From Fliegerdivision 2 to Luftflotte 3 at 1130 GMT:-
Airfields in the Rhône Valley being continuously attacked. Shall KG 26 move to airfields further north or to SW Germany? Are Avord and Bourges serviceable? A decision is urgent.
Plans and Assets
At 21.30 hours the previous evening, Fl.Div. 2 had announced as its intentions for the 17th: reconnaissance and fighter operations as on the previous day; bomber operations with "strong forces" in the sea and landing areas of St. Tropez and St. Raphael. Fliegerkorps IX had been asked for the support of its bombers, with the exact target area to be notified later. Early on the 17th, Fl.Div.2 reported that 1.(F)/33 had too few aircraft and that today only one was serviceable. The unit would only be able to carry out the tasks allotted to it by Luftflotte 3 if it received a further three day- and three night-reconnaissance planes. The same held true for 2./NAG 13: the invasion had doubled the demands on it. Adequate support for the Nineteenth Army would only be possible if reserve aircraft could be brought up. At 07.30, reconnaissance and fighter ops were ordered as for the previous day and Fl.Kps. IX's bombers were again called for. At 08.30, word was passed that six Ju 88s were ready for collection at Avignon-West while five minutes later the Allies photographed 24 single-engined fighters at Orange-Caritat.
In the small hours, four Ju 88s of II./KG 26 flew FuG 200 reconnaissances from the French Riviera to the west coast of Corsica and reported sightings of shipping. At 07.26 hours, five Bf 109s from JGr. 200 provided cover for a P/R Fw 190 between Marseille, Toulon, St. Tropez, Le Luc and Aix. Screening of the reconnaissance area was also provided by 19 fighters from II./JG 77 whose Geschwaderkommodore, Obstlt. Steinhoff, arrived in Orange during the day. After so determined an effort to secure this coverage there must have been considerable frustration when the results could not be interpreted.
Reconnaissance aircraft, American ones this time, were also responsible for the next flurry of activity, at around 09.50 hours. Capt. Dave C. Hearrell Jr, in an F-6 of the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, claimed a Ju 52 destroyed. Then, at Avignon-East airfield, he claimed a Fw 190 damaged while 2/Lt. Forrest L. White of the same unit damaged a Ju 52. A wrecked Fw 190 was later found on the airfield and the two Americans had indeed hit three-motor transports, but not Ju 52s.
After leaving Strasbourg, a Savoia Marchetti S.82, 1Z+OP of 6./TG 1, reported an attack by two fighters between Avignon and Orange. The transport caught fire and its centre engine was apparently blown right off, injuring the pilot, Obgfr. Fritz Pauleweit, while gunner Uffz. Otto Meistring was hit in the head by gunfire. After landing at Avignon, both were driven 30 km. to the military hospital at St. Andiol. Radio operator Uffz. Heinz Herbstleb accompanied them in the ambulance and although the two wounded men were delivered successfully he disappeared.
As a footnote to this episode, 6./TG 1 transferred from Italy to Germany on the 18th and 19th. Pauleweit flew out in 1Z+PP — apparently at the controls — and on the afternoon of the 19th 1Z+OP was amongst a group of four aircraft leaving Bettola (BS) for München-Riem, Bavaria. Meistring is not listed as being aboard any of the departing aircraft and what became of him is not known.
At 13.00 hours, the Germans decided that the coming night's main effort by the torpedo and guided-weapons aircraft was to be in the sea area south of St. Raphael but II./KG 26’s targets were not yet determined. Just half an hour later a request came to pull KG 26 back in view of continuous attacks on the Rhône Valley airfields. At noon, Fl.Div.2 announced its intention that three reconnaissance aircraft should sortie that night.
The Afternoon and Evening
At 15.25, six Thunderbolts strafed the airfield at Avignon, setting a parked Ju 52 on fire (perhaps an S.82, since two were later found burned out there). One of the P-47s overflew the position of 2. Batterie, 1. Abteilung, Flak Regiment 501 (mot.) and was hit several times, crashing 2 km. south of Avignon.
II./KG 26 had to cancel a planned operation after its crews were prevented from reaching their aircraft by a low-level P-47 attack on their base which also caused slight damage to three Ju 88s. The delay left the bombers unable to reach their objective before it was too dark to identify targets. Photographs taken by the Allies of Valence-La Trésorerie suggested that "several Ju 88s" had been destroyed by bombing. Nevertheless, as one Allied assessment put it, the Luftwaffe maintained its efforts "in spite of losses, fatigue, lack of flare dropping, fuel shortages and cut communications..." At about 21.00, two reconnaissance Bf 109s were reported to have approached ALPHA Beach, one being destroyed by AA fire and the other driven off.
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