Rietitag

(continued)

At 17.05 hours that day, SG 4 put up 18 sorties against troop concentrations and supply columns at Palombaro, 12 km south of Pescara on the eastern side of the peninsula, Allied radio monitoring overhearing Fw 190s airborne between 17.25 and 18.30 hours local time. The escort of about 20 Bf 109s drawn from II./JG 77 and III./JG 53 joined up south of Viterbo. At 17.40 hours, 12 aircraft of II./SG4 were over the target and dropped 11 bombs. Smoke and dust were seen to rise, there was strong AA fire and the Bf 109 G-6 of 4./JG 77’s Uffz. Werner Engelhardt was hit as the formation turned for home.

Six Fw 190s of I./SG 4 (presumably the number that got airborne) were included in the sortie total but did not attack, instead dropping five unfused bombs on German-held territory. The Kittyhawks had not only weakened the bombing mission but had, as ULTRA decrypts confirmed, shot down two Fw 190s, killing both pilots:

Source saw torn copy of a report stamped 1930/7/4, signed ARC 9/VII:-

…(several lines torn off)… from 1705 to 1733 hours, in which period 4 Spitfires were shot down. 2 German a/c were shot down by the enemy a/c in air combat. Both pilots killed (including Gruppenkommandeur, Hptm. ZIPF). 3 more German a/c damaged by a/c armament. One bomb was dropped on the town of Rieti.

And:

Two communications seen by source, dated 7/4:-

1.

6 Fw 190 of (Roman) I SG 4 did not carry out the attack ordered. 5 bombs dropped unfused on own territory. During the take-off, attack by 10 Kittyhawks. Losses: 2 Fw 190 in air battle. 4 Kittyhawks shot down. Several Kitthawks effectively fired at. One of them presumably shot down. One probably made a belly-landing.

2.

(Roman) II SG 4 12 Fw 190 over the target at 1540 hrs. 11 bombs on village PX 5 ((H 1991 Palombaro)). Bombs well placed. Detailed effect not observed. No losses.

Note: Above seen in a file marked Lfl. 2

 

The German pilots killed were:

Hptm. Heinrich Zwipf

Gr. Stab

Fw 190 A-6

470644

 

Uffz. Kurt Fischer

1./SG 4

Fw 190 G-3

160825

 

Zwipf was I./SG 4’s Gruppenkommandeur and had been awarded both the Ritterkreuz and Deutsches Kreuz in Gold. The third kill claimed by 112 Squadron seems to have been a case of mistaken reporting and, as the narrative on the previous page shows, no one was too clear about it at the time. Though they claimed five damaged, two hours after the combat the Germans were reported only three (see above).

As we have seen, the Germans fought back and the initial assessment of "four and two probables" changed during the evening to five Kittyhawks shot down:

Fw. Helmut Hellerbrand

1./SG 4

1 km. E. Rieti A/F at 400 m.

17.10

Fw. Maikranz

3./SG 4

10 km. E. Rieti A/F at 300 m.

17.11

Uffz. Ochs

1./SG 4

6 km. S.W. Rieti A/F at 10 m.

17.11

Oblt. Schick

1./SG 4

8 km. N.E. Rieti at 300-500 m.

17.14

Uffz. Ochs

1./SG 4

4 km. S. Rieti at 100 m.

17.20

Notes:

Hellerbrand was wounded in combat with Spitfires on 25 May 1944

Maikranz also shot down a P-47, 8 km south east of Terni on 27 May 1944

 

The validity of these claims could have been checked with relative ease by looking for the wrecks of the supposedly downed Kittyhawks, all of which would have been on German-held territory and close to I./SG 4’s base. Clearly this didn’t happen since all the claims were officially recognised. It was probably Hellerbrand who claimed F/S Bill Cocks’ Kittyhawk since the time is an exact match with the 112 Squadron account and the location is very close (although his comrades thought Cocks had spun in rather than being shot down). None of 112’s pilots saw F/S Warburton shot down but his loss is timed at 17.10, perhaps from his last W/T message and so Maikranz or Ochs may have been responsible.

On 112 Squadron’s return trip, a formation of Baltimores with Spitfire escort was seen flying North and F/L Ahern radioed a warning to them of enemy aircraft in the area. The III./JG 53, escorting Jabos to Ortona on the Adriatic Coast reported seeing “Bostons” and their escort but there were no claims or losses arising from this encounter.

The Squadron diarist’s assessment of the day was that:

“the pilots gave an excellent account of themselves when dicing with FW.190’s.”

continued on next page...

navtag

HIGH NUMBERS

It seems that in air combat the Schlachtflieger could make claims every bit as exaggerated as their fighter pilot colleagues sometimes did.


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