The Me 262 served as a reconnaissance aircraft with two units, NAG 1 and NAG 6. As with the Arado 234, the type was introduced via an operational Kommando (small detachment) which later became the basis for regular formations.
The Me 262 reconnaissance Kommando was named for its leader Obltn. Herward Braunegg but this was not the first time the title had been used. Braunegg had served in the east with NAG 9 and had come to the Western Allies’ attention as early as 24 March 1944 (coincidentally right around the time he was awarded the Ritterkreuz) as one addressee of a signal issued by Fliegerkorps I to subordinate units. Then on 4 April Kommando Braunegg was ordered to fly an urgent reconnaissance of enemy forces around Odessa.
A message went out (and was intercepted by the British) that highly skilled reconnaissance pilots were to be recalled in mid-April from units in the field for retraining on the Me 262. Two months later, on 7 June, 1./NAG 13 (then based in Dinard, France) was ordered to dispatch at once a Ltn. Schlüter to Einsatzkommando Braunegg in Lechfeld. On the same day, a message dealing with the disbandment of NAG 9 directed that 37 NCO’s and men were posted to the same destination, in accordancewith the Gen. der Aufklärungsflieger's order No. 1111 of 6 June. On 9 June, a crew return by 5.(F)/123 included "Offz. z.b.V. Obltn. Kopf, detached on 7/6 to Lechfeld (retraining).” On 5 July, the Staffel was advised that Kopf was to transfer immediately to Ergänzungs-NAG Bromberg “and at the same time” would be attached to Einsatzkommando Braunegg in Lechfeld. An essentially trivial message of 9 May (deciphered on the 18th) had revealed that Lechfeld was a base for jets: the General der Jagdflieger had ordered a signals NCO to transfer to Erprobungskommando 262 in Lechfeld and the latter unit was requesting his whereabouts.
During the summer, Braunegg flew Me 262 W.Nr. 170006 on a number of occasions: this aircraft was fitted with two Rb 50/30 cameras and one x 3 cm MK 108 cannon. He took this machine from Leipheim to Lechfeld on 9 July and flew a trial photographic sortie on the 26th, with another flight on 27 August. This last, together with flights on 2 and 4 September were logged (according to Dan O’Connell) as operational sorties, although it is not clear which part of the current battlefront would have been within range. On the 5th Braunegg flew from Lechfeld to Alt-Lönnewitz and from there to Oranienburg.
As yet there was nothing to connect NAG 6 with these developments: on 18 September its Stab, 1. and 2. Staffeln were in Herzogenaurach (the Gruppe servicing company had moved there from Bayreuth-Bindlach on 19 August). Also on Bavarian airfields were Stab, 1./and 2./NAG 3 at Straubing while NAG 1 and NAG 3/14 were in Bayreuth. On 1 October NAG 6 was ordered to transfer at once to Windischenlaibach, apparently to make room for fighters but the move was later countermanded. On the 10th, the Airfield Region Command at Fürth reported the posting away of men from NAG 6’s disbanded Stabskompanie while on the 18th the Gruppe’s Signals Company was reported as having two sets of Tornado direction-finding equipment at Herzogenaurach. On the 25th of that month, Fhj.Fw. Friedrich Stanneck was killed when W.Nr. 170006 crashed during a transfer flight.
Nevertheless, progress had clearly been made throughout the summer and early autumn because a Vorkommando (advance party) of Einsatzkommando Braunegg reached Rheine (home also to I./KG 51 and Kommando Sperling) on 6 November. All was not well, for on the 10th the Versuchsverband Ob.d.L was complaining that the base commander had not yet found billets for the incoming unit even though the main party had left Lechfeld five days earlier. All the accommodation in nearby villages was occupied by Army and supply units who could not be displaced.
As with Kommando Schenck’s arrival in France, none of this tells us that any aircraft had transferred from Bavaria to North West Germany. It would be logical to establish ground support before any machines were flown in and if the main party had been en route for five days and still not arrived, it was quite likely moving by road or rail.
British Operational Watch reports, which combined information from radio traffic and deciphered signals, offer no clear indication of activity by the Kommando from Rheine unless it is either of these tenuous possibilities from the 21st:
R/T indications of recce activity by 4 jet a/c in the Nijmegen – Enschede area 08.10–08.37 [and] slight R/T evidence of activity by jet a/c in the battle area just before noon (a/c may be fighters, not (Roman) I./KG 51).
On 23 November a request went out to 1./NAG 12 for the names of pilots qualified and suitable to be retrained on the Me 262, although none was likely to be called on before the New Year. Two days later, Luftgau VII (covering Bavaria) advised that, as directed by OKL, Leipheim would be shared — by whom was not stated — for re-equipping “one Nahaufklärungsstaffel each” with the Me 262.
At noon on 26 November, Kdo. Braunegg’s strength was reported to Luftwaffenkommando West (apparently via Kdo. Sperling) as 4 (4) pilots and 5 (2) aircraft. The following day, one more machine was serviceable and on the 28th aircraft strength was up to 6, while the number of pilots remained at 4. These three reports taken together tell us that the markings of the Kommando’s Me 262s were:
NH, OH, PH, QH, RH and SH
A seventh aircraft, W.Nr. 130182, was off strength, having been taken over by 1./KG 51 for special testing (this aircraft had been handed over by I./KG 51 to Field Workshop Staffel 9/70 on 19 October; on 27 November it was listed as off-strength from I./KG 51, handed over to Kdo. Braunegg). Since the signals show that Versuchsverband OKL had responsibility for Kdo. Braunegg, it seems likely that its Me 262s also carried the parent formation’s T9 unit code. Furthermore, these letters follow straight on from those of Kommando Sperling’s Arado 234s, the highest-lettered of which was T9+MH.
Left unrevealed by the various messages was whether the Kommando had achieved anything during its three weeks at the front. Whatever the case, early on 30 November Lw.Kdo. West announced that Braunegg’s unit was transferring immediately to Schwäbisch Hall. Crucial elements of the ground echelon would go by road, the rest by rail. British Intelligence had known since late October that Schwäbisch Hall was a jet base as parts of KG 51 had been consuming J2 fuel there.
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This article is again based largely on deciphered German signals traffic, supplemented by material from a few published sources, the Luftwaffe Gen.Qu. 6. Abt. aircraft loss reports, the War Diary of the General der Aufklärungs-flieger and files in the National Archives at Kew including translations of German morning and evening Western Front situation reports for February and March 1945.
Working through the signals, I realised from the cross-references quoted that there are a lot of relevant ones I don’t have yet, so I expect to be adding information to this article at some point.
© Article Nick Beale 2011–2014