Jagdgeschwader 52

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Jagdgeschwader 52
JG 52 emblem.png
Winged sword unit emblem of JG 52
Active1939–45
Country Nazi Germany
BranchBalkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
TypeFighter Aircraft
RoleAir superiority
SizeAir Force Wing
Fighter AircraftMesserschmitt Bf 109
EngagementsWestern Front

Eastern Front (World War II)

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Hermann Graf
Aircraft flown
FighterBf 109

Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) was a German World War II fighter-wing that exclusively used variants of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 throughout the war. The unit's name is derived from the German words for "hunt," Jagd, and "wing," Geschwader.[a] Originally formed in Bavaria, JG 52 became the most successful fighter-wing of all time, with a claimed total of more than 10,000 victories over enemy aircraft during World War II. It was the unit of the top three scoring flying aces of all time, Erich Hartmann, Gerhard Barkhorn and Günther Rall.

Formation[edit]

In 1935, the Ministry of Aviation (Reichsluftfahrtministerium, or RLM) designed a Luftwaffe of 2,370 active planes by April 1938, which would require the production of about 18,000 planes to cover attrition.[1] When 1938 came, the Luftwaffe split its fighter groups into light "Jagdgeschwader" flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109, for home defense, and heavy fighter wings called Zerstörergeschwader flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110, for offensive operations,[2] based on doctrine devised over the 1930s. Although the Luftwaffe simply could not meet its mandated pre-Munich Agreement size, five times its then current size, aircraft poured into the various Geschwader around the country.[3]

At the Ingolstadt-Manching base, 37 miles (60 km) north of Munich, I./JG 433 was activated as the first Gruppe of Luftflotte 3 under the command of Hauptmann Dietrich Graf von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth, who had previously commanded Fliegergruppe 10 during the Sudeten crisis. His Staffelkäpitane were Oberleutnants Wolfgang Ewald, Adolf Galland, and Alfons Klein, veterans of the Condor Legion.[a] After the Munich Agreement, aircraft flooded into JG 433 and by December von Pfeil had obtained an almost full complement of Bf 109Ds even before he had a dozen pilots. Sudden and severe frost around Christmas 1938 rendered all the Bf 109s, stored in an unheated hangar, inoperable. The weather and aircraft serviceability improved in the first weeks of 1939 and new pilots began arriving from training to be shaped into an effective fighting force. Klein and ten other occupants of a Ju 52 bound for Berlin were killed in a crash on 18 February 1939. He was replaced by Oberleutant Helmut Kühle, also a Condor Legion veteran, ten days later.[4]

Organizational structure[edit]

Luftwaffe aircraft flying in formation, 1937.

Jagdgeschwader 52 followed the standard Luftwaffe organization for a fighter wing (Jagdgeschwader). As a Geschwader, equivalent in function to a USAAF Wing or RAF Group, but with a permanent command structure, JG 52 was commanded by a Geschwaderkommodore, usually a Major, Oberstleutnant, or Oberst. The Geschwaderkommodore commanded three or four Gruppe, identified by Roman numeral and their unit number (e.g. I./JG 52, II./JG 52, and III./JG 52), and were commanded by a Major or Hauptmann, designated the Gruppenkommandeur. The Gruppe then was divided into three or four Staffeln that were each commanded by a Staffelkapitän, usually a Hauptmann, Oberleutnant, or sometimes a Leutnant and ordered by Arabic numeral and abbreviated, for example as 5./JG 1 rather than 5 Staffel II. Gruppe, JG 1. In total, every Geschwader contained on average 124 planes. When the Luftwaffe reorganized in Summer 1939, there were geschwader with only two gruppen,[5][3] and JG 52 was one of them.

I./JG 52[edit]

A Bf 109E, as would have been flown by JG 52. This particular Bf 109 is an E-7 type, introduced in August 1940.

As JG 433, I. Gruppe flew D and E models of the Bf 109,[6] and began transitioning to the F series while based in the Netherlands in mid and late 1941. I. Gruppe flew the Bf 109Fs for a year until moving to the G models while stationed at Bakhmut (then Artemivsk) and flew them for the rest of the war, though I./JG 52 also flew the Bf 109K in the last year of the war.[7]

Initial formation of I./JG 52[6][7]
JG 52 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab I./JG 52 1 May 1939 Stab I./JG 433 Böblingen Bf 109E
1./JG 52 1 May 1939 1./JG 433 Böblingen Bf 109E
2./JG 52 1 May 1939 2./JG 433 Böblingen Bf 109E
3./JG 52 1 May 1939 3./JG 433 Böblingen Bf 109E
4./JG 52 15 August 1944 New Millerovo Bf 109G

II./JG 52[edit]

The Bf 109G6 of Gerhard Barkhorn as it would have appeared in September 1942.[8]

From formation at Böblingen in 1939 until being stationed at Suwałki in June 1941, II. Gruppe flew the Bf 109E models, and would fly the F models until beginning to transition to the G series while based at Mariupol in July and August 1942. II. Gruppe would fly the various Bf 109G models until the end of the war.[9]

Initial formation of II./JG 52[9]
JG 52 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab II./JG 52 1 May 1939 New Böblingen Bf 109E
4./JG 52 1 May 1939 1./JG 71 Böblingen Bf 109E
5./JG 52 1 May 1939 11./JG 72 Böblingen Bf 109E
6./JG 52 1 May 1939 New Böblingen Bf 109E
7./JG 52 15 August 1944 New Krakow Bf 109G
8./JG 52 15 August 1944 New Krakow Bf 109G

III./JG 52[edit]

A Bf 109E-1, whose markings indicate it as belonging to 7./JG 52.

On 1 March 1940 in Strasbourg, III./JG 52 was formed with wholly new staffeln, but the Gruppe was transferred out of JG 52 to I./JG 28, which was based at Pipera, Bucharest from October 1940 to 4 January 1941, at which point it resumed being III./JG 52.[10][11]

As JG 28 and early III./JG 52, III. Gruppe flew the Bf 109E until being stationed in Bucharest, where they transitioned to the F model. III. Gruppe moved on to the G series, which the Gruppe used for the rest of the war, while stationed at Taganrog and Luhansk.[11][10]

Initial formation of III./JG 52[11]
JG 52 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab III./JG 52 1 March 1940 New Strasbourg Bf 109E
7./JG 52 1 March 1940 New Strasbourg Bf 109E
8./JG 52 1 March 1940 New Strasbourg Bf 109E
9./JG 52 1 March 1940 New Strasbourg Bf 109E
10./JG 52 15 August 1944 9./JG 52 Vinnytsia Bf 109G
11./JG 52 15 August 1944 New Vinnytsia Bf 109G
12./JG 52 15 August 1944 New Vinnytsia Bf 109G

13./JG 52[edit]

A Bf 109G6 of JG 27 in operation in 1943.

The 13th staffel of JG 52, made up entirely of Slovakian Luftwaffe personnel, was formed on 27 October 1941 in Piešťany, Slovakia and was disbanded in January 1944. As with the rest of JG 52, Staffel 13 only flew the Messerschmitt Bf 109. From its formation in October 1941, it flew the Bf 109E until transitioning to the F model at Krasnodar in January 1943. While being stationed at Kerch only a month later, they transitioned again to the G model series, which 13./JG 52 flew for the rest of the war.[12]

Initial formation of 13. (Slow.)/JG 52[12]
JG 52 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
13./JG 52 27 October 1941 New Piešťany Bf 109E

15./JG 52[edit]

15./JG 52, formed in July 1941, was an all-Croatian fighter staffel commanded by Oberstleutnant Franjo Džal. Three years later, the squadron was redesignated as the Kroatische Jagdstaffel. The staffel flew the Bf 109E from their formation until July 1942, when they transitioned into the Bf 109G, flying it until the end of the war for Croatia.[13]

Initial formation of 13. (Slow.)/JG 52[13]
JG 52 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
15./JG 52 July 1941 New Fürth Bf 109E

Eastern Front[edit]

During Operation Barbarossa, the unit operated on the southern and central sectors of the front.[citation needed] During 1941–1942, with the Luftwaffe constantly on the offensive against vast numbers of the ill-equipped and poorly trained Soviet Air Force, the experienced and well-equipped JG 52 fighter pilots claimed numerous aircraft shot down. In the period between 22 June – 5 December 1941, the unit destroyed 881 Soviet aircraft, in return for 49 losses in aerial combat and five aircraft on the ground.[14]

By early 1942, the Geschwader (with JG 3) provided the fighter support along the southern sector of the Eastern Front. On 8 May 1942, JG 52 claimed its 1,500th victory. By 3 June, it had reached 2,000.

The Caucasus and Stalingrad offensives[edit]

Messerschmitt Bf 109G

In mid-July 1942, the Gruppen commenced re-equipment with the new Bf 109 G Gustav, and the wing continued covering the armoured spearhead offensive deep into the Caucasus. Gruppe I. by this time had become a highly mobile 'fire brigade' formation, sent at short notice to areas where fighter cover was quickly and urgently required. Shuttling between areas ranging from the Kerch Peninsula on the Black Sea to the Moscow Front, I. /JG 52 was in constant action. The Gruppe's 700th claim was achieved in September 1942.

Although JG 52 was not directly involved in the final stages of the Battle of Stalingrad, III./JG 52 was used during the push towards the Caucasian oil fields in the south during August–September 1942, and II./JG 52 supported the attempted break-through by the 4th Panzer Army in late 1942. During this time, the 4,000 kill mark was reached, on 10 December 1942. The first half of 1943 saw action centered around the Strait of Kerch and the Crimea. By mid March, II. and III. Gruppen had the task of protecting 17th Army's main line of retreat. On 20 April 1943, Hptm. Günther Rall scored the Geschwader's 5,000th victory.

Battle of Kursk[edit]

I. and III./JG 52 moved into the Ukraine in July 1943 in preparation for the massive Kursk offensive. As two of the eight fighter Gruppen involved, the offensive saw JG 52 pass the 6,000 mark in aircraft claimed shot down. By this time, German pilots faced the new generation of advanced Soviet fighter aircraft (such as the Yak-9 or La-5 of the La-5FN version) and improved battlefield tactics on the part of Soviet pilots.

Defense of the Reich[edit]

Bf 109's of I./JG 52 at Anapa, early 1944.

The withdrawal of JG 3 in August 1943 left JG 52 as the sole complete fighter wing on the Eastern Front. Constantly on the move, JG 52 now operated from makeshift and temporary airstrips close to the rapidly contracting frontline.

By November 1943, the loss of Kiev threatened the stability of the entire Southern sector front, the whole of JG 52 being brought together again to help bolster defences. By December 1943 JG 52 had reached 8,000 victories. Over the Uman region, III./JG 52 claimed 50 victories in 60 days. III./JG 52 became its most successful Gruppe, claiming its 3,500 kill on 21 March 1944. By the end of the month, III./JG 52 was based in Poland.

On 10 May 1944, the 9,000th claim was made, with the 10,000 mark passed on 2 September 1944 by Adolf Borchers. The last German troops left the Crimea in May 1944, II./JG 52 retiring from battle a week earlier. Artillery fire and constant air raids had caused steady aircraft losses. A retreat to Romania followed soon after. A new opponent appeared at this stage, with elements of the USAAF 15th Air Force bombing the Ploieşti oil fields in Romania. During JG 52's six-week defence, some 15 US aircraft were shot down, but by this time, attrition had reduced II./JG 52 to just nine operational fighters.

With the Normandy invasion underway, JG 52 was weakened by the removal of three Staffeln for service in the West. New 2, 4 and 7 Staffeln would be activated later in the year, with each JG 52 Gruppen now expanded to four Staffeln.

III./JG 52 was now seconded to the Central front, attached to elements of JG 51. By the spring of 1945, I. and III./JG 52 were stationed within Czechoslovakia, with II./JG 52 based in Austria. Although the units surrendered to the American forces at the end of the war; most of the I. and III. Gruppe personnel were handed over to the Soviet Army.

Commanding officers[edit]

Wing commanders[15]

JG 52 was originally founded as a single Gruppe, I./JG 433, and it was not until 1 May 1939 that a full wing was established on, with Hubertus Merhardt von Bernegg as its first commander.[16]

  • Major Hubertus Merhardt von Bernegg (19 August 1939 – 18 August 1940)
  • Major Hanns Trübenbach (19 August 1940 – 10 October 1941)
  • Major Wilhelm Lessmann (15 October 1941 – 2 June 1942)  
  • Oberstleutnant Friedrich Beckh (3 June 1942 – 21 June 1942)  
  • Major Herbert Ihlefeld (22 June 1942 – 28 October 1942)
  • Oberstleutnant Dietrich Hrabak (1 November 1942 – 30 September 1944)
  • Oberstleutnant Hermann Graf (1 October 1944 – 8 May 1945)
I./JG 52[15]

JG 52 had first been established as a single Gruppe, under Dietrich Graf von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth, in November 1938.[17] When I./JG 52 was founded with JG 52's establishment in Böblingen, von Pfeil retained his role as Gruppekommandeur of I. Gruppe.[7]

  • Hauptmann Dietrich Graf von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth (1 May 1939 – 21 November 1939)
    • Oberleutnant Wolfgang Ewald (21 November 1939 – 9 February 1940; acting)
  • Hauptmann Siegfried von Eschwege (9 February 1940 – 26 August 1940)
  • Hauptmann Wolfgang Ewald (26 August 1940 – 24 May 1941)
  • Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Leesmann (25 May 1941 – 13 June 1942)
    • Hauptmann Carl Lommel (6 February 1942 – 6 May 1942; acting)
  • Hauptmann Helmut Bennemann (14 June 1942 – 12 November 1943)
  • Hauptmann Johannes Wiese (13 November 1943 – 10 June 1944)
  • Hauptmann Adolf Borchers (11 June 1944 – 31 January 1945)
  • Hauptmann Erich Hartmann (1 February 1945 – 8 May 1945)
II./JG 52[15]
  • Hauptmann Hans-Günther von Kornatzki (13 September 1939 – 26 August 1940)
  • Hauptmann Wilhelm Ensslen (27 August 1940 – 2 November 1940)  
  • Hauptmann Erich Woitke (3 November 1940 – 28 February 1942)
  • Major Johannes Steinhoff (1 March 1942 – 24 March 1943)
  • Hauptmann Helmut Kühle (25 March 1943 – 31 August 1943)
  • Hauptmann Gerhard Barkhorn (1 September 1943 – 15 January 1945)
    • Hauptmann Helmut Lipfert (1 June 1944 – ? October 1944; acting)
    • Hauptmann Erich Hartmann (16 January 1945 – 31 January 1945; acting)
  • Hauptmann Wilhelm Batz (1 February 1945 – 8 May 1945)
III./JG 51[15]

III. Gruppe formed on 1 March 1940 in Strasbourg and then in October or November 1940 was redesignated I./JG 28, only to be reformed into III./JG 52 on 4 January 1941. On 15 August 1944, III. Gruppe was expanded into a fourth staffeln.[11]

  • Hauptmann Wolf-Heinrich von Houwald (1 March 1940 – 24 July 1940)
    • Hauptmann Wilhelm Ensslen (24 July 1940 – 1 August 1940; acting)
  • Major Alexander von Winterfeldt (1 August 1940 – 6 October 1940)
  • Major Gotthard Handrick (7 October 1940 – 22 June 1941)
  • Major Albert Blumensaat (23 June 1941 – 30 September 1941)
    • Hauptmann Franz Hörnig (24 September 1941 – December 1941; acting)
  • Major Hubertus von Bonin (1 October 1941 – 5 July 1943)
  • Hauptmann Günther Rall (6 July 1943 – 18 April 1944)
    • Hauptmann Josef Haiböck (December 1943 – January 1944; acting)
    • Hauptmann Erich Hartmann (19 April 1944 – 28 May 1944; acting)
  • Major Wilhelm Batz (19 April 1944 – 31 January 1945)
  • Hauptmann Adolf Borchers (1 February 1945 – 8 May 1945)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b For an explanation of Luftwaffe unit designations, see Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Uziel 2011, p. 10.
  2. ^ Weal 2001, pp. 11.
  3. ^ a b Caldwell & Muller 2014, p. 28.
  4. ^ Weal 2004, pp. 6-8.
  5. ^ Stedman & Chappell 2012, p. 6.
  6. ^ a b Holm 1997-2003, JG 433.
  7. ^ a b c Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, I. Gruppe.
  8. ^ Weal 2004, p. 41.
  9. ^ a b Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, II. Gruppe.
  10. ^ a b Holm 1997-2003, JG 28.
  11. ^ a b c d Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, III. Gruppe.
  12. ^ a b Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, 13. (slow)/JG 52.
  13. ^ a b Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, 15. (kroat.)/JG52.
  14. ^ Bergström 2007, p. 116.
  15. ^ a b c d Weal 2004, p. 121.
  16. ^ Holm 1997-2003, JG 52, Geschwaderkommodoren.
  17. ^ Weal 2004, pp. 6-7.

References[edit]

  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. Chevron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
  • Caldwell, Donald; Muller, Richard (2014). Luftwaffe Over Germany: Defense of the Reich. Frontline Books. ISBN 9781473896970.
  • Holm, Michael. "Jagdgeschwader 28". ww2.dk. The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  • Holm, Michael. "Jagdgeschwader 52". ww2.dk. The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  • Holm, Michael. "Jagdgeschwader 433". ww2.dk. The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  • Stedman, Robert F.; Chappell, Michael (2012). "Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939–45". Osprey. ISBN 9781782007470.
  • Uziel, Daniel (2011). Arming the Luftwaffe: The German Aviation Industry in World War II. McFarland. ISBN 9780786488797.
  • Weal, John (2004). Jagdgeschwader 52: The Experten. Osprey. ISBN 9781782005469.
  • Weal, John (2001). Jagdgeschwader 54: Grünherz. Osprey. ISBN 9781782005698.

Further reading[edit]

  • Christer Bergström, Graf & Grislawski: A Pair of Aces. Eagle Editions, 2003. ISBN 0-9721060-4-9
  • Christer Bergström, Black Cross/Red Star: The Air War over the Eastern front. Vol. 1, Pacifica Military History, 2000. Vol. 2, Pacifica Military History & Classic Publications, 2001. Vol. 3, Eagle Editions, 2006. ISBN 0-9761034-4-3

External links[edit]