Jagdgeschwader 1 (World War II)

Jagdgeschwader 1

Emblem of the unit
Active 1939–45
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch  Luftwaffe
Type Fighter Aircraft
Role Air superiority
Size Air Force Wing
Nickname(s) Oesau
Patron Walter Oesau
Fighter Aircraft Messerschmitt Bf 109,
Focke-Wulf Fw 190,
Heinkel He 162
Engagements Defence of the Reich, Operation Bodenplatte
Decorations Reference in the Wehrmachtbericht (1)
Disbanded 4 May 1945
Hans Philipp; Hermann Graf; Walter Oesau; Heinz Bär; Herbert Ihlefeld
Aircraft flown
Fighter Bf 109, Fw 190, He 162

Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) was a German World War II fighter unit or "wing" which used the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aircraft, between 1940–1944. The name of the unit derives from Jagd, meaning "hunt" and Geschwader, meaning "wing". First formed in May 1939 in eastern Prussia, I./JG 1 was one of the original groups created by the Luftwaffe as part of its expansion plans.

Between 1940 and 1942, JG 1 operated primarily over the Western Front and northern occupied Europe. During the initial days of the war, JG 1 faced little resistance, apart from occasional Royal Air Force (RAF) excursions. The unit was rarely engaged in large-scale confrontations during this time. From late 1942 onwards it was tasked with defence of the Reich. After D-Day, elements of JG 1 were moved to France and were tasked with air support to the Wehrmacht Heer, along with their air defence role. Operation Bodenplatte severely reduced the strength of JG 1. JG 1 was the first unit to attempt 'aerial bombing' techniques against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) heavy bomber formations. It was the only unit to be equipped with the Heinkel He 162 jet fighter.

Formation history

In 1938 the Luftwaffe envisaged a five-year expansion plan that utilized the single-engined Messerschmitt Bf 109s for short-range domestic defence duties and the twin-engined Messerschmitt Bf 110 for external long-range offensive roles. In the summer of 1939, Luftwaffe replaced its long-term expansionist plans for fast mobilization with creation of five new Geschwader starting in July 1939. Even those plans failed to materialize and several groups (Gruppen) were created from existing groups. One such group, I./Jagdgeschwader 131 (JG 131), was thus created from II./Jagdgeschwader 132 "Richthofen" (JG 132). The new group, I./JG 131, was commanded by Major Bernhard Woldenga, and was based in Jesau, East Prussia (modern Nivenskoye in Russia). The unit was re-equipped with the Bf 109E by June 1939.[1][2]

In May 1939, the organization of the Luftwaffe was changed. As a result, a large number of units were re-designated and many command title changes took place. I./JG 131 was given the designation I./JG 1. The high-profile and most senior home front wing, JG 2 "Richthofen" had coveted that designation, but was left in "second place".[3] However, on 7 May, just before the invasion of France and the Low Countries, I./JG 1 was merged with Jagdgeschwader 27 and re-designated as III./Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27). This temporarily dissolved JG 1 as a unit. Seven months later, on 7 December 1940 a new unit I./JG 1 was formed at Jever out of several defensive units based on the North Sea coast.[4][5]

JG 1's role was to provide air cover over a large portion of the North Sea coastline. Its commander was Oberstleutnant Carl-August Schumacher. Their operational area stretched from the Netherlands to Southern Norway. On 5 January 1942, Schumacher handed over command to Major Erich von Selle to become commander of the fighter forces for Luftflotte 5 (Jagdfliegerführer Norwegen).


Similar to its parent Jagdgeschwader 2, Jagdgeschwader 1 was designated to be a "donor" unit in forming a new unit called Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11) on 31 March 1943. I and II Gruppen JG 1 were transferred to JG 11. IV Gruppe was re-designated as I./JG 1. A new III Gruppe was formed in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, commanded by Major Karl-Heinz Leesmann[6][7][8][9][10]

The new Jagdgeschwader 1 was moved to Deelen to protect occupied Dutch territory, and Jagdgeschwader 11 tasked with protecting the North German border between Netherlands and Denmark. Erich Mix was replaced by Major Hans Philipp as Geschwaderkommodore. By mid 1943, JG 1 came under the control of Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte, which went on to form Luftflotte Reich.[6][5][8][9][10][11]

Organization structure

Generally, the organization of JG 1 followed the standard Luftwaffe organization for any typical wing (Geschwader). It was commanded by a Geschwaderkommodore, equivalent to a USAAF Wing Commander or RAF Group Captain. A Geschwaderkommodore was supposed to have the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Oberstleutnant) or Colonel (Oberst), but the position could be filled by a relatively junior officer.[d][12]

Initially most Luftwaffe fighter wings consisted of three groups (Gruppe), which were the equivalent of USAAF groups or RAF Wings. Groups were identified using Roman numerals, followed by the unit number; e.g. I./JG 1. In 1942 JG 1 was the first unit to be expanded to incorporate a fourth group. Partly as a result of JG 1's expansion, other Luftwaffe fighter wings incorporated a fourth group from mid-1943.[13][12]

Each group usually consisted of three to four squadrons (Staffeln), which were identified using numbers; e.g. 3./JG 1. Each squadron also had a subordinate headquarters flight (Stabschwarm) associated with it. A squadron with an establishment of 12–16 aircraft usually consisted of three to four flights (Schwärme) of four aircraft usually flying in the "finger-four" formation. The commanding officer of a squadron (Staffelkapitän) usually held a rank of senior lieutenant (Oberleutnant) or captain (Hauptmann). The flights of a squadron were color-coded "Red","Blue","Yellow" and "Green".[12]

A Geschwaderstab was essentially a Headquarters Unit (Stabschwarm) for the entire wing. There were headquarters units also at gruppe level. Initially when JG 1 was re-formed in Jever, it was constituted as a Regional Fighter Command (Jagdfliegerführer 2) on 30 November 1939 with an intention to co-ordinate with navy (Kriegsmarine) flak and signals units. This autonomous command defending the coastline was placed under Oberstleutnant Carl-August Schumacher. Geschwaderstab JG 1 (Stab. JG 1) was also alternatively called JG Nord or JG Schumacher and was equipped with Bf 109 'D' and 'E' variants.[14][15]

Group I./JG 1

I./JG 1 consisted of one Headquarters Flight (Gruppenstab) and 1., 2. and 3 Staffels. When the Battle of France commenced on 10 May 1940, I./JG 1 was put under the administrative control of JG 27. After seeing extensive service, the group was re-designated III./JG 27 on 5 July 1940.[1][2][16]

1./JG 1 was reformed on 7 December 1940 in Vlissingen from the "Holland" Squadron (Jasta Holland). 2./JG 1 was formed on 5 July 1941 in Katwijk, Netherlands, from the Münster-Loddenheide Squadron (Jasta Münster-Loddenheide) of Luftflotte 2 while 3./JG 1 was formed on 1 March 1941 in De Kooy from parts of the Training/Supplement squadron of JG 52 (Ergänzungsstaffel Gruppe/JG 52). These three units operated independently until September 1941 when they were grouped into I./JG 1 under Major Erich Mix.[6][17]

3./JG 1 was ordered to Sicily and later Africa, and re-designated as 6./JG 51 on 30 November 1941. Another 3./JG 1 was formed in Wangerooge on the same day. In January 1944, the 18 Staffel unit was transferred to Dortmund where they were located next to I./JG 1. Here they were subordinated to Major Rudolf-Emil Schnoor, the commander of I./JG 1. On 15 August 1944, 9./JG 77 was transferred to reinforce I./JG 1, becoming 4./JG 1.[15][18]

Initial formation of I./JG 1[19]
JG 1 Unit Date Original unit LocationAircraft type
Stab I./JG 1 1 September 1941 Parts of Führer der JagdkräfteKatwijkBf 109F-2.
1./JG 1 7 December 1940 Jasta HollandVlissingen Bf 109E-4, later Bf 109F-2
2./JG 1 5 July 1941 Jasta Münster-LoddenheideKatwijkBf 109F-2
3./JG 1 1 March 1941 parts of Erg. Gruppe./JG 52De KooyBf 109E-4, later Bf 109F-2
4./JG 1 15 August 19449./JG 77Aulnay-aux-PlanchesFocke Wulf Fw 190A-8

Group II./JG 1

In September 1941, Hauptmann Hans von Hahn's I./Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3) was transferred from the Eastern Front to Germany for rest and re-supply. In November 1941, it was transferred to the northern Netherlands and on 15 January 1942 re-designated II./JG 1 in Katwijk. The group had been involved in the Battle of France and the Eastern Front campaigns as I./JG 3, and had 421 kills to its name by September 1941. While at Katwijk and Vlissingen, they were assigned the task of coastal defence and protection of shipping routes.[6][13]

Initial formation of II./JG 1[19]
JG 1 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab II./JG 1 15 January 1942 Stab I./JG 3Katwijk Bf 109F
4./JG 1 15 January 1942 From 1./JG 3Vlissingen Bf 109F
5./JG 1 15 January 1942 From 2./JG 3Katwijk Bf 109F
6./JG 1 15 January 1942 From 3./JG 3Katwijk Bf 109F
7./JG 1 15 August 1944 From 4./JG 1Connantre Bf 109F
8./JG 1 15 August 1944 From 7./JG 51Connantre Bf 109F

In early 1944, the Reich Air Ministry (Reichsluftministerium — RLM) reinforced the day-fighters of "Defence of Reich" with additional units from the Eastern Front. On 15 August 1944, II./JG 1 was increased to four staffeln with the addition of 7./JG 51 equipped with the Bf 109G-6 "Gustav" from its base at Brest-Litovsk. On arrival in May 1944 at Störmede, they were re-equipped with the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 and re-designated 8./JG 1 on 15 August 1944. 4./JG 1 was re-designated to 7./JG 1. From this point until the end in 1945, II./JG 1 would consist of its Headquarters Flight, Stab II./JG 1, as well as 5., 6., 7. and 8./JG 1.[6][10]

Group III./JG 1

By January 1942, most fighting wings (Jagdgeschwader) of the Luftwaffe had created their own training group (Ergänzungsgruppe), with which to prepare trainees for operational service with their parent wing. Each training group had its own operating squadron (Einsatzstaffel) that doubled as a supplemental squadron, consisting of instructors and trainees. It was from such Einsatzstaffel that III./JG 1 was formed.[13]

Initial formation of III./JG 1[19]
JG 1 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab III./JG 1 Ordered 6 January 1942 Stab Ergänzungsgruppe/JG 52HusumBf 109E/F, Fw 190A
7./JG 1 Ordered 6 January 1942 From Einsatz-Schwärme/JFS Gleiwitz, Breslau and KönigsbergHusumBf 109E/F, Fw 190A
8./JG 1 Ordered 6 January 1942 From Einsatzstaffel/JG 27HusumBf 109E/F, Fw 190A
9./JG 1 Ordered 6 January 1942 From Einsatzstaffel/JG 52HusumBf 109E/F, Fw 190A

III./JG 1 was formed in January 1942 in Husum. 7./JG 1 consisted of supplemental flights (Einsatz-Schwärme) of fighter pilot schools (Jagdfliegerschule or JFS) Gleiwitz, Breslau and Königsberg. III./JG 1 was re-designated I./JG 11 on 1 April 1943 and a new III./JG established on 23 May in Leeuwarden led by Major Karl-Heinz Leesmann.[15][20]

Group IV./JG 1

JG 1 expanded to include a 4th group (Gruppe) around the same time as III./JG 1, and was also formed using the training groups (Ergänzungsgruppen) and training squadrons (Einsatzstaffeln) of other wings.[13]

Initial formation of IV./JG 1[19]
JG 1 Unit Date Original unit Location Aircraft type
Stab IV./JG 1 6 January 1942 Stab of Ergänzungsgruppe/JG 53VannesBf 109E
10./JG 1 6 January 1942Einsatzstaffel/JG 2VannesBf 109E
11./JG 1 6 January 1942Einsatzstaffel/JG 26VannesBf 109E
12./JG 1 6 January 1942Einsatzstaffel/JG 51VannesBf 109E

On 21 March 1942 IV./JG1 was re-designated as III./JG 5. It was re-established on the same day in Werneuchen with elements of the previous IV./JG 1 and training squadrons of fighter schools 1 and 4. On 1 April 1943, IV./JG 1 was re-designated as I./JG 1[10][19]

Aircraft of Jagdgeschwader 1

Bf 109E-3 flown by the original I./JG 1 in France 1940
Fw 190A-3 similar to the one used by II,III and IV./JG 1.

When JG 1 was formed, it primarily used the Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1. In mid-1942, II., III. and IV./JG 1 started converting to the Fw 190; although I./JG 1 continued to operate the Bf 109 'E' and 'F' and later 'G' models, including the specialized 'F-4/Z' and 'G-1' (the latter also being pressurized) high-altitude fighter with GM-1 boost. By April 1943, I./JG 1 had largely transitioned to the FW 190A,[21] while III./JG 1 returned to the Bf 109G.[22] In April 1944, III./JG 1 was one of the first Luftwaffe units to have been equipped with the Bf 109G-5/AS with improved supercharger and methanol-water MW-50 boost.

I. and II. JG 1 were the first units to equip with the Heinkel He 162A-2 Spatz (Sparrow, Heinkel's name for the design), with deliveries of the He 162 in February 1945 to I./JG 1 at Parchim. Around April 1945, II./JG 1 moved to Rostock-Marienehe near the Heinkel factory to receive the deliveries of the new aircraft.[23][24][25]

Operational history

The original I./ JG 1 based in Jesau, played little part in the Invasion of Poland. Within Eastern Prussia, they were re-deployed to three forward bases; Heiligenbeil, Schippenbeil and Arys-Rostken. I./JG 1 had negligible involvement and no enemy aircraft were downed. The only casualty was a pilot of 2./JG 1 injured by friendly flak. On 5 September 1939, the group returned to Jesau. After a ten-day stop in Lübeck-Blankensee, the group arrived at Vörden. Although I./JG 1 came under administrative control of JG 27, I./JG 1 was temporarily put under administrative control of JG 77 on 4 June 1940. It came back under control of JG 27 few days later.[26]

Upon arrival at Vörden the first aircraft credited to I./JG 1 was a Bristol Blenheim of No. 110 Squadron RAF shot down on a reconnaissance mission. In February 1940, Major Bernhard Woldenga was promoted to the position of Inspectorate of Fighters and was succeeded by Joachim Schlichting. The unit went on to participate extensively in the Battle of France.[26] I./JG 1 claimed 82 air victories during the Battle of France, with Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar top scorer with 23 kills, and Leutnant Ludwig Frantisek with 9.

After being re-established in December 1940, I./JG 1's primary responsibility was the air defence of Germany and its Northern occupied territories. In this role, the unit almost exclusively worked in the Netherlands prior to its transfer to central West Germany. Its main opponents through 1940–41 were therefore lone RAF reconnaissance aircraft, the anti-shipping aircraft of RAF Coastal Command and the medium bombers of RAF Bomber Command's 2 Group, although the group would see little action compared to other theaters during 1941. During this time, this sector was considered relatively safe compared to other theaters.[6]


Because RAF bombers and their escorts had insufficient range to reach German airspace, JG 1 was somewhat isolated from the RAF's "Lean into Europe" fighter offensive of 1941 that involved JG 2 and JG 26. Oberstleutnant Erich Mix, a veteran of World War I and over 40 years of age, claimed a Blenheim as his 13th kill in mid-1941.[17]

JG 1 did however take part in the famed Channel Dash, as part of the air cover plan (Operation Donnerkeil) for the German Kriegsmarine battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, with cruiser Prinz Eugen on 13 February 1942. By May II./JG 1 was assigned to Woensdrecht and Katwyk. Its first victory was scored by Unteroffizier Meisner of 6./JG 1. By early 1942, the group had started re-equip from the earlier Bf 109F-4 to the Focke-Wulf Fw 190, completing by 12 May 1942. One notable ace from early 1942 was Oberfeldwebel Gerhardt, leading scorer of JG 1 with a tally of 9 by 17 February 1942.[10][24][27]

Bf 109G-2 "Gustav" 'Black 6', on display at Royal Air Force Museum London

From late 1942 onwards, the increasing USAAF bomber offensive now brought JG 1 to the forefront of the Defence of the Reich, operating at high altitudes against the American bomber streams of the 8th Air Force. Equipped with the Bf 109G "Gustav" with pressurized cabins, JG 1 experimented with several official and unofficial ways of downing the heavy bombers – with varying degrees of success. One of the unofficial methods Leutnant Heinz Knoke developed was "air bombing" the bombers from above using a delay-fused 250 kg bomb with a 15-second fuse, although the loss of aircraft performance and vulnerability of the bomb-carrying aircraft to fighters meant the method was not widely adopted. Knoke's initial operation using air bombs was from 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above the bomber formation on 22 March 1943, and he reported breaking the wing off one of the bombers, although the only B-17 lost that day was to III./JG 1.

JG 1 also pioneered the use of underwing Werfer-Granate (Wfr. Gr. or WGr) 21 rockets as a "stand-off" anti-bomber weapon in mid-1943, although they proved too heavy for the fighter aircraft and were removed later in the year.[8][20]

By the start of 1943, JG 1 were mainly equipped with the Fw 190-A, excepting I./JG 1 still using the Bf 109G-1. The first large-scale air battle between JG 1 and VIII Bomber Command occurred when the latter bombed the naval base at Wilhelmshaven on 27 January 1943 with a force of 64 B-17 Flying Fortress (B-17) and 27 B-24 Liberators (B-24). Facing them were I., II. and IV./JG 1. With their Jever base below the route I./JG 1 attacked in full strength under Hauptmann Günther Beise. In broken cloud cover, they intercepted at 25,000 ft (7,600 m). The lack of heavy armament on the Bf 109 and the lack of experience of I./JG 1 meant had less than satisfactory results.[28] The US crews noted the Bf 109s did not press home their attacks. Although most of the B-17s had some combat damage, only one failed to return, with first American casualty of "Defence of Reich" campaign Captain Vance Beckham's 305th Bomber Group B-17F (41-24637). There were five claims (one unconfirmed) and the bomber was shot down by either Oberleutnant Hugo Frey of 2./JG 1 or by Feldwebel Siegfried Zick of 2./JG 1, as his second kill.[29] Five of the Bf 109s went down with three pilots killed, although damage to the naval base was minimal.[29][30][31]

Cloud cover over the target and bad radio communication meant the B-24 formation broke up. The smaller B-24 formation lost their way and crossed into the Netherlands near Woensdrecht. After wandering over North Netherlands they turned north towards the North Sea where they ditched their bombs. II. and IV./JG 1 took off from Woensdrecht and München-Gladbach to intercept while 5. and 6./JG 1 refuelled at Schiphol. 4./JG 1 made one pass at the bombers and two Liberators were claimed but not confirmed. 12./JG 1 intercepted over Terschelling, downing two Liberators. Of these, one was the result of a collision with a downed Fw-190 that cut the bomber's tail, 12./JG 1's only loss.[20][24]

Geschwaderkommodore Hans Philipp, (13 March 1917 – 8 October 1943)

On 4 February 1943 the night-fighter wing Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 (NJG 1), equipped with Bf 110 twin-engined night fighters, joined the fray along with I./JG 1, II./JG 1 and IV./JG 1. Due to poor weather conditions only 3./JG 1 was able to find the formation at first, claiming one B-17. II./JG 1 and IV./JG 1 claimed six B-17 downed at the cost of two fighters.[24]

I./JG 1 claimed four B-17s and four B-24s on 26 February 1943 during an attack on the Wilhelmshaven U-boat yards and two Liberators were confirmed lost. One was claimed by Oberleutnant Heinz Knoke, and the other claimed by Unteroffizier Leo Demetz of 3./JG 1. Thirteen B-17s were claimed downed by JG 1 in total.[24]

On 18 March 1943, 76 B-17s and 27 B-24s were sent to attack Vegesack U-Boat Yards near Bremen. I./JG 1, IV./JG 1 and parts of III./JG 1 along with Nachtjagdgeschwader formations intercepted the bombers southwest of Heligoland. Knoke and his wingman Dieter Gerhardt each attacked one B-24 bomber head on. Knoke's target exploded but was also claimed by Oberleutnant Walter Borchers of 8./Nachtjagdgeschwader 3(NJG 3). Gerhardt's target B-24 limped back to England while he was shot down over the North Sea by another bomber return fire. The fight lasted for two hours, and four B-17s and five B-24s were claimed shot down for the loss of two pilots and three aircraft. Only one B-24 and one B-17 was actually lost.[32]

On 1 April 1943, Oberfeldwebel Fritz Timm of 3./JG 1 shot down a Lancaster. On 17 April 1943, Hauptmann Fritz Losigkeit, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 1 shot down his first B-17, and his unit claimed a total of three of which two were confirmed for the loss of one pilot and two Fw 190s. 17 other B-17s were claimed shot down by JG 1 and JG 11.

On 11 June 1943, Leesmann's III./JG 11 saw action for the first time. The group intercepted a formation of B-17s approaching Wilhelmshaven. Leutnant Eugen Wintergerst, Staffelkapitän of 9./JG 1 claimed one B-17 for his twenty-first victory.[33]

VIII Bomber Command organized its first large attack on the Ruhr Area on 22 June 1943. The main objective was the synthetic rubber plant in Hüls by ten B-17 groups. JG 1 intercepted and was credited with fifteen bombers.[34]

On 25 June 1943, another B-17 formation headed into Germany. However, both primary and secondary targets were covered with cloud and the bombers attacked two convoys off the Frisian Islands. Some eight assorted groups of fighters intercepted, among them III./JG 1, who claimed seven bombers, Leesmann responsible for one of them. III./JG 1 lost two pilots including Adjutant Oberleutnant Friedrich Hardt, and three pilots were injured.

The weather on 25 July was so poor that two bomber formations of VIII Bomber Command selected their secondary target and a third abandoned its mission. III./JG 1 downed three bombers, but lost Leesmann, who crashed into the North Sea along with his 37th victim.

Next day, the bombers went after rubber factories in Hannover, along with Hamburg U-Boat Yards. Feldwebel Alfred Miksch of 8./JG 1 and Hauptmann Robert Olejnik of III./JG 1 each claimed one bomber.[35]

30 July 1943 was the last day of what was dubbed "Blitz Week". Mission No. 80 targeted the Fieseler factory in Kassel. III./JG 1 did scrambled until the bombers had bombed and were returning, and, along with III./JG 11, intercepted the bombers near the Dutch border over Emmerich am Rhein. They were unexpectedly confronted by one hundred USAAF P-47 Thunderbolts and III./JG 1 had three Bf 109G aircraft damaged, of which two were beyond repair. Leutnant Wintergerst of 9./JG 1 shot down one P-47, the first P-47 lost in the "Defence of Reich" campaign. The 56th Fighter Group and 78th Fighter Group recorded the loss of one fighter each. Two bombers were also shot down.[36]

On 12 August 1943, 330 B-17s bombed targets in Western Germany, escorted for the first time by P-47s with drop tanks. II./JG 1 had six Fw 190s force-land and another six suffered heavy damage, losing one pilot.[37]

On 8 October 1943, JG 1 lost high scoring ace Oberstleutnant Hans Philipp, killed by the P-47 fighters of the 56th Fighter Group. The geschwaderstab heard Philipp announce a victory over a Thunderbolt, and his last transmission was to wingman Oberfeldwebel Reinhardt, stating "Reinhardt, attack!". . Reinhardt last saw Philipp's aircraft disappear into a cloud. Reinhardt was wounded after colliding with an enemy aircraft, but made a successful forced landing.[38]

II./JG 1 were reinforced with several experten at this time, including Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Weber (136 kills in 500+ missions with 7./JG 51) Oberleutenant Friedrich Krakowitzer (23 kills by June 1944) and Obfw. Günther Heckmann (12 kills). It was during late 1943 that Walter Oesau was appointed Kommodore of JG 1.[10][39]

On 28 December 1943, 6./JG 1 lost Unteroffizier Gerhard Hartwig and Rudolf Wezulek over Mesum and Oberfeldwebel Werner Essinger bailing out over Burgsteinfurt. Hauptmann Hans-Georg Hackbarth, who had joined JG 1 on 15 November was promoted to replace Hans Ehlers in I./JG 1, killed on 22 December 1943.[40]


Major Hans-Günther von Kornatzki had formed an experimental unit to evaluate new methods of bomber attack. Sturmstaffel 1 consisted entirely of volunteers trained to engage the enemy bombers in extremely close quarters, utilising specially armed and up-armored Fw 190's (so-called Sturmböcke) or Battering Rams). These were intended to attack the bombers from the rear in tight arrowhead formations, closing to extreme close range, as replacements for the formerly-dedicated Zerstörer twin-engined heavy fighters, which themselves were being shot down in ever-increasing numbers by Allied escort fighters. In January 1944, the 18 Staffel unit was transferred to Dortmund where they were subordinated to Major Rudolf-Emil Schnoor and his I./JG 1.[37]

Lieutenant Colonel Walter "Gulle" Oesau. (28 June 1913 – 11 May 1944)

By January 1944, II./JG 1 was based in Northern Germany as a "Defence of the Reich" (Reichsverteidigung) unit under Hauptmann Walter Höckner (62 kills). Over the following few months II./JG 1 now had three noted experts transferred in; Hauptmann Hermann Segatz (33 kills), Oberleutnant Georg-Peter Eder (33 kills) and Major Heinz Bär (179 kills). Oberleutnant Georg-Peter Eder was assigned as Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 1 on 15 March 1944, after recovering from wounds suffered while serving with JG 2.[10]

On 4 February 1944 Hauptmann Hermann Segatz replaced Hauptmann Walter Hoeckner as commander of II./JG 1. Although Major Bär had led I./JG 77, his out spoken criticism of the Luftwaffe leadership led Reichsmarschall Göring to demote him to Staffelkapitän leading an operation training group. He was transferred on 21 January 1944 to 6./JG 1 as an ordinary pilot. Walter Oesau welcomed him with assurances to High Command that Bär would not have command responsibilities. Oesau however managed to utilize Bär's skills as formation leader after the death of Segatz on 8 March 1944, and Bär was appointed as acting commander of II./ JG 1.[41]

On 24 February 1944, the Eighth Air Force attempted to repeat the success of 20 February. 1st and 2nd Divisions flew due east towards Germany and the 3rd Division east-northeast without escort. After crossing into Schleswig-Holstein they attacked targets along the Baltic sea coast. The 1st and 2nd Divisions were considered to be the main thrust of the attack and the 3rd Division went unmolested. The B-24 bombers of the 2nd Division were scheduled to bomb Gotha and JG 1 were directed to attack these B-24s. Due to strong tailwinds and flying at lower altitude, the bombers were separated from their escorting fighters and JG 1 reached Gotha before the bombers. Major Heinz Bär led II./JG 1 in a diving attack and claimed four B-24s while I./JG 1 attacked head-on and claimed five B-24s downed.

At the time an "assembly directive" in place dictated that the senior pilot landing at any fighter airfield would assume command of all other fighter pilots (irrespective of unit) landing on that airfield with a serviceable aircraft. This enabled large ad-hoc formations of fighters to be quickly thrown back into the battle. JG 1's Walter Oesau led one such attack with improvised command.[42]

Major Heinz Bär. (21 March 1913 – 28 April 1957)

On 6 March 1944, Jimmy Doolittle ordered 730 bombers to bomb Berlin for the first time. They were escorted by 644 fighters from 8th Air Force, 9th Air Force and the RAF. The Commander of I. Jagdkorps requested and received reinforcements from II. Jagdkorps and 7 Jagd-Division. Oesau led Stab./JG 1 and I./JG 1, Major Bär led II./JG 1, and accompanied by I./JG 11 and III./JG 54 they initially intercepted sixteen B-17s of 100th Bomb Group who were escorted by P-47s of the 78th Group. Ten B-17s went down in the first wave, and in several waves of attacks on the bombers from multiple directions most of the pilots ended up exhausting their ammunition, resulting in twenty bombers being shot down in the 25 minutes before the escorting P-47s arrived.

During the first half of 1944, Allied attacks on railway networks had thoroughly frustrated Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring. Göring was not at all happy with the inability to stop Allied operations over Germany, and he questioned the commitment of several fighter wing leaders who were not flying and personally leading their units on a regular basis. On 11 May 1944, 1,000 B-17 and B-24 bombers of the 8th Air Force attacked vital railway networks in north east Belgium and eastern France, escorted by an even greater number of fighters. Oesau was sick and in bed at the time but, angered by Göring's insinuations, took off with two other fighters of the Headquarters Flight in his "Green 12" Bf 109.[43][44]

There are various versions regarding his death. One version suggested that his wingman reported damage and was asked to break off. Alone over the Ardennes, he was engaged by at least four escorting P-38s or possibly by P-51s. In the ensuing 20 minute dogfight, he was killed crashing near St. Vith. In his memory, Jagdgeschwader 1 was granted the "Oesau" suffix.[43][44]

"Red 23", an FW 190A-7 flown by Maj. Heinz Bär of II./JG 1. This may have been the aircraft in which Bär scored his 200th victory on 22 April 1944.

Bär was transferred to JG 3 on 21 May 1944, having claimed 23 victories in four months with II./JG 1, replaced by Oberleutnant Georg-Peter Eder. Hauptmann Weber was appointed to command III./JG 1 on 7 June 1944.

The wing had served almost exclusively in North Germany and the Netherlands until now, when it was transferred to Central and Western Germany before moving to France, providing air cover over the Army (Wehrmacht) during the Battle of Normandy.[20][31][45] On D-Day, II./JG 1 received orders to transfer west from their base near Störmede. 32 Fw 190A-8s took off under the command of Oberleutnant Eder, and headed for Essay. By late afternoon all the aircraft landed at Montdidier. News that their original destination had been bombed meant a diversion to Le Mans. The newly added Staffel 7./JG 51 (later 8./JG 1) was attacked by Mustangs near Le Mans, Lt. Johann Brünnler being shot down and killed. I./JG 1 and II./JG 1, along with II./JG 53, were based at Le Mans with a complement of 100 Fw 190s and Bf 109s.[10]

The next day saw the notable loss of Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Weber, commander of III./JG 1 who was shot down and killed by Mustangs. It was from Le Mans that JG 1 started to perform fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber or Jabo) missions, even though I. nor II./JG 1 had any specialised training. On 8 June 1944 both gruppen were sent off on ground-attack missions. 25 Fw 190s of II./JG 1 attacked Allied shipping off the Normandy coast unmolested. RAF aircraft bombed Le Mans airfield on the night of 9 June, resulting in II./JG 1 losing seven aircraft and five damaged. Oberleutnant Rüdiger von Kirchmayr flew back to 4./JG 1 after hospitalization on 12 June in Störmede, and en route he was attacked by Spitfires over Flers, claiming an unconfirmed kill as a result.[46] There was a follow-up bombing attack on 15 June resulting in a loss of two more Fw 190s.[10]

On 15 June 1944, Feldwebel Günther Henschel of 8./JG 1 downed a Mustang north of Caen. One Fw 190 was downed without human loss. On 16 June 1944, II./JG 1 moved its complement of 25 Fw 190s to Essay and was tasked with defending the skies over the beaches of Normandy. During the transfer, 8./JG 1, was probably attacked by the P-51s of the 354th Fighter Wing, near Alençon. JG 1 lost three pilots and one mechanic riding passenger, and also lost were two other aircraft without human loss with a claiming of two P-51s downed credited to Lt. Friedrich Krakowitzer (24th kill) and Oberfeldwebel Günther Heckmann (13th kill). The base at Essay was bombed the same day by B-24 Liberators, making the airfield unsuitable for missions.[10][31]

This prompted a transfer to a landing ground at Semallé, south-east of Alençon. As the unit was establishing itself here, they came under fresh attack from Mustangs, which shot up the airfield, destroying 15 Fw 190s and putting II./JG 1 out of the battle. Around 11 non-operational Fw 190s were also destroyed – resulting in the final losses of II./JG 1 in Normandy. In ten weeks in Normandy, II./JG 1 had lost 27 pilots, 3 captured and 2 wounded. A total of 106 aircraft were lost for various reasons.[10][31]

On 17 August 1944, II./JG 1 transferred back to Reinsehlen, Germany, for training and re-equipping with the new Heinkel He 162 Spatz lightweight jet fighters.

On 21 November, 1,149 bombers and 858 fighters of the 8th Air Force attacked the Merseburg oil yard. In poor flying conditions, many of the new inexperienced pilots of I./JG 1 were lost, some 20 aircraft being shot down. I./JG 1 was then assigned to support preparations for the Ardennes counter-offensive, which would restart the Battle of the Bulge[6][47]

Providing air support to the army in the Bastogne area was as hard for II./JG 1,losing several experienced pilots. On 26 December 1944,Leutnant Horst Ertmann, Oberfeldwebel Georg Hutter and Oberfeldwebel Reinhard Flecks of 5./JG 11 and 6./JG 11 were all lost. Other pilots lost included Unteroffizier Ferdinand Nüsse and Johann Ruburg and Leutnant Heinz Fresia, Oberführer Paul Brühl and Oberführer Helmut Bullenkampof 8./JG 1.[48]

Operation Bodenplatte

Main article: Operation Bodenplatte

In late 1944, the Luftwaffe Operation Bodenplatte with the aim of crippling Allied tactical air forces based in the Low Countries, and thus reviving the bogged-down progress of the Wehrmacht during the Battle of the Bulge. The operation was launched on New Year's Day, 1945. JG 1 participated in this action with orders to destroy as many enemy aircraft on the ground as possible. Although a large number of allied aircraft were destroyed, the Luftwaffe lost a large number of pilots that were irreplaceable.[49]

JG 1's targets included:

JG 1 lost ten pilots killed, seven missing and eight captured.[50]

During a fight with No. 308 Squadron Spitfires, by Flight Sergeant Józef Stanowski engaged Hauptmann Georg Hackbarth (30 kills) and his Fw 190A-8 crashed near St. Pieters railway station, his body being thrown clear of the wreckage. Fw. Karl Hahn was also shot down by Stanowski, as was Feldwebel Harry Klints' I./JG 1 Fw 190 "Green 5" which crashed near Zwijnaarde. Flying Officer Tadeusz Szlenkier also claimed the Fw 190 piloted by Klints. Szlenkier in turn was attacked and crash-landed.

However, Stanowski had to crash-land due to lack of fuel. As No. 308 Squadron returned to base they shot down four more of the I./JG 1 fighters.[49]

It was then that II./JG 1 arrived. Fw. Edger Ardner of 5./JG 1 was engaged by two Spitfires and shot down, bailing out and taken prisoner. No. 317 Squadron then joined the mêlée upon arrival. Warrant Officer Stanisław Piesik shot down another Fw 190.[49]

One eye witness account suggested some of the downed JG 1 pilots faced the wrath of Belgium civilians, citing that the body of one of the pilots was stripped and attacked by an angry mob. Another pilot, Unteroffizier Fritz Hoffman, barely escaped by surrendering to Allied forces after being shot down by Flight Lieutenant Czesław Mroczyk of 317 Squadron. Feldwebel Paul Mayr and Leutnant Ernst Von Johannides were also shot down by No. 317 Squadron. In turn, Flight Lieutenant Tadeusz Powierza was shot down and killed. Another Allied pilot crash-landed after downing a German aircraft.[49]

Pilot Officer Andrzej Dromlewicz was credited for downing another German aircraft and Flight Lieutenant Mach shot down another German aircraft after a chase at ground level. Another German Fw 190 was shot down by his wing man, Warrant Officer Stanisław Bednarczyk.[49]

The remaining pilots of I./JG 1 and II./JG 1 started their homeward journey, some of whom, like Fw. Paul Wunderlich, were downed by enemy flak. They also came under fire from friendly flak, downing even more pilots.

In all, JG 1 claimed 32 Spitfires, one B-17 and one Short Stirling on the ground. However, RAF records state only 13 Spitfires were destroyed, with 8 shot down in aerial combat. Just 4 were listed as lost in aerial engagements with JG 1.[51]


After the disastrous losses of Operation Bodenplatte, and failing to maintain air superiority over the Ardennes area, a severely weakened II./JG 1 transferred to Insterburg in East Prussia (modern Chernyakhovsk in Russia). I./JG 1 faced British fighters over Hengelo-Twente on 14 January 1945. JG 1 lost 12 pilots with 7 being killed, 3 wounded and 2 missing. Spitfires shot down the entire 1. and 2. staffels of JG 1 at Twente airport as they took off (for the loss of two). Ihlefeld threatened to court martial Major G. Capito, the new leader of I./JG 1, for such a disastrous loss but was unable to during the transferring to the Eastern Front. In Poland JG 1 were briefly assigned to Luftflotte Reich (the Air Fleet assigned to defend what was left of Germany from the final Allied offensives).[6][52]

An ex-JG1 He 162. This aircraft was taken to the United States and used in post-war trials.

It was during this time that the unit began converting to the new jet-propelled Heinkel He 162A "Volksjäger". I./JG 1 started training on the new jet aircraft in March 1945. Some 12 pilots were killed in accidents flying the new unfamiliar fighter. I./JG 1 had moved back to Parchim, performing "Defence of the Reich" duties, and one of the bases of the pioneering German jet fighter wing, JG 7. Since this was not far from Rostock-Marienehe (today's Rostock-Schmarl neighborhood), where the Heinkel factory was located, it was easier for the pilots of I./JG 1 to pick up the new jets. However, with Germany on the brink of collapse, transportation and fuel supply was getting difficult with the increased Allied air attacks.[25]

On 7 April 1945, 134 B-17 Flying Fortresses bombed the field at Parchim. In two days, I./JG 1 relocated to a nearby airfield at Ludwigslust. They moved again a week later to Leck. Around this time, II./JG 1 had moved to airfield at Marienehe and also started taking delivery of the He 162. These new jet aircraft would never see widespread combat with JG 1 due to their late introduction and a shortage of pilots, aircraft and fuel. JG 1 could no longer field their full complement or effectively fly operations as required.[25]

The new He 162 had about 30 minutes worth of fuel. This endurance was simply not enough, and at least two JG 1 pilots were killed making Deadstick landing after exhausting their fuel. By April, I./JG 1 had scored a number of kills, but at the cost of 13 He 162s and 10 pilots. The losses were mostly attributed to issues with the He 162 such as engine flame-outs or occasional structural failures, which can most probably be attributed to poor design and insufficient development time. On 24 April 1945, III./JG 1 was disbanded.[25]

On 19 April at least one He 162 of 3./JG 1 fell victim to a Hawker Tempest of 222 Squadron. Leutnant Gerhard Steimer wrote:

We took off from the concrete runway in Leck, Kirchner (Fhj.Fw Günther Kirchner) stayed 30 metres behind me on my right side as usual;... We climbed up to about 200 metres, when suddenly two Thunderbolts appeared behind us and instantly shot down Günther Kirchner's plane. I saw him jettison canopy and catapult but his parachute did not deploy. I was very lucky that the Thunderbolts did not press on with another attack.[a][53]

The combat matches an account by Flight Lieutenant G. Walkington of 222 Squadron who reported shooting down an unusual looking German aircraft while on armed reconnaissance in the area. This was the first loss of an He 162 in combat.[54]

On 30 April 1945, II./JG 1 was combined with I./JG 1 at Leck to form two new groups (Gruppen): I. (Einsatz)/JG 1 and II. (Sammel)/JG 1; a combined total of about 50 pilots and aircraft. On 4 May 1945, all of JG 1's surviving He-162s were formed into a special consolidated Intervention groups (Einsatzgruppen). However, on 5 May 1945, the war ended with Germany's surrender. The terms of the surrender required that the Luftwaffe cease all operations.. Surviving JG 1 crews subsequently turned their He 162s over to the Allies.[25]

Notable successes and losses

The Gruppe's 700th victory occurred on 29 April 1944, credited to Oberlt. von Kirchmayr as his 15th kill. There were several high-scoring pilots associated with JG 1. For example, Alfred Grislawski had a score of 134 to his name, Georg-Peter Eder had 78, and Walter Oesau had 127 confirmed prior to his death.[10][38]

However, losses were also high. Five of the fourteen Group commanders (Gruppenkommandeure) of II./JG 1 were killed in action while serving with II./JG 1. The notable losses were Oberleutnant Rohwer, and Hauptmanns Kijewski, Wickop, Seegatz and Dähne. During early 1944, prior to D-Day, II./JG 1 was led by one of its four experienced formation commanders. These were Hauptmann Segatz, Major Bär, and Oberleutnants von Kirchmayr and Eder. Yet the unit suffered heavy losses (along with most other wings in the West) of 48 pilots killed, 23 wounded, and 158 aircraft destroyed for 164 confirmed victories. Of these, 119 were USAAF four-engined bombers.[6][10]

Significantly, the highly experienced and irreplaceable experts were among the losses. The most notable loss of II./JG 1 was its Kommandeur, Hauptmann Seegatz (KIA 8 March 1944, 40 kills). The Group also lost seven experienced pilots.[6][10]

When 8./JG 1 (originally 7./JG 51) was transferred from Eastern front, it had 15 pilots in May 1944. By August, twelve pilots had been killed, one captured and another severely wounded; only Lieutenant Günther Heckmann was the sole pilot remaining.[10]

The Luftwaffe units committed to battle after the D-Day landings suffered further catastrophic losses against the overwhelming numbers of allied fighters present. In the ten weeks of action following D-Day, II./JG 1 lost 106 aircraft (41 in air combat) and 30 pilots, for just 32 air claims. Many experienced and irreplaceable Experte were killed during this time. Hauptmann Karl-Heinz Weber, Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 1 (136 claims) was killed in action against Polish Wing Mustangs on 7 June 1944, north of Paris, while on 17 June 1944, Leutnant 'Toni' Piffer (35 claims) was shot down and killed in aerial combat with USAAF fighters over La Cordonnerie.[38]

On 16 June 1944, while 8./JG 1 was moving from Le Mans to Essay, France came under attack by the P-51s of 354th Fighter Wing, near Alençon. In the ensuing dogfight, 8./JG 1 lost three pilots and one mechanic riding passenger. Those were Uffz. Günther Henschel, Uffz. Franz Zechner, and Feldwebel Helmuth Heidemann. The mechanic was Uffz. Herbert Redlich. Also lost were two other aircraft without loss of life.[10]

Total pilot losses in World War II were 464 killed in action, 174 wounded, 94 killed in accidents, and 16 POW.[38]

Commanding officers

Wing commanders

Originally JG 1 was formed as a single Group I./JG 1 in 1938. A full wing was formed only in November 1939. The first Wing Commander was Schumacher.[19]

Group commanders
I./JG 1

Originally JG 1 was formed only as a single group I./JG 1 under Woldenga. That group was re-designated as III./JG 27. JG 1 thus temporarily ceased to exist. It was reactivated 7 months later under Schumacher in November 1939. But a formal I./JG 1 came to exist in September 1941.[19]

II./JG 1

In April 1943, III./JG 1 was re-designated as I./JG 11. A new group was added to JG 1 as III./JG 1 based on Operation squadrons of Fighter schools.[19]




  1. 1 2 Weal (2001), p. 9.
  2. 1 2 Weal (2003), p. 6.
  3. Weal (2003), p. 10.
  4. Weal (2003), pp. 12–13.
  5. 1 2 Caldwell, Muller (2007), p. 38.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 II.Jagdgeschwader 1.
  7. Caldwell & Muller (2007), p. 75.
  8. 1 2 3 Weal (2006), p. 20–21.
  9. 1 2 Weal (1996), p. 21.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Schuelke (1995).
  11. Weal (1999), p. 51.
  12. 1 2 3 Stedman & Chappell (2002) p. 6
  13. 1 2 3 4 Weal (2006), p. 12.
  14. Caldwell & Muller, (2007), p. 139.
  15. 1 2 3 Reimer, 2007/08
  16. Weal (2001) p. 9
  17. 1 2 Weal (2006), p. 10.
  18. Weal (1996) p. 52.
  19. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Holm (1997–2003)
  20. 1 2 3 4 Caldwell & Muller, (2007)
  21. Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen, I./JG 1
  22. Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen, III./JG 1
  23. Jagdgeschwader 1 Oesau
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 Weal (2006) pp. 13–14.
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 Goebel (2001).
  26. 1 2 Weal (2007) pp. 11–29
  27. Weal 1996, p. 15–21.
  28. Caldwell & Muller (2007) p. 74–80
  29. 1 2 Weal, (2006) p. 14–30.
  30. Caldwell & Muller, (2007) p. 73–74.
  31. 1 2 3 4 Price (1991) p. 59.
  32. Caldwell & Muller (2007) p. 78
  33. Weal, (2006) p. 27.
  34. Weal, (2006) p. 29.
  35. Weal, (2006) p. 30.
  36. Weal, (2006) p. 32.
  37. 1 2 Weal, (1996) p. 46.
  38. 1 2 3 4 Mombeek (2003).
  39. Williamson & Bujeiro (2004) p. 30–31.
  40. Parker (1998) p. 360.
  41. Caldwell, Muller (2007), pp. 161–170.
  42. Caldwell & Muller, (2007) p. 161.
  43. 1 2 Weal (1999) p. 71.
  44. 1 2 Sundin & Bergström (2002) p. 56.
  45. Weal (1996) p. 45
  46. Franks 1998, p. 49.
  47. Parker (1998) p. 96.
  48. Parker (1998) p. 315.
  49. 1 2 3 4 5 Parker (1998) pp 409–413.
  50. Manrho & Putz 2004, p. 278.
  51. Manrho & Putz 2004, p. 290.
  52. Parker, (1998) p. 470.
  53. Shores & Thomas, (2006) p. 498.
  54. Shores and Thomas, (2006) pp. 497–498.


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