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First deployment: 30 April-12 May 1944

 

 

A T.E. night fighter unit, hitherto operating in the Munich area was moving to Italy to provide cover against night bombing in the whole Upper Italian area.
(RAF Air Intelligence Summary, 10 May 1944)

The Luftwaffe order of battle tables for 30 April 1944 stated that II./NJG 6 was transferring nine of its aircraft to Luftflotte 2. According to the KTB of the Geschwaderstab, the order was received on 4 May 1944 for eight Bf 110s to transfer to Ghedi for the full moon period. Technical and command staff would be ferried down in a Ju 52. The disposition map for 7 May shows seven aircraft en route, not ready for operations. From 14.25–15.18 hours GMT on 5 May, the Allies listened in as enemy aircraft controlled from Ghedi flew over the Gulf of Venice, testing night fighter and radar equipment.

Next day, the General der Flakartillerie Süd signalled that from then on night fighters would operate nightly over “the entire Upper Italian area” without any special notification being given. When fired on by Flak, the nightfighters would fire recognition signals, whereon the guns should cease firing. The signal went on to explain that as of the 5th, II./NJG 6 would be operating against the RAF’s 205 Group and the USAAF’s 232 Bomb Wing within the area Genoa – Rimini – 13.5º East – southern edge of the Bergamese Alps – 7.5º East. The Gruppe would be under the control of Jafü Oberitalien and airfield commands were to expect orders for night landings and the illumination of operational and alternative landing grounds. This information was decrypted in England within a few hours of its transmission.

On the 5th, two Bf 110s of NJG 6 were identified by the Allies over Northern Italy, thanks to their W/T traffic.

From 15.22–16.08 hours on the 6th, Mediterranean Allied Air Forces’ Signals Intelligence again heard enemy aircraft testing night fighter equipment and radar equipment,” apparently in Central Italy.” The following afternoon there were two rounds of testing, over the Gulf of Venice and Ferrara. No activity seems to have been picked up on 8 May but at 15.13 and 16.29 hours on the 9th, night fighter practice was identified in the Ferrara–Ravenna area. The pattern was repeated the following afternoon between Ghedi, Bologna and Ferrara.

The Diary of NJG 6 for 11 May records an order from the Division that II./NJG 6 was to return to Stuttgart-Echterdingen right away. Between 15.00 and 16.00 hours local time on the 12th, the unit’s first stay in Italy ended as eight Bf 110s took off from Ghedi, headed for their home base of Stuttgart-Echterdingen.

Although the night fighters were present during the brightest moon period,there is no definite information of any combat operations that were flown and certainly there is no evidence of either success or loss on II./NJG 6's part. All of the detected signals traffic was from the hours of daylight (which would be consistent with night flying tests in preparation for combat patrols after nightfall) and there is no reference to night fighting in the reports of Luftflotte 2’s total daily effort deciphered by the Allies.

MAAF Signals Intelligence detected 13 of the Gruppe’s aircraft over Italy during May:

Stab II./NJG 6

2Z+BC, 2Z+CC

 

4./NJG 6

2Z+BM, 2Z+CM, 2Z+KM, 2Z+MM, 2Z+PM

 

5./NJG 6

2Z+RN

 

6./NJG 6

2Z+BP, 2Z+DP, 2Z+FP, 2Z+GP, 2Z+HP

 

Other Bf 110s of the Gruppe had remained behind and were operating from Echterdingen and Hagenau.

On 23 May, between 11.14 and 11.31 hours, Allied signals intelligence detected night fighter practice between Pavia and Piacenza. On the 25th, MAAF learned of a Bf 110 of NJG 6 arriving in Villafranca from Schleissheim but the reason for this isolated flight is unknown and Villafranca's diary does not mention it. That night however, Wellington "C" of No. 40 Squadron was attacked by an unidentified twin-engined aircraft near Rome.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE

In the later spring and early summer of 1944, NJG 6 was subordinated to 7. Jagddivision, engaged in the night defence of Southern Germany and as far afield as Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Its two deployments to Italy seem to have been more of a loan than a complete transfer to Luftflotte 2. On neither occasion does the entire Gruppe appear to have made the move.

The June deployment was decribed in Air War Italy 1944-45 but this is a newly written account incoporating some additional research since that book was published.


© Nick Beale, 2005–2010

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