25–30 June 1944

The 25th of June saw a number of major incursions into Southern France by American heavy bombers and their escorts, Jagdgruppe 200 opposing these with 59 Bf 109 sorties. The defending fighters appear to have clashed with the estimated 400 escorted bombers that attacked targets in the Avignon–Arles area, claiming two four-motor aircraft shot out of formation and three damaged, as well as damage to three fighters.

Some reassessment seems to have ensued, with the following claims finally accredited, all of them taking place inland from Marseille:

JGr. 200 claims

 

 

 

09.34

Uffz. Bauch

2./JGr. 200

Mustang

 

09.45

Fw. Lünsmann

3./JGr. 200

B-24

shot out of formation

09.58

Ogefr. Horst Rippert

3./JGr. 200

B-24

shot out of formation

Forty-one P-38s of the 82nd FG were escorting a mission by four groups of B-24s to the refineries at Sčte and Balaruc-les-Bains, south west of Montpellier. They met enemy aircraft about 20 miles north of Toulon, at around 09.35 hours. Lieutenant Melvin E. Wiedbusch (P-38J 43-28774) called in enemy fighters climbing through the clouds beneath the 95th FS formation, then went down after them, followed by Lt. Jack D. Joley. Wiedbusch got close on the tail of a Bf 109 and was last seen firing at it in a near-vertical dive. He did not call for help and it was believed he had been unable to pull out. The 95th’s Lts. Nathanial A. Pape and Alphonse J. Mikes both claimed a Bf 109 damaged in this engagement.

Eleven minutes later and 115 km. away, three pilots 31st FG (Group CO, Col. Charles McCorkle; 2/Lt. Carl H. Brown; and 1/Lt. Robert E. Riddle, whose 5th victory this was) claimed Bf 109s destroyed while Lt. John J. Smith claimed one probable out of nine enemy fighters which attacked a force en route to rail targets round Avignon. It was probably this engagement which resulted in JGr. 200’s casualties but no P-51 was lost, despite the Uffz. Bauch's claim.

The cost to JGr. 200 was a Bf 109 shot down with its pilot killed, while another pilot was injured and made a forced landing in friendly territory. No further details were given but Uffz. Werner Bauch was killed, his Bf 109 coming down near “Hill 313”, southeast of Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade (a village about 18 km north east of Aix-les-Milles). The next known JGr. 200 flying took place on 29 June: 18 Bf 109 sorties in six operations, without claims or losses. Next day there were two scrambles in Rotte strength and one as a Schwarm: a P-38 was sighted high over the Rhône Estuary but escaped interception when its pursuers were dazzled by the sun. The Gruppe’s strength that day was reported as 27 serviceable Bf 109s and 34 (25) crews. Total effort from the 25th to the end of the month was reported as 59 aircraft scrambled, shooting two four-motor bombers out of formation and damaging three as well as damaging three fighters.

The 1./JGr. 200 suffered two casualties late in the month even though Jafü Süd reported total losses for 25–30 June as one shot down and one force-landed (matching the casualties reported on 25 June). Obergefreiter Gerhard Klauka (Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 441303, white 13) died of burns at 18.00 local time on the 28th following an accident at Aix-les-Milles. Fw. Karl Bernhardt (Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 440267, white 15) was injured south of Aix the next day.

continued on next page …

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