Ludwig Herrlein of 2./FAG 5 undertook a “gang operation” from Mont de Marsan between 03.45 and 06.15 GMT. His aircraft on this occasion was 9V+DK (presumably Ju 290 A-3 W.Nr. 0161). His flight was probably connected with the air cover provided for a German column ambushed en route from Mauléon to Lannemaignan, 24 km east of Mont de Marsan. A Maquis encampment was bombed and a Spanish Republican killed (a German anti-Nazi had died in fighting the day before). Another flight in early July dropped leaflets over the Villefranche d’Astarac area (about 60 km WSW of Toulouse) inviting Resistance fighters to surrender.
Lieutenant Colonel Starr set down his own account of the “Battle of Estang” once he had returned from France:
The Maquis now 1,200 strong was disseminated in the neighbourhood when a column of about 1,000 Germans was signalled. Four complaines under Capitaine PARISOT attacked this column at ESTANG. Towards 1900 hrs. the Germans retired to the North, intending to return to Mont-de-Marsan and fell into an ambush of two companies who held them the whole night. The next morning [4 July] at dawn the Germans sent planes on reconnaissance. These sighted the trapped Germans who had sent up distress signals. F.W. Kondors [sic] and Dornier bombers arrived practically immediately and machine-gunned the roads and surrounding fields, endeavouring to destroy the cars and lorries used by the Maquis, dropping anti-personnel bombs near LANNEMAIGNAN where many of the men were. We retreated without too great a loss and reformed at Maupas. Our losses were 4 men and the enemy approximately 140. It is regrettable the Germans shot 9 hostages at ESTANG.
Also taking part in this engagement was Westa 2 Ob.d.L., at least one of whose He 177 (Ofw. Nitschke’s D7+GK) shot up the village of Estang (in the Gers Département) during the morning. Next day, similar sorties were flown while three further Heinkels dropped supplies to German units under Maquis attack.
Meanwhile for Maj. Longe in Saint Martin, “… Bed at 3 A.M. Planes overhead again and Huns becoming restless on our flanks.”
From 22 June to 3 July the French Forces of the Interior resumed their offensive … Vercors, parts of Gers, Le Doubs, Ardèche and Ain were liberated despite violent opposition from German troops supported by fighters, bombers and tanks. The enemy suffered heavy losses in men and material. Two German aircraft were definitely destroyed …
Reuters special dispatch from SHAEF (6 July 1944)
… about 2000 troops, armoured cars and artillery … from Privas … reached our HQ at Le Cheylard with complete surprise. After two days’ fighting they retired with about 200 killed or wounded. they shot all our wounded. There was discontent that the Germans had penetrated so far into mountain territory undetected.
Capt. J.C. Montague, SOE Jedburgh Team “Willys”
During the morning a German column, reckoned at 154 vehicles, left Valence on a punitive expedition to Le Cheylard (about 40 km to the west). Two aircraft reconnoitred the village early in the morning and around 09.00 GMT they returned to spend almost an hour shooting at anyone they spotted. That afternoon the local Resistance fighters were attacked by “four or five Stukas” (which seems to have been a generic term for German aircraft taking offensive action). These events were witnessed by Guy Segol, then aged 15:
[Le Cheylard] was an important Resistance centre from the first. The municipal school … housed the new Préfecture of the Ardèche. In the neighbouring Châteaux were the HQs and staffs; the schools, hospitals and dormitories had been converted. Even the hotels were full of officers …
On Wednesday 5 July, two planes passed overhead, turned back over the little town and then left as rapidly as they’d come … At midday the planes returned to circle overhead. My mother, little brother and I went to shelter beneath the acacias behind the house … Suddenly a dreadful noise froze us with fear: “tac-tac-tac, boom!!!” The Germans in their invulnerable planes were shooting up the township …
An hour passed and the lugubrious throbbing disappeared in the distance.
The Maquis were able to withdraw having lost 73 dead and 200 wounded; 40 civilians were killed by the Germans and 60 injured. Also that morning but around 16 km to the south, near the Col de la Fayolle, the 7.105e Compagnie of the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans Français reported being overflown on several occasions by aircraft which starfed and dropped bombs. This activity too seems to have been in support of a German column heading west toward Mézilhac.
At 13.04 hrs. when Mustangs strafed Angers airfield, Geschwader Bongart had a Ju 88 shot up and Fw 58 W.Nr. 961, DF+JJ destroyed. The loss of the latter was blamed on one Oblt. Duve for not acting on repeated requests to get it under camouflage. From the 11. Staffel, Ju 88 A-4 W.Nr. 801358 came down at Diors (about 4 km east of Châteauroux-La Martinerie). Pilot Ofw. Erwin Wackerhagen was killed along with Ofw. Erich Singelmann (observer), Gefr. Walter Bartsch (wireless operator) and Ofw. Franz Piorreck (flight mechanic). Apparently, Singelmann and Bartsch were attached to the crew from the 12. Staffel Fliegerzielgeschwader 1. Luftflotte 3’s War Diary duly records that Bongart lost two aircraft on the 5th but makes no references to later air raid losses (see below).
At 22.00 hrs. the Geschwader was asked by a Commander of Security Police and Security Service (probably the KdS for Grenoble, SS-Hauptsturmführer Ernst Floreck) to operate against a “terrorist camp” about 600 strong on the heights of Les Écouges, 20 km west of Grenoble, which was said to be a suitable target for air attack. In addition, Army Group G asked if Bongart could send a Liaison Officer to help prepare “the special undertaking planned in this area”, possibly a reference to the impending assault on the Vercors Plateau (see below). A similar straw in the wind was an order to German troops that day to “disengage 24 hours earlier, in preparation for descent by parachute of advance detachment.” Amendments by its compilers have left Luftlotte 3’s diary of events ambiguous. One Do 217 attacked “gangs” east of Mont de Marsan while 33 (or 30 or 31) aircraft flew freelance sorties east of Valence. The remaining operations are attributed to II. Jagdkorps (which controlled, inter alia, JGr. 200) but then “of Geschw. B.” has been typed in above a deleted section of text, so it seems to have made some contribution.
“Low-level attacks against gangs in the Valence area” (five in all) were carried out by 2./JGr. 200’s Ltn. Heinx Moschke, operating from Avignon and Valence itself. It was probably the Gruppe’s aircraft — variously described as four or eight “Stukas” — which twice shot up Lamastre (about 31 km WNW of La Trésorerie), killing a woman as she was leaving Mass. After scouting for suitable drop zones on the Vercors, Maj. Longe wrote that, “today was fruitless because of the rocky ground and was hampered by enemy air straffing all day.” The Wehrmacht situation report gave a total of 30 aircraft active against gureillas in the Valence area.
On the 6th a “signals Junkers” (probably a Ju 52, several of which had been employed for communications relay during the Blitzkrieg of 1940) was reported to have arrived with Geschwader Bongart and would be subordinated to it at Lissay-Lochy. Thus far in July, the Geschwader had made only three sorties but on the 6th it flew two reconnaissance sorties and another 22 to drop 11.8 t of bombs east of St. Claude (Haut-Jura), on a supply dropzone/landing strip near Nantua (Ain) and a hutted camp south of St. Gervais-les-Bains (Haute-Savoie). July the 6th was the closing day of a German push in the Massif de Bauges, east of Aix-les-Bains, while another in the Ain and Haut-Jura (west of Geneva) did not begin until the 7th. Meanwhile the IV. Gruppe asked for bombsights and ETC 500 bomb racks to equip Ju 88s W.Nr. 8207, 2383, 6216.
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