2 November 1944: Sturmjäger Slip Through

On 2 November 1944, US 8th Air Force dispatched 1100 effective heavy bomber sorties against mainly oil targets in Germany, with focus on the Merseburg plant. Escort was provided by 873 effective fighter sorties.

The Luftwaffe rose in force - 490 fighters were scrambled in the first major effort to oppose the 8th Air Force since early September 1944. The Bf 109s of JG 27, climbing to reach the heavy bombers, ran straight into the more than 209 Mustangs of the 20th, 352nd, 359th and 364th Fighter groups which escorted the 1st Bombardment Division.

In their classical chronicle of JG 27, German historians Hans Ring and Werner Girbig describe the ensuing combat as a "turkey shoot". The dispersed German fighters then were pursued as they sought to escape, and many were shot down as they landed. 20th Fighter Group's 1/Lt Ernest C. Fiebelkorn caught four Bf 109s in a landing pattern and destroyed two of them, giving him three for the day and a total of 11 destroyed. Only small parts of JG 27 managed to break through to the bombers. Among those was Hauptmann Heinz Dudeck, IV./JG 27's commander, who got himself shot down by the bomber gunners' defensive fire.

When JG 27 finally had landed, 27 pilots were missing. Another 11 were wounded. No less than 53 of its Bf 109s had been shot down. In return, JG 27 claimed only eight victories, all against Mustangs.

II./JG 3 was no more successful. Its Bf 109s ran into the same Mustangs. 352nd FG ace Major George Preddy called his Group C.O., Col. Joe Mason: "Hello Topsy, this is Ditto Black Leader. Fifty plus bandits headed for the big friends!" In total, the 352nd FG was credited with 39 victories against only two own losses. II./JG 3 lost 23 Bf 109s and claimed only three Mustangs and a B-17 shot down.

However, while the 200 Mustangs slaughtered JG 27 and II./JG 3, the Fw 190s of the Sturmgruppe IV./JG 3 managed to slip through to the bombers. Carrying out a slow attack from the astern, the Sturmjäger claimed to have shot down 21 B-17s in just three minutes. Indeed it was a heavy strike, and the 1st BD actually lost 27 bombers out of 210 committed - a fearsome 13 % loss rate which testifies to the effectivity of the heavily armoured Sturmjäger.

But above all, the effectivity of the US fighters was displayed this day. When the Fw 190s broke off following the initial onslaught on the bombers, they became targeted by Mustangs from all directions. When the battle was over, 22 Fw 190s had been shot down. It is not known how many of these fell prey to the US fighters. Oblt. Werner Gerth, one of the most daring "four-engine killers" in IV./JG 3, perished as he rammed a B-17.

On 2 November 1944, I. Jagdkorps sent 490 fighters into the air against 1,973 US aircraft. A total of 305 German fighters managed to engage the enemy, and of these, no less than 133 were lost - in other words over 40 %! A total of 73 German fighter pilots were killed and 32 sustained injuries.

US losses were not light - 58 aircraft, 42 bombers and 16 fighters, were lost. But the US fighters had given proof of a vast superiority by bringing home 102 aerial victories.

Go to next page: 21 November 1944: Five Each for Whisner and Crenshaw