Kampfgeschwader 55

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Kampfgeschwader 55
KG55.jpg
Active 1934–45
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
Type Bomber Squadron
Role Tactical and Direct Ground Support.
Size Air Force Wing
Nickname(s) Greif
Engagements Polish Campaign
Battle of Belgium
Battle of France
Battle of Britain
Eastern Front
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Wilhelm Süssmann
Alois Stoeckl
Insignia
Identification
symbol
Geschwaderkennung
of G1

Kampfgeschwader 55 "Greif" (KG 55 or Bomber Wing 55) was a bomber unit in the Luftwaffe of Nazi Germany during World War II. KG 55 was one of the longest serving wings in the Luftwaffe. The wing operated the Heinkel He 111, a medium bomber.

Founded in May 1939, KG 55 first aw action in the German invasion of Poland in September 1939. In May and June of 1940 KG 55 participated in the Battle of Belgium and Battle of France. In July 1940 KG 55 took part in the Battle of Britain, suffering significant losses. It continued bombing operations over the British Isles during The Blitz until June 1941.

In June 1941 the unit participated in Operation Barbarossa and spent the next years on the Eastern front, flying most of its operations on the southern sector in support of Army Group South. In 1942 KG 55 participated in the Battle of the Caucasus and Battle of Stalingrad. Following the Battle of Kursk the unit was increasingly forced to fly at night owing to the Soviet Air Force achieving air superiority. In 1944 it carried out counter-air operations against United States Army Air Force (USAAF) forces based in the Soviet Union. In October 1944, the unit's groups were re-designated KG(J) to convert to fighter aircraft for the Defence of the Reich operations.

For the duration of the war, KG 55 flew over 54,000 combat operations dropping 61,000 metric tons of bombs. The unit lost 710 men killed in action and 747 missing.[1]

History[edit]

On 1 April 1934 a unit called the Hanseatische Fliegerschule e. V. was formed, initially based at Fassberg. This organisation was formed into a Geschwader (wing) and created as a Kampfgeschwader (battle or bomber wing) on 1 May 1939. The command staffel (squadron), or Stab unit, was created from KG 155, a defunct bomber unit on 1 May 1939. The organisation was created at Giessen aerodrome and was subordinated to Luftflotte 4 (Air Fleet 4). The stab staffel was placed under the command of Wilhelm Süssmann, who became the first Geschwaderkommodore of KG 55. The unit trained intensively over the spring and summer, 1939. On 31 August Süssmann was ordered to Wesendorf in preparation for an attack on Poland. The unit was equipped with the Heinkel He 111P-4 medium bomber.[2]

I. Gruppe was formed at Langendiebach on 1 May 1939. This unit was formed from I./KG 155. The unit was expanded and trained on the He 111 through to the 26 August. The Gruppe was placed on alert on that day and transferred to Dedelstorf on 31 August 1939 under the command of Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) Major Walter Traub.[3] The group remained active until 1 May 1943 when it was re-designated Lehrgeschwader 1 (Training and Experimental Wing 1) and transferred to that wing. I./KG 55 was reformed on 10 June 1943 at Stalino in the Soviet Union using personnel from Transportfliegergruppe 10, the former K.Gr.z.b.V.5.[4]

II./KG 55 was also founded at Giessen and trained alongside I./KG 55. Data records that it had 31 He 111s when it was ordered to the airbase at Wesendorf under the leadership of Gruppenkommandeur Otto von Lachemair.[5] III./KG 55 was officially formed at Neudorf near Oppeln in Silesia on 1 December 1939. The staffeln began forming exactly a month earlier on 1 November. The formation spent the winter training on the He 111 and were ready for operations by May 1940. The Gruppe was operational by March and was placed on high alert on 24 March. It was based at Gablingen until the western offensive.[6] Major Hans Schemmell commanded the unit from 1 December 1939 – 30 September 1940.[6]

World War II[edit]

Invasion of Poland[edit]

On 1 September 1939 Adolf Hitler issued orders for the invasion of Poland. KG 55 was placed under the command of the 4th Air Division under the command of General Alfred Keller. The division was subordinated to Luftflotte 4.[3] KG 55 bombed Polish Air Force airfields on 3 September. The Geschwaderstab and I./KG 55 were ordered to Maerzdorf/Ohlau and II./KG 55 was moved to Rosenborn. Whilst there the crews listened to operational experiences from the Dornier Do 17-equipped Kampfgeschwader 4.[7]

Commander-in-chief of Luftflotte 4, Alexander Löhr, ordered KG 55 into action and the wing bombed railway targets in support of the German 4th Army. The attacks were made in a 10–30 degree dive from altitudes of 2,000 metres (6,500 ft). The operations were so successful it reduced the number of targets and the bombers reverted to close air support operations.[8] The rail lines on the RadomKrakow line were permanently severed.[7] KG 55 flew 13 operations and 275 individual sorties; the Stabsstaffel flew 13 armed reconnaissance missions.[7]

KG 55 also took part in the Battle of the Bzura. Three Polish army groups attempted to break out of an encirclement and the German 8th Army could not contain the attack. The Luftwaffe initiated a large air offensive against the Polish forces on 8 September. I. and II./KG 55 bombed communication targets while other units offered close air support. The offensive was successful and the Polish resistance broken. Operations moved south thereafter; operations against bridges on the Vistula and attacks against Polish forces retreating towards Romania also absorbed much of the wing's effort.[9] The Geschwader suffered its first loss when one bomber made a forced-landing with no casualties on 11 September during long-range operations against Przemysl. The Luftwaffe was flying further to the east by this stage.[7]

On 12 September 1939 Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring visited the unit.[3] I./KG 55 flew against target in the Dubno area on 15 September as operations wound down.[10] On this date KG 55 flew 363 individual sorties. By the 20 September the number of sorties flown stood at 670.[7] On the night of the 16/17 September Luftflotte 4 was ordered to stand down and cease operations as part of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. The Red Army invaded Poland the following morning.[11] II./KG 55 was moved back to Giessen on 22 September.[5] During the campaign KG 55 suffered one complete loss of aircraft and crew, in which an Oberleutnant Walter Fritz and his crew from 1./KG 55 were killed in action south west of L'vov.[12]

Following the conclusion of operations in Poland, which ended on 6 October 1939, I./KG 55 transferred to Ingolstadt-Manching on 9 October. Then the Gruppe moved to Neuburg an der Donau on 13 February 1940. It flew some reconnaissance operations over France dropping leaflets in the Nancy area and over the Maginot Line. The formation moved to Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base on 2 March but reverted to Neuburg on 23 April.[3] II./KG 55 moved to Ingolstadt on 10 November 1939 and moved to Schwäbisch-Hall on 13 January 1940 under the 5th Air Division. It moved to Leipheim and on 3 February 1940 flew at least one leaflet mission in eastern France.[5] III./KG 55 was combat ready and stationed at Gablingen.[6]

Battle of France[edit]

The end of the Phoney War on 10 May 1940 came with Operation Fall Gelb (Case Yellow), the invasion of France and the Low Countries. Stab./KG 55 had six He 111s at Leipham for the operation.[2] The Geschwader was placed under the command of Luftflotte 3 (3rd Air Fleet) although it was still subordinated to the 5th Air Division.[2] I./KG 55 committed 35 (25 serviceable) He 111s to the offensive.[10] II./KG 55 could muster 36 He 111s (24 operational) and 17 of 36 He 111s on strength with III./KG 55 were combat ready.[5] The units were to be engaged in counter-air operations against the French Armée de l'air.[5]

Stab./KG 55 began operations on 10 May in the Lorraine region of France, which included air raids on Nancy, Toul and Epinal.[2] In the first day of action the Geschwader did not suffer any casualties. II. and III./KG 55 attacked Nancy-Essey Airport which was heavily damaged.[5] I./KG 55 attacked Toul-Croix de Metz Airfield. I./KG 55 moved to Baltringen in the evening at flew a long-range operation against rail depots in Orléans on 11 May. II./KG flew attacks against similar targets but included bombing rail and bridge targets around Châteaudun on 12 May.[2] KG 55 bombed 38 airfields from 11–13 May. Hugo Sperrle, commanding Luftflotte 3, claimed 100 Allied aircraft on the ground in these operation and another 100–150 in hangars.[13] A second operation hit the railway of Rethel. Stab./KG 55 attacked the Châteaudun Air Base and supported German army advances at Charleville-Mézières and the Battle at Sedan. From 11 May–2 June it bombed Châteauroux-Déols Air Base, Orleans, Soissons and Lyon – Mont Verdun Air Bases.[2]

I./KG 55 moved again to Malmsheim near Stuttgart. The formation attacked Soissons on 15 May and Reims on 18 May supported by II./KG 55. III./KG 55 operated to the north, attacking Verdun on 16 May and flying the only known mission of the unit in the Battle of Belgium, to Charleroi, three days earlier on 13 May before moving to Eutingen on 24 May.[6] Through May, KG 55 operated attacked targets in central, southern, and eastern France. The unit did not participate in the battles against the British forces in the Battle of Dunkirk and Lille.[14] KG 55, was however involved in anti-shipping operations in the English Channel. On 1 June it was transferred to 4th Air Corps to participate in these operations.[15]

In May losses were sustained. On the 12 May Allied fighters shot down a Heinkel of 4./KG 55, whilst it was attacking railway targets North East of Reims, for the unit's first loss of the battle. The next day, 13 May, cost KG 55 ten machines, six from Stab. and 4./KG 55. On that day alone the unit's losses had exceeded those during the invasion of Poland.[16] The losses suffered by KG 55 on 13 May were the highest of the war. A further seven machines were damaged and forced to land throughout the remainder of the fighting, although only two machines and crews were completely lost. The first of these, a 9./KG 55 Heinkel, was flown by Unteroffizier Horst Mahnert. Whilst returning from a mission to bomb airfields in the Lyon area on 2 June 1940 it strayed into Swiss airspace and was shot down near Ursins by Capitaine Hans Thurnheer in a Swiss Air Force Messerschmitt Bf 109.[17]

In June KG 55 continued long-range operations. It is believed the Geschwader flew to Marseille on 1 June 1940 on a leaflet-dropping exercise with Kampfgeschwader 53.[18] On 3 June the entire wing flew on Operation Paula—a mass bombing operation against industrial targets around Paris. It supported the drive of the Army Group B to Paris until the city's capture on 14 June. The last operations were flown on 22 June 1940, three days before the French surrender.[19] From 6–19 June the formation operated in Geschwader-strength attacking troop concentrations and rail targets around Nancy.[20] Between 20–23 June 1940, KG 55 were already operating over the United Kingdom, bombing targets in Bristol and Cardiff from forward airfields near Paris.[21]

KG 55 flew 886 combat operations against troop concentrations, 725 against rail targets, 406 against airfields, 49 anti-shipping operations and harbour attacks, 148 armed reconnaissance sorties and 46 dropping leaflets for the duration of the French campaign.[2] I./KG 55 flew 897 missions and lost 10 bombers.[10] II./KG 55 flew 571 combat sorties and lost 11 Heinkels.[5] From 10 May—23 June 1940 III./KG 55 flew 595 combat missions and lost 9 bombers.[6]

Battle of Britain[edit]

A still from camera-gun film taken from a Supermarine Spitfire No. 609 Squadron RAF, flown by Pilot Officer J D Bisdee. It captures He 111s of KG 55 which had just bombed the Supermarine aircraft works, Southampton.

After the success in France KG 55 moved into the country and occupied airfields in the Paris area. In July 1940 the Luftwaffe began its first phase of operations over Britain. The escalating air activity over the English Channel was called the Kanalkampf, which officially began the Battle of Britain on 10 July. Throughout the summer German air operations gradually pressed inland to destroy RAF Fighter Command in southern England as a prelude to Operation Sealion, a seaborne invasion of the United Kingdom.

For KG 55 initial losses were light in these skirmishes. The first loss occurred on 11 July 1940, when 2./KG 55 lost He 111 Werknummer 2648 G1+LK, piloted by Oberfeldwebel Erich Slotosch. They became the first of the Geschwader casualties; all were taken prisoner of war.[22] Later in the action two He 111s collided while in combat with No. 601 Squadron RAF over Channel with the loss of all crews.[23] On the night 11/12 July Luftwaffe nuisance raids persisted with Geschwaderkommodore Alois Stoeckl leading II.KG 55—which would become a night pathfinder unit in the Blitz—attacked Cardiff, Wales. On 13 July another He 111 piloted by Oberleutnant Kleinhanns was shot down by No. 43 Squadron RAF over Southwick while on a reconnaissance flight.[24] III./KG 55 lost another He 111 on the 19 July off Shoreham to No. 145 Squadron RAF as the Channel battles intensified.[25][26]

On 13 August KG 55 was involved in Adlertag the all-out offensive against the Royal Air Force (RAF) in southern England, attacking the port of Plymouth, Feltham and RAF Middle Wallop without loss. The following day, KG 55 was to suffer its most significant loss. On 14 August 1940 He 111P G1 + AA was shot down near the Royal Naval Armament Depot at East Dean in Hampshire.[27] Geschwaderkommodore Oberst Alois Stoeckl and his crew were killed.[28] He was replaced by Major Korte of I./KG 55. Major Friedrich Kless took over command of I./KG 55. Stoeckl and his crews were able to bomb the airfield but the Kommodore fell to the RAF ace John Dundas.[29] KG 55 continue to operate against RAF airfields. On 16 August 1940 it bombed Heathrow Airport. On 26 August it took part in Luftflotte 3's last major daylight raid for three weeks as the air fleet was reassigned to attacking the West and East Midlands industrial areas.[30][31]

For a period of three weeks KG 55 was mainly assigned to night raids on aircraft production factories over England, though there were some notable daylight raids on Bristol and Southampton. On 4 September 1940 27 He 111s from III./KG 55 led by Major Hans Schemmell attacked Portland. They feinted towards Southampton and bombed the port causing little damage. They were intercepted by No. 152 Squadron RAF and lost one bomber and another damaged.[32]

On 25 September 1940 all three air groups took part in a raid on the Bristol Aeroplane Company factory at Filton. German reconnaissance discovered the surrounding airspace was sparsely protected. A formation of 58 Heinkels supported by Junkers Ju 88s from Lehrgeschwader 1. A formation of Messerschmitt Bf 110s from Erprobungsgruppe 210 marked the target. RAF controllers mistakenly believed the target to be the Westland Whirlwind factory at Yeovil and sent three squadrons to protect it. enabled the bombers to bomb the target, stopping production and causing some 250 casualties at the factor and 107 in the surrounding area. 80 Bristol Beaufort and Bristol Blenheims were destroyed and dozens of others damaged.[33] RAF fighters from No. 238 Squadron RAF and No. 229 Squadron RAF engaged the He 111s on their return to base, downing one He 111 and two escorting Bf 110s from III./Zerstörergeschwader 26.[34][35][36]

Reconnaissance units incorrectly reported the aircraft factory lightly damaged. Consequently, 30 He 111s preceded by 19 Bf 110s from Erprobungsgruppe 210, and covered by 27 Bf 110s from ZG 26 attacked the factory again. This time five RAF squadrons met the raid. Three Bf 110s from ZG 26 were shot down and another damaged. Four Erprobungsgruppe 210s Bf 110s were shot down, but the Heinkels were protected as KG 55 escaped without loss but was forced to abandon the mission, drop its bombs and retreat to France.[37]

On 29 September, KG 55 attacked Merseyside area. Oberstleutnant Hans Korte led III./KG 55 across No. 10 Group RAF's area again. At 18:00 they flew into the Irish Sea, but they had been tracked by Cornish radar. 11 Hawker Hurricanes of No. 79 Squadron RAF intercepted. 7 and 8 Staffel slipped away but the 9th was caught against the setting sun and spotted. Three bombers were hit; one was shot down, another written off landing in France and one was assessed as fifty percent damaged. The gunners defended tenaciously and shot down three 79 Hurricanes; one pilot was killed, the other rescued by British naval craft, but the third was rescued by the Irish and interned.[38]

Between 10 July and 31 October 1940 KG 55 lost 73 machines to enemy action, and a further eight were shot down during 1940 in night operations over Britain. The last Heinkel lost in 1940, piloted by Unteroffizier Bruno Zimmermann, was shot down by Pilot Officer J. G Benson and Sergeant P. Blain in a Boulton Paul Defiant of No. 141 Squadron RAF over Sussex on 22 December.[39]

Night war: the Blitz[edit]

After the Battle of Britain the Luftwaffe maintained pressure on Britain by attacking at night to avoid RAF Fighter Command. The Blitz, as it became known, was a series of heavy attacks against British cities in order to break the will of the civil population and destroy its industrial centres. KG 55 was involved in the campaign from the first operation to the last. II./KG 55 was selected to operate as a pathfinder unit alongside the specialist Kampfgruppe 100, and III./Kampfgeschwader 26.[40] They were referred to in the Luftwaffe as Beleuchtergruppe (Firelighter Group). It was not equipped with special aids for this task unlike the other Geschwader, and has rarely been credited with this role. The crews were highly experienced in night operations and selected to help lead the attacks under the command of Major Friedrich Kless. The three unit operated in unison often: KGr 100 illuminated the target with incendiaries and the later formations dropped high explosive bombs to destroy water mains and impede fire-fighting efforts.[41]

II./KG 55 used Knickebein and Direction finding methods when British countermeasures from No. 80 Wing RAF did not impede them. They also learned to navigate by using searchlights and shell bursts from anti-aircraft artillery as a reference point because they denoted the close proximity of cities, coastlines and were lights were often connected to railways. Good use was also made of British dummy airfields intended to lead German crews astray—they were carefully plotted and recorded. II./KG 55 used LC 50 parachute flares—an operation often attributed to KGr 100—then proceeded to bomb visually using Lotfernrohr 7 bomb sights. The Gruppe was predominantly equipped with He 111P-4s; the other units were equipped with more powerful He 111H-5s.[42]

On 1 November II./KG 55 was involved in three operations in one night to Bristol, Oxford and Skegness. The following night I., II. and III./KG 55 took part in the offensive against London.[43] On 6/7, 7/8, and 11/12 December London was the target for all three groups. On the latter date, Bournemouth and Exmouth were also hit by III./KG 55. On 12/13 December the Geschwader returned to the capital.[44] Among the most destructive attacks was Operation Mondscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata), which was the code word for the attack on Coventry on 14 November 1940. after KGr 100 released their incendiaries 16 He 111s of II./KG 55 released a mixture of LC 50 parachute flares and five SC 1800 and 11 SC1400 SC (Sprengbomb-clyindrisch) heavy, general purpose bombs, thin-cased to cause maximum damage on the surface. They were the heaviest German bombs available. A further five SC500 and 2,412 incendiaries were dropped. The full moon and absence of cloud made the use of Knickebein superfluous. The attack was a success and a large part of the city centre was destroyed. I. and III./KG 55 participated in the main waves.[45][46] Meanwhile, I./KG 55 struck at Bournemouth and Portsmouth.[47]

On the nigh of the 16/17 November 1940 13 He 111s of II./KG 55 led 159 bombers from Luftflotte 2 and 3 in an attack on Southampton destroying much of the city. 13 Heinkels of the group also led an attack on Birmingham on 19/20 November. They flew in the lead of 357 aircraft with KGr 100 joining in marking the target. The attack with incendiaries started fires that were visible from 47 miles (75 kilometres) away. The unit also guided 204 bombers to Birmingham on 21/22 November using 11 aircraft. Southampton was attacked by 121 bombers on 23/24 November and II./KG 55 was once again asked to lead the attack. On 27/28 November KG 55 was involved in the attack on Liverpool (324 bombers) and the continued air offensive against London (335 aircraft) on 28/29 November. On the last night of the month, Southampton was struck by 128 aircraft on 30 November/1 December 1940.[48] III./KG 55 was involved in all of these operations.[46]

He 111 of Stab./KG 55 after crashing in England. The emblem is visible on the fuselage

In December the weather became deteriorated and complicated night operations. II./KG 55 participated in 11 attacks during the month with all 30 of its aircraft available. KG 55's air groups were assigned to V Fliegerkorps in December attached to Luftflotte 3. During an attack Bristol on the night of the 24 November the Geschwader suffered its first casualty when a crew member was killed by anti-aircraft fire, but KG 55 suffered few casualties during the winter operations. The crews were ordered to expand their duties this time and report back on weather conditions for successive waves. A particular problem was the icing of airframes at higher altitudes. The radio operators were obliged to report straight away and used the W/T to do so. British Y-stations were able to intercept the transmissions which helped identify the unit but little more.[49] Notable operations were carried out against Sheffield on 12/13 December and Liverpool on 21/22 December.[46] On two successive nights from the 22–24 December, KG 55 supported the heavy bombing of Manchester and Plymouth.[46] III./KG 55 is known to have attacked Birmingham alone this night.[50]

The technological and intelligence war was also escalating. The RAF had been quick to discover Knickebein and effectively counter it. However, X-Verfahren systems in use among the pathfinders and some of the German bomber units were not disrupted. For much of the war 80 Wing believed their counter-efforts had effected the German navigational aids. They did however, solve the basics of Y-Verfahren but it would take two more months to counter the former aid.[51] Operations were reduced in January due to the British weather. All groups were involved in remaining operations to Bristol on 3/4 January 1941, Manchester on 9/10 January, Portsmouth on 10/11 January and London the following night. Attacks on Avonmouth on 16/17 and Swansea on 17/18 January were the first to these targets.[52] Records show that in the Portsmouth operation 19 of II./KG 55's He 111s dropped 18 LC 50 flares, eight SC1800, seven SD1400 (Sprengbombe Dickwandig bombs which had some penetrative power for armour-piercing purposes) and seven SC1000 bombs.[53] Severe weather shut down II./KG 55's operations at its Chartres airfield until March 1941.[52] This was the case for III./KG at Villacoublay.[46] III./KG 55 was grounded in Paris.[10]

I./KG 55 moved to Le Bourget on 11 February while the other two Gruppen resumed operations from their stations of the previous winter.[46] On 10/11 March the Luftwaffe returned Portsmouth and to the West Midlands on the night of the 11/12. KG 55 pitted its entire strength including Stab./KG 55 against Birmingham.[54] The attack is notable as 5 staffel of II./KG 55 lost two He 111s to night fighters this night—Pilot Feldwebel Karl Brüning became a prisoner of war but his crew were killed by a Boulton Paul Defiant from No. 264 Squadron RAF flown by Flying Officer Frederick Hughes. Pilot Oberfeldwebel Karl Single as shot down by a No. 96 Squadron RAF Hawker Hurricane flown by Sergeant McNair, though three of his crew were killed. On 14/15 March KG 55 flew diversionary raids to Sheffield and Plymouth to allow other units to bomb Glasgow. One of its pathfinders fell to No. 604 Squadron RAF Bristol Beaufighter piloted by Flying Officer Keith Geddes. The growing efficiency of night fighters increased German bomber losses.[55] The last attacks were flown against Hull , Southampton, Avonmouth, London, Bristol, Clydeside and Devonport from 16–22 April; casualties amounted to two badly damaged Heinkels.[56] KG 55 was selected for anti-shipping operations in the Irish Sea on 6 April 1941.[52]

By the time KG 55 had ceased its actions over Britain, it had flown 4,742 sorties over the British Isles. 3,300 were against shipping and harbours, 700 against industrial targets, 391 armed reconnaissance flights and 350 attacks against airfields between 24 June 1940 and 11 June 1941.[57] During its night operations, only 10 of KG 55's crews had been detected and engaged by enemy night fighters from September 1940–May 1941.[58]

Eastern Front[edit]

1941

KG 55's units began a last minute withdrawal to occupied Poland in preparation for the war on the Soviet Union. I. Gruppe, III. Gruppe and the Geschwaderstab moved to Zamość, while III Gruppe were located to Klemensow aerodrome south east of Lublin. On 8 March 1941 the Erganzungstaffel was formed into IV. Gruppe, but was deployed to Dijon in France and remained there until 4 May 1944. KG 55 was to provide air support for Army Group South attacking into the Ukraine in its drive toward the Caucasus and the Soviet oil fields.

The opening day of the campaign resulted in the loss of seven aircraft. The next day an 8./KG 55 Heinkel was shot down by flak over Luck, the crew bailed out but were later found by advancing German forces to have been shot in the head. Two of the men were found at the local Commissar's house.[citation needed] The Luftwaffe established air superiority after destroying and capturing over 4,000 Soviet aircraft in the first weeks of the invasion (this figure rose to 21,200 by December 1941).[59] Losses in the Kampfgruppen had also been heavy. The vast area of operations and the wear and tear of machines took its toll. By August 1941 KG 4, KG 27, KG 53 and KG 55 were reduced to 128 serviceable aircraft between them. The Geschwader played an instrumental role in the Battle of Kiev, in which the Wehrmacht effectively destroyed three Soviet armies, killing or capturing 600,000 Red Army soldiers. I./KG 55 was credited with the destruction of 58 railway cars, 675 trucks and 22 tanks in this battle alone.[60]

1942

During the stalemate through the winter of 1941/42 the units of KG 55 were redeployed to rest in Western France, not to return until April 1942 (with the exception of IV. Gruppe). KG 55 once again was deployed to the Ukraine to support the 11th Army in the Crimea, and the 6th Army pushing eastward from the Kharkov area into the Caucasus. During the night of the 23/24 August the unit took part in the 'maximum' effort attack on Stalingrad with incendiary bombs which destroyed the centre of the city; one Heinkel was lost.

On 18 November, the Red Army counter-attacked and cut off the 6th Army. Hermann Göring assured Hitler that 'his Luftwaffe' could airlift in supplies. Göring wrongly believed a Heinkel that could carry 2000 kg of explosives could as easily carry 2000 kg of cargo. The Junkers Ju 52 and Heinkel 111s bore the brunt of supply operation. On 14 January 1943 Soviet forces captured the Pitomnik airfield; supplies were then parachuted in. The last German elements surrendered on 2 February. KG 55 contributed only a small fraction of the 90 tonnes of supplies the 6th Army received daily. Over 165 He 111s were lost over Stalingrad, KG 55's losses were 59.[61][62] The Geschwader flew in 3,296 tons of supplies including 1,541 tons of food and 768 tons of ammunition, and 1,110 tons of fuel. KG 55 also evacuated 9,028 wounded soldiers.[61]

KG 55 covered the retreat of the German forces until the spring and II./KG 55 marked their 10,000 mission on 11 May 1943.

1943

KG 55 supported German forces throughout 1943, took part in Operation Citadel, and covered the retreat across the Soviet Union. As air superiority slipped away, losses in the bomber units began to climb. Many of the Heinkels were modified to enable them to carry out low strike missions in the face of enemy air superiority. The specialist train-busting unit 14.(Eis)/KG 55 had its Heinkels fitted with an electric altimeter that enabled them to fly at tree top level over the railway tracks and began using the Ju 88C-6 aircraft in this role. The unit lost nine aircraft but flew over 5,000 missions before disbanding on 27 April 1945.[citation needed]

1944

The role of the unit in on the Eastern Front continued much as in 1943. KG 55 completed its 50,000th mission on 10 May 1944. With production of the Heinkel ceasing in 1944 the unit was being prepared to re-equip with ground attack versions of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190. KG 55 was mostly disbanded in 1944 with only 14.(Eis)/KG 55 surviving into 1945.

According to the Luftwaffe records, the unit had flown 54,272 combat sorties, dropped 60,938 tons of bombs, carried 7,514 tons of supplies, and lost 710 killed and 747 missing from 1 September 1939 to 1 October 1944.[61]

IV. Gruppe on the Western Front[edit]

1945

The unit was withdrawn from front line duty and was assigned to training duties using mainly modified fighter aircraft. The only active unit of the Geschwader was IV. Gruppe, which continued operations in the west from 1941-1945. IV. Gruppe would lose 50 aircraft in the west before the end of the war.[citation needed]

Commanding officers[edit]

Organisation[edit]

Stab. Gruppe

Formed 1 May 1939.Disbanded 9 April 1945.

I. Gruppe

Formed with 1./KG155, 2./KG55 and 3./KG55 1 May 1939.

II. Gruppe

Formed 1 May 1939 along with 4./KG55, 5./KG55 and 6./KG55

III. Gruppe

Formed on 1 December 1939 along with 7./KG55, 8./KG55 and 9./KG55.

IV. Gruppe

Formed on 1 April 1940. Reformed 1 August 1940 as Ergänzungsstaffel/KG55. On 1 March 1941 it was redesignated 10./KG55. Stab IV./KG55 was formed on 7 March 1941, followed by 11./KG55 on 21 March 1941 and 12./KG55 on 7 April 1941.

14. (Eis)/KG55

Unit formed 1 June 1943, disbanded 27 April 1945

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ de Zeng, Stankey and Creek 2007, p. 194.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 193.
  3. ^ a b c d de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 194.
  4. ^ de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 197.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 198.
  6. ^ a b c d e de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 201.
  7. ^ a b c d e Mackay 2003, p. 42.
  8. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 183.
  9. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 185–186.
  10. ^ a b c d de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 195.
  11. ^ Hooton 2007a, pp. 90–91.
  12. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 8.
  13. ^ Hooton 2007b, p. 63.
  14. ^ Jackson 1974, pp. 110–120.
  15. ^ Hooton 2007b, p. 77.
  16. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 9.
  17. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 11.
  18. ^ Hooton 1994, p. 263.
  19. ^ Hooton 1994, pp. 263–264.
  20. ^ Hooton 2007b, p. 86.
  21. ^ Hooton 2007b, p. 91.
  22. ^ Parker 2013, p. 64.
  23. ^ Mason 1969, p. 163.
  24. ^ Mason 1969, p. 166.
  25. ^ Mason 1969, p. 181.
  26. ^ Bungay 2000, p. 340.
  27. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 18.
  28. ^ Bergström 2015, p. 115.
  29. ^ Mason 1969, p. 244.
  30. ^ Mason 1969, p. 308.
  31. ^ Bickers 1990, p. 131.
  32. ^ Mason 1969, p. 390.
  33. ^ Mason 1969, p. 411.
  34. ^ Mason 1969, p. 415.
  35. ^ Goss 2000, pp. 161-162.
  36. ^ Bergström 2015, p. 231.
  37. ^ Mason 1969, p. 416.
  38. ^ Mason 1969, pp. 421–422.
  39. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 89-92.
  40. ^ Hooton 1997, p. 34.
  41. ^ Wakefield 1999, p. 72.
  42. ^ Wakefield 1999, pp. 74–75.
  43. ^ Goss 2010, p. 212.
  44. ^ Goss 2010, pp. 212–213.
  45. ^ Wakefield 1999, p. 78.
  46. ^ a b c d e f de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 202.
  47. ^ Goss 2010, p. 215.
  48. ^ Wakefield 1999, pp. 81, 84, 86, 88.
  49. ^ Wakefield 1999, pp. 94–102.
  50. ^ Goss 2010, p. 225.
  51. ^ Wakefield 1999, p. 102.
  52. ^ a b c de Zeng, Stankey, Creek 2007, p. 199.
  53. ^ Wakefield 1999, pp. 107, 114.
  54. ^ Goss 2010, p. 233.
  55. ^ Wakefield 1999, pp. 118–121.
  56. ^ Wakefield 1999, 129.
  57. ^ de Zeng et al. 2007, p. 193.
  58. ^ Bergström 2015, p. 201.
  59. ^ Bergstrom 2007a, p. 117.
  60. ^ Bergstrom 2007a, p. 70.
  61. ^ a b c d de Zeng et al. Vol 1, 2007, p. 194.
  62. ^ Hall & Quinlan 2000, p. 65.
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