Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant

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A Führer conference in May discussed the heavy air attacks and noted the loss of a pair of Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant transports near Alghero, Sardinia.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

A development of the Messerschmitt Me 321 heavy glider, the Me 323 Gigant (Giant) was the largest transport aircraft of the war. They were first deployed in the Mediterranean, where they helped establish German and Italian forces in Tunisia in the wake of Allied victories in Operation TORCH and at El Alamein. These aircraft took on even greater importance as the Italian merchant fleet dwindled in the face of Allied naval superiority in the central Mediterranean.  

Months later, when the Allied navies sealed the Sicilian Strait, these same transport aircraft attempted to maintain an air bridge between Europe and Tunis. They paid a dear price for their efforts. On 22 April 1943, a formation of 27 fully-loaded Me 323s was nearly wiped out when its Bf 109 escort was overwhelmed by seven squadrons of Spitfires and P-40s. Twenty-one of the transports were lost at a cost of just three P-40s.

The German transport fleet (Ju 52s and Me 323s) played an important role during Operation Husky. They airlanded the 1st Parachute Division in Sicily just in time to thwart General Montgomery’s push to Catania and Messina. The transport crews took another thrashing for their efforts and the Germans withdrew them after losing 10 percent of the force to RAF Spitfires on 25 July 1943. By the end of 1943, the Allies had decimated the German transport force and air mobility ceased to be a meaningful Luftwaffe capability.


Specifications (Me 323 D-6)

Type: five-seat heavy transport with accommodation for 130 troops or 10 to 12 tonnes of equipment

Powerplant: six 868kW (1180hp) Gnome-Rhône 14N-48/49 14-cylinder two-row radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 285km/h (177mph); ceiling 4,000m (13,123ft); range 800km (500 miles)

Weights: empty 27,330kg (60,260lb); maximum take-off 43,000kg (94,815lb)

Wingspan: 55.2m (181ft 0in)

Length: 28.2m (92ft 4in)

Height: 10.5m (33ft 3.5in)

Armament: multiple 7.92mm (0.30in) MG 15, MG 81, or 13mm (0.51in) MG 131 machine guns


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The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Me 323 Gigant during Operation HUSKY:

  • Transportgeschwader (TG) 1
    • III/TG 1
  • TG 2
    • III/TG 2
  • TG 3
    • IV/TG 3
  • TG 5
    • I/TG 5
  • II Fliegerkorps Transportstaffel
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Book News

YouTuber Features ‘Eagles over Husky’

Eagles over Husky is on YouTube! 

The Military Aviation History channel features the book in its latest video. It’s a great script, including accounts from Johannes Steinhoff, a Luftwaffe ace who experienced the Allied onslaught first-hand. For Steinhoff, Operation Husky was the moment he realized that the tide had turned, and Nazi Germany was on an inevitable road to defeat.

Check the video out below!

Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Messerschmitt Bf 110

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The Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter (Zerstörer — “Destroyer” in German) was a pre-war design that went through many upgrades during the Second World War. The aircraft was one of the few long-range fighters the Luftwaffe possessed but, while heavily armed, could not compete with smaller and more nimble Allied planes. Its heavy armament and the extra space its airframe afforded made it a good candidate as a night fighter, fighter-bomber, and long-range reconnaissance aircraft.


Specifications (Bf 110F-2)

Type: two-seat heavy fighter

Powerplant: two 1007kW (1350hp) Daimler-Benz DB 601F 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engines

Performance: maximum speed 565km/h (351mph); climb to 6000m (19,685ft) in 9 minutes 12 seconds; service ceiling 10,900m (35,760ft); range 1200km (746 miles)

Weights: empty 5600kg (12,346lb); maximum take-off 7200kg (15,873lb)

Wingspan: 16.20m (53ft 2in)

Length: 12.10m (38ft 8in)

Height: 4.13m (13ft 7in) with the tail up

Armament: two 20mm (0.79in) forward-firing cannon and four 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the nose and one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine gun in the rear cockpit


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The following Luftflotte 2 units flew Messerschmitt Bf 110s in defence of Sicily:

Night Fighters (Bf 110 or Ju 88)

  • Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) 2
    • II/NJG 2

Twin-Engine Fighters (Bf 110 & Me 210)

  • Zerstörergeschwader (ZG) 1
    • II/ZG 1
  • ZG 26
    • Gruppenstab ZG 26
    • III/ZG 26
    • X/ZG 26
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Dornier Do 217

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A Fritz X bomb fired from a Do 217 speeds toward the Italian battleship Roma

The Dornier Do 217 was a development of the pre-war Do 17, commonly known as the fliegender bleistift or “flying pencil”.  

In response to their ejection from the continent of Africa, the Luftwaffe established a new bomber command (Fernkampffuehrer Luftflotte 2) to control all long-range bombers based in Sicily, Italy, and southern France. The bulk of these aircraft were Ju 88s, although Dornier Do 217s and Heinkel He 111s rounded out the order of battle. Allied strikes on airfields in close proximity to the front line meant that these units were largely unable to concentrate for decisive effect during the Battle of Sicily.  

In summer 1943, the Germans deployed a new weapon that would make concentration a mute point. Flying from bases in southern France, Do 217s from III Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 100 ushered in the age of precision aircraft-fired munitions. They deployed the Fritz X glide bomb over Sicily in July, but the first successful strike with the weapon did not occur until September.  In the wake of the armistice with the Allies, the Italian battleship Roma was sailing for Allied ports. Six III/KG 100 Dorniers attacked and sunk the battleship using Fritz X glide bombs. They flew the K-2 model, featuring an extended wingspan with Kehl radio gear (for guiding the bombs) to carry Fritz X bombs on underwing racks.


Specifications (Do 217M-1)

Type: four-seat heavy bomber

Powerplant: two 1287kW (1726hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603A 12-cylinder inverted-vee engines

Performance: maximum speed 557km/h (347mph); climb rate 210m (688ft) per minute; ceiling 7370m (24,180ft); range 2145km (1332 miles)

Weights: empty 9100kg (20,062lb); maximum take-off 16,700kg (36,817lb)

Wingspan: 19m (62ft 4in)

Length: 17m (55ft 9in)

Height: 4.96m (16ft 4in)

Armament: four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81 machine guns in nose and lateral positions;
two 13 mm (.51 in) MG 131 machine guns in dorsal and ventral positions; max bomb load 4000kg (8800lb) internally & externally; max internal load 3000kg (6600 lb)


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The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Dornier Do 217 during Operation HUSKY:

Bombers (Ju 88, Do 117 & He 111)

  • Part of I/Lehrgeschwader (LG) 1
  • Kampfgeschwader (KG) 1
    • Gruppenstab KG 1
    • I/KG 1
    • II/KG 1
  • KG 6
    • Gruppenstab KG 6
    • I/KG 6
    • III/KG 6
  • KG 26
    • Gruppenstab KG 26
    • I/KG 26
    • III/KG 26
  • KG 30
    • III/KG 30
  • KG 54
    • III/KG 54
  • KG 76
    • Gruppenstab KG 76
    • I/KG 76
    • II/KG 76
  • KG 77
    • II/KG 77
  • KG 100
    • Gruppenstab KG 100
    • II/KG 100
    • III/KG 100
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 52

The performance of the transport crews is beyond praise. Even though they had succeeded in getting their planes with the urgently required load safely into the cauldron, while refuelling, unloading, and reloading, they were exposed to uninterrupted bombing and low-level attacks. If they survived these they had to face the return journey which was no less dangerous than the fly-in. Landing at last in Sicily, they were often raided on their airfields.

– General Adolf Galland, quoted in Eagles over Husky

 

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The Flying Legends Junkers Ju 52 F-AZJU

 

In the winter of 1942-1943, the Luftwaffe stretched its logistical capabilities to the breaking point. On the Eastern Front, the Russians had surrounded the German 6th Army at Stalingrad while the Anglo-American invasion of North Africa and the retreat of Rommel’s Afrika Korps into Libya and Tunisia also required attention. Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring promised Hitler that Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52 transports — supplemented by bombers — could keep the 6th Army supplied. In reality, the Luftwaffe could only supply a fraction of the 700 daily tons required.

At the same time, Ju 52s were busy building up a large German and Italian army group in Tunisia. Months later, when the Allied navies sealed the Sicilian Strait, these same transport aircraft attempted to maintain an air bridge between Europe and Tunis. They paid a dear price for their efforts. The Allied air forces destroyed 400 Axis transports and 32 fighters at the cost of just 35 Allied fighters.

The German transport fleet played an important role during Operation Husky. They airlanded the 1st Parachute Division in Sicily just in time to thwart General Montgomery’s push to Catania and Messina. The transport crews took another thrashing for their efforts and the Germans withdrew them after losing 10 percent of the force to RAF Spitfires on 25 July 1943. By the end of 1943, the Allies had decimated the German transport force and air mobility ceased to be a meaningful Luftwaffe capability.


Specifications (Junkers Ju 52)

Type: three-seat transport with accommodation for 18 troops, 12 litters, or freight

Powerplant: three 544kW (730hp) BMW 132T-2 nine-cylinder radial engines

Performance: maximum speed 286km/h (178mph); climb to 3,000m (9,845ft) in 17 minutes 30 seconds; service ceiling 5,900m (19,360ft); range 1,305km (811 miles)

Weights: empty 6,500kg (14,328lb); maximum take-off 11,030kg (24,317lb)

Wingspan: 29.20m (95ft 10in)

Length: 18.90m (62ft)

Height: 4.52m (14ft 10in)

Armament: one 13mm (0.51in) or 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine-gun in rear dorsal position, provision for one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable machine gun in forward dorsal position and one 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable lateral-firing machine gun in each of the two beam positions.


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The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Junkers Ju 52 during Operation Husky:

  • Transportgeschwader (TG) 1
    • III/TG 1
  • TG 2
    • III/TG 2
  • TG 3
    • IV/TG 3
  • TG 5
    • I/TG 5
  • II Fliegerkorps Transportstaffel
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Junkers Ju 88

A captured Ju 88 crew noted that their unit had arrived in Italy with 43 crews and was now down to nine. Replacement crews were untrained in nighttime flying and were therefore being returned to Germany.

– Excerpt from Eagles over Husky

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The Junkers Ju 88 was probably the most versatile German aircraft of the Second World War. During Operation HUSKY, Luftwaffe units used these aircraft for level and dive bombing. The Ju 88R was a night fighter variant while the Ju 88D and Ju 88H offered the Germans long-range reconnaissance services.

In response to their ejection from the continent of Africa, the Luftwaffe established a new bomber command (Fernkampffuehrer Luftflotte 2) to control all long-range bombers based in Sicily, Italy, and southern France. The bulk of these aircraft were Ju 88s, although Dornier Do 217s and Heinkel He 111s rounded out the order of battle. Allied strikes on airfields in close proximity to the front line meant that these units were largely unable to concentrate for decisive effect during the Battle of Sicily.     


Specifications (Junkers Ju 88A-4)

Type: four-seat high-speed, level and dive-bomber

Powerplant: two 999kW (1340hp) Junkers Jumo 211J-½ 12-cylinder engines

Performance: maximum speed 470km/h (292mph); climb to 5400m (17,715ft) in 23 minutes; service ceiling 26,900ft (8200m); range 2730km (1696 miles)  

Weights: empty 9860kg (21,737lb); maximum takeoff 14,000kg (30,865lb)

Wingspan: 20.00m (65ft 8in)

Length: 14.40m (47ft 3in)

Height: 4.85m (15ft 11in)

Armament: one 7.92mm (0.31in) fixed or trainable forward-firing machine gun in windscreen, one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) forward-firing machine guns in nose position, two 7.92mm (0.31in) machine guns in rear of cockpit, and one 13mm (0.51in) or two 7.92mm (0.31in) trainable rearward-firing machine guns in rear of undernose gondola, plus a bomb load of 2500kg (5511lb)


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The following Luftflotte 2 units flew the Junkers Ju 88 during Operation HUSKY:

Nightfighters (Bf 110 or Ju 88)

  • Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) 2
    • II/NJG 2

Bombers (Ju 88, Do 117 & He 111)

  • Part of I/Lehrgeschwader (LG) 1
  • Kampfgeschwader (KG) 1
    • Gruppenstab KG 1
    • I/KG 1
    • II/KG 1
  • KG 6
    • Gruppenstab KG 6
    • I/KG 6
    • III/KG 6
  • KG 26
    • Gruppenstab KG 26
    • I/KG 26
    • III/KG 26
  • KG 30
    • III/KG 30
  • KG 54
    • III/KG 54
  • KG 76
    • Gruppenstab KG 76
    • I/KG 76
    • II/KG 76
  • KG 77
    • II/KG 77
  • KG 100
    • Gruppenstab KG 100
    • II/KG 100
    • III/KG 100
Warplane Wednesday

Warplane Wednesday: Messerschmitt Bf 109

Toward noon 105 bombers came and destroyed the Jagdgruppe Vibo Valentia, which had about 80 aircraft. Not a machine was left intact, not even the [Junkers] which had just landed. Fuel trucks, hangars, aircraft, autos, everything was burning. The German fighters in Italy have been wiped out.

– Lieutenant Köhler, Luftwaffe fighter pilot, quoted in Eagles over Husky

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Bf 109 G-2/Trop “Black 6” of JG 77 now on static display at Royal Air Force Museum Cosford

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the primary German fighter throughout the Second World War. Initially produced in 1937, the Luftwaffe began the war with the Bf 109E or “Emil” variant. The Bf 109F replaced the Emil in mid-1941, which was subsequently replaced by the Bf 109G or “Gustav” in mid-1942. The Gustav was the model German (and some Italian) fighter pilots flew in Sicily. The aircraft also served as a fighter-bomber on some occasions.


Specifications (Bf 109G)

Type: single-seat fighter

Powerplant: one 1100kW (1474hp) Daimler-Benz DB 605AM 12-cylinder inverted-Vee engine

Performance: maximum speed 386mph (621km/h); climb to 5700m (18,700ft) in 6 minutes; service ceiling 11,550m (37,890ft); range 1000km (621 miles)

Weights: empty 2673 (5893lb); maximum take-off 3400kg (7496lb)

Wingspan: 9.92m (32ft 7in)

Length: 8.85m (29ft 1in)

Height: 2.50m (8ft 3in)

Armament: one 20mm (0.79in) or 30mm (1.18in) fixed forward-firing cannon in an engine installation, and two 13mm (0.51in) fixed forward-firing machine guns in the upper part of the forward fuselage, plus an external bomb load of 250kg (551lb)


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The following Luftflotte 2 and Regia Aeronautica units flew Messerschmitt Bf 109s in defence of Sicily:

Luftflotte 2

  • Jagdgeschwader (JG) 3
    • IV Gruppe/JG 3
  • JG 27
    • II/JG 27
  • JG 51
    • II/JG 51
  • JG 53
    • Gruppenstab JG 53
    • I/JG 53
    • II/JG 53
    • III/JG 53
  • JG 77
    • Gruppenstab JG 77
    • I/JG 77
    • II/JG 77
    • III/JG 77

Regia Aeronautica

  • 3 Gruppo Autonomo (Aut) Caccia Terrestre (CT)
    • 153 Squadriglia
    • 154 Squadriglia
    • 155 Squadriglia
  • 150 Gruppo Aut CT
    • 363 Squadriglia
    • 364 Squadriglia
    • 365 Squadriglia