Men of Luftflotte 3! The enemy has launched the long-announced invasion. Long have we waited for this moment, long have we prepared ourselves, both inwardly and on the field of battle, by untiring, unending toil. Our task is now to defeat the enemy. I know that each one of you, true to his oath to the colours, will carry out his duty. You, who enter my sphere of command as newly sworn-in or as seasoned fighters from the hard-defended Reich, and you, untiring fighters on the Channel, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, you will all now be fighting side by side for the Fatherland, united in your sacred faith in victory. Great things will be asked of you, and you will show the greatest fighting valour. Salute the Führer. Your Commander-in-Chief, Sperrle, Generalfeldmarschall.
When the Allies landed, the bulk of the Gruppe moved up from Clastres and Frières-Faillouël to Laval (Mayenne). Their route, with a dogleg south of Paris totalled about 375 km while the 7. Staffel had about twice as far to come. Laval itself lay about 140 km. from the Anglo-Canadian beach heads, just within the radius of action for a bomb-carrying Fw 190. The deployment realised February’s fears (see above) that fighter opposition would be encountered en route to forward bases. Seven Fw 190 from the Stab and 9. Staffel) had taken off from Clastres for Laval at 10.15. The Gruppe’s “Results Report No. 1” records that they had become embroiled in a combat with 12–15 Mustangs over Brétigny-sur-Orge, 30 km south of Paris. Three Focke-Wulfs had been shot down with Obltn. Johann Pühringer killed, Ofw. Kolberg slightly injured and Uffz. Rahofer unhurt. Meanwhile the “position of technicians [was] still not known”.
According to “Results Report No. 2” another eight Fw 190 (of the 8. Staffel) had taken off to transfer at 15.57 (GMT+2), encountering 15 fighters over Saint-Jean-d’Assé (around 16 km NNW Le Mans). Fw. Franz Brauneis had been shot down and killed, Hptm. Heinz Mihlan had bailed out and was unhurt
At 15.19 Obltn. Hesse led a Schwarm against the invasion fleet off Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer (JUNO Beach). They were over their target 26 minutes later, claiming to have destroyed two landing craft with their four SC 500 bombs. They came through powerful AA defences without loss and the Spitfires and Typhoons they sighted did not attack. All four Focke-Wulfs were back on the ground at 18.10.
Arriving after their lengthy transfer flight, 7./SG 4 arrived at early evening, only to run into Allied fighters. Two of it aircraft were shot down over Laval at 17.00, their pilots Ofw. Martin Kolberg,and Uffz. Speer both being killed. Unteroffizier Wenzel force-landed near Rouen after contact with fighters. In addition, three pilots put down at other airfields: Uffz. Görz landed in Angers (at 17.10). This and the previous mission reported seeing numerous ships and intense landing and unloading activity.
Ltn. Karl-Ludwig Klepke (9./SG 4), Ofw. George, and Uffz. Fritz Plewka and Uffz. Walter flew the next operation from 17.25–18.30, diving on lorry and vehicle concentrations on the bridge at Ouistreham (SWORD beach). They met powerful light AA and counted 82 Spitfires, Mustangs and Thunderbolts before, during and after bombing but were not attacked. The fighter opposition was so omnipresent that the formation was compelled to land in Rennes to avoid it. One of the Fw 190s had been severely damaged by friendly Flak although the pilot was unhurt.
The Kapitän of 9./SG 4 led the third sortie (with Ofw. Golles, Fw. Krüger and Weiss, and Uffz. Schneider) from 19.00. Unable to reach their briefed target owing to fighter opposition, they instead bombed vessels off Lion-sur-Mer (SWORD) which they dived on from 1500 m down to 300 m. The fighter and AA defences left them unable to establish what damage if any their 5 x SC 500 might have caused. They landed at Angers, one aircraft returning badly hit.
The Allies deciphered a succession of fragmentary reports about aircraft lost on that first day:
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PART THREE OF EiGHT
Images from Deutsches Rotes Kreuz Vermisstenbildlisten online