At 06.36 hours, 2./JGr. 200 scrambled three Bf 109s, to escort a pair of Fw 190s from 2./NAG 13. They were up for about an hour, photographing Hyčres from 7,000m. Another Rotte of Focke-Wulfs was sent off at 07.00 to take pictures around Draguignan and Le Muy but abandoned their mission owing to the weather and landed after 55 minutes. Seven Bf 109s of II./JG 77 scrambled at 09.00 and were aloft for 80 minutes without apparent incident. Two of 2./NAG 13's Fw 190s were up to photograph the area Draguignan – St. Raphael – St. Tropez – Lavandou between 11.47 and 13.30 hours. According to the day's situation report, one the Focke-Wulfs crashed on take off but an eyewitness, Georg Pemler of 2./NAG 13, recalled that Ofhr. Robert Heichele landed his burning Fw 190 F-8 (W.Nr. 581300) at Avignon after a fierce air combat, followed minutes later by his wingman, Uffz. (or Fw.) Högel who had extricated himself safely from the fight. Jagdgruppe 200's part in these actions is described here.
From 12.27, seven Bf 109s of II./JG 77 flew a reconnaissance of Marseille and offshore to the West and at 15.25 another seven (wrongly ascribed to 1./JG 77 by whoever enciphered the message) took off on an operation in the St. Remčze area which lasted just over an hour:
Task: combatting guerrillas with a/c armament area TK44.
Successes: 1 passenger M/T, 1 lorry shot up and set on fire, fleeing terrorists fired at in scrub and wooded country. Buildings and houses shot up, one fire obscured [sic]. No defence. No losses.
Decrypts also revealed that from 15.38–16.25 hours an Fw 190 and four Bf 109s of the "same unit" (presumably 2./NAG 13) were on convoy reconnaissance in the Toulon – Marseille area "to [a] depth of 60 km." An hour after they landed, eleven of II./JG 77's Bf 109s mounted a freie Jagd looking for low-flying raiders and reconnoitred fires on the Salon-Lézignan railway in what was apparently the last fighter mission of the day.
The Night Actions
With the coming of dusk, the bombers took up the fight and once more the various accounts contradict one another. It looks as if KG 26 put up around 15–20 aircraft on conventional bombing missions and that these were of necessity rather makeshift. Schmidt recounts that:
The remaining operational aircraft were adapted for bombing missions. The planes were loaded with canisters of fragmentation bombs with which they were supposed to attack the landing troops' beach heads. This order made it obvious how desperate the situation had become. The Geschwader's torpedo planes were fitted out for torpedo operations and had neither bombsights nor oxygen systems, therefore they could only fly up to 4,000 m. Bombs could only be aimed by "rule of thumb":
The operational order wasn't clear; there was no exact information on the enemy situation and crews were told to drop their bombs where they could see the biggest landings. What success these operations had cannot be said. Fortunately there were no losses.
In fact, as we have seen, II./KG 26 had embarked on conventional bombing before the invasion but the problems inherent in the changeover are clear enough. According to the interrogation of Uffz. Rolf Kaulfuss, a Bordmechaniker of 9./KG 100:
On about 15th–16th August a/c of KG 26 landed at Toulouse having been forced down by enemy fighters. [He] was certain that these a/c were carrying bombs (not torpedoes) for attacking landing craft in S. France.
Two Ju 88s which reportedly broke off the night's operation may have been the ones seen by Kaulfuss. Another 15 took off around 20.00 to attack St. Tropez town and harbour, arriving over their targets at dusk and triggering two Red Alerts. A group of five, allegedly escorted by four Bf 109s, approached St. Tropez port at 20.50 from 20,000 ft. before spreading out to drop anti-personnel bombs accurately into Allied concentrations along the beaches, killing 14 people and wounding 36 more. They were also suspected of dropping anti-personnel mines on Beach 262(N). By way of response, the submarine chaser USS SC 978 fired 33 x 40 mm. rounds and reported splashes, thought to be anti-personnel bombs hitting the sea.
Also at dusk, six Do 217s of III./KG 100 operated against ships off St. Tropez with Hs 293s. Fliegerdivision 2 later reported that one Do 217 did not attack (probably WNr. 6230, 6N+DR whose crew were frustrated by an unserviceable bomb-release but subsequently managed to jettison their weapon). Four missiles had technical defects but one hit was claimed. The naval radar station at La Garoupe, Cap d’Antibes noted:
21.05: Enemy vessels moving eastwards. Our aircraft (three Do 217) in attack on enemy ships. No losses on our side.
As Ulf Balke tells it:
The III. Gruppe flew attacks on shipping targets at St. Raphael (Map Square 6463). Ofw. Kube's crew had a large transport in their sights but their Hs 293 wouldn't guide and crashed, probably due to enemy jamming. One Do 217 failed to return but the crew was saved ... After these operations the Gruppe was bled white and no longer capable of any operations of consequence: 36 crews lost since since D-Day on 6 June, a 100% loss rate in 9 weeks of operations!
The bombers had approached from landward with only a brief warning period. They achieved no hits although a glide bomb landed near USS Charles F. Hughes, a destroyer stationed in the eastern sector of the screen:
Bomber [identified as an He 177] approached form over land and was sighted before contact was established. After fire was opened … what appeared to be a fighter appeared, apparently astern of the plane. It flew along parallel [to] the bomber for a few seconds then banked to the right and dove at this vessel, passing the starboard wing of the bridge between the starboard wing of the bridge abreast Gun #1. The bomb was a dud. Many pieces of the glider came aboard in the column of water which drenched the ship from the director down. There was no damage nor casualty.
This lack of success perhaps stemmed from the fact that — from the Allies' point of view — smoke conditions were good and screening fair while in addition jamming ships were assigned to task forces CTF 84 and CTF 87 for protection against radio-controlled bombs. According to the Allies, two Do 217s were shot down while III./KG 100 reported two machines missing on the 16th: Do 217 K, W.Nr. 733 and M-11, W.Nr. 6429.
Note: the first of these missing aircraft was almost certainly Do 217K-3 W.Nr. 4733, 6N+GT. Balke writes that Fw. Helmut Germann's crew bailed out successfully but places the loss on 15 August rather than the 16th.
During the day, the seaplane station at Berre reported to Jafü Süd that the 3. Seenotstaffel had transferred three Do 24s to Lyon and two Do 24s and a Bréguet Bizerte to Friedrichshafen. Apparently unknown to its unit, one of the Dorniers had been shot down in the early hours of the 15th.
Fliegerdivision 2 reported its losses for the 16th as:
two Bf 109s missing;
two Do 217s missing;
one Fw 190 crashed, pilot wounded;
one Bf 109 shot up by aircraft armament, over 60% damage, probable battle loss over enemy territory.
one battle loss on ground [type not stated but presumably the Bf 109 of JGr. 200].
Claimed successes were:
one direct hit on battleship;
one direct hit on troop transport 8,000 tons, probably sunk;
one direct hit on merchant ship 10,000 tons probably sunk.
In addition, radar station TRUTHAHN reported that a Spitfire had been brought down by Flak during a low-level attack.
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