Siegfried Freytag

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Siegfried Freytag
Siegfried Freytag.jpg
Born (1919-11-10)10 November 1919
Danzig-Langfuhr
Died 2 June 2003(2003-06-02) (aged 83)
Puyloubier, France
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
 France (1952-1970)
Service/branch Balkenkreuz (Iron Cross) Luftwaffe
French Foreign Legion
Rank Major (Germany)
Sergent (France)
Unit

JG 51, JG 7


5th Foreign Infantry Regiment
13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion
1st Foreign Regiment
Commands held JG 77
Battles/wars
Awards Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Siegfried Freytag (10 November 1919 – 2 June 2003) was a fighter pilot who served and fought in the Luftwaffe of during World War II.

Freytag was born on 10 November 1919 and joined the Luftwaffe in 1938. After completing training as a fighter pilot he was posted to 6. Staffel (squadron) Jagdgeschwader 77 (JG 77—Fighter Wing 77) in the autumn, 1940. Freytag claimed his first victory on 31 October 1940 on the final day of the Battle of Britain. In April 1941 he participated in the Balkans Campaign, the Battle of Greece and Battle of Crete. In June Freytag was deployed to the Eastern Front with JG 77 for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Freytag passed five victories becoming a flying ace and by 3 June 1942 he had claimed 50 enemy aircraft destroyed.

On 27 June 1942, Freytag was appointed Staffelkapitän (Squadron leader) of 1. Staffel and relocated to the Mediterranean Theatre. Freytag participated in the air battle over Malta. On 3 July 1942 Freytag was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 53 aerial victories. He became the most successful German pilot over Malta. Freytag was transferred with his unit to North Africa to assist the collapsing Axis forces. On 13 March 1943, Freytag was appointed Gruppenkommandeur (Group Commander) of II./JG 77. By this date he had claimed 85 victories. Freytag continued operations over Sicily where he was shot down and wounded in action on 12 July 1943.

Thereafter, Freytag led the group in Defence of the Reich operations. On 13 June 1944 Freytag scored his 100th victory. In December 1944 Freytag commanded JG 77 in air superiority operations on the Western Front at the beginning Ardennes Offensive until 25 December 1944 when he was appointed Geschwaderkommodore (Wing Commander) on a temporary basis. Freytag scored his 102nd and last aerial victory during Operation Bodenplatte, on 1 January 1945. In April 1945 Freytag served with Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51—Fighter Wing 51) and Jagdgeschwader 7 (JG 7—Fighter Wing 7), where he flew the Messerschmitt Me 262 until the German surrender in May 1945.

Siegfried Freytag was officially credited with 102 victories of which 49 victories were claimed over the Eastern Front. Among his victories over the Western Front are at least 2 four-engine bombers. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross Freytag had been nominated for the Oak Leaves to Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, but the war ended before the paperwork had been processed.[1]

After war he served in the French Foreign Legion. Freytag died in France in 2003.

Early life[edit]

Freytag was born on 10 November 1919 in Danzig-Langfuhr, at the time in the Province of West Prussia. Today Danzig-Langfuhr is Wrzeszcz, a borough of the Polish city of Gdańsk.[1]

World War II[edit]

Freytag began wartime operations in October 1940. On 31 October—considered by the British to be the final day of the Battle of Britain—on patrol west of Lister, Norway, at 16:00 CET, he shot down a RAF Coastal Command Lockheed Hudson, T9377 from No. 233 Squadron RAF. Pilot Officer W.O. Weaber, B. P. Erskine Sergeant J. A. Wallace and H. Dean were killed in action, buried Sola Church and commemorated at the Runnymede Memorial.[2] During the Battle of Greece, on 24 April 1941, Freytag crashed his Bf 109E near Athens following combat and was wounded.[3]

Eastern Front[edit]

In early June I. and III./JG 77 were deployed to Romania and subordinated to IV. Fliegerkorps under the command of Kurt Pflugbeil. The battle group was designated as close air support to Army Group South.[4] On 22 June 1941 the German Wehrmacht commenced Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. Freytag achieved steady success. He reported his 10th claim on 12 August 1941 and his 20th victory on 31 October 1941. This day he downed a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-3 in the morning during a combat air patrol to support German forces in the Battle of Rostov. Aleksandr Grosul and Ivan Voytenko of the 55 IAP were reported missing in action.[5] On 23 March 1942, Freytag engaged and shot down a Yakovlev Yak-1. The Staffel engaged three Yak-1s from the 247 IAP this day, piloted by Major Mikhail Fedoseyev, the unit commander, Stepan Karnach, Vasiliy Shevchuk and Viktor Golovko. Fedoseyev was killed while Shevchuk was shot down and force-landed. One of the Yak fighters became Freytag's 26th victory.[6] II./JG 77 also took a heavy toll of Soviet air forces in the Siege of Odessa, before Freytag's group was withdrawn to Kherson.[7] In the autumn, 1941, JG 77 was heavily involved in operations over the Crimea. In December the Red Army made an amphibious assault on the eastern end of the region to disrupt the Siege of Sevastopol and re-establish airbases there. Throughout December 1941 and through to June 1942, north I. and II./JG 77 were involved in combat operations (III./JG 77 was removed because of losses).[8] Kerch fell to the Axis on 20 May 1942.[8] Freytag's II Gruppe (group) participated in the Sevastopol operation with III. Gruppe until mid-June.[9]

Malta, North Africa and Sicily[edit]

On 27 June 1942, Freytag way appointed Staffelkapitän (squadron leader) of 1. Staffel and was transferred with this squadron to Sicily.[1] From here, I./JG 77 was to escort German bomber formations attacking Malta and it's sea communications. Freytag achieved a series of successes against Royal Air Force (RAF) fighters over the summer 1942 that he was nicknamed the Stern von Malta (The Star of Malta).[10][11] On 3 July Freytag was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for 50 victories.[11] On 27 July Freytag led eight Bf 109s in a battle against Supermarine Spitfires, but the German formation lost three—including Freytag who ditched into the Mediterranean Sea after being shot down. Freytag was rescued by a seaplane.[12] On 6 July Freytag shot down American Flight Lieutenant Edwin Moye of No. 185 Squadron RAF, who was killed.[13] By 11 October 1942 Freytag had claimed 73 aircraft destroyed.[14] On this date Freytag claimed a solitary Spitfire.[15]

On 23 October 1942 1. Staffel was transferred to Egypt as the North African campaign entered it's final phase. The British Army began the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Luftwaffe rushed in reinforcements. On 11 November 1942, near El Alamein, Freytag claimed two Spitfires.[16] On 13 January Freytag may have shot down a Martin Baltimore.[17] On 28 January he accounted for a B-26 Marauder.[18] On 1 March 1943 Freytag was promoted to Hauptmann.[19] Freytag continued operations and on 13 March 1943 was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 77 based at La Fauconnerie, Tunisia. In the afternoon of the 13 March Geschwaderkommodore Joachim Müncheberg led I./JG 77 over Gabes. On this sortie, Freytag claimed his 86th and 87th victories, after Müncheberg ordered them to attack some low-flying United States Army Air Force (USAAF) P-39 Airacobras.[20][21]

On 30 March Freytag led the Gruppe against USAAF bombing raids. The Bf 109s engaged the US 52d Fighter Group, which was escorting 18 A-20 Havoc bombers against La Fauconnerie. Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert claimed two bombers before the P-40s claimed two German fighters.[22][17] Freytag claimed one P-40 in this battle for his 88th victory.[23] On 4 April JG 77 engaged in a day of heavy air combat with the new commanding officer Johannes Steinhoff and lost three pilots. Steinhoff and Reinert claimed three and one respectively. Their opponents were Spitfires and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks from the US 33rd Fighter Group.[24] Freytag claimed a Spitfire on this day. On 5 April Operation Flax commenced as Allied air forces attacked German air transports.[25] The Tunisian Campaign ended with the Axis capitulation on 13 May 1943. Freytag accounted for his last victory in this theatre on 7 May when he downed a Spitfire over Tunis—his 94th victory.[26] JG 77 was the last German fighter unit to leave Africa.[27]

II./JG 77 relocated to Sicily. There the formation was responsible for the air defence of the island. Freytag gained four victories over Sicily including two on 9 July. The same day Operation Husky began and Allied forces landed. Three days later Freytag was shot down and wounded in combat with Lockheed P-38 Lightning over Gela. Allied forces achieved air supremacy by 13 July and all except II./Jagdgeschwader 51 had been driven to the northeastern coast. Few fighters remained, but II./JG 77 abandoned Trapani and the remnants of the German fighter units retreated to Foggia in Italy.[28] By the time JG 77 departed Sicily, it had claimed 27 Allied aircraft in combat from 10–31 July 1943 but lost 51 Bf 109s and 12 pilots killed.[29] II./JG 77 remained on the Mediterranean Front. Freytag was wounded by an Allied air attack on the group's airfield at Siena, Italy on 29 January 1944.[30]

The Gruppe participated in the Italian Campaign until it's withdrawal the following summer. Freytag claimed his victories over Consolidated B-24 Liberators on 29 May and 13 June 1944. On the latter date the US 15th Air Force bombed targets in Sisak, Yugoslavia and Pétfürdő, Hungary using the 47th Bomb Wing and 55th Bomb Wing. The B-24 Freytag claimed was his 100th victory.

Defence of the Reich and Western Front[edit]

In the summer, II./JG 77 moved back to Germany for Defence of the Reich operations. This period was not successful for Freytag. One notable dogfight occurred on 27 September 1944. Feytag may have shot down Henry Wallace McLeod, who was also one of the most successful aces over Malta. Freytag claimed the only Spitfire on 27 September 1944 in the Duisburg area.[31] James "Johnnie" Johnson had been in the same combat and saw McLeod chasing a Bf 109 and then lost sight of McLeod.[32] Johnson concluded that the Bf 109 had shot down McLeod. His body was found in the wreckage of his Spitfire near Wesel, not far from Duisberg.[Note 1]

On 16 December the German High Command (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht) initiated Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein (Operation Watch on the Rhine), a land offensive through the Ardennes. The Luftwaffe supported the offensive. JG 77 suffered heavily in the air battles with the RAF Second Tactical Air Force and the US Ninth Air Force and Eighth Air Force. On 23 December 1944 I./JG 77 lost 15 fighters and six pilots killed in exchange for one P-47 Thunderbolt and a B-26 Marauder.[33] In the afternoon, III./JG 77 were engaged by P-47s over Bad Münstereifel and lost 10 Bf 109s destroyed and three damaged along with two pilots killed and six wounded. Only three P-47s were claimed.[33]

On Christmas Eve, JG 77 attempted an all-out effort to support the 5th Panzer Army and the 6th SS Panzer Army as their advance stalled.[33] Freytag's I./JG 77 took off from Dortmund with 24 Bf 109s and flew a patrol in the Luxembourg area.[33] In large-scale air fighting, Major Johannes Wiese, Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 77 was wounded in combat with Spitfires.[34] I./JG 77 was decimated when it encountered P-47 and P-38s in the target area. 16 Bf 109s were sot down and 10 pilots killed, including experienced leaders Lothar Baumann (2./JG 77).[33] One pilot became a prisoner of war in exchange for a single P-38. The losses had a devastating affect on morale.[33] Until Wiese's formal replacement arrived with the Geschwader, command was temporally passed on to Freytag.[35] JG 77's ordeal was not over. On Christmas Day 1944, the Eighth Air Force sent 2,034 heavy bombers and 818 fighters to attack airfields and communication centres in the largest single-attack of the war. RAF Bomber Command sent 338 aircraft (248 Avro Lancaster, 248 Handley-Page Halifax and 11 de Havilland Mosquito bombers) to attack airfields at Düsseldorf-Lohausen and Essen-Mülheim. The airfields were home to III. and II./JG 77. The bases were severely damaged and forced the units to operate from grass airfields.[33]

Freytag assumed command as JG 77 tried to support the offensive in the last week of December. On 27 December the Geschwader flew operations with all Gruppen but in small numbers. Three P-47s were claimed for the loss of three pilots and four Bf 109s. On 29 December the grass at Essen became to wet and II./JG 77 moved to Bönninghardt, a small grass field southwest of Wesel.[36] On 31 December Freytag organised III./JG 77s withdrawal to Dortmund. During the transfer, the remaining 12 Bf 109s of the Gruppe were engaged by Allied fighters and lost three Bf 109s and two pilots.[36] Freytag's command had lost 31 dead or missing, 13 wounded and one captured.[36] The fighter unit had lost 86 Bf 109s destroyed or damaged against 15 Allied aircraft claimed.[36]

Freytag participated and led JG 77 in Operation Bodenplatte, the failed attempt to cripple Allied air forces in the Low Countries. The objective of Bodenplatte was to gain air superiority. Freytag was ordered to lead II./JG 77 in an attack on the airfield at Antwerp-Deurne.[36] This airbase based RAF Hawker Typhoon wings that had dogged German forces from Normandy to Germany.[36] On the morning of 1 January 1945 Freytag was ordered to lead both I. and III. He conducted the brief that morning.[37] At 08:00, the two formations 18 Bf 109s of I and III./JG 77 took off. At the same time 23 Bf 109s of II./JG 77 took off. Around the Bocholt area they formed up with the other two Gruppen. As the fighter wing headed north, it passed Woensdrecht airfield. The aerodrome was home to 132 Wing and its five Spitfire squadrons; 331, 332, 66 and 127, and 322 (Dutch). Some pilots from II./JG 77 either mistakenly believed it to be Antwerp, or thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. Two German fighters were claimed shot down, and one pilot captured. However, none of the JG 77 casualties fit this description.[38]

The main body continued to Antwerp. Some 12–30 German fighters attacked the airfield from 09:25 to 09:40. The ground defences were alert and the German formations attacked in a disorganised manner. 145 Wing RAF was missed completely and considering the large number of targets the destruction was light; just 12 Spitfires were destroyed.[39] In total, 14 Allied aircraft were destroyed and nine damaged. JG 77 lost 11 Bf 109s and their pilots were lost. Six were killed and five captured according to Allied sources. However, German records show the loss of only 10 pilots. Four are listed as captured.[40] During the battle Freytag claimed his 102nd aerial victory over a Spitfire that day.[41] No details are known.[40] JG 77's attack was failure.[40]

On 15 January 1945, Freytag relinquished command of JG 77 to Major Erich Leie who had already officially been appointed Geschwaderkommodore on 29 December 1944.[42] On 7 March 1945, Leie was killed in action when he collided with a crashing Russian Yakovlev Yak-9 fighter which he had just shot down. Subsequently, Freytag was again tasked with the leadership of JG 77.[43]

French Foreign Legion[edit]

In 1952, Siegfried Freytag, volunteered in the Legion thinking that the Legion would recruit pilots; at least, that was the official version of a wrong assumption. Assigned to the 5th Foreign Infantry Regiment after his basic training at Sidi Bel Abbès, Legionnaire Siegfried served and fought with distinction for 18 years with the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion; the former Free French Demi-Brigade, in the Indochina War, the Algerian War and Djibouti. Promoted to Sergent in 1962, he asked to be demoted to the rank of Caporal Chef and served in the 1st Foreign Regiment from 1965 to 1970, the year in which he retired from active duty. Freytag died on 2 June 2003 in Marseille. He was interred on the honour cemetery of the Institution des invalides de la Légion étrangère in Puyloubier.[44]

Awards[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ For Johnson's account see his or McLeod's page
  2. ^ According to Scherzer as pilot in the II./Jagdgeschwader 77[47]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Obermaier 1989, p. 114.
  2. ^ Donnelly 2004, p. 217.
  3. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1992, p. 289.
  4. ^ Bergström 2007, p. 129.
  5. ^ Bergström 2007, p. 104.
  6. ^ Bergström & Mikhailov 2001, p. 132.
  7. ^ Bergström 2007, p. 71.
  8. ^ a b Bergström 2007, pp. 29–35.
  9. ^ Bergström 2007, p. 42.
  10. ^ Shores 1985, p. 89.
  11. ^ a b Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, p. 380.
  12. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, p. 436.
  13. ^ Thomas 2015, p. 76.
  14. ^ Shores, Cull & Malizia 1991, p. 622.
  15. ^ Scutts 1994, p. 35.
  16. ^ Ring 1969, p. 198.
  17. ^ a b Shores, Ring & Hess 1975, p. 148.
  18. ^ Shores, Ring & Hess 1975, p. 180.
  19. ^ Shores, Massimello & Guest 2012, p. 717 (kindle).
  20. ^ Murawski 2009, p. 13.
  21. ^ Shores, Ring & Hess 1975, p. 247.
  22. ^ Murawski 2009, p. 21.
  23. ^ Molesworth 2011, p. 81.
  24. ^ Murawski 2009, pp. 26–27.
  25. ^ Murawski 2009, p. 28.
  26. ^ Murawski 2009, p. 53.
  27. ^ Hooton 1997, p. 224.
  28. ^ Scutts 1994, p. 60.
  29. ^ Hooton 1997, p. 228.
  30. ^ Prien 1995, p. 1864.
  31. ^ Sarkar 2011, p. 273.
  32. ^ Johnson 2000, p. 273.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g Manrho & Pütz 2004, p. 248.
  34. ^ Parker 1994, p. 268.
  35. ^ Manrho & Pütz 2004, p. 420.
  36. ^ a b c d e f Manrho & Pütz 2004, p. 250.
  37. ^ Manrho & Pütz 2004, p. 251.
  38. ^ Manrho & Pütz 2004, pp. 252–254.
  39. ^ Manrho & Pütz 2004, pp. 254–256.
  40. ^ a b c Manrho & Pütz 2004, p. 259.
  41. ^ Prien 1995, p. 2255.
  42. ^ Prien 1995, pp. 2238, 2264.
  43. ^ Prien 1995, pp. 2305–2306.
  44. ^ Oertle 2011.
  45. ^ Patzwall 2008, p. 80.
  46. ^ Fellgiebel 2000, p. 186.
  47. ^ Scherzer 2007, p. 319.
  48. ^ Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 122.

Bibliography[edit]

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Military offices
Preceded by
Major Johannes Wiese
Acting Commander of Jagdgeschwader 77 Herz As
26 December 1944 – 29 December 1944
Succeeded by
Major Erich Leie
Preceded by
Major Erich Leie
Acting Commander of Jagdgeschwader 77 Herz As
7 March 1945 – 31 March 1945
Succeeded by
Major Fritz Losigkeit