25 July 1944

The 25th saw a partial recovery in the sortie rate with 32 Bongart aircraft operating: 25 of them on “battle tasks and bombing” (7.9 tonnes) around Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand and La Chapelle. The remaining seven were engaged on supply and liaison with Kampfgruppe Schäfer, the principal air-landing element of the Vercors operation. This last assignment may explain the message of 5 July about the “signals Junkers.” Ob. West was able to report:

Operation against terrorists in the area east of Valence making further progress. Contact established with airborne troops. The Luftwaffe successfully supported the battle groups’ advance.

The Vercors battle moved into its pursuit and mopping-up phase, characterised by repeated atrocities against civilians and captured Maquis and destruction of homes and farms. Around midday, a comany from Gebirgsjäger-Ersatz-Bataillon I./98 (157. Res. Div.) spotted fleeing partisans near Rousset-en-Vercors:

A German plane is circling over the valley. We immediately spread out squares of cloth and fire white rockets. The plane lets us know with a siren blast that it has recognised us. Coming lower into the valley, it releases its bombs and machine guns the enemy with its onboard armament.

Over La Vacherie, an aircraft released seven bombs plus incendiaries but missed its target.

26 July

Vercors Operation: enemy resistance to attack from east and south collapsed … Enemy, dissolved into small groups, is seeking to filter through blocking lines, especially to the north west.

Ob. West IA daily report

Gratifying success against terrorist leaders in SE France.

Kriegsmarine situation report

The recent enemy attacks on Valence aerodrome were probably aimed at Geschwader Bongart which has been using it as a jumping-off base for engaging bandits … After hard fighting, enemy resistance on the Vercors Plateau collapsed abruptly on 25 July, Mopping-up continues. The enemy is trying to filter through the cordon in groups.

Luftflotte 3 (midnight, 26 July1944)

Eight of the Geschwader’s aircraft supported the Vercors operation, supplying and maintaining signals contact with Kampfgruppe Schäfer, while 10 dropped 10.4 tonnes of bombs on Ambert (58 km south east of Clermont-Ferrand) and Avénas (124 km ENE of Clermont). Ob. West also reported that the Luftwaffe had made an effective attack on a “guerilla assembly” on the plateau 35 km south west of Guéret (and 95 km SSW of Châteauroux). A Ju 88 C-6 of the 11. Staffel suffered minor damage in strking a high-tension line while taxying at Clermont-Ferrand and its wireless operator, Uffz. Hermann Jahn, was hurt. A strafing attack on Valence destroyed barrack huts, five Ju 88s and a Do 17 (possibly an LLG 1 glider tug).

At 17.30 GMT, six German aircraft passed over the town of Ouroux (in the Rhône Département, 118 km north east of Clermont-Ferrand), turning back to drop several HE and incendiary bombs, some of which fell on surrounding forests while others damaged homes and businesses, shattered church windows. Many inhabitants took refuge in the river culvert during the 45 minutes of bombing and strafing. In addition to the immediate casulaties of the attack, an 11-year old child was killed three weeks later, after disturbing an unexploded bomb.

NOTE: Ouroux (Rhône) is not the same as Ouroux-en-Morvan, raided on 8 August (see below).

An intercepted message believed to be from the Fliegerzieldivision to Geschwader Bongart directed that no crews were to be sent to Italy to collect Re. 2002 as (ferrying?) crews were already there.

27–31 July

A German spotter aircraft was active over Saint-Agnan-en-Vercors, firing a flare signal to ground troops. Away from the savagery of the Vercors operation’s aftermath, three of Bongart’s aircraft and 600 kg of bombs were used against guerrilla forces around Beaujeu, SW of Mâcon on the 27th. The next known operations came two days later when two of the Geschwader’s machines flew reconnaissance and offensive sorties against Léoncel, just 17 km east of Valence aeordorome, with a tonne of HE and 500 kg of incendiaries..Resistance sources likewise record operations against the Maquis on the south western edges of the Vercors. Jagdgruppe 200 was more heavily engaged for once: seven groups of Bf 109s (15 sorties) were up between 07.45 and 21.07 hours, using guns and WGr. 21 mortars in support of German troops fighting guerrillas. This last action may have been the one underway near Gigors above the Drôme Valley (about 107 km ENE of the JGr. 200’s main airfield of Orange-Caritat).

Anti-guerilla flying on the 30th seems to have been left to JGr. 200 (15 sorties) but Geschwader Bongart’s men clashed with the Resistance on the ground. Four 13. Staffel pilots had left their quarters in woodland some way from their airfield (presumably Lissay-Lochy) for a Sunday evening stroll. Safety could no longer be taken for granted and the group—Fw. Otto Schild, Ofw. Karl Fritz, Ofw. Kraus and Ofw. Weitzberg—were carrying side arms and a flare pistol. Near Arçay (Cher), shortly before they got back to their billets, they came under automatic fire and sought cover. As well as shooting back, they shot off a distress signal to alert their comrades, a rescue party arriving within 15 minutes, armed with grenades and machine guns. The Resistance fighters withdrew into the woods and the Germans gave chase. On regrouping, they realised Schild was missing and returned to the ambush site only to find him dead, shot in the chest but still holding his pistol. Karl Fritz, closest to Schild when they all took cover, had not heard him cry out nor noticed anything else to indicate that his comrade had been hit. Otto Schild was buried with full military honours in Bourges but reinterred in the German cemetery at Dagneux after the war.

The circumstances of his death were set out in letters of condolence to his widow from his two comradesas well as Staffelkapitän, Obltn. Eckart Higgelke. These letters pay the customary tributes to a valued comrade and offer some insights into Bongart’s operations. Schild had carried out 18 combat sorties and four “front flights” (not involving contact with the enemy), some or all with the Re. 2002. He had taken part in “operations in Southern France” not long before his death, the timing suggesting that these were over the Vercors Plateau.

NOTE: The information about this incident was kindly made available by Greg Skaggs. Schild had been a gardener in civilian life and, aged 18, was serving in the Luftwaffe by February 1938. He qualified as a pilot in October 1940 and was with Luftdienstkommando Holland by February 1942, being promoted to Feldwebel in December of that year. He married in June 1943 and was awarded the Kriegsverdienstkreuz (Meritorious War Service Cross) Second Class with Swords the following February. By the summer of 1944, the Luftdienstkdo. had evolved into 13./FZG 2 and he went over to operational flying.

Jagdgruppe 200 also put up 12 ground attack sorties on the last day of the month, whereas Geschwader Bongart managed just two (300 kg of incendiaries on a target NW of Grenoble). In addition the 31st also brought the promise of reinforcements, “Airfield 252” in north eastern Italy advising Lyon’s Air Movement Control that Re. 2002 MM 5217, 5220, 5221, 5222, 5224 and 5225 had departed between 11.05 and 11.08 hrs. Bongart pilots seem to have been involved in these deliveries since Fw. Lach later wrote that he had been in Italy for a week at the end of July.

NOTE: On 9 October, I. (West) Fl.ÜG reported that Re. 2002 MM 5224, 5226, 5227 and 5229 were at Köln-Ostheim: all belonged to FZG 2 and were to be scrapped while MM 1293 of II./FZG 2 awaited the same fate at Köln-Höhenberg.

continued on next page …


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