18 August 1944

Operations over Southern France included one escort to a photo-reconnaissance aircraft; 38 sorties on fighter sweeps; and four aircraft flying against guerillas. At 08.30 hours an F-6 of the 111th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron sighted three Bf 109s east of Montélimar but no contact ensued. At 14.30 P-38s of 14th FG saw two Bf 109s attacking a Supermarine Walrus amphibian about 55 km. south of Toulon but the hostiles flew off as the Americans approached.

Jagdgruppe 200 suffered one loss, Fhj.Uffz. Alfred Kocken, who was killed in Bf 109 G-6 "yellow 3." His aircraft would appear to have crashed on take-off from Avignon and was completely destroyed. An aircraft of II./JG 77 was reported damaged through enemy action but it is not clear how this came about. By evening JGr. 200 was down to 12 Bf 109 G-6 (9 serviceable) and 23 pilots (6 ready for operations).

Late in the day, communication No. 805 went out from Luftflotte 3's Operations Officer:

The development of the situation in the Army Group B area suggests that the Nineteenth Army may possibly be cut off in the near future.

OKW has ordered [that] Army Group G will disengage from the enemy and will join up with the southern flank of Army Group B on the line Sens-Dijon-Swiss frontier … Jafü Süd, together with … Jagdgruppe 200 will be subordinated to Jagdkorps II which is to transfer them back to its own area …

19 August 1944

At 08.10, three of JGr. 200's Bf 109s took off for mortar attacks on guerillas near Vallon Pont d'Arc — probably the formation that Signals Intelligence heard reporting Allied aircraft over the Rhône Valley at 08.13 and 08.38 hours. While the 86th FBG reported meeting more Luftwaffe aircraft than other sources say were in the air, it seems almost certain that this was also one of two Bf 109 formations (three- and nine-strong) the P-47s engaged, both reportedly at 09.15 hrs. but about 22 km. apart. As the 526th FBS's War Diary related:

“Four missions were flown today, in one of which [1/]Lt. Benear bagged an ME-109 in the air and probably another, in an aerial battle in which he took on three of the German planes. One which got on his tail managed to shoot Benear's plane up quite badly, but not enough to prevent his reaching base safely.”

The Bf 109 Bert Benear destroyed may well have been that which JGr. 200 reported missing from the mortar operation although the reported location (11 km south east of Avignon) is well away from Vallon.

From 09.55–11.20 hours, 12 Bf 109s of II./JG 77 reconnoitred St. Raphael, St. Tropez and the area north of Toulon, Signals Intelligence duly reporting enemy aircraft active near the beach head and between Villanova and Nice at 10.38. The Gruppe sent up another Schwarm from 11.40–12.30 hrs. for a reconnaissance between Digne and Grasse but this was broken off in the face of eight P-47s of 57th FG. These last reported encountering three Bf 109s about 14 km. north west of Orange at 14.05 hours and:

"2nd Lieut. Bobby J. Pridgeon [of the 66th FS, "Exterminators"] dropped from the "virgin class" to-day when he chalked up an ME 109 to his credit over France."

The II./JG 77 recorded two of its aircraft damaged through enemy action during the day.

The Americans saw a lone Bf 109 at 18.20 hours about 10 km. north east of Montpellier but did not engage. The Jafü had now arrived in Metz and the same city was cited as the destination area for JGr. 200 while Luftnachtrichten Regiment 51 was bound for Trier. Some aircraft of II./JG 77 may have left France since 5. Staffel's Uffz. Helmut Oettel (Bf 109 G-6, WNr. 163210 “black 3”) crashed and was killed south of Pavia, Italy during the day.

20 August 1944

Rather than stay in the local Luftwaffe hospital, a former monastery, in Orange, Lt. Arndt-Richard Hupfeld (Staffelführer of 3./JGr. 200) and Hptm. Georg Seckel (Kapitän of 1./JGr. 200) made their way to their aerodrome. Each was in plaster: Hupfeld from his crash on 30 July, Seckel after being shot down on 7 August. On arrival they found their Gruppenkommandeur, Maj. Hubert Kroeck preparing to depart in a Bf 108 but convinced him that his duties lay in Orange. He turned the aircraft over to them and they flew on the deck to Belfort, unnoticed by a group of Lightnings they saw en route.

Orange-Caritat was strafed during the day and Fhr. Walter Knuttel of 5./JG 77 was wounded. In addition Stabsgefr. Alfred Klose, a radioman with Stab II./JG 77, was apparently abducted and killed by the Resistance. By now though the Gruppe was on its way out of France and, since II./TG 1 was in no position to provide transport, various equipment had to be destroyed on the airfield. While supervising the burning, Lt. Ernst-Alfred Loos of the Gruppenstab was unfortunate enough to be wounded by an exploding bullet.

At 07.30 hours French Thunderbolts on armed reconnaissance of the Franco-Italian border encountered three Bf 109s of II./JG 77, 15 km. east north east of Cuneo and claimed one destroyed for one P-47 missing. In all, II./JG 77 recorded one aircraft lost (cause not clear), another lost to ground fire, two lost in combat and four damaged in accidents. Nevertheless, between midday and early evening around 25 Bf 109s got back to Ghedi I by way of Airasca.

continued on next page …


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