Sunday, 17 January 2016

Leonidas - 5th Staffel of Kampfgeschwader 200. Compiled by Cesar Winkelmann


Fieseler Fi103R
By mid-1944, the Fi-103 (V-1) had been deployed to special units in Germany and in the occupied countries for attacks against the British Isles. It was a simple weapon, a streamlined airframe carrying an explosive warhead on which an Argus AS-109 pulsejet was mounted. The pulsejet was equally simple; a tube lacking both turbine and compressors into which vaporized fuel was injected in spurts and ignited. Shutters at the front of the tube opened to admit air during the intake phase and closed during the ignition phase to direct the combustion gases to the rear. It had very few moving parts, was simple to make and easy to maintain.

In action, the gunners would set the gyroscopic autopilot controls, line up the launch ramp in the general direction of the target and launch the missile. A catapult was necessary to provide enough speed to start the engine. The V-1 traveled at about 400 miles an hour at varying altitudes. When it reached the vicinity of the target, the engine would cut out and the missile would strike. It was not a very accurate weapon. Vibrations caused by the engine (remember-the combustion was not continuous) would affect the autopilot and the V-1 which flew a straight course and, being unmanned, took no evasive action, was prone to interception by both antiaircraft fire and British fighters.
It was to correct these flaws that two noted personages proposed including a pilot.
Federal Archive: Rhon, Hanna Reitsch 
The first was Flugkapitän Hanna Reitsch, noted female test pilot: the other was SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny, a noted commando famous for the abduction of the son of Admiral Horthy Miklos, the Hungarian regent, in order to force Horthy's resignation and the abduction-rescue of Benito Mussolini.
Reitsch and Skorzeny soon found an ally in another test pilot Hauptmann Heinrich Lange and the three sought to form a unit of Selbstopfermänner (Self-sacrifice men) who would offer their lives if necessary to accomplish their mission. They immediately ran into the opposition of Adolf Hitler who insisted that the pilots be given some means of escape. With this modification Skorzeny put forward Hitler's decree to Reichsminister Albert Speer and Erhardt Milch of the Reichsluftministerium. The project was given the code-name Reichenberg within 14 days, three training models and the operational model had been designed and put under test.
The Reichenberg had few changes other than the armored cockpit. Instruments were rudimentary and controls consisted of a stick and rudder bar. Due to the G-forces, the catapult launch was abandoned in favor of air drops, a He-111 being proposed as the mother ship. The pilot was to bail out during the terminal dive as per Hitler's orders, BUT owing to the difficulty of opening the canopy against the wind resistance and the fact that if he did manage to bail out, he stood a 100% chance of being sucked into the pulsejet this was just a formality. The Reichenberg WAS a suicide weapon and everyone knew it.
Otto Skorzenny

A special unit was formed to operate the Reichenberg: 5.II/KG200 named the Leonidasstaffel after the Spartan king who fought to the death at Thermopylae. 60 Luftwaffe pilots and 30 of Skorzeny's commandos volunteered for the Leonidasstaffel and 175 Reichenbergs were ready for use when in October, 1944 Oberleutnant Werner Baumbach became commandant of KG200. He immediately shelved the Fi-103R project in favor of Mistel remote controlled aircraft while the German high command refused to allocate fuel even for the Reichenberg trainers.
German sources speak of 17 successful attacks, suicide pilots already in the first days of activities that started from April 17. However, historian Antony Beevor in his book "The Fall of Berlin 1945," says the German figures are greatly exaggerated.Whole purpose of the desperado operation was the crossing of the Oder. Specifically, 32 "bridges above water," already built or under construction.
Soviet pontoon bridge. Good example of typical target for members of “Leonidas” Squadron, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Heiner Lange

For implementation this operation was allocated planes that were just at hand. These included Focke-Wulf Fw 190, Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Junkers Ju 88, German not used only Fi103R
The initial effect of encouraging looked on. For example, Focke-Wulf 500-pound bomb, piloted by Ernst Reichl destroyed the pontoon bridge in Zellin. General Fuchs sent the names of the dead pilots for  Fuhrer on his upcoming fifty-sixth birthday. He probably thought that the gift make happy - hidden in a bunker under the Reich Chancellery - leader "Thousand-Year Reich."
Probably, suicide attacks would lead over 20 April and perished successive German pilots suicide, but insane actions soon ceased. German plans thwarted by the Soviet offensive. Specifically 4. Panzer Army Guard Colonel General Dmitry Leluszenki, which suddenly began to approach to the capital from the south-east, threatening the airport in Jüterborgu. This way, the Red Army saved the German airmen before the suicide.
Pilots squadron LEONIDAS (KG200 V) stand near the captured Soviet assault aircraft Il2 Perhaps in April 1945 One of them was a kamikaze Hitler
Most students of WW2 aviation know about Ohka, the Japanese manned anti-shipping missile. The story of Reichenberg, which never saw use, is largely forgotten. Reichenberg, a manned version of the Fi-103 missile better known as the V-1 "buzz bomb," is proof that the mentality of the suicide attacker is not merely the product of the Japanese (or today, the Islamic) society but can afflict any nation desperate enough that values the collective existence of the state more than individual life.