Sunday, 13 September 2015

Operation Bodenplatte - Pyrrhic victory of dying giant by Miro Šarić.

Operation Bodenplatte is a name for series of air battle that took place in low countries (Belgium and Netherland) in early days of 45'. Goal of this operation was to smash large parts of allied tactical force while grounded, and achieve air superiority so that Herr can carry on with operation "watch on Rain" later known as Ardennes offensive

In late days of 44' Hitler convinced OKW (German high command) that strong and limited offensive, in a woodland area of Ardense can repeat the succes of 40' by capturing port od Antwerp along with allies supplies of oil and war materials, also drawing a wedge between US and British forces, to realise the pressure on western front.
But the biggest problem for the Wehrmacht was allied tactical bombers and air superiority, with this in mind, offensive started during the bad wether, that lasted for a weeks, and under it's protection German army gained some momentum, but nevertheless, whether couldn stayed the same, for that reason planning of operation Bodenplatte started

For this mission Luftwaffe manage to secure the following units available for Bodenplatte under Luftwaffe Kommando West (Air Comand West) under comand of Joseph Schmid
-II Jagdkorps, under comand of Dietrich Peltz
assembled of:
3rd Jagddivision (3rd Fighter Division)
Jagdgeschwader 1
Jagdgeschwader 3
Jagdgeschwader 6
Jagdgeschwader 26
Jagdgeschwader 27
Jagdgeschwader 5 (only III and IV Gruppe took part.)
Jagdgeschwader 7

Jagdabschnittsführer Mittelrhein (Fighter Sector Leader Middle Rhine)
Jagdgeschwader 2
Jagdgeschwader 4
Jagdgeschwader 11
Schlachtgeschwader 4
note: all aircraft types where made of bf-109 and FW-109

-5th Jagddivision (5th Fighter Division) under comand of Karl Hentschell.
assembled of:
Jagdgeschwader 53
Note: aircraft type Me bf-109

-3rd Fliegerdivision (3rd Air Division), under comand of Wolfgang Schenk
assembled of:
Kampfgeschwader 51
Note: (and this one is interesting) aircraft type: Me 262
In all, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe (OKL) deployed 1,035 aircraft from several Jagdgeschwader (JG — fighter wings) Kampfgeschwader (KG — bomber wings), Nachtjadggeschwader (NJG — night fighter wings) and Schlachtgeschwader (SG — ground attack wings); of these, 38.5% were Bf 109s, 38.5% Fw 190As, and 23% Fw 190Ds.

Plan of Battle
The plan of Bodenplatte called for a surprise attack against 16 Allied air bases in Belgium, the Netherlands and France.[19] The object was to destroy or cripple as many Allied aircraft, hangars and airstrips as possible. Every fighter and fighter-bomber Geschwader (Wing) currently occupied with air defence along the Western Front was redeployed. Additional night-fighter units (Nachtjagdgeschwader) and medium bomber units (Kampfgeschwader) acted as pathfinders. The strike formations themselves were mostly single-engine Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters.

However, in a blunder, the planners had set flight paths that took many units over some of the most heavily defended areas on the continent; namely the V2 launch sites around The Hague. These sites were protected by large numbers of German anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) units. Some had been warned about the operation but were not kept up to date with developments about changing timetables and the flight plan of German formations. As a result many of the German fighter units lost aircraft to "friendly fire" before the attacks could be initiated.

Battle plan for Operation Bodenplatten

Below is a list of targeted airports:
Deurne, Belgium
Gilze en Rijen
Le Culot

Maldegem, Ursel and St. Denijs Westrem:
Jagdgeschwader 1, was responsible for the attack on the Ursel and Maldegem airfields, The attacks at Maldegem and Ursel began at 08:30. Both I and II./JG 1 became involved in intense dogfights. III./JG 1 had lost only one aircraft over the target (and not to enemy fire).[35] I./JG lost a further Fw 190 to friendly anti-aircraft fire as it made its way to Ursel. III./JG 1 lost at least two further Fw 190s to friendly anti-aircraft fire. Casualties could have been heavier, had the British anti-aircraft defences of Maldegem airfield not been removed in December.
Altogether JG 1 lost 25 pilots and 29 aircraft. This return for around 60 enemy aircraft (54 on the ground) cannot be considered a complete success, although the damage at St. Denijs Westrem and Maldegem had been significant. The total Spitfire losses were perhaps 32

Schlachtgeschwader 4 and Jagdgeschwader 2 were to strike at Sint-Truiden airfield. At 09:12, JG 2 crossed the front line at Malmedy and was greeted by an enormous volume of Allied ground fire. The entire area was heavily defended by anti-aircraft artillery, since the area had been the scene of heavy fighting, but also had been attacked by V-1 and V-2 missiles. I./JG 2 lost at least seven fighters to ground fire alone. III./JG 2 lost 10 fighters. A possible seven Bf 109s from II./JG 2 were also lost to ground fire. JG 2 attacked Asch and Ophoven airfields by mistake
In all, JG 2′s mission and SG 4′s mission was a disaster

Volkel and Heesch
The target of Jagdgeschwader 6 was Volkel. Very little damage was done at Heesch or Helmond, The only success JG 6 had was I./JG′s erroneous attack on Eindhoven, which claimed 33 fighters and six medium bombers. Like Volkel, Helmond and Heesch had escaped damage.

Antwerp-Deurne and Woensdrecht
Deurne airfield was to be destroyed by Jagdgeschwader 77. Antwerp housed the largest Allied contingent of nine Squadrons. It had been incessantly attacked by V1 and V2 flying bombs and had been given a strong anti-aircraft defence.
12-30 German fighters attacked the airfield from 09:25 to 09:40. The ground defences were alert and the German formations attacked in a disorganised manner. 145 Wing RAF was missed completely and considering the large number of targets the destruction was light; just 12 Spitfires were destroyed.

Jagdgeschwader 53 was tasked with the operation against the USAAF airfield at Metz-Frescaty Air Base.
The main attack was a success by comparisonThe Germans caused significant damage among the parked USAAF fighters on the field. When the attack against the Metz airfield was over, the three JG 53 Gruppen reported the loss of 20 Bf 109s and seven damaged. This represented more than 50 percent of the attacking 52 fighters.
The losses of the USAAF were 22 destroyed, 11 damaged (all P-47ts) However, the negative effects of Bodenplatte on JG 53 outweighed any advantages gained,

Le Culot and Ophoven
Le Culot airfield was the target of Jagdgeschwader 4 .
JG 4 located a fairly large airfield and attacked, believing it to the Le Culot. It was in fact Sint-Truiden.
Sint-Truiden housed the 48th Fighter Group and 404th Fighter Group. The 492nd Fighter Squadron was readying to take off at 09:20. JG 4 hit the airfield at 09:15.
The small-scale attack by JG had achieved considerable damage. Total American losses were 10 destroyed and 31 damaged. The Germans lost eight fighters, including seven Bf 109s, and three damaged. No damage was done at Le Culot airfield

The Asch Airfield had been constructed in November 1944 and was home to the 352nd Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, and the 366th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force. Jagdgeschwader 11 was to destroy the airfield.
The air battle over Asch had lasted 45 minutes. Americans claimed 35 kills. Only 14 can be judged with a degree of certainty to have been shot down by USAAF fighters, and possibly two more. Four are confirmed to have been shot down by AAA fire. Total JG 11 losses were 28.
This ride was disastrous for Germans and JG 11

Jagdgeschwader 26 and the III. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 54 were to strike at Brussels-Evere.
Unknown to the Luftwaffe the Grimbergen Airfield was almost completely abandoned. The Evere airfield was located to the south. It was one of the most densely populated airfields in Belgium and had plenty of targets.The raid was a disaster. Just six machines were destroyed at Grimbergen for the loss of 21 Fw 190s and two damaged. Another eight sustained minor damage. Some 17 pilots were missing, eight of whom would survive as prisoners
but ride on a Evere had some more luck, Allied losses are given at Evere as 32 fighters, 22 twin-engine aircraft and 13 four-engine aircraft destroyed, plus another nine single, six twin and one four-engine aircraft damaged. In total, II./JG 26 losses included 13 Fw 190s destroyed and two damaged. plus airfilde infrastructure at Evere was heavly demaged.

Jagdgeschwader 27 and IV./Jagdgeschwader 54. targeted Melsbroek airfield, The Germans hit Melsbroek hard. the AAA positions were not manned, and aircraft were bunched together or in lines, which made perfect targets. The attack caused considerable damage among the units based there and was a great success

Gilze-Rijen and Eindhoven
Jagdgeschwader 3 and Kampfgeschwader 51 were tasked with eliminating the Allied units at the Eindhoven base and Gilze-Rijen airfield.
KG 51 contributed some 21 of their 30 Messerschmitt Me 262 jets to the action
The damage done to Eindhoven was significant and can be considered a victory for JG 3. It was also assisted by elements of JG 6 which had misidentified Eindhoven as one their targets.

The results of the raid are difficult to judge given the confusion over loss records, A total of 290 destroyed and 180 damaged seems a more realistic summation than the conservative figures given by the USAAF, RAF, and RCAF. Including the 15 Allied aircraft shot down and 10 damaged in aerial combat, 305 destroyed and 190 damaged is the sum total of the attack.
Luftwaffe lost 143 pilots killed and missing, while 70 were captured and 21 wounded

The operation achieved tactical surprise, but it was undone by poor execution and low pilot skill (owing to poor training) The operation failed to achieve its aim and that failure was very costly to German air powerSome of the units of the RAF, RCAF and USAAF on the receiving end of Bodenplatte had been badly hit, others not so badly, but most had sustained some losses. The Germans, however, launched Bodenplatte under a set of conditions, such as poor planning and low pilot skill, which clearly indicated any advantage gained would be outweighed by possible losses. Bodenplatte weakened the Jagdwaffe past any hope of rebuilding. General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland said, "We sacrificed our last substance", Thus Bodenplatte was a very short-term success but a long-term failure; Allied losses were soon made up. Lost Luftwaffe aircraft and pilots were irreplaceable.
Werner Girbig wrote, "it was not until the autumn of 1944 that the German fighter forces set foot down the sacrificial path; and it was the controversial Operation Bodenplatte that dealt this force a mortal blow and sealed its fate. What happened from then on was no more than a dying flicker".

Story by  Miro Šarić