1 September 1944

In their precipitate retreat from France, the German armed forces had become desperately disorganised and if a new defence line was to be established commanders must first find and then regain control of their troops as well as locate their opponents. On this day, OKL Operations Staff ordered FAG 123 (which had transferred from Reims to Luxembourg-Sandweiler four days previously) and II. Jagdkorps (which controlled Luftflotte 3’s fighters) to carry out “extensive reconnaissance operations to help clarify the situation.” These should take place:

… over concentration areas, the gap between Army Group B and Army Group G and also over the main enemy wedges. In additions, the situation of German forces must also be frequently reconnoitred, especially in the case of units which have been cut off. It is stressed that all reports must be sent to the Army HQ authorities responsible and to OKL Operations Staff as quickly as possible.

Tactical reconnaissance capability in the West was still being reconstituted and on the 1st, 5.(F)/123 took over Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 780692 from 4.(F)/123: this aircraft had methanol-water injection and was armed with an MG 151/20 and two MG 131 but had no log for the engine or airframe and its log-book was missing.

The weather prevented Staffel Kaatsch from completing a reconnaissance from Dijon to Avallon, Cosne and Chateauneuf sur Loire; no traffic was observed during the flight.

2 September 1944

An Oblt. Popp reported to Maj. Kaatsch that nowhere around Luxeuil-Malbouhen, Belfort and Mulhouse was suitable (presumably as a base for the unit) and asked for further instructions, adding that he was at Luxeuil airfield and awaiting the return of Ltn. Harbert who had been delayed by the weather.

NOTE: it seems likely that «Harbert» was in fact Ltn. Harbot, a former 3./JGr. 200 pilot whose name had been similarly misspelled in other documents.

 

3 September 1944

During the morning Sonderstaffel Kaatsch notified FAG 123 and Luftflotte 3’s Chief Quartermaster that it was transferring from Dijon to Luxeuil-les-Bains and would need a Ju 52 that night and the next for the purpose (two days earlier a message from Geschwader Bongart had said that Luxeuil was “being prepared for destruction”). In the event it would be another eight days before Dijon was liberated by the 2e Régiment de Chassuers d'Afrique.

At 16.10 hrs. Ltn. Bell claimed an Auster III shot down, 1 km. north of “Tessains”, identified by Jochen Prien as Jessains, 38 kms east of Troyes, in the Aube départment. This was on the line of advance of the US Third Army so the victim is more likely to have been a USAAF Taylorcraft, Stinson or Piper rather than the Auster which was a British development of a US design. Heinz Moschke took off (this time in “2”) five minutes after Bell’s victory, landing in Dijon at 18.06 hours.

NOTE: Another possible location for “Tessains” has been suggested by Yves Michelet: Tessens, 54 km SE of Annecyin the département of Savoie.

 

4 September 1944

At 09.45 hrs. Luftflotte 3 gave orders for the transfer of 5.(F)/123 from Trier-Euren to Hagenau and Staffel Kaatsch to Luxeuil (Kaatsch had already received the same order the previous day (see above). Luftlotte Reich was urged to give priority to supplies and quarters for the elements of FAG 123 that were transferring “since all reconnaissance in the West depends on [this Gruppe’s] operations.” This parting of the ways makes it easier to distinguish between the activities of Kaatsch and 5.(F)/123 from here on.

Leutnant Moschke flew a 65-minute mission from Dijon, taking off at 08.57 hours.

5 September 1944

Heinz Moschke ferried “33” to Luxeuil at first light, landing at 07.20 and flying a mission from there in “2” from 08.44–09.30 hours. In addition, FAG 123 reported that between 19.00 and 19.52 hours a reconnaissance had been flown from Luxeuil of roads on the area Besançon – Mouchard – Salins – Levier – Pontarlier – Ornans.

While taking off from Trier-Euren, Uffz. Reiser’s Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 201112, was involved in a collision. Its Werk Nummer suggests that this was a reconnaissance machine, the location points to 5.(F)/123.

6 September 1944

Aufklärungsstaffel Kaatsch sent a report on its operations for the period 25 August–4 September inclusive. Some 27 missions had been carried out, totalling 54 sorties, of which 50 had been Feindflüge and the remainder Frontflüge (flights to the German front but not over enemy territory or entailing encounters with hostile forces). Simple arithmetic suggests that each of these missions was carried out by a Rotte of Bf 109s.

Echoing the earlier uncertainty over Kaatsch’s next base after Dijon, someone at FAG 123 sent a message asking whether the supplies they had indented for should be sent to Luxeuil or Freiburg while at noon a communication advised that an unidentified Staffel intended Freiburg as its next destination but no drop tanks had arrived. Apparently at least one machine remained in Dijon for a road reconnaissance set off from there at 07.05 hours to cover Poligny – St Laurent – Pontarlier – Champagnole – Morteau – Montbéliard and Le Saulnier before landing in Luxeuil 75 minutes later.

continued on next page …

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TIMELINE

 

1 September

US forces take Verdun.

2 September

US Third Army immobilised after outrunning fuel supplies.

3 September

British troops enter Brussels; French and US troops enter Lyon.


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