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Major Kröchel's report

In a status report of 31 March 1945, the Quartermaster General recorded that to date the Luftwaffe had accepted from industry 33 Me 262 converted for reconnaissance: 13 in February and the remainder in March. Supposedly, none had been taken over before that, prompting the question of what Kommando Panther (later 2./NAG 6) had been flying since the autumn — it had been specifically reported as carrying out photo-reconnaissance, after all.

However, 43 Me 262 had been allocated to NAG 1 and NAG 6, of which four had been lost to enemy action and five to other causes. Three had come in from KG 51, leaving current holdings at 37. If 33 reconnaissance Me 262 had been produced and 43 aircraft allocated, then presumably the extra 10 were either “conventional” A-1, A-2 or B-1 models or field modifications. In addition seven aircraft had been allocated for training and five were in reserve. Of course allocation is not the same as delivery to the units in question, neither of which seem never to have had more than six or seven machines on strength at a time.

On 6 April 1945, a message to the General Plenipotentiary for Jet Aircraft, SS-General Hans Kammler, from Maj. Kröchel of Außenstelle branch station) Lechfeld gave III./EJG 2’s strength as 25 (16) Me 262, made up of:

16 Me 262 A-1 suitable for training

3 Me 262 B-1 two-seat trainers

7 Me 262 A-4 reconnaissance aircraft

NOTE: This breakdown adds up to 26, not 25 so one or other figure was incorrect.

Another message that day gave a total of 19 (5), adding that the General der Aufklärungsflieger’s conversion detachment under Maj. Schole had handed over its seven Me 262 to operational units, leaving two instructors but no aircraft. Two days later Kröchel was reporting to Luftflotte Reich that “Re-equipping Detachment Nau (Conversion Detachment)” was training eight pilots of 1./NAG 1 on an Me 262 borrowed from III./EJG 2.

NOTE: The British read »Nau« as an abbreviation for Nahaufklärung but it is also a common German surname. It was probably the same organisation that had been addressed by Zerbst on 3 April as “Re-training Coy. for NA.” The original German wording may have been »Umschulungskom. für NA«, with »kom.« taken to be an abbreviation for Kompanie rather than Kommando (normally translated by Bletchley as “detachment”). There is no way to be sure from these messages what the conversion unit was actually called or if it even had an official designation.

If the seven Me 262 A-4 were no longer available for training pilots of 1./NAG 1, where — if anywhere — had they gone? Successive days’ figures show no sudden decline in the strength of III./EJG 2, although unfortunately no breakdown between variants was given after the 6th:

6 April

25 (16) Me 262

[inc. 7 Me 262 A-4 reconnaissance]

7 April

27 (22) Me 262

3 to strength 1 off strength

8 April

26 (19) Me 262

3 to strength 2 total losses, 2 to Gen. Qu. reserve

9 April

23 (13) Me 262

4 to strength [sic, no “off strength” figure given].

According to Maj. Kröchel, one Me 262, its owner unstated, was 40% damaged when Lechfeld was bombed that day, and EJG 2 made an urgent request to be allocated Linz-Hörsching for continuation of training with one Staffel because the constant air raid alerts at Lechfeld were curtailing training there.

10 April

21 (17) Me 262

2 off strength

NOTES:

In its return for 3 March, III./EJG 2 had reported sending W.Nr. 110472 and 110606 to “Chief QM reserve, Workshop Lechfeld” for the change of some unspecified component.

On 31 March Gen. Qu. had 7 training and 5 reserve Me 262.

On 6 April his reserve at Lechfeld had included 9 Me 262 A-1, plus 2 Me 262 A-4 reconnaissance aircraft.

On 10 April the reserve figure was unchanged but now there was only 1 trainer.

Only two Me 262 reconnaissance Staffeln were operational on 6 April — 1./NAG 1 in Zerbst and 2./NAG 6 in Münster-Handorf. The latter had been in action for several months while the former had transferred its serviceable Messerschmitts to their operational airfields on 3 and 4 April, in accordance with orders given on the 2nd. On the 5th, 1./NAG 1’s Staffelkapitän had sent word that he would be ready for operations next day with seven Me 262s but on the morning of the 6th had only 5 (3) aircraft. The Staffel’s known total never exceeded six. The 2./NAG 6’s reported operational readiness did sink to zero at one point early in April but it is unclear how many aircraft they had on strength at the time.

There is also the question of why eight pilots of 1./NAG 1 should be training on a borrowed machine when the Staffel was already operational. It could have been a programme to bring it up to full establishment (16 aircraft) but no comparable effort seems to have been made with 2./NAG 6 which never rose much beyond half strength. Furthermore, on 11 April 1./NAG 1 had a total of 11 pilots of whom 8 were rated operational — and it had six aircraft for them to fly — so where would eight more requiring training have come from?

One possibility is that “1./NAG 1” was an error for “1./NAG 13.” It had been decided on 23 March that Stab and 1./NAG 13 should re-equip on the Me 262 in Lechfeld and they were there by 7 April. That Staffel’s needs may explain why orders had been given to hand over 14 Me 262 from the reconnaissance allocation to III./EJG 2, of which 11 had been given up by 10 April.

NOTE: The language used in different documents — »(geht i. Umr.)« and »zur Umrüstung« — is slightly different but in neither case is it explicitly stated that re-equipment is currently taking place, just that 1./NAG 13 has gone to be re-equipped.

continued on next page …

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© Nick Beale 2014–2022


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