June 1944

1-2 June

The Auvergne Resistance had mobilised on 20 May and a group about 3,000-strong had gathered on Mont Mouchet, north of Paulhac-en-Margeride. The Germans knew about all this and:

The aerial reconaissances [they] carried out enabled them to reconstruct the organisation of the Mont Mouchet redoubt, evaluate its armament and understand its means of supply … On the night of 1/2 June, the men of the 2nd Company were standing guard … the previous day the Mouchard (German spotter plane) had overflown the plateau where the cars and lorries were parked … This was the prelude to a probing attack on 2 June; the main assault would not follow for several days yet.

5 June

On the eve of the Allied landings, 7./Fl.ZG 2 lost an aircraft to friendly fire. Oberfeldwebel Walter Lorenz (Re. 2002 W.Nr. 1281) was reported shot down by an Fw 190 near Épernay. There is no corresponding victory claim but the incident took place in the area where the Focke-Wulfs of Stab and I./JG 26 were then based. It is possible that the Reggiane had been mistaken for a “razorback” P-47, a type it superficially resembled.

6–7 June

Hauptmann Heinz Wichelhaus, Kapitän of 11./Fliegerzielgeschwader 2, sent a request for an He 111, CK+PV to be flown over to Châteauroux at once “for Fw. Wielhert.”

In response to a series of Maquis actions instigated by a BBC message the night before, German troops arrived in Crest. They were fired on by the Résistants, the fight continuing into the early evening before the insurgents were forced to pull out. The Germans were assisted in this action by a spotter plane.

Major Zandt (Kommandeur of the IV. Gruppe) was advised that Oberst Bongart had made an intermediate landing at Orléans-Bricy on the 7th, where his aircraft was damaged by “English fighters” (more likely American ones). Zandt was asked to send a W. 34 to pick up the crew of the damaged machine. The same day, “Kommodore Bongart” signalled from Bourges to Maj. Resch of his 10. Staffel in Aix-Les Milles: this unit was not to transfer but to remain where it was. However, one aircraft with photographic equipment was to be sent at once to Bourges and if any photographic personnel were available they should be sent on in another machine. This reference to the 10. Staffel not transferring suggests that a move had been envisaged, from which it could be inferred that the Invasion was to have triggered a redeployment of the Geschwader’s elements to operational bases.

8 June

On 6 June, the Combat resistance group had briefly seized control of Saint-Amand-Montrond (40 km SSW of Bourges) from the Vichy Milice but pulled out on the evening of the 7th. At around 0500 the next morning the Germans arrived and began “shooting at everything that moved”. They were supported by at least one aircraft, as recalled by an eyewitness interviewed by researcher Philippe Canonne:

German soldiers were everywhere. We understood that something special was coming [and] were trying to find a hiding place in our house when we heard an aircraft over the town. It flew over several times at low altitude … [but it] was too low and hit a tree … It crashed an caught fire immediately, no chance for the pilot to escape.

M. Canonne has been able to identify the aircraft as Fw 190 A-8 W.Nr. 0234, flown by Fähnrich Johann Köster who died in the crash. The pilot was a member of the Jagdlehrer Überprüfungsgruppe (fighter instructor testing group). This unit had recently left, or was in the process of leaving, Orange-Caritat. Since Kößler was on an operation, he may well have been a member of the Gruppe’s operational component, the Einsatzstaffel.

NOTE: He may also be the pilot identified as “Köstler, Hans, Unteroffizier, 2./JGr.Süd” in a list of Jagdgruppe Süd airmen compiled by Klaus Fischer, Lino von Gartzen and others.

His aircraft however poses a different question: if it was an A-8 (a type usually referred to by a six-digit Werk Nummer) then it did not come from the Überprüfungsgruppe which had never had that recently-introduced model on its strength and did not record any Fw 190 losses during June. It is perhaps possible that the unlucky machine had belonged to Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Süd whose 1. Staffel was likewise based at Caritat. That Gruppe had begun the month with 34 of the A-8 and recorded just one lost — “not through enemy action” — which can however be accounted for by another incident.

9–10 June

One unit was bowing out of the anti-partisan war. Jagdkorps II’s Chief of Staff signalled on 9 June that as Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Süd was moving from Southern France to the Reich, those of its aircraft being used for anti-guerilla operations were being withdrawn. However:

… other available aircraft [some words missing] are ready for operations, can be temporarily made available.

At midday, Geschwader Bongart was summoned into action by Luftflotte 3. A “weak” Flak unit defending the Marèges hydro-electric dam on the River Dordogne was menaced by “terrorists” massing nearby (they had been surrounding it since 6 June) and Bongart was ordered to reconnoitre the position and mount an offensive mission if necessary. The dam lies in a thickly-wooded valley whose sides rise 150 m or more above the level of the reservoir and the Maquis were apparently on the heights. Later that day, the 10. Staffel signalled its parent IV. Gruppe in Bourges that the defenders were surrounded and the Flak Brigade had requested a supporting attack. The Staffel said that it could operate from Clermont-Ferrand with two He 46 right away, or three in two days’ time. (Since Clermont is about 300 km from Aix, it seems that 10./Fl.ZG 2 had aircraft in more than one place). Nevertheless it clearly thought that greater striking power might be needed, asking for the attachment of two Bf 109 or Bf 110 from the 11. Staffel.

The Resistance threat was multiplying across the country. That afternoon the base command at Valence-La Trésorerie in the Rhône Valley reported to the Abwehr that “strong bands of terrorists” at Combovin posed a direct threat to the aerodrome.

NOTE: Combovin lay south east of Valence-La Trésorerie, about 12 km away by road. It was where the Resistance in the Drôme Départment had its HQ.

These groups had fired on German reconnaissance aircraft and were thought to possess heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft weapons. Valence seemed beset by uprisings: since 06.00 hrs. that day the Resistance had been fighting German forces near Romans-sur-Isère while in the early hours of 8 June there had been a surprise attack on a depot at St. Rambert D’Albon; and an assault by 200 men on a bridge at Tournon-sur-Rhône had been repulsed. In addition, one or two bombers were requested for an attack on insurgents near Chabeuil (4 km south east of the aerodrome) whose positions were hard for ground forces to approach.

Guéret (a town of about 10,000 people, 60 km NE of Limoges) had been seized by the Resistance on 7 June. The occupying forces organised quickly to take it back, a column setting out from Montluçon early on the 9th. Heralding the ground assault, an aircraft flew over the town, shooting at anything that moved, driving the inhabitants to seek shelter. It was followed by another ten machines which strafed and bombed. Although houses and commercial premises collapsed; in the town centre there was (reportedly) not a single home or shop undamaged and the streets were carpeted with broken glass.

Maquisards had occupied Valréas, 27 km south east of Montélimar, on the 8th, cutting communication lines and barricading roads. The Luftwaffe responded by shooting up these barricades on 9 June and again two days later. The Resistance claimed to have brought dow one machine and damaged another with Bren Gun fire. In the ground assault which followed, the Germans employed 60 Luftwaffe personnel, 50 from the Army and six armoured cars; on 12 June they reported killing 70 “terrorists” and capturing and shooting another 70.

On the 10th, Station Command E222/XII at Dijon-Longvic reported the presence of a Do 17 E of 9./FZG 2, this brief message providing Ultra’s first mention of the 9. Staffel.

11–12 June

The 11th brought congratulations from Hptm. Rudolf Gräber, Luftflotte 3’s Operations Officer (Air) to Bongart “on your success of yesterday”, unfortunately without saying what or where this might have been. Also that day, IV./Fl.ZG 2 asked Orléans where it might get ration-dropping containers, suggesting that a supply mission had been ordered. In another pointer to recent operations, Bongart himself sought expedited delivery of Italian bombs as his stocks had been used up. He also sought the “speedy allocation” of three bomber observers, three reconnaissance observers and two photographic personnel. His other request was for the whereabouts of ZG 1 which had been ordered at 22.00 hrs. to move its serviceable elements and ground crews to Bourges where they would be subordinated to him; lorry space and fuel vouchers were requested for this transfer.

Luftflotte 3 passed on a request for operations against insurgents dug-in north west of Romans, who were said to have been supplied by the RAF during the night of 9–10 June. The Army was using tanks against them but the terrain was unfavourable; in Romans itself the “terrorists” were enlisting more people into their ranks. The Geschwader radioed its account of the day’s operations not only to the Fliegerzieldivision and Luftflotte 3 but also to SS-Standartenführer Knochen, Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) and Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) commander in Paris. Six missions had been assigned:

(1) Support and supply of the encircled Flakgruppe at Ligniac on the Dordogne (i.e. the Marèges Dam) being attacked by the Resistance.

Action: three Ju 88, an He 111 and an Re. 2002 dropped 10 x 250 kg Italian bombs, 2 x 75 kg Italian bombs and two “supply bombs.”

Results: guerilla position on the valley dam bombed and strafed with good effect, enabling the defenders to drive off the insurgents. Patrolling aircraft kept watch on the enemy and the two supply bombs were dropped within the German position but the one containing ammunition exploded.

NOTE: The III. Flak Korps reported that a relieving attack by ground forces was underway at 19.30 GMT.

continued on next page …

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