Jagdgeschwader 5

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Jagdgeschwader 5
JG5 emblem.jpg
Active 1942–45
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Luftwaffe
Type Fighter Aircraft
Role Air superiority
Size Air Force Wing
Nickname(s) Eismeer
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Heinrich Ehrler (May 1944 - February 1945)

Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) was a Luftwaffe fighter wing during World War II. It was created to operate in the far North of Europe, namely Norway, Scandinavia and northern parts of Finland, all nearest the Arctic Ocean, with Luftflotte 5, created specifically to be based in Occupied Norway, and responsible for much of northern Norway.

History[edit]

1942[edit]

JG 5 was formed when elements of the I. Gruppe/JG 77[1] already stationed in Norway was redesignated as I./JG 5 in January 1942. The II. Gruppe was newly created and III. Gruppe was formed from elements of I./JG 1 in May. The unit had the responsibility for providing fighter-cover over occupied territories under Luftflotte 5, and also to provide fighter support for the Heer (Army) units fighting on the Arctic front in the Murmansk area. JG 5 also had the important task of disrupting traffic on the Murmansk rail line, as this was the main artery of the Karelian Front defenders.

I. Gruppe was based on the west coast of Norway, in Stavanger, to defend against Allied anti-shipping attacks. II. and III. Gruppe was stationed at Petsamo in Finland, to support operations in the East. JG 5 had to cope with challenges that were unique within the Luftwaffe, from 24-hour days during summer when the sun never set, to the complete darkness and extreme cold of the polar winter.

By the beginning of polar summer of 1942, Luftflotte 5 had been reinforced and by July 1942 possessed a total of 250 serviceable aircraft. Operationally, these were controlled by Fliegerfuhrer Nord-Ost Obstlt. Walter Lehweß-Litzmann, responsible for operations over the front-line and by Fliegerführer Lofoten, Oberst. Ernst-August Roth, responsible for anti-shipping operations. Due to the air superiority established by II. and III./JG 5 early in the year, Luftflotte 5 enjoyed a numerical and considerable qualitative superiority, and the Soviet opposition amounted to just 170 serviceable combat aircraft. Fliegerführer Nord-Ost also benefited from a Freya early-warning radar network.

During the summer the Soviets brought in new units, including 20 lAP equipped with the new Yakovlev Yak-1, an effective counter to the Bf 109F. On 19 July, 7./JG 5's Ltn. Bodo Helms and Ofw. Franz Dörr claimed one Yak-1 each, and Uffz. Werner Schumacher claimed two fighters shot down. ( Actual Soviet losses were five: a MiG-3, 3 Airacobras and Kittyhawks, and a Hurricane.) In return, JG 5's Fw. Leopold Knier and Uffz. Hans Dobrich (14 victories) were shot down, but both German pilots bailed out. Knier was taken prisoner, but Dobrich walked back to his own lines.

Luftflotte 5 recorded 26 combat losses in July 1942, while the VVS lost 32 of its own aircraft shot down or missing, mainly to JG 5.

On 21 August, 6./JG 5 claimed 14 Soviet fighters shot down. According to Soviet records, 2 LaGG-3s and 2 I-16s were shot down over Vayenga and two aircraft made forced landings. JG 5 lost two Bf 109s, one flown by Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 5, Oblt. Hans Dieter Hartwein (16 Kills) was posted missing.

During this period, overclaims were made by both sides. JG 5 claimed some 72 victories in August, but Soviet records indicate 24 Soviet aircraft lost with another 7 damaged and 13 aircraft missing, and another 4 were shot down by ground fire.

As 1942 wore on, the increasing Allied air pressure aimed toward Norway meant that a part of III. Gruppe and the newly created IV. Gruppe had to be stationed around Trondheim. A second part of III. Gruppe was stationed in Kirkenes, both to provide cover from marauding Soviet Air Force formations, and to help with the intensifying attacks against the Arctic convoys. Leutnant Heinrich Ehrler (6./JG 5) was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes on 4 September for 64 victories.

1943[edit]

By January 1943, I. and IV./JG 5 were stationed in southern Norway equipped with the Fw 190A-2, A-3 and A-4. I./JG 5 had its bases in Lista, Sola, Kjevik and Herdla in the southern part of Norway. IV./JG 5 were distributed on bases around Trondheim, and were equipped with Bf 109Fs and Fw 190As. II. and III. Gruppe faced the Soviets on the Polar Sea Front; at this time, they were equipped with the Bf 109 F-4. Stab, 4./JG 5 and 6./JG 5 were stationed in Alakurtti, 5., 8., and 9./JG 5 were stationed at Kirkenes and 7./JG 5 was based at Petsamo. As early as March 1943, 6. Staffel (commanded by Hptm. Heinrich Ehrler) had reached 500 victories claimed.

In early 1943, a Jabo (fighter-bomber) unit was formed within JG 5. 14.(J)/JG 5 equipped with modified Fw 190As and commanded by Hptm. Friedrich-Wilhelm Strakeljahn. In May 1943, the unit was responsible for the sinking of two submarines and two freighters within three days, and by the end of 1943 had claimed to have sunk over 39,000 tons of Soviet merchant shipping in over 1,000 sorties.

In June 1943 Oblt. Gotthard Handrick was transferred to 8. Jagddivision and was replaced by the Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 5, Major Günther Scholz. Mid-1943 also saw JG 5 at its maximum strength, consisting of 14 Staffeln; 12 regular single-engined fighter Staffels equipped with the Bf 109 and Fw 190, one Bf 110-equipped Zerstörerstaffel, and finally the Jabo unit, 14.(J)/JG 5 with the Fw 190A. 1943 was also the last year in which JG 5's four Gruppen had any sense of operational unity. I and II. Gruppe left Norway and Finland for good in late 1943 to fight the rest of the war away from their parent Geschwader.

In November 1943, I. Gruppe moved to Romania as protection for the vital Ploieşti oil refineries. The Gruppe was placed under the command of Luftflotte 1 for the remainder of 1943. Gruppenkommandeur since February 1943 is Hauptmann Gerhard Wengel. He died defending Sofia in combat with the USAAF on 10 January 1944 when, after I./JG 5 fighters destroyed 3 Flying Fortresses, his Bf 109 crashed near Radomir. On 26 March 1944, Hauptmann Horst Carganico was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 5 participating in the Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich). After combat with USAAF B-17's on 27 May 1944, he was killed when his Bf 109 struck high-tension cables while making a forced landing near Chevry, France. Carganico had claimed 60 kills.

1944[edit]

Hauptmann Gerhard Wengel Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 5 „Eismeer“ memorial slab in Sofia

In 1944 I. Gruppe was redesignated as III./JG 6 and sent to France, and it was never replaced. In June - July 1944, Gruppenkommandeur Theodor Weissenberger was credited with 25 victories over Normandy (half the total score by the whole unit during this period).

II. Gruppe was transferred to Northern Russia under the command of Luftflotte 1, and then redesignated as IV./JG 4 and sent back to Germany in early 1945.

IV./JG 5 and 14./JG 5 were transferred to the Arctic Front from Southern Norway in August 1944. The Gruppe joined the first of several large air battles commencing on October 9, opposing the final Soviet offensive against Petsamo. When the day was over, III. and IV./JG 5 had claimed 85 Soviet aircraft shot down (among them the 3,000th victory for JG 5) against the loss of only one pilot killed.

On 1 August 1944 Major Heinrich Ehrler was promoted to Geschwaderkommodore of JG 5.

In November 1944 IV./JG 5 returned to Southern Norway. Up to the end of the war this unit formed the air defence against the Allied raids on targets in Norway, principally the submarine bases at Trondheim and Bergen.

The Sinking of the Tirpitz[edit]

On 12 November 1944 Avro Lancaster bombers of 9 and 617 Squadrons attacked the Tirpitz in Tromsø fjord. Major Ehrler scrambled to intercept at the head of a formation of JG 5 Bf 109G's, but the fighters were too late. The Tirpitz was sunk with the loss of a thousand sailors. Ehrler was court martialed and sentenced to three years Festungshaft, and stripped of his command. (He was later reinstated, but was killed flying with JG 7 on 4 April 1945).

Commanding officers[edit]

Geschwaderkommodore
Gruppenkommandeure

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hafsten[et al.], Flyalarm - Luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945, 145
  • Bjørn Hafsten[et al.](1991). Flyalarm - Luftkrigen over Norge 1939-1945, Sem & Stenersen AS. (ISBN 82-7046-058-3).