26 August 1944

The anti-partisan formation Geschwader Bongart was ordered to co-operate with the Kaatsch Staffel and 5.(F)/123 for reconnaissance of the battle area and to support Army Group G with all available forces. At midday FAG 123 reported "Everything arrived safely. 12 aircraft available with JGr. 200." Of these, seven were serviceable for take-off, with two of these last on operations. Meanwhile, should the Storch return?

From 16.11–16.44 hrs. 15 Lightnings strafed Dijon, destroying a Do 17 and a Ju 88.

In its evening strength return 5.(F)/123 again noted that pilots Spies, Weber, Kuhlmann and Müller were on detached duty and the same four aircraft were “category 63.”

27 August 1944

At 11.42 hours the contingent at Dijon reported to (F) 123 at Vitry (-le-François?) that its strength was 12 with 10 ready. JGr. 200 also made a strength return: aircrew numbered 7; the non-flying personnel amounted to 2 officers, 16 NCOs and 41 men (of whom 1–5–24 were from the Jafü’s signals echelon, Ln. Regt. 51).

A pair of Bf 109s was up from Dijon at noon, covering Bourg, Grenoble, Gap and Voiron, landing again at 14.00 hrs. Their pilots reported that the roads had been empty except for 25 lorries with trailers seen leaving Grenoble at 12.45 and again outside Voiron half an hour later. These vehicles were thought to be hostile. From 13.02–15.00 hrs. two Bf 109s from FAG 123 flew a reconnaissance from Dijon to Lyon, Valence, Loriol, Crest, Die, Beaurières, Pontaix and back to base. They reported 30–40 open-topped American trucks heading west, each with 10 men aboard; on the Die – Pontaix road were seven more lorries, also westbound; in Die were seven or eight tanks; and 5 km east of Saillans were individual trucks going west. One of the pilots concerned was Ltn. Heinz Moschke in Bf 109 “11” (the number of his regular machine with his old unit, 2./JGr. 200). Lorries were spotted at several locations as well as seven or eight tanks in Die and Red Cross vehicles between Crest and Livron. Ob. SW’s situation report recorded that aircraft from his command had flown a battle reconnaissance of the Franco-Italian border area.

That evening Staffel Kaatsch reported that it had 8 pilots against an established figure of 12. Aircraft establishment was 9 against an actual strength of 5 while two machines were overdue (their pilots likewise) and one a total loss. This last was apparently a Bf 109 G-6/AS, blue 7 (on detachment from 4.(F)/123) which Kaatsch reported destroyed on the ground in a strafing run by a pair of Thunderbolts. The overdue aircraft later returned having made an intermediate landing, although one had been shot up by AA fire and had its “round moulding” torn off.

That seems straightforward enough but by the end of the month (their report is dated the 30th) the MAAF Field Intelligence Unit examining abandoned aircraft at Avignon/Château Blanc had received “from Army sources part of a data card of a Me 109 G shot down on Aug. 27th … Works no. 26043 and works lettering TN+PE. Engine DB 605.” This particular aircraft — a G-6/AS/U2/R2 — had been one of seven taken on to the strength of 4.(F)/123 from the Guyancourt workshops on 13 August.

As we have seen, only one of 4.(F)/123’s Bf 109s had been sent to Dijon. At noon on the 27th, this Staffel had reported on the state and whereabouts of its aircraft, noting “7: detachment Dijon”; two days later “7+” was still shown as detached there, suggesting news of its destruction had not filtered back. Since this was the only machine the 4. Staffel recorded as detached to Dijon, the evidence is persuasive that it and 26043 were one and the same.

All this raises a question: at a time when the Americans had just reached Montélimar, how did they acquire the data card from an aircraft supposedly destroyed on the ground 300 km. further north? Why also was blue 7’s Werk Nummer recorded as “unknown” when its remains were supposed to be on its home airfield? There seems a strong possibility that German records confused two Bf 109s lost on successive days (see below).

NOTE: whilst this article uses the conventional description Bf 109 G-6/AS, the deciphered signals speak of “Bf 109 G-6 with ASM motor.”


28 August 1944

Luftflotte 3’s Operations Officer signalled to the Flivo (Air Liaison Officer) of Army Group G that 5.(F)/123 and Sonderstaffel Kaatsch had been assigned co-operate with the Army Group. There was no bomber support currently available but Geschwader Bongart would be operating within the next few days.

Kaatsch's Oblt. Theodor Spies was shot down by American light AA, crashing from 50 metres with his aircraft's tail on fire, east of Saillans (40 km. SE Valence) at 07.55 hours. Spies' Bf 109 G-6/AS (W.Nr. 161361, black 29) burst into flames on impact; his Rottenflieger did not see him bale out. Regional historian Paul Mathevet writes that Spies's Bf 109 fell at Charsac, 7 km west of Saillans. According to the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, Spies was buried in a field at Charsac (Commune of Mirabel-et-Blacons) and, at his family's request, was not transferred to a war cemetery. He had been brought down by C-2 Platoon of the 443rd AAA Battalion, which reported engaging a pair of Bf 109s thought to be attacking the Drôme River bridge at Crest

It seems possible that the data card for W.Nr. 26043 (see above) was found in the wreckage of Spies's Messerschmitt or that the two loss reports were mixed up.

NOTE: The loss of Spies was later included in a crew status report from 5.(F)/123. An Oblt. Hans-Heinrich Spiess of 3./NAG 14 had failed to return from an operation on 9 August (Bf 109 G-8, W.Nr. 200234).

The second Bf 109 got a good way toward home before belly landing between Meyzieu and Pusignan, about 5 km NE of Lyon-Bron aerodrome (which had been abandoned by its Platzkommandant two days earlier). According to the local parish magazine, it landed at about 11.00 local time (0900 GMT) and the pilot was cared for by farmers, M. and Mme. Loison. They described him as a Leutnant who told them that his Rottenflieger had been shot down near Valence and that his own machine had been hit also. The couple tentatively recalled his name as Kehr or Kehrer but this does not correspond with any currently known Leutnant serving with Staffel Kaatsch.

Evidently the Germans were in no position to recover the damaged Bf 109 before they evacuated Lyon-Bron in anticipation of the city’s liberation on 3 September. Unfortunately the Allied Technical Intelligence team which catalogued Bron’s wrecked aircraft on the 8th does not seem to have ventured into the surrounding countryside. It is possible that this was W.Nr. 160755 which was described as “shot up” in a fragmentary strength return issued on the evening of the 29th.

NOTE: The previous two paragraphs only became possible thanks to information unearthed by J.F. Kauffmann, a member of the 12 o’clock high forum.

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Who was Major Kaatsch?

Authors David Wadman and Christian Möller have suggested that he may have been Maj. Walter Kaatsch who was Staffelkapitän of 2.(F)/123 from November 1942 until April 1943 when he was posted to the Bildschule (Photographic School) at Hildesheim.

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