For 1 December, Kdo. Braunegg was ordered to reconnoitre south bank of the Waal from Nijmegen to the limit of its Messerschmitts' range. Large scale photographs were required of “tanks and ammunition dump area 5 km around railway and road crossing Oss–Heesch.”
Luftwaffenkommando West announced that Sonderkommando Braunegg was to transfer to Schwäbisch Hall, about 115 km. from the Franco-German border.A further signal clarified that at its new base the Kommando would be operationally subordinate to the 5. Jagddivision but still under the Versuchsverband for discipline. Communications were to be set up with the Division in Durlach and the airfield must be stocked up for jet operations. Whoever originated the message confused their cover names — Zinn (tin = Ar 234) instead of Silber (silver = Me 262) — necessitating a correction two days later. It looks like reconnaissance capability was being strengthened on the southern sector of the front since Lw.Kdo. West also subordinated NAG 13 (or parts of it) to 5. Jagddivision as well as a motorised photographic platoon. Luftgau VII in Bavaria ordered on the 1st that Kettenkrad half-track motorcycles were only to be used on Me 262 airfields because, it later became clear, the Me 262 burned so much J2 while taxying (200 litres in 5 minutes).
On the 3rd, Lw.Kdo. West told Braunegg that his strength return for 30 November must be submitted immediately and future ones by the second of each month. The message went on to set out in detail the form such reports must take.
On 17 December it was reported that two Me 262 Rotten of Sonderkommando Panther had carried out photo-reconnaissance missions during the day. The area covered was not stated but the fighter operations in the same report were all over Alsace-Lorraine and adjoining areas of Germany. Although this seems to have been their first encounter with the Panther name, the British immediately associated it with Braunegg’s unit, this deduction being confirmed two days later when they decrypted a set of amendments to a 5. Jagddivision document. The Kommando was operating again on the next two days with orders to cover Saarbrücken and from Mulhouse to the Swiss border on the 18th. On the next day the unit was to reconnoitre the Saar Basin and Upper Rhein areas to establish if and where Allied reinforcements were being brought up. Their assignments for the 20th to 22nd were over Basel, Mulhouse and Trier–Lauterbourg, in the area of Army Group, Upper Rhein (recently established with Heinrich Himmler in command).
This last date saw four Panther Me 262s active over the area Mulhouse – Basel – Delle – Wissembourg – Lauterbourg – Bitsch and known assignments/activities for the rest of December were:
On 2 January 1945, Panther sent two Me 262s on photo-reconnaissance of the area Bitsch – Rohrbach – Reichshofen – Brumath – Molsheim – Strasbourg. There were no losses. In Herzogenaurach next day, NAG 6’s Technical Officer, Obltn. Rotter, asked the RLM Works Inspectorate at Messerschmitt Regensburg-Obertraubling where Me 262 W.Nr. 500017 was. The aircraft had been allocated to the Gruppe on 3 December and was urgently needed but the reply came that it was not ready for collection, OKL had been informed and so the Kommando should ask for another aircraft. (In the event, W.Nr. 500017 was assigned to 1./NAG 1).
On the 4th and 5th, Panther and NAG 13 were assigned road reconnaissance between Lauterbourg, Hagenau and Ingweiler; and road and battle recce of the Ingweiler – Saaralben – Rohrbach area. In both cases the object was to determine Allied movements and concentrations. The third part of the task was to cover roads in the area north and south of Strasbourg.
The two units were to operate 6 and 7 January but details are lacking; on the 8th their work was to support Army Group G’s Nordwind offensive, launched a week earlier in the hope of destroying Allied forces in Alsace. On the 7th, the General der Aufklärungsflieger had Lw.Kdo. West and units in its sphere. The following day the Kommando’s aircraft had been grounded by bad weather but one Me 262 was airborne on the 10th to photograph roads in the area Wissembourg – Hagenau – Strasbourg although the conventional machines of NAG 13 could not fly on account of the weather at their base.
Back in Herzogenaurach on the morning of 10 January, NAG 6’s, Maj. Heinz Schulze reported on his unit’s strength:
(Although Schulze reported as Gruppenkommandeur, according to the Gen.d.A. War Diary he was not appointed to the position until the 20th).
A Fw. Geidhäuser of 1./NAG 1 also filed a return from Herzogenaurach on the 10th:
The same day, the Gen.d.A.'s Chief Of Staff, Maj. Karl Kähler, told NAG 6 that the unit's request of the 9th had been turned down: Me 262 W.Nr. 170054 must remain operational and could not be released for training. However, the Quartermaster General had promised the speedy delivery of a new training machine "or even a new aircraft." (As a footnote to this exchange, W.Nr. 170054, now marked “white 6”, was used for a training flight from Lechfeld by Fw. Fritz Oldenstädt on 2 February 1945).
Panther was again grounded on 12 and 13 January but on the 14th the weather permitted three of its Messerschmitts to achieve part of their road and photo-reconnaissance task on the fronts of Army Groups G and Upper Rhein. Also on the 14th, Luftgau VII directed Stab NAG 6 to transfer a Staffel and signals personnel to Lechfeld for conversion (the clear inference being that this would be to the Me 262). No operations were possible on the 15th either by the jets or by Stab and 1./NAG 13 but Gen.d.A. did receive a report from Obltn. Braunegg on his operational experiences (a document which does not appear to have survived, sadly). The following day Aerodrome Region Command 14/VII at Fürth directed that the Me 262 must never be left standing at night during frosty weather with fuel in its tanks. Panther’s aircraft were again grounded by the weather on 17 January. The Allies continued to log orders to Panther for coverage of targets in Alsace and Lorraine but were unable to learn what results had been achieved, if any.
The 25th saw one of those items of signals traffic the reason for which is far from clear — a message asked that 7. Fallschirmjäger Div. be advised whether Obltn. Knopf of Panther had previously been with 5.(F)/123. (This officer was probably the Obltn. Kopf mentioned in connection with Kdo. Braunegg the previous July. By 11 April he was described in a signal as “formerly Sonderkommando Braunegg” and was to receive his orders via 1.(F)/100).
On the 30th Panther notified 19th Army that it was detaching a Radione [manufacturer] wireless station with Uffze. Otto and Jäger (previously with Army Group Upper Rhine) so that they could transmit information on the ground situation and weather direct from the Army’s front and relay reconnaissance results from the Kommando. This message was notable as the first to identify Panther with 2./NAG 6. Next day, Luftflotte Reich signalled that an observer, Obltn. Gustav Wrobel, was being transferred from Aufklärungsgeschwader 103 to 1./NAG 6 as a Flivo (Air Liaison Officer).
continued on next page…
Operations over Alsace