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JG 2 Richthofen
|Size||Air Force Wing|
|Patron||Manfred von Richthofen|
|Decorations||References in the Wehrmachtbericht (5)|
|Major Helmut Wick|
Jagdgeschwader 2 was formed from parts of Jagdgeschwader 131 "Richthofen" on 1 May 1939 in Döberitz and its first commander was Oberst Robert Ritter von Greim. At the outbreak of the war JG 2 was tasked with defence of the Reich and based in the Berlin area under Luftgaukommando III. Stab and II. Gruppe were equipped with the Bf 109E and were located at Döberitz with 10.(N) staffel flying the Bf 109D in Straussberg.
10.(N) Staffel was one of the first night fighter units formed in the Luftwaffe. Later this staffel was expanded into IV.(N) Gruppe. This Gruppe gained the Luftwaffe’s first night kill over the RAF Bomber Command on the night of 25/26 on April 1940 when Ofw. Förster shot down a Handley Page Hampden.
The unit saw little combat until the Western offensive against France and the Low Countries from 10 May 1940 onwards. Leutnant Helmut Wick, who later became part of a trio of outstanding aces (including Adolf Galland from Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) and Werner Mölders from Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51)) in the Battle of Britain, attained his and the Geschwader's first kill on 22 November 1939, a French Curtiss Hawk Model 75 of GCII/4 near Strasbourg. The second victory for the JG 2 was scored by Oberfeldwebel Erwin Kley (3. Staffel) at nearly the same time.
During the campaign against France, JG 2 was tasked with escorting raids and defending German airspace to the south of Heinz Guderian's Panzer forces which were encircling the French and the British Expeditionary Force further North. 16 victories were claimed by JG 2 on 14 May, while on 17 May I gruppe claimed 7 French-flown bombers, three falling to Wick. Another 12 claims were made on 19 May. By the end of the Battle, JG 2 were based at Evreux, west of Paris.
Battle of Britain
JG 2 took part in the Battle of Britain, operating Bf 109Es over the South Coast of England and the English Channel from bases in Cherbourg and Normandy. Major Helmut Wick emerged as one of the Battle’s top Luftwaffe aces, claiming 31 kills for a personal total of 56, before being killed (MIA) in action versus Spitfires of No. 609 Squadron in November 1940. Wick was seen to bail out successfully but was not found by German Air/Sea Rescue attempts. The Spitfire who dispatched him was immediately shot down by Oberleutnant Rudolf Pflanz. Ofw. Schnell, Ofw. Machold and Olt. Hans "Assi" Hahn also claimed heavily during this period, with 16 kills each. Some 42 JG 2 pilots were killed or made POW during the Battle.
In preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 most fighter units had departed East by May 1941. Two Jagdgeschwader were left for the defence of North Western Europe, JG 2 and JG 26 (Schlageter).
For the next two years these two Geschwader were the main adversaries to the RAF's day offensives over Europe. The two Jagdgeschwader maintained around 120 serviceable Bf 109E and F’s to face the increasing number of RAF Fighter Command sweeps conducted to both wear down the Luftwaffe in a war of attrition and relieve pressure on the Eastern Front.
Careful husbanding of resources and astute tactical awareness meant JG 2 and JG 26 kept their losses to a minimum while inflicting maximum damage on the RAF Spitfires. This became even more evident with the arrival of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190A to units in late 1941 - early 1942, which outclassed the current Spitfire Mark Vb in service with the RAF.
The 21 June 1941 proved one of the most intensive days combat on the channel front in 1941, with two RAF Circuses flown. II./JG 2 and JG 26 claimed ten and eight Spitfires downed respectively. (Actual Spitfire losses were three). Several of the JG 2 aces added to their scores; Ofw. Kurt Bühligen of 4./JG 2 claimed three Spitfires and Lt. Siegfried Schnell (also 4./JG 2) claimed two Spitfires.
However, on occasion, the unit would still suffer high losses, such as on 23 June, when 9 staffel of JG 2 was almost wiped out against Fighter Command Spitfires.
On 8 July 1941, JG 2 claimed its 664th victory, thereby equalling the kill tally of the World War I Geschwader "Richthofen" namesake.
On 23 July 1941 JG 2 claimed some 29 Spitfires downed, with a further 10 Spitfire claims awarded to JG 26 that same day. (Actual RAF fighter losses were just 15). Oblt. 'Rudi' Pflanz claimed six RAF fighters on this one day. 23 July 1941 also saw JG 2 awarded their first three 'B-17 Fortresses' shot down; the aircraft attacked were in fact Short Stirlings of No. 15 Squadron, attacking the Scharnhorst in dock at La Pallice (one Stirling was lost.) 
JG 2 claimed its 800th success in August. Six members of JG 2 received the Ritterkreuz in 1941, but no award was made to JG 2 pilots in 1942, although Oblt. Josef "Sepp" Wurmheller was awarded the Eichenlaub (Oakleaves) award to the Ritterkreuz in late 1942, for achieving 60 Western front claims. Awards in 1941 included Lt. Egon Mayer, who had raised his score from 3 to 18 in two months, Oblt. Rudolf Pflanz for 19 victories, Oblt. Erich Leie for 21 victories, Ofw. Josef Wurmheller for 32 victories, (12 achieved since joining Stab II./JG 2 in July) and Ofw. Kurt Bühligen. "Assi" Hahn was awarded the Oakleaves to his Knight's Cross in August, following his 42nd victory.
On 12 August 1941, Circuses No. 69 and 70 targeted Saint-Omer and Gosnay. JG 2 intercepted the formations, and Kommodore Major Walter Oesau was credited with five Spitfires in ninety minutes, while Oblt. Leie claimed three Spitfires, and "Assi" Hahn three more. Six RAF Spitfires were actually lost during the day.
The RAF flew three Circuses on 20 September 1941. JG 2, in concert with its subordinated training Staffel 4./JFS 5, claimed some 25 fighters downed, with three falling to Hahn. (Some seven Spitfires were actually reported lost)
Hahn was credited with his 50th victory on 13 October 1941 while Lt. Siegfried Schnell had claimed his 50th during September.
On 11 February 1942 the two light battleships, Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, made a successful Channel Dash in daylight towards the Northern German ports. Codenamed Operation Cerberus, JG 2 flew their share of continuous air cover over the ships and claimed some 20 RAF aircraft downed (without loss) during the RAF's attempts to sink the vessels.
In March 1942 I./JG 2 converted to Focke-Wulf Fw 190As and the other gruppen followed month by month. The year saw most of JG 2 convert to the Focke-Wulf 190 A, and apart from 11. Staffel by July 1942 JG 2 was an exclusive Fw 190 unit. The 11. Staffel was a "high altitude" squadron, which experimented with pressurized cabins and other technical refinements. JG 2 continued to defend the West of occupied France from Brest to the Somme, while JG 26 covered Northern France and Belgium. By March II./JG2 was operational in Théville and Morlaix and at the end of April I./JG 2 was operational in Maupertus, Morlaix and St. Brieuc flying the Fw 190 A-2.
In November 1941, Jafü 2 and Jafü 3 were ordered to allocate one staffel from each of their subordinate fighter Geschwader as Jabo, or fighter-bomber Staffel. This was to renew fighter bomber activity against Britain and coastal traffic in the Channel. The Jabo units were equipped with the Bf 109F-4B fitted with a fuselage rack for four SC-50 bombs or, more usually, a single SC250 bomb. Formed in March 1942, by June JG 2's Bf 109 F-4B equipped fighter-bomber Jabostaffel 10 Staffel, led by Oblt. Leisendahl, had claimed some 20 Allied merchant ships sunk, totalling 630,000 tons. In April 1943 10. JG 2 became part of IV./Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG 10).
On 19 August 1942 Allied forces made their first large Commando–style raid into continental Europe at Dieppe. JG 2 was in intensive action during the operation, flying 430 operations, losing 14 aircraft (8 pilots killed) and claiming 59 Allied aircraft shot down.
By late 1942 JG 2 was in the forefront of the battle against the increasing United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Eighth Air Force daylight bombing offensive into occupied Europe. Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 2, Major Egon Mayer, was central in devising 'head-on' attacks against the B-17 Flying Fortress that became standard tactical practice throughout the Jagdwaffe.
Service in Africa and the Mediterranean
II./JG 2, headed by Oberleutnant Adolf Dickfeld was transferred to Tunisia in November 1942. Two pilots of II. Gruppe, Oberleutnant Kurt Bühligen and Lt. Erich Rudorffer, would claim over half of the 150 kills that II./JG 2 claimed in Tunisia. After arriving in North Africa, II./JG 2 was attached to JG 53 near Bizerta. II. Gruppe's Focke-Wulfs flew in mixed formations with JG 53's Bf 109's, conducting sweeps and bomber escort.
On 9 February Rudorffer's 6. staffel intercepted a USAAF bombing raid of B-17s and an escort of P-38 Lightnings, P-40s and Spitfire Mk V. During the fight, Rudorffer claimed six aircraft shot down. He later shot down two more P-38's, making his claims for the day eight kills.
In addition to JG 2's Focke-Wulfs, the Bf 109 G-1 equipped 11. Staffel, led by Oblt. Julius Meimberg, were located in central Tunisia at this time. On 4 December, 11. Staffel encountered a formation of Bristol Bisleys from 18 Squadron RAF, and shot 11 down, Meimberg himself claiming three. In total, II./JG 2 had claimed 150 kills against 8 losses in combat (and 8 in accidents) during the 5-month stay in North Africa, before returning to France in March 1943. Rudorffer was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II. Gruppe as they re-equipped with Bf 109G-6's. Owing to the intensity of action and the lack of verifiable evidence, recent research has suggested JG 2's claims were probably exaggerated.
Two years later, elements of JG 2 were back in the Mediterranean theatre, this time countering the invasion at Anzio in January 1944. I./JG 2, led by Major Erich Hohagen and flying Fw 190A-6's, were stationed at Castiglione del Lago and later Canino. However the Allied forces had overwhelming air superiority over the area. Over 700 bombers provided support for the beach head. Fighting against the more potent Spitfire VIII and IX proved extremely dangerous and with bombers of the tactical 12th Air Force and Desert Air Force continually bombing their airfields, I./JG 2 was withdrawn to France in April 1944 after heavy losses and having had minimal effect on the military situation.
Back to Western Europe
At this time Wing Commander Alan Deere planned an attack on the gruppe to provoke a confrontation. The plan involved a low level approach by Deere and No. 403 Squadron to catch the FW 190s as they were taxiing for take off. No. 611 Squadron was to attack the site and the No. 341 Free French Squadron were to patrol at 3000 ft. South of the airfield to guard against a counter from other elements of I./JG 2 at Évreux. No. 403 Squadron were spotted before the attack was launched. The JG 2 aircraft reacted immediately by dispersing at low level immediately after take off. Deere did fire on the hangar buildings before pursuing the JG 2 aircraft. Elements from Évreux joined up and a heavy engagement took place between evenly matched formations. The RAF squadrons left due to low fuel, 611 claiming two JG 2 shot down. I./JG 2 from Évreux claimed two Spitfires of 341 Squadron.
Despite JG 2 scoring its 2,000th kill in January 1944, the ongoing defensive operations against the USAAF bomber offensive took its toll on the Jagdgeschwaders, JG 2 being no exception; Many novices and replacement pilots were killed through the first half of 1944, and more importantly the ever fewer experienced and irreplaceable Experten were also being lost. JG 2's Kommodore and 102-kill ace Egon Mayer was shot down and killed in March 1944 and just over one month later his successor Major Kurt Ubben was also killed versus US fighters.
JG 2 was the main Luftwaffe unit to see action against Allied Air Forces during the D-day landings on 6 June 1944. Stationed at Cormeilles-en-Vexin 60 kilometres from the coast, I./JG 2 was one of the nearest fighter units to the Allied beachheads. JG 2 Geschwaderkommodore Major Bühlingen shot down a P-47 Thunderbolt over the Orne before the Gruppe became embroiled in a dogfight with RAF Typhoons near Caen. Six were claimed, and JG 2 claimed 18 kills for the day without loss (Total Luftwaffe claims were 24 shot down). The overwhelming superiority of the Allied forces soon took effect, however, as Gruppenkommandeur Hptm. Hubert Huppertz (68 victories) was shot down and killed two days later by a P-47. His successor was another irreplaceable veteran, Hptm. Josef Wurmheller (102 kills, 93 with JG 2 against the Western Allies). He would die after colliding with his wingman during a dogfight, just two weeks later.
Towards the year’s end JG 2 received the first examples of the Fw 190D-9 'Dora'. Stab and III. Gruppe were first to convert and before the end of 1944 JG 2 was operating from near Frankfurt.
Operation Bodenplatte ('Base Plate') was a mass fighter attack against the Allied airfields in the Low Countries and France on New Years Day 1945. It was hoped to regain temporary aerial superiority for the new German offensive through the Ardennes, but instead it delivered crippling losses to the Luftwaffe. Numerically, of all the fighter units JG 2 suffered most in this ill-fated operation, suffering 37 pilots killed and nearly 40% losses. It took several weeks for JG 2 to regain operational status.
As the end of war drew near, all gruppen of JG 2 were equipped with Fw 190D-9 'Dora'. Against numerically far superior Allies, they could not hope to postpone the inevitable defeat. During winter and spring JG 2 moved from the Rhine area into Bavaria.
Jagdgeschwader 2 'Richthofen' was formally de-activated near Munich on 7 May 1945 by Geschwaderkommodore (and JG 2 top scorer with 112 kills) Kurt Bühligen.
- Major - Dipl.-Ing. Johann Raithel 1 April 1936 – 8.June 1936
- Oberst - Gerd von Massow, 9 June 1936 – 31 March 1940
- Oberst - Harry von Bülow-Bothkamp, 1 April 1940 – 2 September 1940
- Major - Wolfgang Schellmann, 2 September 1940 – 20 October 1940
- Major - Helmut Wick, 20 October 1940 – 28 November 1940 (MIA)
- Hauptmann - Karl-Heinz Greisert, 28 November 1940 – 16 February 1941
- Major - Wilhelm Balthasar, 16 February 1941 – 3 July 1941
- Oberstleutnant - Walter Oesau, 4 July 1941 – 1 July 1943
- Major - Egon Mayer, 1 July 1943 – 2 March 1944 (KIA)
- Major - Kurt Ubben, 2 March 1944 – 27 April 1944 (KIA)
- Oberstleutnant - Kurt Bühligen, 28 April 1944 – 8 May 1945
- Hauptmann Roth
- Hauptmann Henning Strümpell
- Hauptmann Günther Seeger
- Hauptmann Helmut Wick, 7 September 1940
- Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Krahl, 20 October 1940
- Hauptmann Ignaz Prestele, 20 November 1941
- Hauptmann Erich Leie, 4 May 1942
- Hauptmann Erich Hohagen, January 1943
- Hauptmann Franz Hrdlicka, August 1944
- Major Walter Matoni
- Hauptmann Franz Hrdlicka, January 1945
- Oberleutnant Heinz Eichhoff, 26 March 1945
- Hauptmann Wolfgang Schellmann, 1 November 1939
- Hauptmann Gerlach, 3 September 1940
- Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Greisert
- Hauptmann Helmut-Felix Bolz, May 1942
- Oberleutnant Adolf Dickfeld, November 1942
- Hauptmann Kurt Bühligen, 1 September 1943
- Hauptmann Georg Schroder,
- Major Walter Matoni, January 1945
- Hauptmann Fritz Karch, February 1945
- Hauptmann Dr. Erich Mix, 15 March 1940
- Hauptmann Otto Bertram, 26 September 1940
- Hauptmann Hans "Assi" Hahn, October 1940
- Hauptmann Egon Mayer, November 1942
- Hauptmann Bruno Stolle, 1 July 1943
- Hauptmann Herbert Huppertz, February 1944
- Hauptmann Josef Wurmheller, 8 June 1944
- Hauptmann Siegfried Lemke, 23 June 1944
- Hauptmann Blumensaat, October 1939
- John Weal: Jagdgeschwader 2 'Richthofen' P. 26 Online
- "In the Skies of France: The History of JG 2 Richthofen" (Vol. II: 1941). Mombeek and Roba
- Holmes and Dibbs, (2000) pp. 78-79
- Arthy, Andrew; Jessen, Morten (2004). The Focke-Wulf 190 in North Africa. Classic. ISBN 1903223458. OCLC 57281054.
- Franks, Norman (1979). The Greatest Air Battle- Dieppe, 19 August 1942. William Kimber Books.
- Holmes, Tony; Dibbs, John (2000). Spitfire: Flying Legend. Osprey Publishing. p. 192. ISBN 1-84603-190-7.
- Murray, Williamson (1996). Luftwaffe- Strategy for Defeat 1933-45. Brassey's. ISBN 1574881256. OCLC 34984301. Earlier editions are available.