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|Size||Air Force Wing|
|Fighter Aircraft||Messerschmitt Bf 110|
|Engagements||Defense of the Reich|
|Geschwaderkennung of M8|
|Fighter||Bf 109, Bf 110|
Zerstörergeschwader 76 was formed on 1 May 1939 with the I. Gruppe and II. Gruppe without a Geschwaderstab. The II. Gruppe was initially equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and was known as Jagdgruppe 176. The Geschwaderstab was created on 15 April 1940 in Köln-Wahn. The III. Gruppe was raised on 26 June 1940 in Trier-Euren.
On 1 September 1939 Germany attacked Poland although bad weather initially precluded a large scale deployment of ZG 76. I./ZG 76 engaged Polish fighters formations and made their first claims, although also suffered their first losses. On 29 September, I./ZG 76 was withdrawn to the Stuttgart area to provide Reichsverteidigung (Defense of the Reich) against the Western Allied Air Forces. I./ZG 76 claimed 31 kills during the campaign, of which 19 were confirmed. On 18 December 1939 the Royal Air Force (RAF) sent a force of Vickers Wellingtons to raid Wilhelmshaven during the day. I./ZG 76 intercepted. Others of I./ZG 76 intercepted at intervals, unit claims totalling 15 Wellingtons shot down. The RAF lost 12, with total Luftwaffe unconfirmed claims being 38.
I./ZG 76 then supported the landings in Norway with 1. Staffel charged with gaining air superiority over Oslo prior to landings there by Junkers Ju 52 transports. Before reaching Oslo they were attacked by Norwegian Air Force Gloster Gladiators and lost two aircraft. During the Battle of France ZG 76 saw intensive action resulting in losses against Allied fighters. During the Battle of Britain, II./ZG 76, stationed in Northern France, flew escort for bomber units attacking Southern England. Losses however mounted quickly. On 11 July III./ZG 76 were over the Channel as escort to Ju-87s. One other Bf 110 was lost. On 15 August, II./ZG 76 were heavily involved in action over the Channel as escorts to the Ju 88s of Lehrgeschwader 1. Under heavy attack from RAF squadrons and the unit lost 6 Bf-110’s, with another 2 written off in France. III./ZG 76 later flew escort to Ju-87s.
Further north, Luftflotte 5 made its initial entry into the Battle. Operating from Scandinavia, 34 Bf-110s of I./ZG 76 escorted 65 Heinkel He 111s of KG 26 raiding the North East coast airfields. Several RAF squadrons intercepted the raiders over the North Sea. Gruppenkommandeur Hptm. Werner Restermeyer and 6 others of I gruppe were shot down. The losses thus suffered resulted in I./ZG 76 taking no further direct part in the Battle and the unit was eventually recalled to Germany to be converted to a night fighter role. On 30 August 1940 Oblt. Nacke claimed three Hawker Hurricanes shot down, and was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross in November 1940 for 12 victories.
During the Battle, ZG 76 lost some 98 aircrew killed, missing or POW. By October, most of the Bf 110 units had been withdrawn from France and some reformed as night fighter units. I. Gruppe remained at Stavanger until 7 September 1940, when it was transferred to the night fighter arm and re-designated II./NJG 1 while II./ZG 76 was withdrawn to Jever in September 1940 and III./ZG 76 went to Stavanger-Sola. On 26 June 1941, 6./ZG 1 was redesignated 9./ZG 76 with the original 9./ZG 76 redesignated 6./SKG 210 on 24 April 1941.
In the autumn of 1943 most day Zerstörergruppen were recalled from the Eastern Front and Mediterranean and formed into Reich defence units. The ZG 76 Geschwader was reformed again in August 1943 under the experienced Major Theodor Rossiwall. The Geschwaderstab and I. Gruppe were raised in Ansbach, the II. Gruppe in Wertheim and III. Gruppe in November in Öttingen. The formation of III. Gruppe was never completed, and in April 1944 the personnel were incorporated into I./ZG 76.
On 4 October 1943 I. and II./ZG 76 attacked a formation of USAAF heavy bombers on missions to Frankfurt and Wiesbaden. They were in turn intercepted by P-47s of the 56th Fighter Group over the Eifel mountains and 7 of the 40 Bf 110G-2s shot down. The Bf 110s against this formation destroyed 4 B-17s. By spring 1944 I./ ZG 76 were based around Prague, and operating a number of Bf 110G-2/R1 types with an underslung BK 3,7 37 mm cannon in a conformal-mount ventral gun pod. On 16 March 1944 ZG 76 Bf-110G-2s claimed 18 B-17s shot down but lost 26 aircraft to Allied P-51s, 4 Staffel alone losing 10 of its 12-strong formation, including Staffelkaptain Oblt. Helmut Haugk ( 18 claims), who parachuted to safety.
On 9 April 1944 77 Bf 110s of ZG 76 intercepted a USAAF raid on Berlin. However, large formations of P-51 Mustangs attacked the defenders and the Bf 110 force lost a further 23 aircraft. On 20 June ZG 76 destroyed 15 B-17 in the area near Stettin with the loss of 2 own aircraft. (Hillgruber, Hümmelchen, Chronik des 2.Weltkrieges, Düsseldorft, 1978)
On 2 July 1944 I./ZG 76, together with I./ZG 1 and II./JG 27 claimed 45 aircraft destroyed over Budapest, of which 34 were bombers. 8 were claimed by I./ZG 76 without loss. On 8 July I./ZG 76 lost eight Me 410s due to P-38's of the 82nd Fighter Group. Such losses curtailed further missions against the day bombers by October 1944. II./ZG 76 were one of the last two of the day Zerstörergruppen operational and were stationed in Czechoslovakia and then East Prussia by August–October 1944. Although the unit was meant to convert to the FW-190 as II./JG 76, in reality the pilots were distributed among numerous existing fighter units by the end of 1944.
- Generalmajor Walter Grabmann, 15 April 1940 – 31 July 1941
- Oberstleutnant Theodor Rossiwall, August 1943 – 24 January 1944
- Oberstleutnant Robert Kowalewski, 25 January 1944 – 24 July 1944
- 'Battle of Britain- Then and Now', Ramsay
- 'Me 410 in Combat'; K. Janowicz