast in prepa­ra­tion for the op­er­a­tion that would sig­nal the be­gin­ning of the war’s fi­nal phase – Op­er­a­tion Over­lord.

D-day

With the car­nage go­ing on over Ger­many and on the Eastern Front, the Luft­waffe in France had been thor­oughly drained of its strength by June 6, 1944. JG 2 and JG 26 could boast just 92 ser­vice­able fighters when the Al­lies be­gan their land­ings at Nor­mandy – 79 of them Fw 190s and the rest Bf 109s. Ground-attack, fighter-bomber and night fighter Fw 190s amounted to an­other 37. The first Fw 190 victory of D-day came when Haupt­mann Hel­mut Eber­spächer of 3./SKG 10 shot down four Avro Lan­cast­ers of 97 Squadron just af­ter 5am. Four hours later, Ober­stleut­nant Josef Priller and Un­terof­fizier Heinz Wo­dar­czyk of Stab/jg 26 flew over Sword Beach in Fw 190A-8s. On see­ing the hun­dreds of ves­sels ar­rayed be­fore him, Priller re­port­edly said: “What a show! What a show!” The pair fa­mously made a sin­gle straf­ing pass be­fore flee­ing into the clouds as dozens of an­ti­air­craft guns opened fire on them. Half an hour later, I./JG 2 Fw 190A-8/R6S at­tacked land­ing craft at low level with un­der­wing WGR. 21 rocket tubes. Start­ing the day with around 14 ser­vice­able air­craft, I./JG 2 ended it with just three. Units from Ger­many be­gan mov­ing to France to cover ground forces at­tempt­ing to con­tain the land­ings but th­ese suf­fered too, with III./SG 4 los­ing four air­craft while mov­ing to Laval. Fighter units equipped with the Fw 190 that moved up to op­pose the Al­lies in­cluded el­e­ments of JG 1, JG 3, JG 11 and JG 54. At­tempts to ac­tu­ally fight the Bri­tish and Amer­i­cans were ham­pered by con­tin­ual air raids on their air­fields, which fre­quently dam­aged the Fw 190s of­ten even in their dis­persed po­si­tions. A few days later, 7./JG 51 also moved to France from Rus­sia, hav­ing been freshly reequipped with Fw 190A-8s. Leut­nant Gün­ther Heck­mann of 7./JG 51 de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion his unit found on

ar­rival: “We quickly learned the rules for sur­vival in Nor­mandy. Mus­tangs and Thun­der­bolts con­tin­u­ally cir­cled and dived as soon as they saw their prey. The only pos­si­bil­ity of es­cap­ing them was to bank and en­gage them in a turn­ing dog­fight. “Nerves of steel were re­quired. Pi­lots who tried to flee had no chance – the Amer­i­cans would catch them in sec­onds. Ty­phoons, Tem­pests and Spit­fires were the air­craft which were ca­pa­ble of dog­fight­ing.” It was chaos and although the Ger­mans man­aged their share of suc­cesses, for ex­am­ple when Haupt­mann Emil ‘Bully’ Lang of II./JG 26 shot down four P-51 Mus­tangs in four min­utes on June 20 and de­stroyed an­other four on June 24, it was clear that they were strug­gling to com­bat the rov­ing Al­lied fighters ef­fec­tively. Af­ter the Amer­i­cans achieved a break­through with Op­er­a­tion Co­bra on July 27, Ger­man forces be­gan a gen­eral retreat from west­ern France and the ex­hausted fighter units were re­moved from the front line, one at a time, for rest and re-equip­ment at bases in Ger­many. An­other two Fw 190 Grup­pen were formed at the end of the month when heavy fighter units I. and II. ZG 26 were re­des­ig­nated I. and II./JG 6 and be­gan con­ver­sion to the Fw 190A-8. It proved longer than ex­pected to bring the var­i­ous Fw 190 units back up to strength how­ever, and JG 6 was not ready for ac­tion un­til Au­gust 22, when II./JG 6 was fi­nally trans­ferred to its new base at Reims in eastern France. Dur­ing its first op­er­a­tion, on Au­gust 25, its 40 Fw 190s ran into a large for­ma­tion of P-38 Light­nings from the 367th Fighter Group. In the en­su­ing melee the Ger­mans came off sub­stan­tially worse, with 16 Fw 190s be­ing de­stroyed com­pared to 11 P-38s. By this time, SKG 10’s fighter-bomber Fw 190s had flown al­most 3000 sor­ties over the in­va­sion area and then across France as the Al­lies be­gan to rapidly ad­vance. Both its pi­lots and its stock of air­craft had been se­verely de­pleted. III./SG 4 had been al­most wiped out. When the Op­er­a­tion Mar­ket Gar­den land­ings took place in Hol­land on Septem­ber 17, 1944, the two clos­est Fw 190 units, I. and II./JG 26, tried to in­ter­cept the waves of trans­ports and glid­ers as they made for the drop zone but were headed off by RAF Spit­fires and USAAF Mus­tangs. Fur­ther clashes dur­ing the course of the op­er­a­tion saw the Ger­man fighter forces again com­ing off worst. On the last day of the ac­tion, Septem­ber 27, 1944, I. and II./JG 26 shot down five Spit­fires, but lost six Fw 190s. Dur­ing late Septem­ber and early Oc­to­ber, the first Fw 190A-9s and D-9s were in­tro­duced and the Wilde Sau night fighter Grup­pen of JG 301 be­gan con­vert­ing from the Bf 109 to Fw 190A-8s, which by now were be­ing churned out in prodi­gious quan­ti­ties – far larger quan­ti­ties than of any pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the air­craft. While the units that re­ceived it re­garded the Dora 9 as a new and more pow­er­ful ver­sion of the Fw 190, Focke-wulf viewed it as an un­for­tu­nate com­pro­mise, brought about by ne­ces­sity rather than any par­tic­u­lar de­sire to see the Fw 190’s life­span pro­longed. Chief designer Kurt Tank had his heart set on in­tro­duc­ing the Ta 152 but this goal was slip­ping away from him. As noted else­where in this pub­li­ca­tion, one of the first tasks of the Dora 9-equipped 9./JG 54 and 12./JG 54 was to watch over the Messer­schmitt Me 262s of Kom­mando Nowotny as they were tak­ing off and land­ing at Ach­mer and He­sepe. The jets were ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble dur­ing th­ese stages of flight due to their poor ac­cel­er­a­tion.

op­er­a­tion Ba­gra­tion

Just over two weeks af­ter the be­gin­ning of Op­er­a­tion Over­lord on the French coast, the Rus­sians launched their largest of­fen­sive to date on the Eastern Front. Op­er­a­tion Ba­gra­tion be­gan on June 22, 1944, and this time it was the Ger­mans who were caught off guard. The sheer weight of Ba­gra­tion was as stag­ger­ing as it was un­ex­pected when it hit Army Group Cen­tre. The sup­ply chain keep­ing front line Ger­man units stocked with food and ammunition was sev­ered dur­ing a con­cen­trated bomb­ing cam­paign. The Soviet Air Force put up hun­dreds of air­craft – swarms of fighters and fighter-bombers the like of which had not been seen be­fore. With units hav­ing been trans­ferred to the west to fight the Al­lies in Nor­mandy, Luft­flotte 6 had 173 Fw 190s to fight back – but just 17 of th­ese were ded­i­cated fighters, the re­main­der be­ing fighter-bombers. Th­ese suf­fered heavy losses as they were called upon to act as fighters in an ef­fort to pre­vent wave af­ter wave of Il-2s from destroying Ger­man ground forces. By the sec­ond week of July, Army Group Cen­tre was dis­in­te­grat­ing and an­other ma­jor as­sault was un­der way in Ukraine which the Luft­waffe was again ill-equipped to deal with, re­sult­ing in sig­nif­i­cant losses to the Fw 190s of II./SG 2, II./SG 10, SG 77 and 1./NAGR 32. Crit­i­cal fuel short­ages, thanks to the on­go­ing Amer­i­can cam­paign to an­ni­hi­late Ger­many’s oil re­finer­ies, also meant that the num­ber of sor­ties that could be flown, even when ser­vice­able air­craft were avail­able, had to be limited. Nearly all avail­able Fw 190 fighter-bomber units, in­clud­ing SG 1, SG 2, SG 3, SG 4, SG 10 and SG 77, had been trans­ferred to the Eastern Front by Septem­ber 1944, since it was recog­nised that the Sovi­ets now rep­re­sented an even greater threat than the west­ern Al­lies. Both Fin­land and Ro­ma­nia were now ef­fec­tively out of the war but with a last ditch ef­fort the Sovi­ets were held back and a shaky front line was es­tab­lished along the River Vis­tula in Poland.

Cour­land Pocket

By mid-oc­to­ber, the Sovi­ets had over­run the head­quar­ters of the 3rd Panzer Army and ad­vanced as far as the Baltic, cut­ting off what re­mained of Army Group North and Luft­flotte 1 in the north­west of Latvia – an area that be­came known as the Cour­land pocket. Among the units op­er­at­ing the Fw 190 in the area were II. and III./SG 3 in their groun­dat­tack role with the fighters of I. and II./JG 54 en­gag­ing Soviet sin­gle-seaters and bombers alike. Fe­ro­cious bat­tles were fought over and around the pocket, with the two fighter Grup­pen shoot­ing down 31 en­emy air­craft on Oc­to­ber 9 alone. The Rus­sians tried re­peat­edly to crush the pocket through­out the month and on Oc­to­ber 29 they launched an attack with 1800 bombers and fighter-bombers. Even this seem­ingly over­whelm­ing force failed to dis­lodged the well dug in Ger­man ground forces how­ever. JG 54 con­tin­ued to shoot down Il-2s, Pe-2s and Yak-9s, no­tably destroying 42 on De­cem­ber 21, 1944.

the ‘Great Blow’

On the West­ern Front, the Ger­man army had fi­nally man­aged to halt the Al­lied ad­vance by Oc­to­ber and the Luft­waffe was able to

con­cen­trate on the prob­lem of the waves of heavy bombers still reg­u­larly pound­ing Ger­man in­dus­try. Gen­eral der Jagdflieger Gen­er­alleut­nant Adolf Gal­land used this op­por­tu­nity to lay plans for what he called ‘the Great Blow’ – an attack en masse that would in­flict cat­a­strophic dam­age dur­ing one of the Eighth Air Force’s larger bomb­ing raids. If half of the B-17s and B-24s tak­ing part in a 1000 bomber raid could be de­stroyed, Gal­land rea­soned, the Amer­i­cans would need time to re­cover. This would al­low Messer­schmitt time to pro­duce large num­bers of Me 262 jets and Focke-wulf time to fi­nally get its Fw 190 re­place­ment Ta 152 into ser­vice. By the start of Novem­ber 1944, Luft­flotte Re­ich had more than 1000 Fw 190s in hand, most of them A-8s and A-9s, plus 56 D-9s, while the front line units in France saw their num­bers dwin­dle cor­re­spond­ingly. Over­all, in­clud­ing other types, Gal­land had nearly 2200 fighters pre­pared. Ev­ery­thing was ready by Novem­ber 12 but then Gal­land was or­dered to pre­pare th­ese huge re­serves for a new of­fen­sive on the front line to the West against Bri­tish and Amer­i­can fighters and fighter-bombers. The Gen­eral der Jagdflieger was as­ton­ished. All his units now had too many air­craft – at least 70 apiece – to fit on to front line air­fields and the new pi­lots he had been gath­er­ing were trained to fight bombers, not fighters. So the Great Blow never fell and the Luft­waffe was forced to begin dis­man­tling its attack fleet.

Watch on The rhine and Base­plate

Leav­ing JG 300 and JG 301 to fight the Amer­i­can bombers, el­e­ments of JG 1, JG 2, JG 3, JG 4, JG 6, JG 11, JG 26, JG 54, SG 4 and NSGR 20 were moved into po­si­tion to sup­port and attack on Al­lied ground forces to the west. At 5.30am on De­cem­ber 16, Op­er­a­tion Watch on the Rhine be­gan with a huge ar­tillery bar­rage against an 80 mile sec­tion of the Al­lied front line. Then the 5th and 6th Panzer Armies and the 7th Army drove into the line, and smashed through. Al­lied air­craft were grounded by snow­storms but the Ger­man tanks con­tin­ued to ad­vance. The 6th reached Bas­togne in Bel­gium be­fore the attack was fi­nally blocked by Al­lied forces. As the month dragged on, the weather im­proved and the USAAF, RAF and Luft­waffe were sud­denly able to com­mence of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions again. Now the Luft­waffe de­cided to launch a mod­i­fied ver­sion of Gal­land’s ‘Great Blow’ – Op­er­a­tion Bo­den­platte or ‘Base­plate’. The tar­get would be 11 Al­lied for­ward fighter and fighter-bomber air­fields in France, Hol­land and Bel­gium, rather than high-fly­ing heavy bombers. Some 490 Fw 190s were avail­able for the attack. Th­ese in­cluded A-8s and A-9s from JG 1, JG 3, JG 6 and JG 11, A-8s and D-9s from JG 2 and JG 4, D-9s from JG 26 and JG 27, and A-8s, A-9s and D-9s from JG 54. The fighters took off at dawn on Jan­uary 1, 1945, and made for their tar­gets. It wasn’t quite the light­ning hit and run strike that the Ger­mans had in­tended how­ever. The Al­lies were caught off guard but the Ger­man fighters en­coun­tered heavy flak, fighters that were al­ready in the air and gen­er­ally far stiffer re­sis­tance than ex­pected. Over­all, 305 Al­lied fighters were de­stroyed, most of them on the ground and with­out their pi­lots be­ing harmed. The Ger­mans, on the other hand, lost 271 air­craft, 144 of them Fw 190s. Losses among pi­lots were ap­palling – 143 killed or miss­ing, an­other 70 taken prisoner af­ter bail­ing out or crash land­ing and 21 wounded. Al­lied man­u­fac­tur­ing was able to make good the losses of air­craft within a mat­ter of days but the Luft­waffe never re­cov­ered from los­ing so many pi­lots in one go. A se­ries of clashes with Al­lied fighters on Jan­uary 14 re­sulted in still more griev­ous losses. JG 301 lost six Fw 190A-8s, 10 A-9s and D9/R11s and nine A-9/R11S while fight­ing off the Mus­tangs that were es­cort­ing a for­ma­tion of 650 bombers en route to a fuel de­pot in Ger­many. To­tal losses for the day were 85 Fw 190s de­stroyed.

The road To Ber­lin

With the Rus­sian win­ter fi­nally re­lent­ing, the last great Soviet of­fen­sive of the war be­gan on Jan­uary 12, 1945, and this time there was no stop­ping it. Much of what re­mained of the Luft­waffe’s fighter strength in the west had to be hur­riedly trans­ferred to the east in an at­tempt to stop the Rus­sian Il-2s from in­flict­ing dev­as­tat­ing ca­su­al­ties on the Ger­man army. Those fly­ing the re­main­ing Fw 190s and Bf 109s were mostly raw re­cruits, led by a hand­ful of highly ex­pe­ri­enced but ut­terly ex­hausted vet­er­ans. The Sovi­ets reached the River Oder on Jan­uary 23 – just over 50 miles east of Ber­lin – and by the end of the month the Luft­waffe had lost yet an­other 215 fighters. When the RAF bombed Dres­den on the night of Fe­bru­ary 13/14 there were few Ger­man fighters to op­pose them but when the Amer­i­cans sent 311 bombers to carry out a sec­ond attack on the city on Fe­bru­ary 14, II./300 and JG 301 tried to op­pose them. Nei­ther was suc­cess­ful but both lost four Fw 190s. By Fe­bru­ary 25, most of III./JG 54’s D-9s, pro­tect­ing the Me 262s at Ach­mer and He­sepe, had been de­stroyed and it was ab­sorbed into JG 26. The sit­u­a­tion was des­per­ate but even so, with the last of the Luft­waffe’s strength now com­mit­ted to stop­ping the Rus­sians from cross­ing the Oder, it was able to gain some suc­cesses. Some 14,000 sor­ties were flown against the Sovi­ets from Fe­bru­ary 1 to Fe­bru­ary 10. As this re­sis­tance con­tin­ued, the Amer­i­cans reached the River Rhine to the west. Amazed to find a bridge in­tact at Rema­gen, they quickly be­gan to bring forces across it. Twenty-four Fw 190 fighter-bombers were brought in to try and de­stroy it on March 9 but their at­tempts were not im­me­di­ately suc­cess­ful and the Amer­i­cans had, in any case, quickly built sev­eral pon­toon bridges nearby. The noose was tight­en­ing by the be­gin­ning of April and by the mid­dle of the month the Sovi­ets had a stag­ger­ing 150 di­vi­sions massed along the Oder, sup­ported by some 7500 com­bat air­craft of all types. The Luft­waffe had just over 2000 re­main­ing and pre­cious lit­tle fuel to put in them. The Rus­sian attack on Ber­lin it­self com­menced on April 16 and en­cir­clement be­gan on April 24. Among the Fw 190 units de­fend­ing the cap­i­tal were JG 3, I./SG 1 and II./SG 1. When the Sovi­ets fi­nally took the city, those re­main­ing Luft­waffe per­son­nel with suf­fi­cient fuel left to fly their air­craft made a des­per­ate at­tempt to fly west­wards and sur­ren­der to the Bri­tish and Amer­i­cans. Oth­ers at­tempted to es­cape west­wards on foot or by road ve­hi­cle. Still oth­ers had no choice but to sur­ren­der to the Rus­sians. The Fw 190’s time in the ser­vice of the Third Re­ich was over.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

A Focke-wulf Fw 190 lies bro­ken and up­side down amid the wreck­age around the Re­ich­stag build­ing in Ber­lin.the fighter was flown by sev­eral units dur­ing the last de­fence of the city.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

Fw 190A-6 WNR. 550143 ‘White 11’ fit­ted with the FUG 217 Nep­tun radar – its aeri­als pro­trud­ing from both wings and the fuse­lage fore and aft of the cock­pit.the radar was an at­tempt to fur­ther im­prove the air­craft’s ef­fec­tive­ness dur­ing Wilde Sau night fighter op­er­a­tions but few saw ser­vice. Josef ‘Pips’ Priller poses with his BMW 335 in front of one of his many Fw 190 ‘Black 13’ air­craft in 1943. A year later, his was one of the few Luft­waffe air­craft to attack the in­va­sion beaches on D-day – June 6, 1944.

Bun­de­sarchiv Bild 101I-657-6304-24 Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

A Luft­waffe train­ing model shows the B-17’s fields of fire and how a Fw 190 might ap­proach with­out be­ing shot down. At­tempt­ing to stop Amer­i­can and Bri­tish bombers from caus­ing ma­jor dis­rup­tion to Ger­man in­dus­try was a key goal of many Fw 190 units dur­ing the last year of the war. The Fw 190A-8 of Wal­ter Wag­ner was hit by flak while at­tack­ing St Trond air­field in Bel­gium on Jan­uary 1, 1945, dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Bo­den­platte. Wag­ner made an emer­gency land­ing af­ter his en­gine died and was cap­tured. Amer­i­can en­gi­neers fixed his A-8’s en­gine and ran it for the cam­era – all its weapons have been re­moved.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

A Fw 190A-9 of II./JG 4 at Delitzsch, south-west of Ber­lin, dur­ing 1945. Pre­vi­ously a Sturm unit, II./JG 4 fought un­til the end of the war dur­ing the last des­per­ate bat­tles to de­fend the Re­ich from both the Al­lies and the Sovi­ets. As the Al­lies ad­vanced east­wards they cap­tured an ever grow­ing num­ber of air­craft that had been aban­doned by the Ger­mans. This Fw 190D-9, WNR. 631444, was pho­tographed at Eschwege near Kas­sel, Hesse, Ger­many, in April 1945. When the Al­lies over­ran Lech­feld on April 29, 1945, they found, among other air­craft, Fw 190A-8 ‘White 40’.

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