"The Spitfires gave chase..."

At midday on 1 March, permission was requested by Piacenza for four Fw 190s and a LeO 451 of I./JG 2 to land at Castiglione and another three arrived there during the afternoon. Bad weather across Italy that day seems to have prevented operational flying and the Gruppe’s next known combat took place at midday on the 3rd when over 300 B-17s and B-24s raided the aerodromes of Canino, Fabrica di Roma and Viterbo as well as the Triburtina and Littorio marshalling yards. At Littorio and Fabrica there was no opposition but fighters rose in defence of the other targets, crews of the 454th BG reporting that the Fw 190s were silver with yellow tails.

From I. Parachute Corps, 1300 GMT:

Commandant of Rome reports: At 1030 hours, bombing attack on Rome … at 1105 hours, direct hit on one ammunition train, explosions still continuing. The damage done is extensive, with many casualties, especially in the Testaccio quarter. Damage is still being ascertaned.

Ob. SW to OKW …

At noon on 3/3, 300 Anglo-American bombers, including 180 four-engined, escorted by about 100 fighters, again attacked the city area of Rome. While military damage was relatively slight, the residential quarter, particularly in the neighbourhood of the Triburtina and Ostia stations, was considerably affected. Numerous dwelling houses were destroyed. The exact number of casualties cannot yet be established. From one air raid cellar in which about 200 people had taken cover, so far as many as 50 dead have been recovered. The total number [of] casualties will amount at least to more than 100 killed and several hundred injured.

Ob. SW situation report:

[Our] fighters carried out scrambles and combating of artillery spotters. In the course of these [operations], according to reports received so far, 14 aircraft were shot down.

Combat was clearly intense, since I./JG 2 claimed five B-24s and five P-47s while I./JG 4 claimed three more bombers. In all, two B-24s from the Viterbo force and one from the Canino raid were lost, along with four P-47s of the escorting 325th FG “Checkertails.” The escorts claimed 6-2-6 German fighters and the bomber crews 5-3-2. The I./JG 4 lost three aircraft and had three more damaged in combat with P-47s (two pilots wounded, one killed) while from 3./JG 2 Uffz. Herbert Treff baled out wounded and Fw. Werner Kilchling was killed over Viterbo. Castiglione del Lago was notified that Fw 190 "black 6" had crash landed at Viterbo and a Bf 109 of 4./JG 2 was shot down, its pilot, Fw. Josef Merkl, being killed 2 km west of Tuscania but Uffz. Sauder of the same Staffel baled out of his damaged "3" safely.

Note: since I./JG 2's base (Castiglione) was told by Viterbo (SG 4's base) that "black 6" had crashlanded there, the inference is that this was an aircraft of 2./JG 2.

A scramble by 3./JG 2 at 16.07 the same day proved uneventful, while bad weather and softened airfields largely grounded the Fliegerführer’s units on the 4th, 5th and 6th. The next known activity by I./JG 2 was the afternoon of 6 March. The following morning, a mission was flown to the beach head, where 145 Squadron’s Spitfires were patrolling:

… at 7,000’ over ANZIO expecting the enemy to come down and mix it for we knew 601 Squadron was well stuck in … Turned out however that the enemy were not carrying bombs but were the EAGER BEAVERS out to fight. 601 SQUADRON however, outnumbered by 2 1/2 to one gave them some rough handling …

As the RAF's. 234 Wing put it, "the serial lull was broken when 601 intercepted 10 109s and 190s NW of Anzio." As 601’s Operations Record Book records:

At 09.10 hours enemy aircraft were reported, North West of ANZIO flying at 20,000 feet. The Squadron formation immediately climbed to 21,000 feet where 10 plus Me 109’s and FW 190’s were seen flying in line astern. The enemy aircraft dived and went down towards the beach head. The Spitfires gave chase, caught up and attacked the enemy.

Hauptmann Sommer claimed a Spitfire and Ofw. Lemke two, while Fw. Hans Linzen of 4./JG 2 was shot down and killed 4 km south of Velletri. The I./JG 4 also took part in this action, claiming one Spitfire but losing two of its own pilots. No. 601 Squadron’s claims of three Bf 109s destroyed exactly match known German losses (they also claimed one Bf 109 probable and an Fw 190 damaged). Despite the German claims, just one Spitfire was lost when F/Lt. Ray "Hindoo" Henderson, who had been leading 601’s formation:

… apparently did not see 2 E/A which appeared behind him so the No. 2 gave warning by R/T. At this F/Lt HENDERSON gave violent evasive action in a steep climbing turn. F/O THOMAS lost sight of his leader in this move and on making an attempt to contact him again, was forced to defend himself against 2 of the enemy. F/O THOMAS observed Cannon and M.G. strikes on one of the enemy and pieces were also seen falling off the E/A. This was claimed as damaged. later, approx. 2 to 3 minutes, F/O THOMAS heard his leader, F/Lt HENDERSON give his position as being over the ANZIO AREA and that he had destroyed an E/A. At this stage enemy aircraft were again encountered and a dog-fight developed north of ANZIO in the CORI area. After this last attack and on reforming, it was found that the leader was missing and although called on the R/T, there was no reply.

Towards noon, 31 B-24s of 459th BG bombing Viterbo main aerodrome encountered seven German fighters which attacked the rear formation from 7 o’clock low, “coming in aggressively to within 150 yds.” Lemke claimed a B-24 in this combat but none was lost. It may have been warning of the incoming raiders that led Walter Sauder to scramble from Castiglione in "2", landing after just 20 minutes.

Strengths of Fliegerführer 2 formations, evening of 7 March 1944.

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