We could hear the noise over in the direction of Cherbourg at 0400 hours. There was nothing happening near us, no alert, nothing. We didn’t know what was happening and then the French told us exactly” “It’s the invasion!”
Uffz. Heinrich Heymann (2./ZG 1)
In four days of operations against the Normandy beach heads, I. and III./ZG 1 suffered terrible losses. On D-Day itself, for example, two Ju 88s took off at 06.51 hrs. but broke off the operation due to (engine?) damage within half an hour. Seven more were up from 08.20 hrs. They attacked SWORD Beach from 700 metres, dropping their loads of AB 500, SD 50 and AB 23 on the “unloading operations” there, in the face of intense light AA from both ships and land as well as 50 fighters. The defences were such that they could not observe any results although they did claim “one possible victory.” Uffz. Heymann again:
… at midday we [2./ZG 1] the word was given, “Operation!”, so we took off … 12 aircraft. Four got shot down. No fighter escort, nothing. We’d no idea what was happening. They simply told us this: “They’ve landed near Caen.” Shoved a map into our hands: “There on the coast.”
Tree-top height … Some of us [had bombs while] we were just supposed to strafe. They told us: “The weather’s completely overcast so you will be able to hide from the fighters really well,and fighter activity is very limited down there.” About 40 km short of Caen around forty Spitfires suddenly appeared in the sky. We flew on for a bit, gawping. The fighters spotted us and we all split up, there was nothing else for it. We alone had 12 Spitfires on our tail, we didn’t give another thought to the ground fighting. The others just jettisoned their bombs and then took evasive action.
… They kept after us for half an hour without let-up … We were happy when we got home. The tail unit and everything was shot to pieces. They fixed the kite up again overnight and we flew again the next day.
Returning crews reported 200–300 gliders at Amfreville (6th Airborne Division’s drop zones on the right bank of the Orne); off SWORD Beach were large concentrations of warships and cargo vessels with heavy landing craft traffic between them and the coast; o n the beach itself were “lively traffic” and supply dumps. Inland, Carpiquet aerodrome was on fire.
As of 15.00 hrs. that day, two Ju 88s were said to have been shot down, six were missing and one had landed at the alternative airfield of Nantes. Only four losses are known, all Ju 88 C-6 from the 2. Staffel. These were timed at 13.37 hours; location Caen, during an “offensive task”; all were observed by the enemy; and all the crews were missing:
On 7 June, 18 Ju 88 of I. and III./ZG 1 took off from 06.33–06.50 hrs. to attack the landing area between the Orne and Asnelles (covering all three Anglo-Canadian beaches). Eight aircraft were lost, three of them from the 2. Staffel. Among these was W.Nr. 750104, 2N+CK, from which wireless operator Heinrich Heymann baled out into captivity after it was set on fire by AA hits; his pilot, Uffz. Hans Roeder, and Gefr. Lothar Schirmacher (observer) were both killed The 1./ZG 1 reported Ju 88 R-2 W.Nr. 751102, W.Nr. 2N+BH missing, shot down by fighters near Colleville-sur-Mer (OMAHA Beach).
From 03.15–03.20 hrs. on the 9th, nine Ju 88s made a low level attack on SWORD, each carrying 10 x SC 50. Results could not be observed owing to strong light and medium-calibre AA fire. There were also barrage balloons and one was struck by a Ju 88 R-2 of the 1. Staffel, albeit without injury to the airmen. Three other ZG 1 aircraft were lost over the beach head that morning, plus one more on the 10th. Reported strength that evening was 21 (10) aircraft and 39 (15) crews.
Apparently, enough was enough for on 11 June Luftflotte 3 subordinated ZG 1 to Geschwader Bongart and serviceable elements were to move to Bourges immediately. Strength next day was 26 (15) aircraft and 39 (18) crews. On the 16th, ZG 1’s Ops. Officer ordered the 1. and 3. Staffel “with all elements” to Corme-Écluse. They were to entrain at Nantes, leaving a “strong rear detachment … under an energetic officer” at Lorient.
The 2. Staffel meanwhile was to go to Châteauroux where it would be under Bongart’s operational command. On 27 June, the Technical Officer of I./ZG 1 complained that six Ju 88 G-1 delivered to him lacked the equipment (dinghy release gear, FuG 101, FuG 16) necessary for operating over water. From this it seems that the remainder of the Gruppe was not expected to join the battle against the Maquis.
A detachment of III./ZG 1 at Cognac (about 55 km from Corme-Écluse) flew a weather reconnaissance from 02.00–08.58 hrs, on the 28th, a duration consistent with a maritime mission. Next evening ZG 1 was ordered to have two Ju 88 drop leaflets near Dax (between Bayonne and Mont de Marsan) on the 30th. For this assignment the Geschwader was to liaise with the German First Army.
On the 30th the 2. Staffel asked for wood-gas lorries to move the remainder of its equipment from Vannes to Châteauroux, the drivers being told to report to IV./Geschwader Bongart. Also that day, 2./ZG 1 addressed the I. Gruppe at Corme-Écluse to day that two Ju 88 G-1 were ready for collection from Châteauroux. In addition it was asked that a Gefr. Hillebrand be sent to the latter airfield from Vannes.
At Châteauroux on 1 July, Ju 88 R-2 GP+VR damaged a tyre when landing. The III. Gruppe (in Cazaux) was told that it was doubtful whether a replacement could be obtained. Orders also came through for the 2. Staffel to ferry its aircraft to Marx/Oldenburg in northern Germany.
On 2 July, I. and III./ZG 1 were told to transfer five Ju 88 C-6 that evening to the “flare dropper unit” at the satellite airfield of Corne, just east of Angers. They were to bring along a chief mechanic and report to the HQ of 3.(F)/123. Also that day, 2./ZG 1 signalled the 8. Staffel in Cazaux that a Ju 88, 2N+AS, was ready for ferrying. A follow-up message on the 3rd advised that this machine was already being flown over and Vannes was asked to ferry a Bü 131 to Châteauroux “at once” and to fly 2N+OK (probably a Ju 88) to Marx as soon as it was serviceable.
An intercepted message from Châteauroux revealed that a 50-man detachment from ZG 1 was leaving for Germany next day. The 15th saw a perplexing message passed to Geschwader Bongart:
Situation changed. II./ZG 1 will not transfer as ordered hitherto, but to Salzwedel, get into touch with Transport HQ.
However, all became clear in a signal of 20 July, copied to ZG 1’s Ops. Officer in Bordeaux, stating that 2./ZG 1 was transferring from Châteauroux to Salzwedel at 04.20 hrs. that day.
Among the machines inspected by a Field Intelligence Team at Cazaux in September was Ju 88 C-6 W.Nr. 750266, 2N+SK. Its markings were described as:
2N S (cross) K (outline only in red) followed by 16” yellow band round fuselage. Inside cross was 2N on one side and S on the other.
Also, “a bola was fitted but no provision for forward firing guns.”
Some background on how I./ZG 1 came to be withdrawn from operations over the Normandy beaches, how one Staffel was temporarily assigned to Geschwader Bongart and something of what was planned for the others.