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Messerschmitt Bf 110C of Zerstörergeschwader 1 in flight.
|Size||Air Force Wing|
|Fighter Aircraft||Messerschmitt Bf 110|
|Engagements||Defense of the Reich|
|Geschwaderkennung of 2N|
|Fighter||Bf 109, Bf 110, Me 210|
Zerstörergeschwader 1 was formed in May 1939 as a Geschwader without a Geschwaderstab. The I. Gruppe (1st group) was formed from I./ZG 141 and stationed in Damm, II. Gruppe (2nd group) in Fürstenwalde. The II. Gruppe was being equipped with Messerschmitt Bf 109 single engine fighters during the mobilization in World War II and renamed to Jagdgruppe 101 (101st fighter group), II gruppe re-equipping with the Messerschmitt Bf 110 in March 1940.
By April 1940 the unit was part of X. Fliegerkorps operating over Northern Germany and Scandinavia. The Bf 110s of ZG 1 and Zerstörergeschwader 76 (ZG 76) saw considerable action during Operation Weserübung (the invasion of Denmark and Norway). The Bf 110 strafed and destroyed over two dozen Danish military aircraft on the Værløse airbase on 9 April. One Danish Fokker D.XXI did manage to get airborne but was immediately shot down. Oblt Victor Mölders, brother of Werner Mölders) took the official surrender of Aalborg after landing at the local airfield.
In Norway the Bf 110s helped secure the Oslo-Fornebu airport, escorting Junkers Ju 52s loaded with paratroops. Engaged by Gloster Gladiators and machine guns on the ground, in the ensuing battle both sides lost two aircraft. The remaining Bf 110s strafed enemy positions and enabled the ground troops take the airfield; air support provided by ZG 1 was pivotal to this phase of the ground offensive.
At this time the 'wasp' emblem associated with ZG 1 first appeared on aircraft of II gruppe.
During the phoney war a number of French aircraft were shot down by ZG 1 Bf 110s. ZG 1 Gruppenkommandeur Hpt. Hannes Gentzen became the Luftwaffe's highest scoring fighter pilot on 2 April, when he shot down a Curtiss 'Hawk' over the Argonne. On 10 May ZG 1 claimed 26 Dutch aircraft destroyed on the ground on Haamstede airbase. After participation in the Battle of France, I. Gruppe was renamed to I./Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (1st night fighter wing) on 22 June 1940, and II./ZG 1 became III./ ZG 76. Thus there was no ZG 1 geschwader active from June 1940 to early 1942.
The Geschwader was re-formed again on 4 January 1942 from Geschwaderstab of Schnellkampfgeschwader 210, with a third Gruppe raised, equipped with the Bf 109E-4/B.The Bf 110 gave tactical support to the advancing German Army by carrying out strike missions often in the face of heavy anti-aircraft defences. A huge number of ground kills were achieved by ZG 1 Bf 110 pilots in the east.
In August 1942 III./ZG 1 was transferred to North Africa, now equipped with the troublesome Me 210. Gradual re-equipment with the much improved Me-410 took place through 1943.
In early 1943 5./ZG 1 received several aircraft equipped with the Bordkanone BK 3.7, autoloading 37mm heavy cannon for evaluation as an anti-tank aircraft. These modified Bf 110s were formed into Pz.Jg.St./ZG 1, under the command of I./ZG 1, and flew during the Battle of Kursk. The poor results obtained meant that in autumn 43, this Staffel were transferred to 4./ZG 76. Oberst. Joachim Blechschmidt, the Kommodore of ZG 1, was shot down in a Bf 110 G-2 in combat with Soviet fighters East of Orel on 13 July 1943, becoming missing in action to this day.
Staffelkapitän of 1./ZG 1, Oberleutnant Egon Albrecht, was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on 25 May 1943 for 15 aerial victories, 11 ground victories, and some 162 motor vehicles, 254 covered vehicles, 3 locomotives, 8 Flak positions, 12 anti-tank gun positions and 8 infantry positions destroyed.
After heavy losses in Russia, I and II gruppen re-united with III gruppe in the Mediterranean theatre in mid 1943. In March–April 1943 II/ZG 1 converted to the Bf 110 G-1 and G-2 at Monte Corvino. This was the Gruppe's base until August when it was withdrawn from Italy. In July 1943, 1./ZG 1 was redesignated 1./ZG 26.
In October 1943 I./ZG 1 took charge of the Ju 88C heavy fighter and with II gruppe transferred to Western France for long-range fighter operations over the Bay of Biscay with V./Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG 40).Between July 1942 and July 1944, the Ju 88s of V./KG 40 and ZG 1 were credited with 109 confirmed air-to air victories, at a cost of 117 losses.
On 8 October, Bf110's of I./ZG 1 attacked American bomber formations and their escorts. I./ZG 1 lost 5 victory 'ace' and 1. Staffelkapitän Oblt. Rüdiger Ossmann whilst claiming 6 B-17s and 1 fighter. II./ZG 1 later intercepted RAF bomber formations and lost 9 Bf 110s with 17 aircrew killed, while claiming a P-47, Spitfire, and B-25 Mitchell shot down. The Staffelkapitän of 6./ZG 1, Hptm. Karl-Heinrich Matern, (12 victories) was among those shot down and killed. Spitfires were of Nos. 453 Sqn (5 claimed destroyed), 610 Sqn (2 claimed destroyed) and 66 Sqn (3 claimed destroyed).On 9 October 1943, Hauptmann Albrecht succeeded Matern as Gruppenkommandeur, II./ZG 1.
On 1 February 1944, 1./SAGr. 128 was redesignated 10./ZG 1, and attached to III./ZG 1, which was equipped with the Ju 88 C-6 at the time. In early 1944 II./ZG 1 flew 'Defense of the Reich' missions over the southern portion of the Reich, often in conjunction with elements of JG 27.Both units were based around Wels in Austria and flew against the US 15th Air Force heavy bombers and fighter escorts.
They were finally deployed against the Allied Invasion of Normandy in June 1944, incurring heavy losses for little effect. The Geschwader was disbanded in July 1944 with the aircrew posted to Gruppen in JG 4 and JG 76.
- Major Arved Crüger, 4 January 1942 – 2 March 1942
- Major Ulrich Diesing, 3 March 1942 – 21 September 1942
- Oberstleutnant Ralph von Rettberg (acting), 22 September 1942 – 5 October 1942
- Oberstleutnant Paul-Friedrich Darjes, 6 October 1942 – 1 March 1943
- Oberstleutnant Alfred Druschel (acting), 1 March 1943 – 12 April 1943
- Oberstleutnant Joachim Blechschmidt, 12 April 1943 – 13 July 1943
- Oberstleutnant Lothar von Janson, 1943 – 10 March 1944
- Oberstleutnant Erich von Selle, March 1944 – July 1944
- Major Joachim-Friedrich Huth, 1 May 1939 – 13 December 1939
- Hauptmann Wolfgang Falck, 14 December 1939 – 22 June 1940
- Major Ulrich Diesing, 1 January 1942 – 2 March 1942
- Hauptmann Wolfgang Schenck, 7 March 1942 – 20 August 1942
- Major Joachim Blechschmidt, 20 August 1942 – 12 April 1943
- Hauptmann Rolf Kaldrack 4 January 1942 – 3 February 1942
- Major Günther Tonne, 4 February 1942 – 1 February 1943
- Major Heinz Nacke, 26 May 1943 – 2 August 1943
- Hauptmann Egon Albrecht, 9 October 1943 – July 1944