Sonderstaffel Kaatsch: August￐October 1944

1 January 1945

 

The night reconnaissance unit 3.(F)/Nacht was renamed 1.(F)/123 with immediate effect.

2 January 1945

 

On this date the Luftwaffe decided that 1. (F)/100 should be deployed in the West in support of Army Group G and that its move to Biblis could take place as of the 15th.

This regular Staffel would to replace one of the two small Ar 234 Kommandos drawn from the Versuchsverband OKL and currently operating on the Western Front, Kdo. Hecht [Pike]. Led by Oblt. Erich Sommer, this detachment had been in Biblis since mid-November 1944 with just one Ar 234 on strength. Once the new Staffel was established, Sommer would be free for new employment.

(For more details on the origins and inter-relationships of the Ar 234 reconnaissance units see here).

12 January 1945

 

The war diary of the General der Aufklärungsflieger, Generalmajor Karl-Henning von Barsewisch, records that all Ar 234 Staffeln in the West are to grouped under FAG 123. Major Taubert, Kommodore of FAG 1 is to take over FAG 123 and will therefore to convert on to the Ar 234 at Burg near Magdeburg. (Plans had changed by 28 January with Taubert moved to II.(F)/Erg.Aufkl.Geschw. 1, although his familiarisation with the Ar 234 was still to go ahead).

13 January 1945

 

An exchange of signals in late afternoon revealed that two of four Ar 234s bound for Bilblis had landed at an intermediate airfield and were expected to finish their journey next day.

14 January 1945

 

On the morning of 14 January, two Kommando Sperling pilots who would later figure in the efforts to provide Ar 234 reconnaissance in Italy flew successive missions over the Western Front, Obltn. Werner Muffey (T9+KH) and Ltn. Günther Gniesmer (T9+CH).

15 January 1945

 

By evening the two Arados mentioned earlier had arrived in Biblis, bringing the strength there to three: T9+EH (Sommer’s machine, WNr. 140344), T5+EH and T5+HH. While Sommer’s machine carried the codes of the Versuchsverband OKL, the other two bore those of the incoming 1.(F)/100.

16 January 1945

 

From 13.31 hrs. Erich Sommer in T9+EH flew a photographic mission in cloudless skies, covering Luxembourg, Thionville and Metz. He encountered hostile fighters shortly before landing but came through unscathed.

20 January 1945

 

Three of Götz’s Arados flew missions on the 20th, including Götz himself in T9+GH. Although up for almost 100 minutes his task was not accomplished owing to bad weather.

29 January 1945

 

Günther Gniesmer took off in T9+CH at 07.57 hrs. only for a search to be instituted three hours later when he had not returned from his sortie. As we shall see, this was not the end of his flying career.

Another mishap followed when an Oberleutnant (almost certainly Sommer) took off at 08.55 hrs in T9+EH. According to the partially intercepted signal, the machine crashed on take-off albeit with no casualties. Clearly this “crash” was not serious for a later message reported that Sommer took off in the same aircraft at 13.04 hrs.

Sommer appears to have been taking off from Rheine, not Biblis, since it was Sperling that signalled the above information. Next day both Hecht and Sperling reported his T9+EH unavailable for operations and there is a clear inference that he had been called to Oranienburg to receive a new assignment (see below).

30 January 1945

 

The Oberkommando der Luftwaffe gave out orders that Erich Sommer and all of Kdo. Hecht’s ground personnel were to transfer to Italy.

Oranienburg asked about the weather expected for Biblis next morning, which suggests that Sommer was due to fly back there.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE

A chronology based on the surviving pages of the General der Aufklärungsflieger's War Diary; Allied intelligence reports; deciphered German signals traffic; and a long and enjoyable correspondence with the late Erich Sommer. Although Erich had lost all his papers in the hectic last days of the war, his memory for dates was very accurate—albeit not flawless—and his recollections of events were vivid (as were his opinions of the High Command). He remained keenly interested in everything that the archives could reveal about his flying career and those of his friends and colleagues.

The release in recent years of the files of Government Code & Cipher School has made it possible to clear up many (but not all) of the gaps and conflicting stories recognised in the account of these events in Air War Italy 1944–45.

The emphasis here is on how Kommando Sommer got to Italy. What it did after it got there is for another time.

(All times are GMT)


Article © Nick Beale 2008

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