Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG10)
Stab III Gruppe Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG10) - Stab III./SKG10
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A Stab III./SKG10 ((+ flown by Fritz Schroter Bizerta, Tunisia 1943
II Gruppe Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG10) - II./SKG10
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 5./SKG10 White D El Aouina, Tunisia 1943
Focke Wulf Fw 190A SKG10.5 White H Tunisia 1943
Aircrew Luftwaffe II.SKG10 pilot Klaus Jost MIA North of Orlando 11th Aug 1943 01
Aircrew Luftwaffe II.SKG10 pilots including Lt Helmut Wenk Crotone 1943 01
Aircrew Luftwaffe II.SKG10 pilots including Lt Walter Klien Italy 1943 01
Artwork Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5 9.SKG10 White K+I Ponte Olivo Airfield Gela Sicily July 12th 1943
Artwork profile Focke-Wulf Fw 190A 9.SKG10 (W5+) Bizerta Sidi Ahmed Tunisia 1943 0A
Artwork showing a map of the Allied landings in Sicily July 1943 0A
Artwork showing the mission map of the attack on the American landing craft LST 158 11th July 1943 0A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A 4.SKG10 Hevler WNr 51353 hit by AA and crashed Bexhill June 4 1943 01-02
III Gruppe Schnellkampfgeschwader 10 (SKG10) - III./SKG10
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A4 III.SKG10 loaded with a 500kg bomb Tunisia Jan 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A4 III.SKG10 undergoing a pre flight Tunisia April 1943 01-02
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 9./SKG10 White K+I WNr 1229 Ponte Olivo Airfield Gela Sicily July 12th 1943
Profile and Photograph Sources:Fw 190 A-5 'White K+ |' was a former 9./SKG 10 machine found at Gela-Ponte Olivo airfield, southern Sicily, when American troops overran the airfield on the morning of 12 July 1943. It wears the standard RLM 74/75/76 scheme, with a very clear demarcation. Note the III. Gruppe vertical bar and code letter in the 9. Staffel colour, white. The aircraft's four-letter factory code or Stammkennzeichen RM+BK, is painted under the wings. (Credit: Crow)
Profile and Photograph Sources:
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5 Stab III.SKG10 (I+ Ponte Olivo Airfield Gela Sicily 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5U8 II.SKG10 in pre take off mode for a strike against Allied landing Italy Aug 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5U8 II.SKG10 Stammkennzeichen CI+ZB WNr 181658 Sicily June 1943 0A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5U8 II.SKG10 Stammkennzeichen PL+GN WNr 181566 Sicily June 1943 0A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5U8 SKG10 Stammkennzeichen GH+JD WNr 1488 Sicily June 1943 01
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 9./SKG10 White 16 (White 16+) Bizerta-Sidi-Ahmed Tunisia 1943
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 9./SKG10 White 5 (White 5+) Bizerta-Sidi Ahmed, Tunisia January 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A I.SKG10 being pushed out for arming 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A I.SKG10 loaded with a 500kg bomb 02
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A III.SKG10 loaded with a 500 kg bomb Sicily 1943 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A III.SKG10 Sktz KM+EY WNr 2676 abandoned El Aouina Tunisia 1943 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 (W3+) taxing 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 nightime engine startup 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190G3 10.SKG10 Stammkennzeichen Sktz DN+FV WNr 160022 1943 01
US Navy LST 158 burning at Blue Beach east of Licata on the morning of 11 July 1943 01-02
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 3./SKG10 Sktz KM+EY Werk Nr 2676 abandoned El Aouina, Tunisia 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A I./SKG10 mixed photographs and images
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 Stab III./SKG10 (I+ Ponte Olivo Airfield Gela Sicily 1943
Although more than 250 Fw 190s served in North Africa between November 1942 and the Axis surrender there on 13 May 1943, only a handful of them received 'desert' camouflage colours. In fact, most of the Luftwaffe Fw 190s that served in Tunisia wore the standard European 'grey' scheme of RLM 74/75/76. The 'desert' colour used in Tunisia was RLM 79 Sandgelb, and perhaps the most famous Fw 190 in a desert scheme was Focke-Wulf 190 A-4 Werknummer 748, coded 'Yellow 1 + -' and flown by Experte Oberleutnant Erich Rudorffer, who had claimed 222 aerial victories by the end of the war.
Mechanics of III./SKG 10 prepare an Fw 190 A-4 for a mission at La Fauconnerie airfield in central Tunisia. The photo was taken between 26 March and 7 April 1943. Note the Gruppe emblem on the engine cowling, and the standard European grey camouflage scheme. (Credit: PK Photo)
Fw 190 A-4s of III./SKG 10 are prepared for operations at muddy Sidi Ahmed, northern Tunisia, in early January 1943. The aircraft in the foreground is loaded with a 500 kg bomb. As seen here, most III./SKG 10 aircraft had white spinners. Note also the absence of outer wing cannon on these fighter-bombers. (Credit: PK Photo)
Photograph Source: Flugzeug Classic 2011-04
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5/U8 SKG10 Stammkennzeichen GH+JD WNr 1488 Sicily June 1943
Klaus Jostsurvived 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.
Photograph Source: Flugzeug Classic 2011-07
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5/U8 II./SKG10 Stammkennzeichen PL+GN WNr 181566 Sicily June 1943
Profile Source: Flugzeug Classic 2011-07
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A5/U8 II./SKG10 Stammkennzeichen CI+ZB WNr 181658 Sicily June 1943 0A
II./SKG 10 AIRCRAFT, CAMOUFLAGE AND MARKINGS Because of the difficult situation that II./SKG 10 found itself in – with newly arrived Fw 190s immediately committed to operations, and quickly lost or recorded off strength – its aircraft were not given unit emblems, fuselage codes or terrain specific camouflage, which generally made them quite anonymous in appearance. Rather than fuselage codes, aircraft retained their four-letter factory codes (Stammkennzeichen) on either side of the fuselage cross as a means of identification. A factory-applied white fuselage band was carried, to distinguish them as Mediterraneanbased aircraft, and the lower engine cowling was painted yellow. At least three Fw 190 A-5/U8's of II./SKG 10 marked with Stammkennzeichen on the fuselage sides carried a large number painted on the rudder and tail, which was presumably an individual aircraft code (examples include Green 5 and White 10).
Profile Source: Military Ilustrated Modeller Mar 2013 (Issue 023) Pages 10
Aircrew Luftwaffe II.SKG10 pilots including Lt Walter Klien Italy 1943 01
Photo Source: Military Ilustrated Modeller Mar 2013 (Issue 023) Page 9
Aircrew Luftwaffe II.SKG10 pilots includingLt Helmut WenkCrotone 1943 01
Lt. Helmut Wenk photographed in front of the II./SKG 10 headquarters at Crotone. This photograph shows the makeshift nature of the airfield. (Wenk)
Photo Source: Military Ilustrated Modeller Mar 2013 (Issue 023) Page 6
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5/U8 II./SKG10 taking-off from Crotone for a strike against
Allied landings at Augusta 10th Aug 1943. This image and below: Fw 190 A-5/U8 of II./SKG 10 at Crotone in August 1943. This aircraft has the Focke-Wulf designed under wing racks. Note the absence of outer wing cannon, and the yellow lower engine cowling.
Photograph was taken by an ANR Italian pilot Tenente Alberto Ballista who flew aMacchi C. 202with 361a Squadriglie 21° Gruppo CT
Photograph Source: Flugzeug Classic 2011-07
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10.4 (_+~) pilotKurt HevlerW.Nr 51353 hit by AA and crashed Bexhill, June 4, 1943 01
Photo's 01-02: One of the last daylight fighter bomber raids on England's South Coast took place on the late morning of 4 June 1943 when 18 Fw 190s crossed the coast at Beachy Read at zero feet and turned to drop a total of 13 SC 500 bombs on Eastbourne. One of the attacking aircraft was flown by Hevler of IV./SKG10, whose aircraft, W.Nr 51353, was hit by light anti aircraft fire. Kurt Hevler attempted to make a forced landing but crashed at Norman's Bay, Bexhill. These photographs show Allied troops inspecting the remains of the machine.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 01
Photo's 01: This aircraft was not operated by I./SKG10 but is externally almost identical and is included here to provide an impression of an aircraft starting-up for a night mission. Flying the single-engined, single-seat Fw 190 bomber over England at night was difficult and dangerous enough without the additional hazards of the often cruel weather and a determined enemy. By the time I./SKG10 began night operations in the Spring of 1943, Britain's night defences were formidable and included a night-fighter force flying radar-equipped Beaufighters and Mosquitoes which accounted for many of I./SKG10's losses. One of the RAF's most famous night-fighter pilots, the then F/Lt. JRD 'Bob' Braham, once confessed to his Intelligence Officer that he had a sneaking regard for the nameless and often brave Luftwaffe airmen whom he was killing.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 (3+) 01
Photo 01: Although the unit to which this Fw 190 belonged has not yet been positively identified, the small identification number on the fuselage has lead to speculation that it may have belonged to SKG10. The bomb rack beneath the fuselage certainly adds weight to this theory.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 01
Photo's 01-02: Fw 190A-5/U-8 of the I./SKG10 in 1943. Note that the drop tanks are mounted on Messerschmitt racks which offered less wind resistance than the original Junkers designed racks which were enclosed in large fairings. The Fw 190's of I./SKG10 frequently had the cowling guns removed and were provided with wide head armour.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 G-3 10./SKG10 Stammkennzeichen Sktz DN+FV WNr 160022 Germany late 1943
Nice color photo of Focke-Wulf Fw 190G3 DN+FV WNr 160022 Germany ? late 1943 ?
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A SKG10 Stammkennzeichen KM+EY WNr 2676 abandoned El Aouina, Tunisia 1943
US Navy LST-158 burning at Blue Beach east of Licata on the morning of 11 July 1943 01-02
Profile Source: Military Ilustrated Modeller Jan 2013 (Issue 021) Page 13 photo credit: NARA II
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 10./SKG10 Black 1+ flown by Leutnant Wolfgang Schreck Bizerta, Tunisia 1943
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 10./SKG10 Black 4 Bizerta, Tunisia 1943
Focke Wulf Fw 190A 10./SKG10 Black 9 pilot Ufz. Georg Rischbieter Bizerta, Tunisia January 2, 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A4 11./SKG10 (Yellow 4+) flown by Ludwig Seif W.Nr 0142317 based out of Tunisia 1942
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A 11./SKG10 (Yellow 4+) flown by Ludwig Seif W.Nr 2317 crash-landed Ferryville, Tunisia Feb 2, 1943
Artwork profile Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A5 11.SKG10 Yellow B+I loaded with a 500 kg bomb Mediterranean 1943 0A
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A5 11./SKG10 Yellow B+I loaded with a 500 kg bomb Mediterranean 1943 01
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 A-5 11./SKG10 Yellow B WNr 01440 based out of Sicily Italy 1943
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A III.SKG10 (Y4+) Seif WNr 2317 crash landed Tunisia 1943 01
Focke Wulf 190-A8 II.(Sturm) 'Fratz III' 5./JG4 'Weisse 16 ' 1944 Pilot: Oberfahnrich (Warrant Officer) Franz Schaar (3 Air Victories) on September 27, 1944.
Bildquelle/Picture Source: Sturmjager Volume 2, Erich Mombeek - Seite/Page 49
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 Oberfähnrich 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 Oberfähnrich 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. Oberfähnrich 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 Zerstörer 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.
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. Suddenly, 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.
Units:5(J)/TrGr-186, Stab IV/SKG-10
Awards:EK 2, Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Bf 109E, Fw 190A-5 WNr 51353 <O+-- (lost 6/4/43)
Remarks:KIA 4 June, 1943 after being hit by flak; attempted a force landing and crashed at Normans Bay, Bexhill, Sussex; buried Cannock Chase, Block 4, Gr 183 (M.Croft). One known victory, his 1st, a Fokker XXI over De Kool, 10 May, 1940.
Asisbiz database list of 1 aerial victories for Kurt Hevler
Awards:Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Fw 190G-3 WNr 181683 (lost 8/11/43)
Remarks:MIA 11 August, 1943 north of Orlando, cause unknown.
Asisbiz no known aerial victories for Klaus Jost
Lt Walter Klien
Awards:Fighter Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Fw 190A
Asisbiz no known aerial victories for Lt Walter Klien
Awards:EP, EK 1 & 2, Fighter Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Fw 190A-8 'White 16', Fw 190A-8/R2 WNr 682676 'White 18' (lost 1/1/45)
Remarks:KIA in 'White 18', 1 January, 1945; Aerial combat at Vosberg, north of Panningen-Venlo, southern Netherlands. Buried at Ysselsteyn Military Cemetery, GraveD-8-184 (J.Manrho). Two known victories, a B-17 S of Chemnitz, and a B-17 (HSS), also S of Chemnitz, on 11 September, 1944. His 3rd, a B-17 E of Helmstedt on 12 September, 1944. A 4th, a B-24 at Bad Hersfeld on 27 September, 1944.
Asisbiz database list of 3 aerial victories for
Units:LKS-5(5/42 Breslau), SG-101(12/42 Reims), Erg/SKG-10(5/43 Cognac), II/SKG-10(6/43), NSGr-4, III/SG-1 (4/45)
Awards:EK 1 & 2, Wound Badge(10/43), Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Bf 109G, Fw 190A-4 WNr 5381 (White 7+o' (5/43 Channel), Fw 190F-9/R4('45)
Remarks:English POW at wars end in Flensburg. Flew over 300 combat missions. Although born in NY, in his youth, he made his home in Friedrichshafen, in southern Germany. His first mission was over southern England in June, 1943. In July, 1943, the Group transferred to Sicily. Injured in a crash in October, 1943. After recuperationg, he was assigned to NSG-4 in November, 1943, at Kiew, where he flew night and day missions. Wounded a 2nd time in March, 1944. After recuperating, assigned to SG-104 at Tutow-Aalborg. October 1944, assigned to I/SG-151 and later to III/SG-1(4/45) in defense of the Reich (Berlin). One known victory in SG-1, a Soviet La-5 on 27 April, 1945. Alternate spelling: Wenke (OKL 4/45 victory). Living in Lindau on the Bodensee in 2003. Jager Blatt 4/2003.
Asisbiz database list of aerial victories for Helmut Wenk
Units:8./ZG-2, 10/SKG-10, 7/SG-4 (7/44 S.U.)
Awards:DK-G(3/20/44), EK 1 & 2, Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Bf 110, Fw 190F-8
Remarks:His first known victory, a Spitfire west of Pozzaglia/Sabino Italy on 6 November, 1943. His 2nd, a Spitfire east of Castelfrantano Italy on 28 November, 1943. His 3rd, a Spitfire IX south of Ragino Italy on 8 December, 1943. His 4th, a Soviet LaGG-9 on 24 July, 1944. Alternate spelling: Rischbinter and Rischbucher. Jager Blatt, Deceased 12 January, 1996.
Asisbiz database list of 6 aerial victories for Georg Rischbieter
Units:8./ZG-2, 10/SKG-10, 8/SG-4
Awards:DK-G(3/20/44), EK 1 & 2, Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Fw 190A-5, Fw 190F-8
Remarks:DK-G Awards List
Asisbiz has no known victories for Wolfgang Schreck
Units:4./JG-2 (9/41), 6./JG-2, Stafkpt 10(Jabo)./JG-2, III./ZG-2, Kdr III/SKG-10, Stab I/SG-10 (10/44), SG-5, Kdr I/SG-4
Awards:RK(9/24/42), DK-G(9/7/42), EK 1 & 2, Assault Operational Clasp w/Pendant
Known Aircraft:Bf 109G 'Blue ?' in 10/JG-2, Fw 190A-5 in SKG-10 in Oct '43
Remarks:400+ combat missions. 7 victories in the West, plus another 4 unconfirmed. One victory during the French Campaign, his 1st victory, a Spitfire on 18 September, 1941, no location. His 2nd, a Spitfire 25 km W of Boulogne on 13 October, 1941. One known victory during the Sicilian campaign, a Spitfire IX 15 km southeast of Gela on 5 July, 1943. He replaced F. Liesendahl as leader of 10/JG-2 after Frank's deasth in July, 1942. One known Soviet victory, thought to be his 8th, a Yak-9 E of Nyiregyhdza on 27 October, 1944. Bowers/Lednicer, 50 victories! Deceased 14 December, 2007. Photo
Asisbiz database list of 6 aerial victories for Fritz Schroter
Awards:Wound Badge, Assault Operational Clasp
Known Aircraft:Fw 190A-3 WNr 5226 (40% dam 1/5/43)
Remarks:WIA 5 January, 1943 by enemy fire near Biserta.
Some of the most widely used Book References:
- Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase One: July-August 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 1) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Eddie J Creek (Author)
- Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Two: August-September 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 2) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
- Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Three: September-October 1940 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 3) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
- Jagdwaffe: Battle of Britain: Phase Four: November 1940-June 1941 (Luftwaffe Colours: Volume Two, Section 4) Paperback Eric Mombeek (Author), David Wadman (Author), Martin Pegg (Author)
Some of the most widely used Magazine References:
- Airfix Magazines (English) - http://www.airfix.com/
- Avions (French) - http://www.aerostories.org/~aerobiblio/rubrique10.html
- FlyPast (English) - http://www.flypast.com/
- Flugzeug Publikations GmbH (German) - http://vdmedien.com/flugzeug-publikations-gmbh-hersteller_verlag-vdm-heinz-nickel-33.html
- Flugzeug Classic (German) - http://www.flugzeugclassic.de/
- Klassiker (German) - http://shop.flugrevue.de/abo/klassiker-der-luftfahrt
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://boutique.editions-lariviere.fr/site/abonnement-le-fana-de-l-aviation-626-4-6.html
- Le Fana de L'Aviation (French) - http://www.pdfmagazines.org/tags/Le+Fana+De+L+Aviation/
- Osprey (English) - http://www.ospreypublishing.com/
- Revi Magazines (Czech) - http://www.revi.cz/