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|Role||Tactical and Direct Ground Support.|
|Size||Air Force Wing|
|Engagements||Battle of the Netherlands
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
German invasion of Yugoslavia
Battle of Greece
Battle of Crete
Kampfgeschwader 51 "Edelweiss" (KG 51) (Battle Wing 51) was a Luftwaffe bomber wing during World War II. The unit began forming in December 1939. The unit operated the Dornier Do 17, Heinkel He 111 and Junkers Ju 88 light and medium bombers.
Stab/KG 51 and I./KG 51 were formed on 1 May 1939 at Landsberg am Lech, and the formation was completed on 20 August 1939. The units were initially designated KG 255. The units were initially equipped with the Do 17Ps, but later reequipped with He 111Hs in August 1939. The unit spent most of the summer training and recruiting personnel from the flight schools, and the Geschwader did not see much action during the invasion of Poland.
Throughout the Phoney War, the two active Gruppen, I./KG 51 and II./KG51, remained on standby in western Germany. I./KG 51 was based at Memmingen. The Stab./KG 51 remained at Landsberg am Lech, but stood ready to move in case of an Allied attack. During this period II./KG 51 was formed between 1 December 1939 and 15 April 1940. This Gruppen was equipped with the Ju 88. III./KG 51 was also formed during this time. Formation began on 1 September 1939 and was completed in May 1940, although the unit flew leaflet missions over Marseille and Bordeaux on 17 November 1939, without loss. It is recorded between this time it was equipped with He 111Hs, and had 36 on strength, with 33 serviceable when it entered operations over France.
France and the Low Countries
At the start of the Battle of France the Strength of Stab./KG 51 with nine He 111s, all were serviceable. However this was soon reduced to a Stabskette. On the day of the western offensive the unit had just a single He 111 and Ju 88. The strength of I./K 51 on the 10 May 1940 stood at 36 He 111s of which 34 were serviceable. II./KG had 38 Ju 88s on hand, of which just 15 were serviceable. The third Gruppen, III.KG 51, was equipped with 39 He 111s, of which 29 were air worthy on 10 May.
I./KG 51 was heavily engaged and supporting the breakthrough at Sedan. It reported losses on 18, 24 of May and 9 June. The group's first Ju 88 loss occurred on 5 June. After the French surrender, the unit relocated to Paris. II.KG 51 supported German forces during the Battle of Dunkirk and flew missions along the Franco-Swiss border. It relocated to Étampes-Mondésir, south west of Paris on 20 June 1940. III./KG 51 also engaged in combat during the campaign. Elements of this unit accidentally bombed Freiburg, killing 57 people and injuring 101, including 22 children. The pilot, Leutnant Paul Seidel was distraught over the error, until he was shot down and killed over Portsmouth on 12 August 1940. This Gruppe contained some Ju 88s, but all operations were flown with the He 111H.
Battle of Britain
KG 51 was heavily involved in the Battle of Britain. I./KG 51 recorded its first (a Ju 88) loss on the battle on 1 July 1940, near Dunbar, Scotland. I./KG bombed British shipping in the English Channel throughout July. The unit attacked Royal Navy destroyers of St. Catherine's head on 12 July and bombed Bristol on 17th. Another loss was reported near Land's End on 27 July. The attrition rate steadily grew. On 13 August 1940, the unit had 30 Ju 88s, of which 21 were operational. By 19 August it had 33 Ju 88s in service, but could only muster 13 for operations. The unit continued to bomb Britain until March 1941. During the first four months, (1 July - 31 October 1940), the Gruppe lost 13 Ju 88s and 21 damaged. During the Blitz the unit bombed Portsmouth, London, Coventry, Manchester and Liverpool. On 31 March 1941 the Gruppe withdrew to Austria for a refit. II./KG also suffered considerable losses. On 13 August 1940 the Gruppe had 34 machines of which 24 were serviceable. By 7 September, while the total strength remained 34 Ju 88s, just 17 were combat-ready. The Gruppe recorded 13 complete losses and 12 damaged between 1 July and 31 October 1940. It later participated in the same attacks as I./KG 51. III./KG 51 was assigned the same tasks as its sister units. On 13 August it had 32 Ju 88s and 25 serviceable. By 7 September, that number had grown to 27 out of 34 combat-ready. Attacks over Britain between 1 July and 31 October cost it 12 aircraft destroyed with 19 damaged. On 5 April 1941 in relocated to Wiener Neustadt in Austria. It was placed under Luftflotte 4 for the coming Balkans Campaign. During the campaign IV.(Erg)/KG 51 was formed in either later July or early August. Located at Lechfeld, the Gruppe was expanded into a IV. Gruppe on 22 March 1941.
Stab./KG 51 saw action during the Balkans Campaign. The took part in the Bombing of Belgrade and attacked retreating Allied forces through Greece. It handed over its remaining aircraft to Lehrgeschwader 1. I./KG 51 also took part, bombing Belgrade and Athens (on 15 April). It had a strength of 29 Ju 88s and 17 serviceable. It took part in missions against Allied shipping, in and around Crete. It handed over its aircraft to I./LG 1 on 13 May and went to Austria to refit. II./KG 51 had a total of 28 and 18 serviceable Ju 88s on hand. It reported a single loss over vic Banja Luka on 12 April. The unit relocated to Poland on 20 June 1941.
The Geschwader lost 15 aircraft, and its strength was down to one-third by 30 June. In September 1941 it flew 810 sorties in southern Russia and was credited with 27 aircraft shot down, 290 vehicles, 22 tanks, one train and 5 Soviet ships. In return it lost just two aircraft. Between 1–30 November 1941 the unit relocated to Nikolayev, Ukraine. In a month it flew 412 sorties, and was credited with a further 10 aircraft, 8 trains, 315 vehicles, one heavy cruiser (the Voroshilov on 2 November, the ship was heavily damaged and put out of action for several months) and 2 freighters destroyed for the loss of three aircraft. In February 1942 the Geschwader destroyed one train, some 100 vehicles in 335 sorties for three losses.
The Geschwader continued to fight on the Eastern Front throughout 1942-44. It supported the Heer during the Siege of Sevastopol, Second Battle of Kharkov, Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Kursk. During the siege of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad, on 30 January 1943, the Kampfgeschwader 51 destroyed the Soviet 51st Army's Headquarters, near Salsk. Dropping 100 – 250 kg bombs, a wave of Junkers Ju 88s and Heinkel He 111s destroyed the communications centre, working offices of the chief-of-staff, the operational headquarters and the offices of the operational duty officer. Up to 20 buildings and personnel billets were also destroyed. Casualties among personnel were also very high.
On 31 December 1943 the Gruppe, after being initially being ordered to convert to Me 410s, was disbanded. III./KG 51 was reformed on 20 October 1944. Only to be reformed, as I.SKG 10, equipped with Fw 190s, a month later. II./KG 51 was also disbanded, in January 1944, but was reformed in February 1944. The unit was also equipped with Me 262s, and saw action as a bomber intercept and fighter-bomber unit until it was disbanded on 24 April 1945, and its personnel sent to infantry units.
"Defense of the Reich" and Western Front
The unit took part in the latter part of the Western Front campaign and the "Defense of the Reich" battles. On 8 May 1943, I./KG 51 was sent to Germany for conversion to the Messerschmitt Me 410. By 25 December 1943, the unit had 36 crews, with 40 (24 serviceable) Me 410s. During this time it also participated in bombing raids against England until 23 May 1944. The Gruppe was decimated in the raids. Elements of the Geschwader converted to the Messerschmitt Me 262 and flew fight-bomber and bomber intercept missions against Allied bomber streams from June 1944 to May 1945. I./KG 51 participated in attacks on Allied airfields to support German forces during the Battle of the Bulge. The Gruppe did not have more than 38 Me 262s at any one time.
Formed 1 May 1939. Disbanded 24 April 1945.
Formed I./KG51 from I./KG255, II./KG51 from II./KG255 and III./KG51 from III./KG255 on 1 May 1939.
Formed on 1 April 1940 along with 4./KG 51, which was redesignated 7./KG 3, 5./KG 51 which was redesignated 8./KG 3 and 6./KG 51 which was redesignated 9./KG 3. Disbanded 24 April 1945
Formed on 1 May 1939. Stab III./KG 51 formed from Stab I./SKG 10. 7./KG 51 formed from 1./SKG 10, 8./KG 51 formed from 2./SKG 10, 9./KG 51 formed from 3./SKG 10. On 31 October 1944 redesignated NSGr.20. As a result, Stab III./KG 51 was reformed as Stab./NSGr.20, 7./KG 51 reformed as 1./NSGr.20, 8./KG 51 reformed as 2./NSGr.20, 9./KG 51 reformed as 3./NSGr.20.
Formed on 30 July 1940. On 24 February 194412./KG51 reformed as 4./NJG 7, and was reformed again as 13./KG2. On 28 December 1944 IV./KG 51 reformed as IV./EKG1. Stab IV./KG51 reformed as Stab IV./EKG1, while 10./KG51 was reformed as 13./EKG1, 11./KG 51 became 14./EKG1 and 12./KG 51 became 15./EKG1. Uinit absorbed into I./KG 51 on 29 December 1944.
Formed on 2 June 1944. Absorbed into I/KG 51 on 2 November 1944.
- Oberst Josef Kammhuber, 26 March 1940 – 3 June 1940
- Major Hanns Heise, 9 May 1943 – 25 February 1944
- Major Wolfgang Schenck, 5 December 1944 – 1 February 1945
- Oberstleutnant Rudolf Hallensleben, 1 February 1945 – 19 April 1945
- Oberstleutnant Siegfried Barth, 19 April 1945
Notes and references
- de Zeng et al. 2007, p. 146.
- de Zeng et al. 2007, p. 155.
- de Zeng et al. 2007, p. 151.
- Hooton 207, p. 62-63.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 146.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 151.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 155.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 158.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 146 & 148.
- Bergstrom 2007, p. 104.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 145.
- Bergstrom 2007, p. 114.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 157.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 153-4.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 149.
- de Zeng 2007, p. 158-159.
- Bergström, Christer (2007). Stalingrad - The Air Battle: 1942 through January 1943. Chevron Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-85780-276-4.
- Bergström, Christer (2007). Barbarossa - The Air Battle: July–December 1941. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-270-2.
- Hooton, E.R (2007). Luftwaffe at War; Blitzkrieg in the West: Volume 2. London: Chervron/Ian Allan. ISBN 978-1-85780-272-6.
- Dierich, Wolfgang. Kampfgeschwader "Edelweiss" : The history of a German bomber unit, 1935-45. Allan; London. 1975. ISBN 978-0-7110-0601-0
- de Zeng, H.L; Stanket, D.G; Creek, E.J. Bomber Units of the Luftwaffe 1933-1945; A Reference Source, Volume 1. Ian Allan Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-85780-279-5