continued …

More was to follow on 28 December, from JG 53:


BT 630

No. 1876 from ABIOC ((JG)) 53, Technical Officer on 28/12:

In accordance with order from OKL our fighter a/c, to differentiate them better in the air, are to be marked with a black band round the 6th or 7th section of the fuselage, about 450 mm. wide. Any “Ace of Spade” markings, including those on M/T [motor transport] are to be removed.

The completion of these measures is to be reported to the Geschwader by 1100/31/12.

Note that JG 53’s TO has either not received, misunderstood or disregarded the specification for a 900 mm. band.

Information about the Jagdgeschwader markings continued to filter through the German military machine, reaching elements of the Waffen-SS in Hungary three weeks later:


To SS Flak Abt. 509, SS A/Tk. Abt. 509, SS Mtn. Arty. Rgt. 509, IX. Waffen Mtn. Korps of the SS, from SS Ops. HQ, Insp. 113, signed [Friedrich] GUTBERLET, SS Oberf., dated 11/1:

Instructions from OKH, General Staff of Army £H£ Trg. Abt., repeated for information:

Subject: Recognition markings of JG’s.

On orders of the Reichsmarschall, the JG’s will from now on be marked with a 90 cm. broad, uniform, coloured stripe around the tail, for the purpose of improved recognition in the air.

Each JG will be allocated a different stripe, and these stripes will be either one or two-coloured (e.g. red or red/white, or red/white/red).

The Trupps, particularly all Flak Detachments and Flak Units, are to be notified. The correlation between coloured markings and the number of the JG, which can be ascertained from the relative GAF HQ’s, is secret, and not to be published.

Despite all this accumulated information and that obtainable from the ever-increasing haul of prisoners and wrecked aircraft, the author of SHAEF (Rear)’s “Intelligence Notes G.A.F. No. 3”, issued on 4 March 1945, could still attribute green-white-green bands to JG 1 and a plain red one to JG 3.

For a while I’ve thought that colourful markings (white tails, striped cowlings, fuselage bands) were adopted as an aid to re-assembly of units dispersed after a firing pass through a box of American heavy bombers. This occurred to me after reading pilots’ accounts of how they became scattered after running the gauntlet of defensive fire. Ken Merrick’s book goes one better, arguing convincingly that conspicuous markings became increasingly important as the Luftwaffe began to assemble large composite fighter formations to engage the bombers. I think he’s right about that; that the same markings would also assist re-assembly was a bonus.


The Reichsmarschall’s meeting of 27 October 1944 has not figured in previous discussions of marking practice. Its upshot was that four days later I. Jagdkorps demanded fighter leaders’ views “immediately” about recognition markings for their units. It was only four months since instructions had been given to remove all unit markings from fighters in the West (possibly for security reasons). In late October the greater part of the fighter force was either refitting or engaged in tactical support, why then did Göring choose this moment to reintroduce recognition/assembly paintwork for his Jagdgeschwader?

My suggestion is that these markings were required for the »großer Schlag« (Big Hit/Grand Slam) which former General der Jagdflieger, Adolf Galland, wrote that he had been preparing that autumn. Co-ordinated by I. Jagdkorps, this was to have been a single, massive commitment of fighters aimed at inflicting catastrophic, insupportable losses on American heavy bombers.The Seekriegsleitung diary and a sequence of ULTRA decrypts offers corroboration that a major fighter operation was indeed being planned for late October or early November:

1./Seekriegsleitung Diary (15 October 1944)

… the enemy air force has for some days been operating on a major scale against the Reich. In heavy blows on 5, 7 and 9 October it has caused serious setbacks to the German armaments industry (tank, motor and air equipment plants), the transport facilities and fuel production. The continuation if not strengthening of this kind of attack is to be reckoned with, and also deeper into the Reich territory.

Therefore we have reached a position of decisively hindering the enemy in these attacks and causing him such high losses that he will be forced to give up the systematic smashing of the armaments industry and transport network. What this situation demands from the Luftwaffe is an unconditional, unambiguous concentration on the defence of the Reich. In the position in which we find ourselves, OKL must plan on further weakening the fighter forces of the frontline Luftflotten in favour of the defence of the Reich.

CX/MSS/T349/42 [decrypt issued on 26 October 1944]

To Admiral Commanding East Baltic from Chief Naval Command East, Ops Staff GAF Liaison Officer on 18/10.

Officer only. For information of Admirals Commanding only.

Subject: Situation (smudge)

On all fronts strong enemy pressure. New large-scale attacks are to be expected. In spite of this the transfer of further fighter forces from the Western area into the Reich is taking place … (several lines torn away) … to cause [the enemy] such heavy losses that he is forced to give up the systematic destruction of the armaments industry and the network of communications.

1) Conclusions for the GAF to be drawn from this situation: the defence of the Reich must be made the Schwerpunkt without any ambiguity or reservation.

2) OKL must, in view of the situation, envisage a still further weakening of the front Luftflotten in fighter strength in order that the defences of the Reich may be strengthened.

3) On the other hand a substantial reinforcement of fighter strength has to be reckoned with in the near future, brought about through comprehensive resting and refitting and through new setting-up of fighter forces and thus it will be made possible to envisage reinforcement of fighter strength on the fronts on immediate support of Army and Navy.

4) … With the fighter forces available on the fronts … the successes attainable at present are only slight in comparison with those to be obtained by a concentration of all forces on the defence of the Reich. These successes will benefit all branches of the Armed Forces and the whole conduct of the war in a peculiarly high degree, particularly during the present phase of the war.

continued on next page …



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