Kampfgeschwader 76

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Kampfgeschwader 76
Active 1939-1945
Country Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany Nazi Germany
Branch Luftwaffe
Type Bomber Group
Role Tactical and Direct Ground Support.
Size Air Force Group
Engagements Polish Campaign
Battle of the Netherlands
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
Battle of Britain
Eastern Front
Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres
Western Front
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Geschwaderkennung
of F1

Kampfgeschwader 76 (KG 76) was a Luftwaffe bomber Group during World War II . Its units participated on all of the fronts in the European Theatre throughout the conflict, and served until the last day of the war. It operated all three of the major German bomber types; the Dornier Do 17, Heinkel He 111 and the Junkers Ju 88, and also made use of the first-ever operational jet bomber design, the Arado Ar 234.

History[edit]

Dornier Do 17 bombers of KG 76 in flight, and KBK Lw.Polen Lw.3

Kampfgeschwader 76 was formed on 1 May 1939 at Wiener Neustadt in Austria with Stab./KG 76 and I Gruppe. III Gruppe at Wels on the same date with the Do 17E, while II./KG 76 was not formed until September 1939, again in Wels, Northern Austria. While training in the summer of 1939 the Geschwader "worked up" on the Dornier Do 17Z and He 111. II./KG 76 did not become operational until June 1940 and consequently missed the Polish Campaign and the Norwegian Campaign.

War Time Service[edit]

Polish Campaign[edit]

During the Polish Campaign I. and III. Gruppen of KG 76 took part in combat operations. Operating from Breslau-Schöngarten (today Copernicus Airport Wrocław), I./KG 76 committed 36 Dorniers (all serviceable) under Luftflotte 4. The unit participated in the Battle of Bzura, and carried out raids in the areas of Galicia, Radom, Kielce and Warsaw against rail, airfield and troop targets. The Geschwader ceased attacks on 22 September and were ordered to western Germany to face a possible Allied attack. KG 76 was then assigned to Luftflotte 3.

Denmark and Norway[edit]

The unit did not participate in Operation Weserübung but instead spent the spring training and resting in preparation for the decisive western offensive in 1940.

Battle of France and the Low Countries[edit]

During the Battle of France KG 76 began the campaign in the west with a strength of 89 Do 17s, He 111s and Ju 88s, with 89 serviceable on 10 May 1940.[1] KG 76 supported the offensive through the Ardennes and Belgium, later bombed the Allied ports Ostend and Dunkirk, during the Allied evacuation. I./KG 76 supported the crucial breakthrough at Sedan. Other elements supported the drive to the Swiss border, encircling the French forces on the Maginot Line. Attacked several airfields around Laon, and flew sorties against the Maginot Line. The Geschwader took part in Operation Paula, a concentrated attack on airfields around Paris, which began on 3 June. What remained of Allied Airpower was destroyed in this assault. operated I./KG 76 moved to Beavues-Tille. Following the French campaign, II./KG 76 was disbanded and merged into III./KG 28 on 9 July 1940. However, oddly, the Gruppe was reformed on the very same day, as it was decided to rename III./KG 28 back to II./KG 76. The unit also converted to the Ju 88 at this time.[2] For operations over Britain II./KG 76 was moved to airfields at Creil and Cormeilles-en-Vexin in France.

Battle of Britain and Channel Front: 1940–41[edit]

The unit was heavily involved in the Battle of Britain. I./KG 76 was reduced to 19 out of 29 serviceable machines by 18 August 1940. The units continued to attack targets into the Blitz campaign. It raided London on 7 September and 15 September, and took part in attacks on London on 18/19 March and Glasgow on 7/8 April 1941. The unit also attacked Coventry on 8/9 April and Birmingham on 9/10 and 10/11 April. Belfast and Portland were attacked on 15/16 April, while Liverpool was bombed on 26/27 April, 3/4, 4/5 and 7/8 May. Hull, Nottingham and Sheffield were attacked on the night of 8/9 May. It began moving to East Prussia on 7 June 1941, for the coming Operation Barbarossa.[3] The rest of the Gruppen attacked the same targets at various periods during the campaign. II./KG 76 recorded 36 Ju 88s and 28 serviceable machines on 13 August. By 6 September than had shrunk to 27 and 21 respectively.[4] III./KG 76 seems to have been the hardest hit. It had 32 Do 17s of which 19 were airworthy on 13 August. By 7 September it had just 17 airworthy Dorniers left, out of a total of 24 machines. The Geschwader was withdrawn to East Prussia on 7 June 1941. It appears its last sortie as on 30 May 1941, an attack on shipping in the Humber Estuary.

Eastern Front[edit]

During the initial phase of the war on the Eastern Front KG 76 was equipped with 90 aircraft of which 69 were serviceable, in Stab, I, II and III./KG 76.[5] KG 76 supported the German advance through the Baltic states. During this time KG 76 helped sever the rail links between Leningrad and Moscow. KG 76 then shifted its support to Army Group Centre during Operation Typhoon that led to the Battle of Moscow. I./KG 76 bombed Moscow several times, from 10 November 1941 onwards. I./KG 76 was put under the command of Nahkampfführer 2/VIII.Fl.Korps, and then withdrawn for re-equipment in January 1942. KG 76's losses during Barbarossa were light for II./KG 76 (reformed in July 1940 after being dissolved and absorbed by III./KG 28 on 9 July 1940). II./KG 76 losses amounted to just 2 per week, including damaged machines.[6] III./KG 76 took part in conventional mission, but in March 1942 the unit took part in anti-partisan operations behind German lines. Later in 1942 the unit took part in the Battle of Stalingrad and saw heavy action in the Caucasus. KG 76 attacked Soviet shipping along the Volga River and around the Crimean peninsula.

Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres[edit]

The Geschwader took part in the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres. In November 1942 I., II., and III./KG 76 were transferred to Athens, Greece. Missions were flown against Allied shipping off Tobruk and Benghazi. Raids were also carried out on Algiers and Tripoli on the 2 and 5 March 1943. I./KG 76 was withdrawn to Ansbach, Germany for rest and refit. II./KG 76 was withdrawn on 26 April 1943. III./KG 76 took part in the Kampfgeschwader's most significant action. On 16–17 May KG 76 took part in raids on Allied airfields in Corsica. At Poretta airfield, it destroyed 25 Spitfires. An attack on Alesan airfield destroyed 30 B-25s and damaged another 45. The unit was withdrawn on 16 July 1943. I./KG 76 returned to the theatre later in the year and continued operations during the Italian Campaign until December 1943. During this time it also struck at the Allied landings in Sicily. I./KG 76 had 32 Ju 88 A-4s on strength by the time of withdrawal. II./KG 76 moved into bases in Southern France in December 1943. It flew bombing missions against the Anzio beachhead during the Allied Operation Shingle. The unit continued these missions until 10 July 1944, when it handed all its Ju 88s to I./LG 1.

Return to British skies[edit]

I./KG 76 participated in night raids over Great Britain during Operation Steinbock. The Gruppe had 33 Ju 88s with 31 serviceable on 21 January 1944. Some elements of the Gruppe left for the Mediterranean to start operations over Anzio. The element in Mediterranean left for Linz, Austria to convert to the Junkers Ju 188 and Messerschmitt Me 410. It was later decided to convert the unit to the Arado Ar 234 on 7 June. However this was never carried out, and I./KG 76 was disbanded in July 1944.

Western Front 1944–45[edit]

The sole preserved Arado Ar 234, which served with KG 76 in Norway.

The Kampfgeschwader began conversion to the Ar 234 in June 1944. III./KG was the first unit to receive the Ar 234, and received the first two on 26 August. By 1 December 1944 it had 51 of these machines on strength. III./KG 76 operated over France and the Low Countries until the end of the war. It flew some of the first jet bomber missions in history on 24 December 1944 against rail targets in Namur, Belgium. Troop concentrations were attacked around Liège and Bastogne on 26 and 31 December respectively, in support of German forces during the Battle of the Bulge. The unit also flew reconnaissance missions over Antwerp's docks and airfields on 1 January 1945 during Operation Bodenplatte. On 20 January 1945 Ar 234s struck the docks at Antwerp, and struck again on 24 January 1945, which was the wing's last independent mission. Missions were flown against rail targets in the Brussels area on 8 February, and attacked Allied fores around Eindhoven on 21 February. On 24 February, one of the Ar 234s force landed at Selgersdorf near Aachen, and was captured intact. During the 22–28 February period the unit flew a minimum of 20 and maximum of 37 sorties a day.

The unit also attacked the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen from 9–13 March. KG 76 reported high losses during this period. On 21 March their base at Achmer was bombed. 10 Ar 234s were lost and a further 8 damaged. By 1 April 1945 the group had just 11 machines on strength, with seven serviceable and 27 pilots of which 16 were ready for action. III./KG 76 received five Ar 234s on 10 April.[7]

Records indicate that on 12 April strength was 15 aircraft of which 10 were serviceable and 31 (18 ready for action) pilots. The Gruppe spent most of April attacking targets on German soil, against the advancing Allied forces. On 20 April 1945 Ar 234s of III./KG 76 struck at Soviet targets in the Berlin area. 8 Staffel of III./KG 76 flew the Kampfgeschwader's last sortie of the war on 3 May 1945.[7] III./KG 76 also participated in the last battles of the war. The unit had not fully converted to the Ar 234, and still flew the He 111. A mixed group of these aircraft struck at Soviet forces in the Kürstin area. Most of the unit was moved to confront the Western Allies in Western Germany. Targets included marshalling yards, airfields bridges and ground forces. Based at Hesepe, the airfield was attacked on 21 March, killed 11 and wounding 10 of the units personnel. II./KG 76 continued to resist British armoured advances until the 15 April. With just 18 pilots left the Gruppe handed over its remaining aircraft to III./KG 76 and all remaining personnel joined the Geschwaderstab/KG 76. No further missions were flown by the Gruppe after this date. The Gruppe surrendered to Royal Air Force personnel at Schleswig airfield on 8 May 1945.[8]

Commanding officers[edit]

Geschwaderkommodore[edit]

  • Oberst Paul Schultheiss, 1 May 1939 – 15 November 1939
  • Oberst Stefan Fröhlich, 17 November 1939 – 26 February 1941
  • Oberst Dr. Ing. Ernst Bormann, 26 February 1941 – 7 January 1943
  • Major Wilhelm von Friedburg, January 1943 (acting)
  • Oberstleutnant Rudolf Hallensleben, January 1943 – 31 May 1944
  • Oberst Walter Storp, 1 June 1944 – 30 September 1944
  • Oberstleutnant Robert Kowalewski, November 1944 – 8 May 1945[9]

Gruppenkommandeure[edit]

I./KG 76[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 225, 228, 232, 236.
  2. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 232.
  3. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 228-229.
  4. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 233.
  5. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 225,229,233,236.
  6. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 229,233.
  7. ^ a b de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 244.
  8. ^ de Zeng et al.. Vol 2. 2007, p. 235.
  9. ^ de Zeng et al. Vol 1, 2007, p. 228.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Bergstrom, Christer (2007). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • de Zeng, H.L; Stanket, 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
  • de Zeng, H.L; Stanket, D.G; Creek, E.J. Bomber Units of the Luftwaffe 1933-1945; A Reference Source, Volume 2. Ian Allan Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-903223-87-1