Kampfgeschwader 54

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Kampfgeschwader 54
KG54 Totenkopf.jpg
Active 1939–1945
Country Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Branch Luftwaffe
Type Bomber Wing
Role Tactical and Direct Ground Support.
Size Air Force Wing
Nickname Totenkopf
Engagements Polish Campaign
German invasion of Denmark (1940)
Norwegian Campaign
Battle of the Netherlands
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
Battle of Britain
Battle of the Atlantic
Eastern Front
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Geschwaderkennung
of B3

Kampfgeschwader 54 "Totenkopf"(German pronunciation: [ kampfɡəʃvaːdɐ fiːɐ ʊntfʏnftsɪç ]) (KG 54) was a Luftwaffe bomber wing during World War II. Its units participated on all of the fronts in the European Theatre until it was disbanded in May 1945. It operated two of the major German bomber types; the Heinkel He 111 and the Junkers Ju 88. Its unit insignia, sometimes displayed on a shield-like device, but more often depicted over a normal camouflage pattern, bore a strikingly close graphic resemblance to that of the 3rd SS Panzer Division, known by the same name.

History[edit]

Kampfgeschwader 54 was formed on 1 May 1939 at Fritzlar, Germany with Stab./KG 54, II Gruppe and III Gruppe. I Gruppe were not formed until December 1939 near Hoya.

Wartime service[edit]

Poland[edit]

Only 2 Staffel of I Gruppe participated in the invasion. The rest of the unit did not participate during the campaign. Instead it was put on standby in western Germany, in case of Allied attack. Among the targets were troop concentrations against Praha on 10 September, and Brest-Litovsk on 15 September. The Staffel was withdrawn on 20 September.[1]

Denmark and Norway[edit]

Only II./KG 54 participated, and was put under the command of X. Fliegerkorps. The Gruppe targeted rail links at Dombås-Åndalsnes-Vaalebru, Norway, on 23 April. The Gruppe also attacked Dombås railway station on 26 May, and retreating British forces at Namos.[2]

France and the Low Countries[edit]

KG 54 began the campaign in the west with a strength of 106 He 111s and Ju 88s, with 80 serviceable.[3] KG 54 lost 46 bombers, 130 personnel killed, 10 missing, 60 wounded and 188 as POW (some were later released). KG 54 dropped 409 tons of bombs in 1,200 sorties. KG 54 carried out the bombing operation against Rotterdam on 14 May 1940. The city centre was destroyed. Bombs struck vegetable oil storage tanks causing uncontrollable fires. Some 800 Dutch civilians were killed and 78,000 made homeless.[4][5]

Battle of Britain[edit]

Main article: Battle of Britain
Junkers Ju 88 of Kampfgeschwader 54 (KG 54) in France, November 1940

On 11 July IV.(Erg)/KG 54 was created at Lechfeld using some personnel from III./KG 54. Equipped with Ju 88As and He 111Ps the Staffel was renamed 10.(Erg)/54. The unit lost 265 killed, 121 missing, 63 as POWs and 65 wounded as well as 62 aircraft during the operation.[6] I./KG 54 flew 1,189 missions, and lost 27 aircraft and another 27 damaged in July 1940 – May 1941.[7] III./KG 54 lost 9 aircraft, 12 personnel killed, and one wounded (POW figures unknown).[8] It took part in the climax of the air campaign on 15 September 1940, which has become known as the Battle of Britain Day. The day witnessed a series of running, but intense, air battles over London.

KG 54 flew thousands of sorties during The Blitz, hitting targets all over the United Kingdom, including targets as far away as Glasgow, Scotland and Belfast, Northern Ireland in April and May 1941, near the Blitz's conclusion.[9]

Western Front, Channel Front and Atlantic Duties, 1941[edit]

During its time in France, II./KG 54 also attempted to support the German battleship Bismarck during her Atlantic operation during 26–28 May 1941. However, the unit was unable to intervene before she sank.

Operation Barbarossa[edit]

The KG 54 committed 70 aircraft to the initial attack, with 64 serviceable. On 22 June it attacked airfields at Ovruch and Korosten, in support of Army Group South. The unit also struck Soviet tank concentrations at Lubysza and Rawa Ruzka on 23 June, and Tarnopol on 30 June. Throughout July KG 54 supported the advance toward Kiev. Rail tragets at Zhitomir-Kiev, Kazatin-Fastov, Fastov-Kiev, Korosten-Novograd and Korsun between 8 and 13 July.[10] II./KG 54 lost 12 aircraft during July, during the same period I./KG 54 lost 19.[11] II./KG 54 lost 24 bombers and 20 damaged. It lost 39 crew members killed, 37 missing, 2 as POWs and 28 wounded.[12]

1942[edit]

II./KG 54, the only unit of the Geschwader to operate on the front after Barbarossa, participated in the Battle of Kharkov (the unit had participated in two of the three battles for the city during the war, in 1941 and 1942) and the Battle of Stalingrad. It reported 32 aircraft losses and 20 damaged, suffered 31 killed, 57 missing and 29 wounded. No personnel were recorded as captured.[12] The Geschwader was withdrawn from Russia on 8 October 1942.

Western Front, Channel Front: 1942[edit]

II./KG 54 briefly returned to British skies in 1942. Between 29 July and 14 August 1942 it lost 6 bombers on missions against Bedford, Birmingham, Norwich, Southend, Hastings and Luton.[12] It returned to the Eastern Front on 17 August 1942.

Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres[edit]

I./KG 54 supported the Afrika Korps from December 1941 - February 1943. The unit flew missions in North Africa and from bases in Sicily against Malta, and later Allied supply convoys. In December 1942 the Gruppe was down to just 50 percent of its authorised strength. After refitting in Germany, the Gruppe returned to Italy. I./KG 54 then attacked ports along the Allied held coast of North Africa until December. II./KG also operated in North Africa from October 1942 - May 1943. The Gruppe lost 30 machines before its withdrawal. II./KG 54 then continued operating throughout the Italian Campaign, making all out efforts against Allied shipping, with LT 350 torpedoes in the Gulf of Naples. The Gruppe lost 18 Ju 88s during these operations.[13]

The Western front, Normandy Campaign and Operation Steinbock[edit]

I./KG 54 lost 15 aircraft in February–March alone during Steinbock. Operating from bases in northern Germany (Wittmund, Jever, Marx), the Gruppe was rushed to Juvincourt on 6 June 1944, due to the Normandy landings. I./KG 54 operated against the British beachheads, but suffered heavy losses. After just five days, I./KG 54 had lost 13 machines, and II./KG 54 lost a further 10. All Gruppen were withdrawn from the Western Front in September 1944.[14] The Geschwader began to convert to the Messerschmitt Me 262, as KG(J) 54, during this period.

Commanding officers[edit]

Geschwaderkommodore[edit]

Gruppenkommandeure[edit]

I. Gruppe/KG 54[edit]

  • Major Otto Höhne, 1 May 1939 – 21 June 1940
  • Hauptmann Jobst Heinrich von Heydebreck, 22 June 1940 – 28 February 1941
  • Hauptmann Richard Linke, 1 March 1941 – 19 August 1941
  • Hauptmann Walter Freimann, 20 August 1941 – 10 October 1941
  • Hauptmann Hans Widmann, 11 October 1941 – 25 October 1941
  • Hauptmann Georg Graf von Platen, 26 October 1941 – 19 November 1942
  • Oberleutnant Helmut von Raven, 20 November 1942 – 13 April 1943
  • Hauptmann Gerhard Molkentin, 14 April 1943 – 4 October 1943
  • Major Otfried Sehrt, 5 October 1943 – 25 March 1945
  • Hauptmann Hans Baasner, 26 March 1945 – 8 May 1945

References[edit]

Airfield Marx was also used from the KG 54 in 1944.

  1. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol. 1, 2007, p. 178.
  2. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol. 1, 2007, p. 183.
  3. ^ de Zeng et al. 2007, p. 177, 178, 183, 188.
  4. ^ de Zeng et al. Vol 1, 2007, p. 177.
  5. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 249.
  6. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 177.
  7. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 179.
  8. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 188.
  9. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 184.
  10. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 179-84.
  11. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 185.
  12. ^ a b c de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 186.
  13. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 187.
  14. ^ de Zeng et al., Vol.1, 2007, p. 183-190.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • Bergstrom, Christer (2007). Stalingrad - The Air Battle: November 1942 - February 1943. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4 .
  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Kursk - The Air Battle: July 1943. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-903223-88-8.
  • de Zeng, H.L; Stankey, D.G; Creek, E.J. Bomber Units of the Luftwaffe 1933-1945; A Reference Source, Volume 1. Ian Allan Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-279-5
  • Hooton, Edward. Phoenix Triumphant: The Rise and Rise of the Luftwaffe. Arms & Armour Press. 1994. ISBN 1-86019-964-X

External links[edit]