|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
|Size||Air Force Wing|
|Gerhard Schöpfel (15.6.44 – 6.8.44)|
Jagdgeschwader 4 (JG 4) was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. JG 4 was formed as a full Geschwader on 15 June 1944 in Ansbach from Stab/Jagdgeschwader z.b.V. and its first Geschwaderkommodore was Major Gerhard Schöpfel.
Formation and service
I./JG 4 was formed earlier on 7 August 1942 in Mizil, Romania from the Ölschutzstaffel/Jagdgeschwader 77, with 2./JG 4 formed 1 December 1942. Stab I, 3. and 4./JG 4 were formed on 10 January 1943 at Mizil, and the I Gruppe was now complete. II. Gruppe was formed in July 1944 at Salzwedel from I./Zerstörergeschwader 1 (ZG 1) and partially from Sturmstaffel 1. III. Gruppe was formed in July 1944 at Rotenburg from III./ZG 1. IV./JG 4 was formed on 20 October 1944 at Finsterwalde from II./Jagdgeschwader 5.
I./JG 4 was assigned in early 1943 as defensive protection of the Mizil and Ploiești oil complexes in Romania. I./JG 4 first saw action in combat against the force of B-24 Liberators dispatched on the low-level attack against Ploiești on 1 August 1943, code-named Operation "Tidal Wave", claiming 12 Consolidated B-24 bombers downed.
The unit saw further action over the Balkans against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 15th Air Force heavy bombers flying from bases in North Africa and Italy. The unit was later deployed to the defence of Rome and northern Italy. I./JG 4 first saw action in combat against a strike force of B-24 Liberators dispatched on the celebrated low level attack against Ploiești on 1 August 1943 as Operation "Tidal Wave". Stab and I./JG 4 claimed twelve B-24 bombers shot down.
JG 4 was then deployed in the German defensive campaign in Italy during the first half of 1944, prior to being shifted to the France for the Normandy invasion. Over the Lake Bracciano area on 7 May 1944, I./JG 4 encountered Spitfires of No. 72 Squadron RAF, who claimed nine Bf 109's shot down; I Gruppe lost 4 killed and 2 wounded in the action. During their Italian campaign, I./JG 4 lost 40 men killed or missing, 26 wounded, and 7 taken prisoner.
JG 4 were then withdrawn after heavy losses back to the Reich in September 1944. 4./JG 4 was the Rumanian Staffel Escadrilla 53, which left again in December 1943. A new 4./JG 4 was formed in June 1944. In September 1944 2./JG 4 and 8./Jagdgeschwader 53 exchanged designations. I./JG 4 was disbanded on March 19, 1945.
Jagdgeschwader 4 became one of only three Luftwaffe wings to operate the specialised 'bomber-killer' gruppen designated Sturmgruppe. It was formed on 12 July 1944 at Salzwedel from I./Zerstörergeschwader 1 (ZG 1) and from elements of Major Hans-Günter von Kornatzki's Sturmstaffel 1. The gruppe was equipped with the modified and heavily armoured FW 190A-8/R2. While the heavily armoured fighters proved effective against the heavy bombers of the USAAF, they proved vulnerable to the numerous escort fighters and hence suffered heavy losses. III./JG 4 was also formed in July 1944 from III./ZG 1 in Rotenburg. In common with other fighter units engaged in Defense of the Reich operations, the Geschwader were sported unique coloured rear fuselage band markings in mid-1944, with differing color combinations unique to each wing. JG 4's marking was a black-white-black combination on the rear fuselage.
On 11 September 1944 II.(Sturm)/JG 4 escorted by III. Gruppe intercepted a USAAF bombing raid near Chemnitz. Attacking the 100th and 95th Bomb Groups the Geschwader claimed some 13 destroyed bombers. Intercepted by the 339th and 55th Fighter Groups JG 4 was severely mauled, and lost 21 pilots killed and 9 more were seriously injured during the mission. In October 1944 IV./JG 4 was formed from elements of II./JG 5 in Finsterwalde, equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf-109G and K. On 2 November the Sturmgruppe, in conjunction with IV./JG 3, intercepted American bomber formations in the Leipzig area. II./JG 4 attacked the 457th Bomb Group and destroyed nine B-17s, although the gruppe lost 16 FW-190s out of 22 committed to the massed US fighter escorts.
From November 1944 onwards the Geschwader, operating from Frankfurt took heavy losses flying against the Allied air offensive. Apart from for II.(Sturm)/JG 300, heavy losses meant the Sturmgruppen had virtually ceased to exist by late November 1944, and with the transfer to Babenhausen in December 1944 the remnants of II./JG 4 would carry out the same fighter and ground attack operations as their sister units for the rest of their existence, and would not claim another heavy bomber. In early 1945 II. Gruppe re-equipped with the Focke Wulf Fw-190A-9 and later D-9 fighters.
During Operation Bodenplatte on 1 January 1945 JG 4, along with all other units taking part, again took very heavy losses. With 75 JG 4 aircraft tasked with various targets, including an attack on Le Culot airfield, I, II and IV gruppen were hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and the massed formation became scattered and therefore impossible to co-ordinate an effective attack, with only 12 or so aircraft locating or attacking any intended objective. Overall, some 26 fighters were lost and 6 damaged; with nearly half the participating aircraft lost, JG 4 suffered the highest percentage losses of all the units taking part in the operation.
By late January 1945 JG 4 was deployed in Guben-Jüterbog until the end of the war in May.
On 21 January 1945 the four gruppen of JG 4 were switched to Luftlotte 6 on the Eastern Front and pitchforked wholesale into ground-attack missions, for which the unit was ill-equipped and pilots untrained. By early February 1945 II.(Sturm)/JG 4 were located at Neuhausen under Major Gerhard Schroeder in defence of Cottbus.
Although nearly 400 vehicles were claimed destroyed, losses during the month inevitably emasculated the unit, with some 57 aircraft lost, with 26 pilots killed or missing and 14 wounded.
I./JG 4 was dissolved during March 1945 and the remustering of the unit personnel as infantry followed. Elements of JG 4 flew their last sorties against the Soviet armies and air forces around Berlin and in late April 1945 the unit withdrew to the Schleswig-Holstein area and disbanded on 8 May 1945.
- Major Gerhard Schöpfel, 15 June 1944 – 6 August 1944
- Oberstleutnant Gerhard Michalski, 7 August 1944 – 8 May 1945
- 'Those Other Eagles', Christopher Shores, 2004
- 'Storming the Bombers', Erik Mombeeck, ASBL, 2009
- 'Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen', Weal, page 106
- 'Bodenplatte-The Luftwaffe's Last Hope', Manrho& Pütz, page 188
- The Last Year for the Luftwaffe, Alfred Price, page 142