Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 - SKG10 or SG10

Geschwaderkommodoren:

  • Maj Günther Tonne, Dec 1942 - 15 Jul 1943
  • Maj Helmut Viedebannt (acting), Jul 1943
  • Maj Heinz Schumann, 16 Jul 1943 - 18 Oct 1943

Stab:

Formed 1 Dec 1942 in St. André. On 18 Oct 1943 redesignated

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
1 Dec 1942 - 11 Jun 1943 St. André*   Fw 190A
11 Jun 1943 - Jul 1943 Gerbini   Fw 190A
Jul 1943 - Sep 1943 Crotone   Fw 190A
Sep 1943 - Oct 1943 Viterbo   Fw 190A

* operated from Amsterdam-Schiphol, Mar 1943 - Apr 1943

I. Gruppe:

Gruppenkommandeure:

  • Hptm Wilhelm Schürmann, ? - 13 May 1943
  • Hptm Heinrich Brücker, 13 May 1943 - 5 Jun 1943
  • Hptm Edmund Kraus, 5 Jun 1943 - 30 Jul 1943
  • Hptm Wolrad Gerlach, 30 Jul 1943 - 1 Oct 1943
  • Hptm Kurt Dahlmann, 1 Oct 1943 - 20 Oct 1944

Formed 1 Dec 1942 in St. André with:

Stab I./SKG10 new
1./SKG10 new
2./SKG10 new
3./SKG10 new

Operated as from 30 Jun 1944, but was not renamed III./KG51 until 20 Oct 1944:

Stab I./SKG10 became Stab III./KG51
1./SKG10 became 7./KG51
2./SKG10 became 8./KG51
3./SKG10 became 9./KG51

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
1 Dec 1942 - Oct 1943(?) St. André*   Fw 190A
Oct 1943 - 9 Mar 1944 Rosieres   Fw 190A
9 Mar 1944 - 13 May 1944 Amy   Fw 190A
13 May 1944 - 6 Jun 1944 Rosieres   Fw 190A
6 Jun 1944 - 15 Jun 1944 Dreux   Fw 190A
15 Jun 1944 - 24 Jul 1944 Tours   Fw 190A
24 Jul 1944 - 5 Sep 1944 ?   Fw 190A
5 Sep 1944 - 11 Sep 1944 München-Gladbach   Fw 190A
11 Sep 1944 - 20 Sep 1944 Köln-Ostheim   Fw 190A
20 Sep 1944 - 31 Oct 1944 Bonn-Hangelar   Fw 190A

* operated from Amsterdam-Schiphol, Mar 1943 - Apr 1943

II. Gruppe:

Gruppenkommandeure:

  • Hptm Heinz Schumann, ? - 10 Apr 1943
  • Maj Helmut Viedebantt, 17 May 1943 - Jul 1943
  • Hptm Hanns-Jobst Hauenschild, Aug 1943 - 18 Oct 1943

Formed 28 Dec 1942 in Caen-Carpiquet with:

Stab II./SKG10 new
4./SKG10 new
5./SKG10 new
6./SKG10 new

On 18 Oct 1943 redesignated with :

Stab II./SKG10 became Stab II./SG4
4./SKG10 became 4./SG4
5./SKG10 became 5./SG4
6./SKG10 became 6./SG4

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
28 Dec 1942 - Apr 1943 Caen-Carpiquet*   Fw 190A
Apr 1943 - 11 Jun 1943 Rennes-St. Jacques   Fw 190A
11 Jun 1943 - Jul 1943 Gerbini   Fw 190A
Jul 1943 - Sep 1943 Crotone   Fw 190A
Sep 1943 - Oct 1943 Viterbo   Fw 190A

* operated from Amsterdam-Schiphol, Mar 1943 - Apr 1943

III. Gruppe:

Gruppenkommandeure:

  • Hptm Hans-Jobst Hauenschild, Dec 1942 - Feb 1943
  • Hptm Fritz Schröter, Feb 1943 - 18 Oct 1943

Formed 15 Dec 1942 (ordered 30 Nov 1942) in Sidi Ahmed from with:

Stab III./SKG10 from Stab III./ZG2
7./SKG10 from 7./ZG2
8./SKG10 from 8./ZG2
9./SKG10 from 9./ZG2

On 18 Oct 1943 redesignated with :

Stab III./SKG10 became Stab III./SG4
7./SKG10 became 7./SG4
8./SKG10 became 8./SG4
9./SKG10 became 9./SG4

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
20 Dec 1942 - 14 Feb 1943 Sidi Ahmed   Fw 190A
14 Feb 1943 - 16 Feb 1943 Kairouan   Fw 190A
16 Feb 1943 - 24 Feb 1943 Sidi Ahmed   Fw 190A
24 Feb 1943 - 25 Mar 1943 Gabes-West   Fw 190A
25 Mar 1943 - May 1943 San Pietro*   Fw 190A
May 1943 - 21 Jul 1943 San Pietro & Castelvetrano**   Fw 190A
21 Jul 1943 - 26 Jul 1943 Crotone   Fw 190A
26 Jul 1943 - 29 Aug 1943 Capua   Fw 190A
29 Aug 1943 - 7 Oct 1943 Montecorvino***   Fw 190A
7 Oct 1943 - Oct 1943 Guidonia & Furbara   Fw 190A
Oct 1943 - 18 Oct 1943 Graz   Fw 190A

* San Pietro at night, and Bizerta and Djedeida in daylight.

** ordered to Gerbini 13 Jul 1943, but the transfer might not have taken place.

*** detachments at Capua, Eboli, Avelino and Benevento

IV. Gruppe:

Gruppenkommandeure:

  • Hptm Gotz Baumann, 10 Apr 1943 - 13 May 1943
  • Maj Heinz Schumann, 13 May 1943 - 16 Jul 1943
  • Hptm Gotz Baumann(?), Jul 1943 - Oct 1943

Formed 10 Apr 1943 in Cognac from 10./JG2 and 10./JG54 with:

Stab IV./SKG10 new
10./SKG10 new
11./SKG10 new
12./SKG10 new
13./SKG10 from
14./SKG10 from

Apparently both 13. and 14./SKG10 was soon disbanded, and divided between the other 3 staffeln.

On 18 Oct 1943 redesignated

Stab IV./SKG10 became Stab II./SG10
10./SKG10 became 4./SG10
11./SKG10 became 5./SG10
12./SKG10 became 6./SG10

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
Apr 1943 - 15 Jun 1943 Cognac*   Fw 190A
15 Jun 1943 - Jul 1943 Gerbini   Fw 190A
Jul 1943 - Sep 1943 Crotone   Fw 190A
Sep 1943 - Oct 1943 Coulommiers   Fw 190A

* operated from Amsterdam-Schiphol, Mar 1943 - Apr 1943

Ergänzungsstaffel:

Staffelkapitäne:

  • ?
  • Hptm Lothar Krutein, 20 Apr 1943 - Sep 1943

Formed Nov 1942 in Cognac. In Sep 1943 redesignated

Airfields and Air Base Locations
Date Location Gruppe Aircraft Used
Nov 1942 - Sep 1943 Cognac   Fw 190A

The Sinking of LST-158

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in the Battle for Sicily

by Andrew Arthy & Morten Jessen

On 10 July 1943, the hitherto largest amphibious invasion force in history landed on the southern coast of Sicily. This Anglo- American landing provided a very difficult challenge for the Luftwaffe's Focke-Wulf Fw 190 units based in the Mediterranean theatre, but they put up a fight despite facing numerous problems. One of the highlights of their anti-invasion efforts was the sinking of American Landing Ship Tank 158 (LST-158) on the morning of 11 July.

The Fw 190 fighter-bomber force available to counter the Allied invasion of Sicily comprised two units, Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG 10) and Schlachtgeschwader 2 (Sch.G. 2), which were both exhausted and badly in need of rest, replacement pilots and new aircraft. They had fought hard in the final stages of the North African campaign, but in the early days of May 1943 had to hastily evacuate their African bases and fly more than 170 km across the Mediterranean to airfields in southern Sicily, often with several 'passengers''mechanics and other members of the unit's ground personnel'hastily stowed in the fuselages of their Fw 190s. Some pilots bravely flew several of these very risky evacuation flights.

After the conclusion of the North African campaign on 13 May 1943, the few available Fw 190 units were widely distributed to protect potential Allied invasion objectives, including the island of Sardinia, and the southern, eastern and western coasts of Sicily. This dispersal of forces meant that concentrated fighter-bomber attacks could not be carried out during the early hours of the Anglo-American invasion, when the fledgling beachhead would be at its most vulnerable.

There was another factor that seriously weakened the Fw 190 units. The British and Americans, concerned about the potential threat of the Axis air force during the invasion of Sicily, commenced a concentrated bombing campaign against Axis airfields on Sicily and Sardinia in June 1943. Many German aircraft were destroyed or damaged (including 24 Fw 190s destroyed and 47 damaged), most airfields handful on Sicily itself (ideally, the five Fw 190 Gruppen in the region would have had a total of 200 aircraft serviceable).

In comparison, the RAF and USAAF had 2,510 serviceable aircraft at their disposal in the Mediterranean theatre, most of which were assigned to support the invasion. Despite the Fw 190 units being in such a difficult position, they were expected by Luftwaffe commanders to be an important anti-invasion force when the Allies made their next move. Generalfeldmarschall Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, commander of the Luftwaffe in the central Mediterranean, wanted to stop the invasion on the beaches, and he placed great faith in his fighter-bomber force of Fw 190s and Bf 110s to achieve his ambitious aim.

The British and Americans came ashore in the early hours of 10 July 1943, and firmly established their bridgehead despite the best efforts of the depleted Axis air units based in Sicily, Sardinia and Italy. SKG 10 and Sch.G. 2 flew at least eleven missions and 44 sorties on the opening day of the invasion, sinking one American Landing Ship Tank, and claiming damage to various British and American targets on land and at sea. Fw 190 unit losses for 10 July amounted to four aircraft destroyed and one damaged, as well as two pilots killed and one lightly wounded. As could be expected given the prevailing situation, fighterbomber operations were small-scale, the largest being carried out by fourteen Fw 190s of Sch.G. 2 in the afternoon.

On 11 July all elements of SKG 10 based on Sicily were ordered to continue their efforts by attacking Allied shipping from first light, and again the Fw 190s enjoyed success against enemy vessels. This time, American Landing Ship Tank 158 (LST-158) fell victim to a pair of raiding Fw 190 fighter-bombers while it was unloading its cargo on one of the American invasion beaches. This event highlighted the threat posed to the Allied invasion force by high-speed German fighter-bomber aircraft undertaking 'hit-and-run' raids.

The successful Luftwaffe unit in the LST-158 attack was the III. Gruppe of Schnellkampfgeschwader 10, which was led by the very capable Knight's Cross Holder Hauptmann Fritz Schröter. III./SKG 10 was equipped with the Fw 190 A-5/U8, a longrange fighter-bomber variant with underwing racks to carry a pair of jettisonable 300 litre fuel tanks. However, the underwing racks were removed from many of the unit's aircraft because the internal fuel capacity was sufficient for most operations flown by the Gruppe in June and early July 1943, and pilots disliked the reduction in performance caused by the tanks and racks. As one pilot remarked: 'It's true the tanks were jettisonable, but even when they had gone there was still a sort of faired mounting there, which remained underneath. That kind of thing is no damned use. Then in addition there was the 500 kg bomb in the centre, so you can imagine what our speed was - only 320 kph. You can do that with the Ju 88!'

At this time III./SKG 10 suffered from the same problems as the rest of the Fw 190 units: weeks of costly operations, as well as the devastating Allied bombing campaign, had taken their toll. At dawn on 11 July Fritz Schröter's Gruppe was divided between two Sicilian bases. Hauptmann Schröter and most of his ground personnel were at San Pietro in the south-east of the island with a handful of serviceable Fw 190s, cut off by American paratrooper landings from the rest of the Gruppe at the Gerbini airfield complex, further to the north.

It was from one of the Gerbini satellite airfields, known as Marsa del Oro, that the first III./SKG 10 mission of the day began. Leading the pair of Fw 190 A-5s on this hit-and-run raid was Oberleutnant Ottmar Simon, a veteran of the unit who had previously served in Russia, France and Tunisia. Accompanying him was rookie 19-year old Oberfuhnrich Horst Kulpa, who had flown his first combat mission barely a month earlier, on 6 June. This same pair had sunk an American ship during a mission to the Allied beachhead on the previous day, and fortune was to favour them again on the eleventh. Oberleutnant Simon and Oberfuhnrich Kulpa intended to attack shipping in the vicinity of Gela and Licata, where the American 1st and 3rd Infantry Divisions had landed.

They took off at 08:02 in their Fw 190s, each aircraft carrying a single SC 500 Trialen anti-shipping bomb. Fighter escort was not provided for small-scale anti-invasion operations like this one, so the pair immediately climbed to an altitude of 3,500 metres and set a direct west-south-west course to their objective, which was only 80 kilometres away. The beaches at Gela and Licata were protected by Spitfires of the 31st Fighter Group, and Curtiss P-40s of the 33rd Fighter Group, but on this occasion the two Germans avoided the patrolling enemy (a common occurrence during the invasion of Sicily, much to the frustration of the U.S. Navy).

Ottmar Simon and Horst Kulpa were met by anti-aircraft fire of all calibres near the coast, and dodged barrage balloons near the beaches, before they commenced their bombing runs. Of the numerous targets available, they picked out two medium-sized ships lying side-by-side east of Licata, unloading on the beach. They carried out a shallow dive-attack, strafing as they neared their objective. Oberleutnant Simon's bomb hit one of the 4,000-ton cargo vessels amidships, and he was later officially credited by the Luftwaffe with the sinking of this ship. In contrast, Horst Kulpa's bomb was reported to have caused no damage. The pair then dashed for home at high speed, and landed at Marsa del Oro just 25 minutes after taking off. Oberfuhnrich Kulpa made it back to base despite slight wounds sustained from a hit by light anti-aircraft fire over the invasion area. Four Lockheed P-38s were spotted over the target, providing additional cover for the newly created beachhead, but the dangerous twin-engined American fighters failed to engage the fast, lowflying Focke-Wulf 190s.

The scene left behind by the two German pilots was chaotic. LST-158 had been busy unloading its cargo on Blue Beach, a few kilometres east of Licata, when the two III./SKG 10 pilots came in to attack without warning. As Oblt. Simon reported, LST-158 received a direct bomb hit amidships and immediately began to burn, before it exploded catastrophically. A crewmember of LST-158, Verdell Jacobsen, recalled the moments before and after the bomb struck his ship: 'My crew was called out to launch our boat and handle a cable from the bow to the pontoon deck so we could get underway. We had just started to be hoisted back aboard when an ME-109 strafed the ship and a second one dropped two bombs. One went into the sea next to our ship. The second bomb hit amidships, went through a half track, cargo hatch and into the tank deck directly into three truckloads of gasoline. The explosion was directly above our auxiliary engine room. It knocked out all power, including the winches holding us aloft. It also started a real inferno. Our boat free-fell back into the water. My crew and I regained consciousness within minutes.' Hubert Johns was aboard Landing Craft Flak 12 (LCF-12), which was also at Licata on that morning: 'There was a point, just below a hill, where large LSTs could get in to the beach to unload. The German planes would come around this hill, observe what was there, then immediately return and deal with it. On this occasion an American LST had landed, opened its large frontal doors ready to unload. Before it could do so the plane made its return journey and bombed and strafed the LST.

Devastation. High explosives discharging and fire spreading along the decks. The crew and their passenger troops were seen jumping overboard from wherever they happened to be. From the deck and the even higher points of the superstructure to escape from that inferno. It was not possible to get near it. A terrible sight never to be forgotten.' The ship was clearly beyond saving, and the Americans turned their attention to rescuing as many personnel as possible from the stricken vessel, with several U.S. soldiers distinguishing themselves during the rescue efforts.

The sinking of LST-158 was a startling event for all those at Licata beach and offshore, and the smoke rising from the stricken vessel was visible for kilometres, serving as a reminder of the threat still posed by the badly outnumbered Axis air force. In the attack on LST-158 the Fw 190 raiders had been able to sneak in at high speed, carry out their attack, and make their escape without being intercepted by patrolling American aircraft. This was something that became very familiar to the American naval and land forces at Gela and Licata in the first few days of the invasion, as the action report of the American naval task force, written in the aftermath of the invasion of Sicily, stated: 'A great deal of trouble was experienced from enemy raids strafing and bombing the beaches and beached landing craft. These raids came in very low, down the valleys, and then darted over the ridge of hills onto the beaches. Since these raids could not be picked up by the radar, and aircraft lookouts were handicapped by the smoke and haze over the beaches, they were surprise attacks. These were rendered unserviceable, and the bombing forced the evacuation of most of SKG 10's Fw 190s to airfields in Italy just a few days before the invasion took place. The bombing campaign was so effective that the Luftwaffe reported just 79 serviceable Fw 190s in the entire Mediterranean theatre on the morning of 10 July, with only a raids were frequent'

These small-scale hit-and-run raids carried out by the Fw 190s of Sch.G. 2 and SKG 10 caused a great deal of concern for those in command of American naval forces involved in the invasion, who were unhappy with the air support provided by the USAAF and RAF during the initial days of the landings.

Although the Luftwaffe achieved some notable successes, such as the sinking of LST-158, and the U.S. Navy was very concerned about the Axis air threat, the Germans and Italians lacked the air resources to stop the Allied invasion on the beaches, or seriously disrupt the subsequent build-up of British and American forces in the beachhead. The Fw 190 certainly proved its worth as an anti-invasion weapon, but as one of the participating German pilots remarked after the war: ' our operations enjoyed success, but these were only pin-pricks in view of the enemy's overwhelming superiority.' The battle for Sicily would continue for another five weeks, and the Fw 190 would continue to play an important part.

The next article in this series about the Fw 190 in the Mediterranean theatre describes the operations by Fw 190 units over the island in the final weeks of the Sicilian campaign, and includes information about the camouflage and markings of II./Sch.G. 2 and II./SKG 10, as well as more information about the special longrange fighter-bomber versions of the Fw 190.

The Allied invasion of Sicily on 10 July 1943 was an outstanding success, and by 15 July the Luftwaffe had been forced to entirely evacuate the island due to overwhelming Allied air superiority, and also due to the threat posed to its forward airfields by advancing British and American troops. Amongst the units that evacuated the island were the Fw 190-equipped Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG 10) and Schlachtgeschwader 2 (Sch.G. 2), both of which had operated against the invasion until the evening of 12 July before departing for southern Italy.

The hasty Fw 190 evacuation resulted in a very difficult couple of weeks for SKG 10 and Sch.G. 2, as they attempted to establish themselves on several hurriedly prepared bases. Although the Fw 190 units had only a small number of serviceable aircraft available, they were expected by Luftwaffe commanders to quickly resume regular missions. However, they faced numerous problems, the most serious of which was the frequent Allied bombing raids on the handful of airfields available to them. To compound matters, the inadequate road and rail network in southern Italy hindered the flow of vital supplies such as jettisonable fuel tanks and bombs, further delaying the resumption of SKG 10 and Sch.G. 2 operations. This was a very frustrating period for Fw 190 units and the Luftwaffe leadership in the Mediterranean theatre, and it was not until 20 July that SKG 10 returned to action. Even then it was on a very small scale, with missions up to the end of the month involving no more than nine aircraft. With all other German and Italian groundattack units withdrawn from the combat zone by the end of July 1943, the burden of flying daytime army support missions over Sicily fell entirely on a single Fw 190-equipped Gruppe, II./SKG 10, under the command of a Knight's Cross holder and former Zerstorer pilot, Hauptmann Helmut Viedebantt. Crotone near the toe of Italy was chosen as II./SKG 10's main operational base, and because of the distance from Crotone to targets in Sicily, the Gruppe used a special Fw 190 variant that could be equipped with two underwing drop tanks: the Fw 190 A-5/ U8, known as the Jabo/Rei.

As the Fw 190 units struggled to return to operational status, the Allied armies were racing to cut off German and Italian troops before they could evacuate from Sicily across the Straits of Messina to Italy. The British advance up the east coast soon stalled in front of the vital harbour city of Catania because of fierce German resistance, but it was eventually captured on 5 August 1943. Two abandoned Fw 190s were found at the city's airfield, including one from II./Sch.G. 2 (see text box). The Americans conquered western Sicily in less than two weeks, and raced to Palermo on the north coast of the island. From there they advanced east towards Messina, and in order to speed up their progress they undertook a series of 'leapfrog' amphibious operations behind German lines. The second of these amphibious landings was to take place on the night of 10/11 August at Brolo, and II./SKG 10 would come up against the Brolo landing force on a number of occasions, starting on the morning of the tenth.

The Long-Range Fw 190 The long-range versions of the Fw 190, including the Fw 190 A-5/U8 used by II./SKG 10, could all carry a 300 litre jettisonable fuel tank under each wing, and a 250 or 500 kg bomb under the fuselage. The armament of the Fw 190 A-5/U8 was reduced to just two 20 mm cannon in the wings, rather than the usual four, but the pair of 7.92 mm fuselage machine-guns was retained.

Three different styles of under wing racks were used by the Fw 190 A-5/U8. Initially, the A-5/ U8 used the bulky, faired Junkers rack, but it was phased out in favour of the Messerschmitt design using suspension rods, which proved too weak for use on the rough Italian airfields. The A-5/U8s built towards the end of the production run used the sturdier Focke-Wulf designed under wing rack, which was later used on the Fw 190 G-3 and Fw 190 G-8 long-range fighter-bombers.

MARKINGS

In the summer of 1943 II./Sch.G. 2 was equipped with short-range fighter-bomber variants of the Focke-Wulf 190, namely the A-5/U3 and F-3. These machines were all camouflaged in the standard European grey scheme of RLM 74/75/76. However, they were quite colourful aircraft because of the prominent use of Staffel colours and a Gruppe emblem: the well-known Mickey Mouse badge. Mickey wielded an axe, and rode a diagonally falling bomb. The emblem colours depended on the Staffel, and there were two styles, one showing Mickey and the other showing Minnie.

Examples found on aircraft in the summer of 1943 included: black and green Mickey on a red bomb; black and red Mickey on a green bomb; and black and red Mickey on a yellow bomb. These were probably aircraft of the 6. Staffel, Gruppenstab, and 7. Staffel respectively. The forward half of the spinner on a II./Sch.G. 2 Fw 190 was always painted in the Staffel colour, with the rear half left in the factory-applied RLM 70. II./Sch.G. 2 aircraft also wore the standard Mediterranean theatre marking: a white band around the fuselage aft of the fuselage cross. The lower engine cowling was painted yellow, and one unusual markings feature seen on many II./Sch.G. 2 aircraft was the top of the tail being painted yellow.

Aircraft codes were a letter applied forward of the fuselage cross, in white for 5. Staffel, red or black for 6. Staffel, and yellow for 7. Staffel. No ground-attack triangle was carried by the unit during the summer of 1943.

10 August 1943 was a typical day for II./SKG 10 in the final stages of the Sicilian campaign, as the Gruppe flew missions against its two most common targets: American land and naval forces along the northern coast, and the harbours of British-occupied eastern Sicily. Immense pressure was being placed on II./SKG 10 around this time to provide more daytime bomber support to the Axis troops, even though Helmut Viedebantt's unit had barely a dozen serviceable fighter-bombers (nominal strength was around 40 aircraft).

On the morning of 10 August the Gruppe received its usual daily orders to undertake 'continual operations' against Allied shipping off the northern and eastern coasts of Sicily. Such orders were utterly unrealistic when there was only around a dozen Fw 190s capable of flying missions, but they were repeated to II./ SKG 10 every day by the unit's superiors.

The first Fw 190 operation began soon after dawn, with the German pilots instructed to attack ships off the northern coast of Sicily. The Brolo amphibious force, gathered off the coastal town of Caronia in readiness for the imminent 'leapfrog' operation, was to be on the receiving end of this raid. Nine Fw 190 A-5/U8s, each carrying two drop tanks and a 250 kg bomb, took off from Crotone at 06:15, but for unknown reasons they failed to rendezvous with the fighter escort from the I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 77, which was based nearby and often escorted the fighter-bombers. After an uneventful approach flight of 40 minutes, the Fw 190s commenced their bombing runs from out of the sun, and the Germans reported that there was a direct hit on a cargo vessel of 4,000 to 5,000 tons, along with two hits damaging a cargo vessel of 6,000 tons, and two hits amongst several landing craft. In fact, the Fw 190 pilots had bombed the 2,000 ton American Landing Ship Tank 318 (LST-318), which they had hit on two occasions earlier in the month. LST-318 was badly damaged in this attack, forcing the crew to abandon ship. Several II./SKG 10 bombs also fell on land, causing five American casualties and hitting a command car. In exchange for these successes, not a single II./SKG 10 aircraft was damaged by the ground defences, and no Allied fighters appeared.

Most of the II./SKG 10 pilots landed back at Crotone 90 minutes after taking off, but one member of the 5. Staffel, Lt. Walter Klein, failed to return. It was later discovered that he had turned back early due to lack of fuel, and received concussion while making a forced landing in southern Italy. He was flown to hospital in Naples as a result, and this was the accident-prone Lt. Klein's second hospitalisation since joining II./SKG 10 earlier in the year. He was to be wounded or injured three more times in the next six months!

The late-afternoon of 10 August saw II./SKG 10 turn its attention to the important Allied harbours on the east coast, which had been quickly put to good use after their capture by the British. The weather was poor, but that suited the men of II./SKG 10, who liked to use cloud cover to approach the harbours at altitudes of 3,000 to 5,000 metres, before diving at an angle of around 50 degrees and releasing bombs from as low as 600 metres. In this way the Fw 190s built up tremendous speed, hopefully allowing them to evade the strong harbour anti-aircraft defences and quickly escape any enemy fighters that happened to be patrolling in the vicinity.

Ten Fw 190s of II./SKG 10 took off at 17:05 to bomb shipping at Augusta harbour with 250 kg bombs. The Bf 109-equipped II. Gruppe of JG 77 was meant to accompany the fighter-bombers, but this escort mission was not carried out either, again for reasons unknown. Fortunately for the Fw 190s, no enemy fighters were encountered during the approach flight, which was made from Crotone down the toe of Italy, and then to the target (see mission map). Upon arriving at Augusta the pilots were greeted by the usual anti-aircraft barrage.

As one of them later recalled: 'The colourful tracers and the black smoke balls of their 10.5 cm anti-aircraft guns in between offered a delightful sight'and we had to get through.' II./SKG 10 attacked the harbour around an hour after taking off, and claimed a good deal of success against Allied shipping. One bomb was reported to have fallen three metres from the stern of a cruiser, Oberleutnant Ernst Henkelmann claimed a hit on a destroyer, resulting in a column of smoke, and II./SKG 10 pilots believed that they saw a hit on a small coastal merchant vessel. Despite these German claims, there are no Allied reports of any vessels damaged or sunk in this raid, although one bomb did fall between two ships.

Overclaiming was a common occurrence on the hectic and action-packed II./SKG 10 missions against Allied harbours. After releasing bombs the German pilots had no time to hang around and carefully note the damage they wrought, so damage assessments were sometimes a little optimistic. The authors have determined that the ratio of ships claimed sunk to ships actually sunk by Fw 190 pilots in the Mediterranean theatre was around 3:1.

Soon after bombing the Fw 190 pilots found themselves pursued by several Allied fighters, and Uffz. August Woltering was shot down while heading for home. The unfortunate pilot was posted missing, and his fate remains unknown. Leutnant Klaus Jost participated in this operation: 'Woltering now accompanied me as a wingman in a Rotte. After takeoff one of my undercarriage legs would not retract properly, and this was the second time that this had happened to me. I had returned early the first time it happened and the mission leader had casually said: 'Well, there would have been enough fuel to go to Catania'. I had been really annoyed by that! Now, I was in that fine mess again. As a Rottenführer you had the right to decide for yourself, and therefore I told Woltering on the radio how we were to fly today: 'We have become separated from the main formation and will attack Catania. Stay close!' While diving I needed the strength of both arms to stay on course, and during the escape I also shot down a barrage balloon. Süddenly, Woltering was too close to me. I yelled at him: 'Damn, go to formation flight distance!'

He did not do it, and asked instead if both of his auxiliary tanks were gone. His machine yawed. I told him immediately that his tanks were gone, and said again: 'Go to formation flight distance, now!' He still didn't do it. A few seconds later, there were flashes in his cockpit'he turned to the right and was soon down in the water. A Spitfire raced alongside me and pulled away to the right. I also changed course to the right and pursued him, firing a burst. Once back at Crotone, I reported, 'Uffz. Woltering shot down by a Spitfire', and it was received without comment.

But Lt. Walter'an officer who did not have any authority over me but who expected to be addressed in third person, even though he was not a Staffelführer'this man deemed it necessary to blame me bitterly for flying the mission with the half retracted undercarriage. He thought that the undercarriage could have been bent in the dive and I could have fallen flat on my face on landing. He gave his opinion to the Kommandeur with an arrogant twitching of his mouth.

Nobody talked about how unpleasant it was to fly with one leg out.' Klaus Jost survived his one-legged mission on 10 August, but his luck would soon run out. He was shot down by American Spitfires on the very next day, and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner in the United States.

This second operation was II./SKG 10's last of 10 August, ending a routine day for the Gruppe. During the next week, until the fall of Sicily, II./SKG 10 kept up an average of two missions and fifteen sorties a day. This was as close to 'continual operations' as the overburdened Gruppe could manage.

The American leapfrog operation at Brolo on the morning of 11 August 1943 turned into a disaster, with the landing force almost wiped out, and valuable assistance was provided to the German defenders by the Fw 190s of II./SKG 10. However, despite minor victories like that achieved at Brolo, the Germans could only delay the inevitable, and Messina was captured by the British and Americans on 17 August 1943. II./SKG 10 gave its all in the battle for Sicily: in the final nine days of the campaign the Gruppe reported five pilots killed, five wounded, one missing, and two taken prisoner. The Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann Helmut Viedebantt, was replaced in mid-August 1943, indicating more unhappiness with the efforts of the unit. However, the criticism of II./ SKG 10 seems unfair given the great pressure and responsibility placed on the unit's leaders, pilots and ground personnel in those difficult weeks in July and August 1943.

Note: REMARK FROM THE AUTHORS This series of articles is extracted from the book 'Focke-Wulf Fw 190 in the Battle for Sicily', which is available from the publisher's website, www.airwarpublications.com. If you have any questions about this article you are welcome to contact the authors via the website. Also available from the company website are free flight sim skins based on aircraft illustrated in the book, and additional book-related listings and research.

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Asisbiz has been running since July 2006 this section was updated 5th January 2019

 

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This webpage was updated 5th January 2019