KG 26 was the Luftwaffe's premier torpedo unit, serving in that role until the very end of the war. Anti-convoy operations had been winding down in the Mediterranean for some time, the last real successes coming at the end of April 1944 and the last (fruitless) attack taking place off Cape Bengut, North Africa on 31 July. Meanwhile attention had turned inevitably to the strongly defended shipping supporting OVERLORD.
Another development had been the gradual move of the II. Gruppe to a conventional bombing role, including a number of emergency attacks against partisans causing trouble in the French interior — often close to the Geschwader's own bases. This changeover was fraught with difficulty: the rack adapters necessary to carry bombs were slow to arrive (on 9 August, for example, Lübeck-Blaneknsee requested the urgent dispatch of sets of bomb-carriers to equip Ju 88 A-4s W.Nr. 166 and 0735 of the Gruppe) and the aircraft lacked bombsights or oxygen equipment, neither had been needed for torpedo operations; in consequence neither accuracy nor safe operating heights were attainable.
During August, III./26 was to return to Germany for conversion from the Ju 88 A to the Ju 188 A-3, its aircraft being used to bring the other two Gruppen up to something approaching full strength (both had for some time had many more crews than planes).
The second surviving torpedo bomber Geschwader, KG 77, had officially disbanded at the end of July, although in practice elements were still operating in the early part of August against shipping in the English Channel. As the Geschwader was broken up, its Ju 88s and their crews were used to bring KG 26 up to strength.
The one anomaly in all this was 6./KG 77, commanded by Oblt. Kramprich and based at Istres. Shortly after being issued with new Ju 88 A-4s it had moved there from Heiligenbeil, East Prussia on 5 June, leaving behind the 4. and 5. Staffeln to train as anti-shipping pathfinders (although apparently they lay idle for the greater part of the summer, perhaps due to fuel shortages). 6./77 was employed for some time as a nocturnal maritime recce unit over the Mediterranean. Eventually, so the Allies deduced from German signals traffic, it was redesignated as the illuminator unit 6. (Beleuchter)/KG 26 but was still sometimes referred to under its former name and does not seem to have altered its planes' identification letters. At the same time II./KG 26 maintained a separate 6. Staffel for torpedo (and later conventional) bombing.
Stab and III./Kampfgeschwader 100
In 1943, KG 100 had sent into action two Gruppen using guided weapons in the anti-shipping role. Their missions had taken them from Biscay to the Aegean but their principal employment had, as the course of the war demanded, been against convoys in the Western Mediterranean and the Allied landings in Sicily and mainland Italy.
There were two related but distinct anti-ship weapons on hand, the Hs 293 (with II./100) and the PC 1400X or "Fritz X" (III./100). The former was a 500 kg. armour-piercing bomb married to a set of wings, a radio guidance unit and a booster-rocket and was intended for use against escort vessels and merchant ships. It could be released from comparatively low level and (all being well) outside the range of anti-aircraft defences. Fritz X by contrast was a gravity bomb that had to be released from at least 4,000m to be effective (6,000m was ideal). Although potentially lethal against capital ships by virtue of its greater calibre, it demanded both clear visibility all the way down and that the carrier aircraft overfly the target, exposing itself to defensive fire. With both systems crews bemoaned the lack of escorting fighters that might have won them an undisturbed guidance run and so operations were in practice soon confined to the cover of morning or evening twilight.
After an unsuccessful raid on Royal Navy units in Plymouth in the early hours of 30 April 1944, there was a lull until the Normandy landings in June. With the Dornier out of production (the Luftwaffe took delivery of its last in May) the Geschwader was converting by turns to the He 177 in Germany and all the remaining Do 217 Staffeln were now concentrated into III./100 whose Kommandeur by the time of DRAGOON was Hptm. Heinrich Schmetz.
By 1944, the III. Gruppe was based on the airfields of Blagnac and Francazal, both near Toulouse, France, not exactly a quiet backwater as Obgfr. Gerds, shot down near Plymouth (see below) recalled to another prisoner:
Wherever you went, you weren't allowed out alone. It was quite bad enough when they blew up a tram... it was the last tram at night from Toulouse to the airfield and 45 soldiers were killed. After that an empty tram was always sent out in front.
The terrorists even had the nerve to occupy the railway station... our crew was supposed to attack it with two 250 kg bombs [but] the SS cleared it up later. You've no idea how things are seething down there. They killed a German General in Toulouse too ...
The former specialisms were abandoned and III./100 now used both guided weapons; its aircraft were a selection of Do 217 E-5 (Hs 293); Do 217 K-2 (PC 1400X), K-3 and M-11 variants (the latter two types able to carry either of the missiles). Since May, 7. and 9./KG 100 had been training with the Hs 293 at Toulouse and 6. Staffel had been attached to them. With the 8. away on the He 177 conversion course, this attachment was made permanent in June and the Dornier-equipped 6. was renamed as the new 8./100. It appears that the Gruppe's severe losses over Normandy led ultimately to the disbandment of 9./100, its crews and aircraft going to bolster the other two Staffeln. Dorniers with overpainted 9. Staffel codes were found by the Allies when they reached Toulouse.
From prisoner interrogation and documents recovered from a crashed Do 217, Allied intelligence learned that:
On August 14th or 15th Major JOPE, Geschwaderkommodore left for Germany to attend a Unit Commanders' course ... He left behind him a bewildered unit, threatened by the R.L.M. with dissolution and by the Allies with annihilation.
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