If 20 February is not the order’s original date then that should not be seen as a watershed moment in marking practice. OKL clearly did not originate the order on 20 February because the same instructions can be found in earlier deciphered signals. ULTRA further shows that the order had its origin in a conference on 27 October 1944:
From GEKEM ((Jagdkorps)) (Roman) I, signed [Heinrich] SEELIGER Oberstltn. im Genst., IA, No. 3774 of 31/10 to ABIOC ((JG)) 11, ((JG)) 4, ((JG)) 27, ((JG)) 77.
Ref. Order of the Reichsmarschall with reference to address before unit commanders on 27/10. Ref. marking of a/c.
1) GAKIA ((AO for Fighters)) has orders to place before the Reichsmarschall immediately his opinion on markings of day fighter units.
2) ((AO for Fighters)) is of the opinion that colouring the nose, (C% wings) or tail unit is impracticable, as the outlines are changed, and recognition is made more difficult. Coloured stripes round the belly (Geschwader colours) may be carried but no longer so effective as in the war in the air 1914–1918, therefore a matter for the judgement of the Kommandeure.
3) Day fighter Gruppenkommandeure (by name) will immediately send in (B% a request for) or a refusal of markings for their units, direct to the (word smudged).
We do not know if the other Jadgkorps were similarly canvassed but paragraphs 1. and 2. seem to suggest that the whole day fighter force was involved. By mid-December a decision had been taken and was being made known throughout German-held territory.
On the Western Front (my translation):
Re: Jagdgeschwader Markings
By order of the Reichsmarschall and with immediate effect, for better differentiation in the air, the Jagdgeschwader will be distinguished by an annular coloured strip, 90 cm in width, around the fuselage. Every Jagdgeschwader is receiving a different strip. The strips will be in one colour or two (for example red or red-white or red-white-red).
The troops, especially the Flak and air-defence units, are to be notified.
And in Northern Norway (GC&CS translation):
To SDC [Sea Defence Commander] HAMMERFEST from (smudge) via Naval Communications Officer TROMSŲ, dated 24/12:
AOK [Armee Oberkommando] North advises, under IA Staff Officer for Artillery No. 3867 of 15/12, marking of Jagdgeschwader:
On the order of the Reichsmarschall, Jagdgeschwader will be marked at once with a 90 cm. wide, circular coloured band about the fuselage for better differentiation in the air. Each Jagdgeschwader will have a different band. Bands may be of one or two colours, for example: red or (several words smudged) red.
Inform the troops, especially all Flak formations and Flak units.
Relationship between colour, marking and number of Jagdgeschwader, which can be requested of GAF Command posts, is a secret matter and is not to be (end not seen).
That this information was being disseminated within an armoured division on the German-Belgian border and to Kriegsmarine authorities inside the Arctic Circle seems reasonable evidence that this wasn’t just a matter for I. Jagdkorps or home defence. What is more, the dates of 22 and 24 December 1944 definitively refutes the idea of a “20 February directive.”
Even the December decree seems only to have been an amendment of an earlier instruction, as this internal JG 11 signal shows:
CX/MSS/T408/62 BT 287
No. 1194, dated 24/12, from JG 11, TO [Technischer Offizier], signed P/P Oblt. Ringewaldt:
In amendment of communication of JG 11, TO dated 2(smudge)/10, (+) following is ordered:
Under (Roman) II C):
The a/c of JG 11 are to be designated by a yellow band 900 mm. wide around the fuselage. Start of the band around the fuselage at a distance of about 15 to 20 cm. from the vertical fin. The cross must lie outside the strip in any case.
NOTE: (+) not seen.
This shows that some form of markings instruction had gone out from Stab JG 11 within two days of the Reichsmarschall’s address of 27 October (see above).
continued on next page …
PART THREE OF SIX
© Nick Beale 2012–2015