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Zerstörergeschwader 1: June–July 1944

June 1944

We could hear the noise over in the direction of Cherbourg at 0400 hours. There was nothing happening near us, no alert, nothing. We didn’t know what was happening and then the French told us exactly” “It’s the invasion!”

Uffz. Heinrich Heymann (2./ZG 1)

In four days of operations against the Normandy beach heads, I. and III./ZG 1 suffered terrible losses. On D-Day itself, for example, two Ju 88s took off at 06.51 hrs. but broke off the operation due to (engine?) damage within half an hour. Seven more were up from 08.20 hrs. They attacked SWORD Beach from 700 metres, dropping their loads of AB 500, SD 50 and AB 23 on the “unloading operations” there, in the face of intense light AA from both ships and land as well as 50 fighters. The defences were such that they could not observe any results although they did claim “one possible victory.” Uffz. Heymann again:

… at midday we [2./ZG 1] the word was given, “Operation!”, so we took off … 12 aircraft. Four got shot down. No fighter escort, nothing. We’d no idea what was happening. They simply told us this: “They’ve landed near Caen.” Shoved a map into our hands: “There on the coast.”

Tree-top height … Some of us [had bombs while] we were just supposed to strafe. They told us: “The weather’s completely overcast so you will be able to hide from the fighters really well,and fighter activity is very limited down there.” About 40 km short of Caen around forty Spitfires suddenly appeared in the sky. We flew on for a bit, gawping. The fighters spotted us and we all split up, there was nothing else for it. We alone had 12 Spitfires on our tail, we didn’t give another thought to the ground fighting. The others just jettisoned their bombs and then took evasive action.

… They kept after us for half an hour without let-up … We were happy when we got home. The tail unit and everything was shot to pieces. They fixed the kite up again overnight and we flew again the next day.

Returning crews reported 200–300 gliders at Amfreville (6th Airborne Division’s drop zones on the right bank of the Orne); off SWORD Beach were large concentrations of warships and cargo vessels with heavy landing craft traffic between them and the coast; o n the beach itself were “lively traffic” and supply dumps. Inland, Carpiquet aerodrome was on fire.

As of 15.00 hrs. that day, two Ju 88s were said to have been shot down, six were missing and one had landed at the alternative airfield of Nantes. Only four losses are known, all Ju 88 C-6 from the 2. Staffel. These were timed at 13.37 hours; location Caen, during an “offensive task”; all were observed by the enemy; and all the crews were missing:


W.Nr. 750924

W.Nr. 750992

W.Nr. 750597

W.Nr. 750942


Uffz. Kurt Schwarz

Uffz. Walther Hermann

Uffz. Erich Keller

Uffz. Herbert Klont


Fw. Wilhelm Stargert

Gefr. Fritz Santermaier

Uffz. Ottmar Kraml

Gefr. Lothar Rams


Uffz. Karl Schmidt

Gefr. Manfred Unger

Gefr. Gerhard Weber

Ogefr. Wilhelm Kablitz

NOTE: Keller’s crew were later reported to be wounded, see Goss, “Bloody Biscay”, Appendix E.

On 7 June, 18 Ju 88 of I. and III./ZG 1 took off from 06.33–06.50 hrs. to attack the landing area between the Orne and Asnelles (covering all three Anglo-Canadian beaches). Eight aircraft were lost, three of them from the 2. Staffel. Among these was W.Nr. 750104, 2N+CK, from which wireless operator Heinrich Heymann baled out into captivity after it was set on fire by AA hits; his pilot, Uffz. Hans Roeder, and Gefr. Lothar Schirmacher (observer) were both killed The 1./ZG 1 reported Ju 88 R-2 W.Nr. 751102, W.Nr. 2N+BH missing, shot down by fighters near Colleville-sur-Mer (OMAHA Beach).

From 03.15–03.20 hrs. on the 9th, nine Ju 88s made a low level attack on SWORD, each carrying 10 x SC 50. Results could not be observed owing to strong light and medium-calibre AA fire. There were also barrage balloons and one was struck by a Ju 88 R-2 of the 1. Staffel, albeit without injury to the airmen. Three other ZG 1 aircraft were lost over the beach head that morning, plus one more on the 10th. Reported strength that evening was 21 (10) aircraft and 39 (15) crews.

continued on next page …


Some background on how I./ZG 1 came to be withdrawn from operations over the Normandy beaches, how one Staffel was temporarily assigned to Geschwader Bongart and something of what was planned for the others.

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