Decisions on thedeployment of regular Ar 234 reconnaissance Staffeln to the Western Front were taken during January. The 3.(F)/Nacht was renamed 1.(F)/123 with effect from the 1st, Gen.d.A. noting that it could transfer to the Western Front as of the 15th to co-operate with Army Group B, taking over from Kommando Sperling.
Both Biblis aerodrome and Erich Sommer’s new T9+EH were reported unserviceable at 05.30 hrs. on New Year’s Day. Kommando Sperling was able to operate however:
09.04–10.51 Muffey (T9+KH) photographed Volkel, Eindhoven, Brussels, Ghent, Maldegem, Antwerp and Gilze-Rijn.
09.23–11.13 A newly-arrived pilot, Ltn. Häupel (T9+LH), undertook P/R of Eindhoven, Antwerp and Brussels.
These missions were clearly aimed at assessing the damage inflicted by that morning’s onslaught on Allied airfields, »Unternehmen Bodenplatte«. The Sperling pilots found cloudless skies in the target area and a communications aircraft arrived that afternoon to collect their films.
Unable to fly on the 1st, Kdo. Hecht was asked next day how many aircraft it would be able to operate and service from Biblis, perhaps an early sign that a new Staffel was to be set up there. All five of Sperling’s Arados (AH, GH, HH, KH and LH) were serviceable on 3 January and all its pilots were ready for operations but the weather was too bad for them to fly that day or on the 5th. On the latter date came another sign that the jet reconnaissance force was to expand when it was learned that the Gen.d.A. had called for a list to be drawn up of first class pilot-observers with frontline experience who would be suitable to fly the Ar 234.
Winter weather appears to have prevented Sperling and Hecht flying from 2–12 January. On the 4th the former Kommando reported a request from »Einsatzstaffel Zinn, Florian Geyer« (i.e. KG 76) at Münster-Handorf for photo-reconnaissance data on “all targets suitable for bombing attack” be sent to them “immediately.” (If the original German word here was »unmittelbar«, another possible meaning is that the material be sent to directly to KG 76).
At some time between the 6th and 10th, Horst Götz’s T9+GH disappeared from the Kommando’s strength returns, returning on 12 January but then staying unserviceable for a week. A new machine, CH, arrived on the 13th and underwent the usual inspection while HH was declared u/s that day and was not ready to operate again until 3 or 4 February. This could have been because the problem was serious or simply a reflection of the increasing difficulties the Luftwaffe was having in getting spare parts to its units. The 13th of January was also the day when Kdo. Hecht could be said to have begun its metamorphosis into 1.(F)/100, as two more Arados landed at Rheine, destined for Biblis. T9+HH was reported unserviceable and would not be back in commission again until 4 February.
Three operations were also flown from Rheine the next day. Werner Muffey was aloft in T9+KH from 09.03–11.28 hrs. carrying out coverage ordered the day before of the route Malmedy – Liège – Maastricht – Verviers – Sittard – Nijmegen. From visual observation he reported that the Nijmegen road bridge was undamaged. Next up was another new pilot, Ltn. Günther Gniesmer, from 11.54–12.47 hrs. but he returned early as his T9+CH developed engine trouble. From 12.46–14.28 hrs. Muffey (again in T9+KH) carried out the visual and photographic cover ordered of “Position 2A.”
Both Kommandos were grounded again on the 15th, nor could Sperling fly on the 17th, 18th or 19th. This last date did bring a signal that Rechlin had been asked about the effects of cold weather on the performance of the »R-Gerät« (rocket-assisted take-off packs) and had Sperling experienced any swerving off the runway when using this equipment?
Three of Sperling’s pilots operated on 20 January:
Hptm. Götz (T9+GH) 08.16–09.55 hrs. No success in covering “Position E” on account of the weather.
Ltn. Häupel (T9+CH) 08.34–? hrs. This pilot was due to cover “Positions C and D” but had been compelled to divert to Bremen/Lemwerder after an air raid (presumably on Rheine) and so his results were not to hand when the report was submitted.
Stabsfw. Seefeld (T9+AH) 08.47–10.10 hrs. Coverage of “Positions A and B.”
That day, Luftgau XIV passed on an order from Göring that if a jet aircraft made an intermediate landing at any airfield, the workshop staff were to “proceed at once to the pilot” and give whatever assistance he needed. Advice was also given that a jet could be refuelled with J2, with K1 diesel or, in an emergency, with any petrol plus 3% of S3 oil (although this was only good for ferry flights below 6,000 metres). Instructions were also given about ignition fuel and, fuel for the Riedel starter motors, and lubricants.
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