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Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77) Herz As ("Ace of Hearts") was a Luftwaffe fighter wing during World War II. It served in all the German theaters of war, from Western Europe to the Eastern Front, and from the high north in Norway to the Mediterranean.
All three gruppen (groups) within the unit operated variants of the Messerschmitt Bf 109. II. Gruppe was the only German unit entirely equipped, albeit only during November–December 1943, with the Macchi C.205, a highly regarded Italian fighter.
JG 77 was formed in May 1939 with I. and II. Gruppe. III./JG 77 was formed on 5 July 1940 in Trondheim from the II(J)./JG 186. I./ JG 77 was reorganized on 21 November 1940 into IV./JG 51 and a new I./JG 77 was established. In January 1942 I./JG 77 was transferred to I./JG 5 and a new I./JG 77 was created. In April 1942 1. Staffel was transferred to Romania and designated the defence unit for the Ploieşti oil fields at Mizil. (This staffel was redesignated 1./JG 4 in August 1942.)
World War II
I./JG 77 took part in the Invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, while attached to Luftflotte 3. In April 1940 JG 77 took part in Operation Weserübung, the invasion of Norway. After the invasion of France, I. Gruppe supported 10th Air Corps (under Luftflotte 5) in operations against Britain from bases in Norway. While stationed in Norway and Denmark in 1940 II./JG 77 claimed some 79 victories, for 6 pilots killed, before leaving in November 1940 for defence duties in Brest. In May 1941 II. and III./JG 77 were used in support of the invasion of Greece and the paratroop assault on Crete.
Following the operations in Crete, JG 77 was withdrawn to Romania; III. Gruppe was converted to the new Bf 109F. As Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, started on 22 June 1941, II. and III. Gruppe plus Stab supported the advance East as part of Army Group South, while I. Gruppe served on the Finland front. The Jagdgeschwader scored quickly; Walter Hoeckner of 6./JG77 claimed 8 of 10 Tupolev SBs claimed on 25 June by III./JG 77 and on 26 June Oblt. Kurt Ubben shot down 4 SB. That same day Ofw. Reinhold Schmetzer claimed 5 SB shot down. In the period 22 June - 5 December 1941 the unit, and its attachment I.(J)/LG 2, destroyed 1,166 Soviet aircraft, in return for 52 losses in aerial combat and two aircraft on the ground.
I. Gruppe, which was still based in Norway, was reorganized into I. Gruppe/JG 5 in January 1942, and the entire JG 77 (with a newly created I. Gruppe) was then transferred south to the Mediterranean area from June - December 1942. JG 77 saw extensive action against the Desert Air Force fighter-bombers. Total Allied air superiority led to the various JG 77 bases in Tunisia coming under constant air attack, and a large number of Bf109's were written off on the ground. Oberstleutnant Johannes Steinhoff was appointed commander of the unit.
While I. and II./JG 77 returned to Germany to re-equip, III./JG 77 remained in Italy, based at Foggia, north-east of Naples and flying sorties into Sardinia and Sicily. In mid-June, I./JG 77 flew into Sciacca on Sicily.
The Geschwader, as part of 2nd Air Corps, was then stationed in Italy and Sicily. During the rest of 1943 and 1944 JG 77 was stationed on the Southern Front, mainly in the Balkans, Sardinia and Italy, but also in Romania. Luftwaffe II.Gruppe of JG 77 operated with requisionated Macchi C.205Vs, for two months, from October until the end of 1943 , in December, when the German unit was re-equipped with new Bf 109s. Thus there are photos of C.205s with black crosses painted over the mid-fuselage Italian white strip markings.
In 1945 JG 77 was relocated to Germany itself to help with the Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich). In the last months of the war part of JG 77 was employed against the Soviet Air Force in Silesia. In this area on 7 March 1945 Kommodore Major Erich Leie, a 118-kill ace, was killed in combat with Yak-9 fighters.
- Oberstleutnant Eitel Roediger von Manteuffel, 1 October 1939
- Major Bernhard Woldenga, 22 December 1940
- Major Gotthard Handrick, 23 June 1941
- Major Gordon M. Gollob, 16 May 1942
- Major Joachim Müncheberg, 1 October 1942
- Oberstleutnant Johannes Steinhoff, 1 April 1943
- Major Johannes Wiese, 1 December 1944
- Major Siegfried Freytag, 26 December 1944
- Major Erich Leie, 29 December 1944
- Major Siegfried Freytag, 7 March 1945
- Major Fritz Losigkeit, 1 April 1945
- Bergström 2007, p. 116.
- Neulen 2000, p. 78.