During the afternoon of 20 February 1944, 23 Fw 190s and eight Bf 109s of I./JG 2 left Aix les Milles, southern France. Most put down at Piacenza, Italy but seven of the Focke-Wulfs landed at Milano-Linate, rejoining the rest of the Gruppe next morning. Piacenza, the rear support base for I. and II./SG 4, was now so overcrowded that it closed for two days and it was not until the 25th that I./JG 2, with the help of two Ju 52s, deployed forward to Castiglione del Lago. Seven aircraft of 1., four of 2., seven of 3. and eight of 4./JG 2 made the move that morning. Three more machines set down in Fabrica di Roma. From 18.00 hours the Gruppe came under Fliegerführer Luftflotte 2, the tactical commander for the southern battle fronts.
On 26 February, a motor transport unit was ordered fetch 160 x 300 litre auxiliary Fw 190 tanks "with all accessories and 100 additional attachment bands for the same type" from the Equipment Issuing Station at Scandicci (FI) . These were to be delivered "quickly and at night" to Perugia. Allied Intelligence decided that this related to I./JG 2's arrival since Castiglione was known to draw its supplies from Perugia.
From 08.00 hours on the 27th, Uffz. Walter Sauder of 4./JG 2 took off in his Bf 109, "3" (almost certainly "blue 3") for a 95-minute flight logged as "surveillance" although for Fw. Fritz Hartmann of the 3. Staffel Fw 190, “yellow 4”) the sortie was a “free hunt in the area”.
On the afternoon of the 28th, the unit flew a freie Jagd (fighter sweep) north of Rome but no action resulted. The 29th was a different matter however with two afternoon missions over the Anzio-Nettuno beach head. A German offensive had begun that morning under a heavy overcast but this lifted and at 14.05 hours the Allies reported 10–15 Fw 190s overhead (despite a message at 13.30 hours from Castiglione that the airfield was closed to all classes of aircraft owing to soft ground).
The 309th FS (31st FG) also reported 10–15 Focke-Wulfs and Capt. James A. Benzing, Lt. Richard D. Faxon and Lt. John F. Porter each claimed one shot down. Porter was wounded in the leg by Flak and two of the American Spitfires were damaged from the same cause. The American leader, Major Garth Jared, described the battle:
On 29 February 1944, I led a squadron mission of 16 Spitfire type aircraft on a routine patrol over the Anzio beach-head. 1st Lt. William G. Nisbet [was] my wingman. The mission took off at 1335 hours.
At approximately 1405 hours, we contacted about 12 Fw 190s in the Cisterna area, and in the ensuing fight, the flight was split into two ship elements, mine consisting of Lt. Nisbet and myself. We followed two enemy aircraft for about 10 or 15 miles north east of Cisterna.
The last time that I saw Lt. Nisbet was at approximately 1410 hours, when we turned back toward the beach, and at that time Lt. Nisbet was flying behind me, just north-east of Cisterna.
Just after that I heard someone call over the R/T: “I’m bailing out!” I asked: “Who?” and received an unintelligible reply. Other members of the flight however, say the name given was Nisbet.
Captain Benzing, added:
Approximately three minutes after contact was made with the enemy over the Cisterna area at 1405 hours, I head someone call on the R/T that he was going to bail out … At the time I was engaged with an enemy aircraft and had no time to look for him. However, about two minutes later I was able to break off and started to return to Anzio. I saw a white parachute floating down at about 4,000 feet and watched it down to about 1,000 feet.
Hauptmann Adalbert Sommer of Stab I./JG 2, claimed a Spitfire, as did Uffz. Kurth of 1. Staffel whose claim best matches the place and time of Nisbet’s downing. However, the final part of Major Jared’s statement is worth noting:
We were going through a very active enemy anti-aircraft zone at the time and it is my belief that the aircraft piloted by Lt. Nisbet was hit by enemy flak, since the FW-190’s had broken away and were no longer in the area.
From the 2. Staffel, Lt. Detlef Grossfus claimed a “Dragonfly” (the Germans’ generic name for Allied artillery spotters, in this case an Auster of "C" Flight, No. 655 Squadron, flown by Capt. A.G. Dick). On a later operation, Ofw. Siegfried Lemke of 1./JG 2 claimed two more Spitfires.
Also from 2./JG 2, Fw. Werner Kilchling shot down a P-40. His claim is timed at 14.20 but in fact it was two hours later that 12 Kittyhawks of No. 250 Squadron RAF were pulling out after bombing a German battery near Cisterna and F/Sgt. A.C. Curley was jumped by two Fw 190s. When last seen by F/Sgt R.R. Jones, there were flashes and explosions in Curley’s cockpit. Jones in turn attacked an Fw190 head-on and claimed hits on its belly and spinner before he noticed ten more Focke-Wulfs and was forced to break away. The RAF described this particular action as "...a very poor effort on the part of the Hun."
The four Spitfires claimed were a severe exaggeration since only one such machine was reported missing, from 309th FS. The Americans and the RAF apparently exaggerated too, claiming in all six Focke-Wulfs destroyed and a Bf 109 damaged. Only two losses from JG 2 are known, 3. Staffel losing Uffz. Hans Haas wounded and Uffz. Hans Ahrend killed in action with Spitfires over Nettuno (no other Luftwaffe unit reported either a claim or a loss over the beach head that day). Eight Spitfire IXs of No. 93 Squadron had been patrolling west of Anzio when they spotted seven Fw 190s. Flying Officer O.J. Turcott claimed one:
Blue 2 reported a/c at two o’clock... They were travelling S.W. and turned North as we attacked. I attacked what I presumed to be the Leader and fired a short burst. This FW 190 immediately rolled over and went down. I saw no hits on this one and engaged another just to the right of the first one. I fired a short burst from dead astern, the FW 190 turned to the left and I turned with him and fired a second burst from 100 yds. I saw large flashes appear in the side of his engine and smoke poured out of both sides. I was forced to break off as a FW 190 attacked me from behind. Later I saw the FW 190 I had hit gliding down. It crash landed at approximately F4982 and was seen to burn. F/O Taylor saw this a/c on fire after my attack.
Blue Two, W/O Bobby Bunting, claimed two more Focke-Wulfs:
We dived from out of the sun and I identified the a/c as FW 190s. I attacked the nearest a/c and fired from 250 yds; with one ring deflection and closed to 100 yds. The E/A dived away streaming black and white smoke. I was then attacked by two E/A and broke port. Blue leader [Turcott] saw the E/A I had attacked burst into flame at 500ft and crash.
I continued turning and dived on one of the two a/c that had been attacking me. I opened fire at 150 yds with 10º deflection and saw strikes all around the engine and cockpit. Pieces flew off the E/A and I watched until it struck the ground and burst into flames. I then chased two E/A that I noticed diving towards Rome, but was forced to return as my ammunition gave out.
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