Allied photo-reconnaissance on 9 April noted six Ar 234s at Lechfeld and one at Munchen-Riem. Along with other Bavarian bases, München-Riem was raided that day and two of 1.(F)/100’s Arados were destroyed, a Gefreiter of the technical echelon was killed and another man was seriously wounded. Nevertheless, a single Ar 234 was overheard at 08.30 hrs. covering the Crailsheim – Illshofen – Giebelstadt area.
That evening the unit reported its strength as 13 pilots (7 of them officers), of whom 12 were operational. There were 7 aircraft, two of which were unserviceable: IH and another whose marking was not picked up by Allied listeners. By the evening of the 12th strength had fallen to 5 (3) aircraft but with all 13 pilots now operational.
The next known operation was on the afternoon of the 14th, when the Staffel reconnoitred Bamberg and Eltmann. Two days later the unit again reported having 13 (12) pilots but 7 (3) aircraft, with W.Nr. 140611 newly on strength. In fact this machine had yet to arrive because Holert addressed a message to Großenhain asking where were 140611 and 140612 which Obltn. Heinz Schelbert and Fw. Dahlenburg were supposed to be bringing to Lechfeld. The former did finally arrive whereas Dahlenburg had taken off from Großenhain two days earlier and then had been forced to turn back and crash land there.
Jagddivision 7 issued orders for three distinct reconnaissance missions on the 17th but Allied monitoring of radio traffic merely “suggested jet recce shortly before [10.00] and again at [15.30–16.00]. Area unknown.” At 09.29 hrs. onext day, Ltn. Beck took off in T5+IH, carrying two Rb 75/30 cameras. His task was to reconnoitre roads in the area Chemnitz – Döbeln – Altenburg – Greiz – Stollberg – Chemnitz and return to München. Flying at 6,200–7,000 m. he was unable to complete his task for some reason (the Allies missed the end of the report). This may well tie in with an Ar 234 claimed south east of Regensburg at 12.25 hrs. (=10.25 GMT) by Lt.Col. Dale E. Shafer of the 503rd FS/339th FG.
Finding himself with a slight height advantage, Shafer was able to dive on the Arado and obtain strikes. The cockpit hatch came off and the Ar 234 entered a dive, its pilot bailing out at around 900 m. before Shafer saw the jet hit the ground and explode.
An Ar 234 had already been claimed that day, at about 08.15 GMT over Wertingen (c. 25 km. NE of Augsburg). The 359th FS/356th FG was escorting B-26s and a few minutes after they had bombed and turned for home someone called in an unidentified aircraft at about 12,000 ft. and heading south east (which would be the general direction of Lechfeld, around 45 km. distant). Green Section turned to attack but its leader, Lt. Cornett, broke off after a few bursts, apparently unsure that this was a hostile. Green Three, 1/Lt. Leon Oliver, was however positive it was and closed to open fire. His first bursts at 700–900 yds. did not hit but once the range halved he got strikes on the port wing, then on the engine nacelle and fuselage. By now Oliver “could smell the odor of burning low-grade-fuel”, the port jet began “smoking profusely” and a small fire was visible. He kept firing into the centre of the smoke, through which he could see the flashes of his hits. Oliver overtook the stricken Arado and was able to give a good description of it in his report. As he passed, it went into a spin and hit the ground between two houses which caught fire. Neither Oliver nor two witnesses, Lts. Whitaker and Stipes, believed the German pilot had got out before the impact. There is a slim possibility that this unfortunate airman was Hptm. Holert of 1.(F)/100.
One Arado was up on the 21st, along with two Bf 109s of 7. Jagddivision. Between them they provided photographic coverage of Neumarkt – Betzenstein – Roth and Göppingen – Freudenstadt – Villingen. The Staffel’s aircraft strength that day had fallen to 5 (3) but it still had 13 (12) pilots. The next day’s reconnaissance of roads in the area Amberg – Bayreuth – Bamberg – Roth was fruitless as the Ar 234 crashed after take-off from Lechfeld and its pilot, Ltn. Josef Gibitz was hospitalised. He crashed into a wood, sustaining multiple injuries and was taken to hospital in Augusburg and then Hohenschwangau, remaining unconscious for three weeks before waking in American captivity. He was unsure whether he had been shot down or suffered a technical malfunction, only that one of his engines had been on fire. (Gibitz had originally flown reconnaissance Ju 88s and 188s on the Eastern Front, converting to the Ar 234 in Magdeburg during February 1945 before joining the Staffel in Lechfeld).
It was on 22 April that the American 12th Armored Division had seized an intact bridge over the Danube at Dillingen, east of Ulm and another three bridges were taken next day. This was the context of Ofw. Nitschke’s first operation, a visual reconnaissance of the state of the bridges between Ulm and Ingolstadt. He took off from Lechfeld on the afternoon of the 24th, landing in Riem. He was flying T5+BH (W.Nr. 140611, ferried down from Burg by Obltn. Schelberg). The Allies picked up a report of the results of Nitschke’s flight as well as another that morning covering roads and airfields in the area of Erlangen, Nürnberg and Herzogenaurach.
On the afternoon of the 24th, Lechfeld’s Station Command gave out orders for the evacuation of workshop staff to Erding once any Me 262s and Jumo 004 engines had been got away; special tools for jet aircraft were to go by road. Although Luftflotte 6’s table of organisation for 21 April had given the Staffel’s location as Lechfeld, there are indications that elements remained in Riem. A signal timed at 07.00 hrs. on the 25th stated that 1.(F)/100’s Fw. Lippmann had taken off 25 minutes earlier in EH to carry out “Task B”; meanwhile “Task A” would be flown from München but the departure time was not yet to hand. It may have been this second aircraft which fell foul of P-51s of the 434th FS/479th FG in the vicinity of Traunstein, Bavaria.
Circling over the target at 24,000 ft., Lt. Hilton O. Thompson spotted an enemy jet 2,000 ft. higher and climbed toward it. The hostile turned to the south east and Thompson was able to close to 800 yards where, with the aid of a K-14 gyro gunsight, he opened fire, hitting the Arado’s port engine. Closing further from 7 o’clock, he saw strikes on the port fuselage and pieces flying off. First Lieutenant Harold B. Stotts also got hits and the Ar 234 spiralled down until the pilot bailed out below 10,000 ft. Thompson believed that the Arado had crashed near Berchtesgaden (about 35 km. from the initial encounter). The wreckage of W.Nr. 140611, T5+BH was photographed in woods near Berchtesgaden and David E. Brown has made a persuasive case that this was the aircraft shot down by Hilton Thompson.
Karl Nitschke was also flying on the 25th in T5+JH (see Appendix 4) on a P/R of the Regensburg – Amberg area. Allied photo-reconnaissance the same day identified four Arado 234s at Reim and two at Lechfeld while on the 26th, 7. Jagddivision’s list of units placed 1.(F)/100 at the former aerodrome. Although the Staffel was assigned missions to Bavarian targets on the 29th, it is not known whether they were actually flown.
The Americans had crossed the Danube on the 26th, reaching the River Lech south of Lechfeld by the evening of 27 April, while the Augsburg–Lechfeld area itself was in their hands by the following evening and München was taken on the 30th.
continued on next page …