By late October 1944, the Germans had pulled out of mainland Greece and were fighting to keep open the routes for their forces' withdrawal through Yugoslavia to Hungary. Yugoslav partisans, the Soviets and their former Bulgarian allies were all trying to stop them. Luftwaffe units had already been drafted in to support the fighting around Belgrade and thoughts soon turned to giving assistance further south, in present-day Kosovo and Macedonia. Part of the aim here seems to have been securing a number of aerodromes from which a shuttle of transport aircraft was flying out hundreds of German wounded every night.
By this stage, Monsun ("Monsoon", call sign of Generalmajor Hans Korte, Commanding General of the Luftwaffe in Greece, who still carried the title, despite leaving the country concerned) had no battlefield support capability of his own with which to assist his troops' passage north:
On the 19th, Luftwaffenkommando Südost had signalled that NSG 10's Ju 87s were to be brought up in support of the retreat from Greece but now this order was cancelled and these aircraft were to be deployed to Hungary under Fliegerführer Nordbalkan. In their place, the latter command was to transfer nine of II./SG 10's Fw 190s to Skopje during the day. If possible, they were to carry auxiliary tanks, otherwise these would be flown down later by a transport unit. If the Focke-Wulfs needed to stage through Kraljevo, a pair of Ju 52s would ferry supplies of C3 fuel there by 14.00 hours GMT and two more would bring up key personnel from the Gruppe's base at Bataszek in southern Hungary. On arrival, the detachment would be subordinated to the Luftwaffe General in Greece for operations. Skopje was told to make ready but the Fw 190s did not arrive and, at 23.00 hrs., word was sent that they would be coming next day.
Apparently this postponed movement likewise fell through because Luftflotte 4 issued orders for the conduct of operations on 30 October which included preparing for the transfer of an Fw 190 Schlachtgruppe to Sarajevo.
The base commanders at Butmir (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Zirkle (Cerklje ob Krki, Slovenia) that enemy advances made the evacuation of Mostar (Bosnia-Herzegovina) “urgently necessary”. Accordingly, Luftflotte 4 had ordered that Butmir and Zirkle should each prepare for temporary occupation by an Fw 190 Schlachtgruppe. The newcomers would bring only their key technical personnel.
This it seems was the day the II./SG 10 detachment finally arrived in Skopje. Despite firing off the necessary recognition signals, they had been continually shot at by the Flak gunners of German units in transit, three of the Focke-Wulfs incurring enough damage to put them out of action for 48 hours. Worse still, WNr. 931823 was shot down while landing; it crashed and caught fire and its pilot, Uffz. Franz Dess, was killed. This left the unit's strength that evening as: 7 (3) aircraft and 7 (6) pilots. The report was filed by their Staffelführer, an officer named Berger.
A belated signal was issued to railway Flak units in the area that friendly Fw 190s would be operating and so the guns must only engage aircraft which attacked or were "uncontestably recognised as hostile."
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Another account based on deciphered German signals traffic and dealing with a very brief and relatively obscure episode in the history of the Luftwaffe.
I had made initial notes on this when the topic came up in a thread on the 12 O'Clock High forum and that prompted me to look further. Conveniently, it fell within a range of files I was working my way through at the time.
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Article © Nick Beale 2009–19