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No. 655 (Air Observation Post) Squadron RAF

Allied Artillery Spotters Cause Trouble

As German troops on the ground were finding the Allied air-controlled artillery extremely trying, Commander-in-Chief SW was continually urging offensive action against the artillery spotters; whereas the GAF as consistently pointed out the uselessness of shooting down such aircraft, often at the expense of a fighter, seeing they were immediately replaced.

Whereas the exact location of allied spotters around the bridgehead was conveyed by telephone from the Commanding General’s headquarters to the relevant fighter unit, at least 25 minutes would elapse before a fighter arrived on the scene, by which time the spotter had already completed his mission, or had moved off to another area.

Furthermore, it needed an experienced pilot to bring down these spotters which kept at between 300 and 2,000 feet. Avoiding as far as possible the concentrated light AA which the Allies put up, he had to approach at low level so as to have the spotter silhouetted against the sky, and open fire as soon as he came within range of his quarry. No manoeuvring was possible, and there was no question of a second chance.

On occasion advanced GAF mobile fighter-control points sent out spoof messages suggesting impending fighter activity, which would cause the artillery spotters to be recalled, or put them off their stroke. Nevertheless, 15 Me 109’s were lost, with 7 pilots killed, for the shooting down of 8 Allied spotters.

Note: Perhaps the first mention of German sorties specifically against spotter aircraft comes in a deciphered report of operations over the beach head on 6 February 1944. Three days later, there was to be a discussion at the Gefechtsstand of Flegerführer Luftflotte 2 about setting up a fighter control post for combatting artillery spotting and low-flying aircraft.

Report from 29. Panzer Grenadier Division stamped 1500 hours, 24 February 1944:

Request urgently the elimination of artillery spotter aircraft in [map squares] SG 7–9 and SH
1–3. On 24 February four guns put out of action by enemy artillery with spotter aircraft.

German victory claims against artillery spotters in Italy

13.01.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

18.01.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

20.01.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

27.01.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

06.02.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

08.02.44

Uffz. Josef Ostrowitski

2./JG 4

N. of Anzio

08.02.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

13.02.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

 

Signed I./JG 4 at 15.00/13/2 [GMT]:

Battle report: free lance fighter patrol carried out. In [map square] KF 8 interception of three artillery spotting aircraft.

Hptm. Spenner, Manfred, shot down one Dragonfly in KF 8 at 13.45 hrs. The aircraft made a forced landing and, in a second attack, was shot into flames. Witness Ofw. Malsch.

The two others turned back to their own AA positions. Here very [heavy] defence by light and medium AA. One Bf 109 with Uffz. Lothar Mitschew is missing, probably shot down by AA.

Three Bf 109 hit by AA. Landing at 14.05 hrs. One aircraft missing.

15.02.44

Ofw. Franz Malsch

1./JG 4

 

 

Source copied a page of a report stamped 1300/15/2 [GMT]:

Battle report. Free lance fighter patrol and task of hindering artillery spotters carried out. At 10.35 hrs. a formation of 24 Marauders with fighter protection sighted in KF 4. Oberfeldw. Malsch, Franz. effectively shot up a Lysander in KF 4, a/c showed a trail of fuel. Crash could not be observed, time 10.50 hrs. [two lines smudged] At 10.55 hrs. Oberfeldw. Malsch shot down a Lysander [rest not seen].

16.02.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

North of Anzio

16.02.44

Hptm. Wilhelm Steinmann

1./JG 4

North of Anzio

 

Source has seen two copies of a report from FANAL (Fliegerführer Luftflotte 2) 3, IA stamped 1600/16/2 [GMT], stating that artillery spotter a/c were being attacked throughout the day. So far four shot down.

NOTE: (1) Source almost certain these reports were for 114. JG. D[iv]. and 3. PG [Div.]

(2) 76 Korps requirements for the 16th included the shooting down of artillery spotting aircraft.

17.02.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

 

28.02.44

Uffz. Wilhelm Loeffler

1./JG 4

Anzio

29.02.44

Lt. Detlef Großfuß

2./JG 2

12 km NW Nettuno

08.03.44

Report of 8/3 from (Roman) I./JG4:

A/c operated against artillery spotting a/c over the beachhead. Task carried out. 1 Dragonfly at height of 100 metres, 5 km. west of CISTERNA (KF 8 ((G8941)))+ effectively shot up by Hptm. MANFRED (C% SPENNER). Witness Uffz. STAHR.

Hits were scored in the starboard wing of the a/c. Metal parts of the wing and the aileron flew off. Owing to the strong defence of light A.A. fire, the a/c was not seen to crash. Landed at 1430 hours [GMT]: (C%2) a/c serviceable.

Note: +This map reference appears to be an error as it does not apply to CISTERNA DI LITTORIO (in the beachhead area), and as there is no CISTERNA in the area to which it does apply.

09.03.44

Hptm. Manfred Spenner

3./JG 4

North of Anzio

14.03.44

Stamped 14/3:

Two Rotten will arrive at your end about 11.15 hours [GMT] to attack artillery spotting airrcraft.

NOTE: Source is almost certain this was addressed to XIV. Pz. Korps.

Notes: 29. PG Division was fighting the Allies at Anzio, XIV Pz. Korps was defending the Gustav Line along the River Garigliano.

 

Spenner, Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 4 (Bf 109 G-6, WNr. 161371, yellow 3), was shot down by AA and taken prisoner near Anzio on 9 March 1944 (according to German records) or "probably 12 March" (according to the Allies). His preliminary interrogation described his last flight:

This aircraft appears to have been on a reconnaissance flight over our front lines at a height of only 30 feet.

It was hit by light A.A. and although the pilot was able to gain height, the engine burst into flames and he had to bale out at 300 feet.

A week later, after further questioning the Allies knew more:

According to P/W he and his Katschmarek took off from an airfield near Rome (probably Fabrica di Roma) to shoot up artillery spotter aircraft over the Nettuno beach head. This appears to have been one of his favourite pastimes as he claims a bag of 6 such quarries.

This time, before he could make an attack his aircraft was hit by a cannon shell, presumably from an A.A. battery, setting fire to his engine. He baled out from about 300 feet.

navtagbt

FROM BOTH SIDES …

Part of a postwar report based on the interrogation of senior German officers; a view from the ground; and a tabulation of claims for spotter aircraft (every one a "Dragonfly" as far as the Luftwaffe pilots were concerned).


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