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The Luftwaffe's Secret KG 200

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The KG 200 was the special operations battle wing ("Kampfgeschwader") which operated captured allied bombers, worked as path finders and flew missions to bring secret agents behind enemy lines etc.

The first group of KG 200, I./KG 200, flew a total of 3-4 He 115's and were responsible of dropping Abwehr agents behind enemy lines. The largest number of agents dropped by I./KG 200 was in July 1944, where a total of 260 men and women were dropped, mainly using automatic parachutes. The total number of agents dropped between June 1944 to March 1945 were 600. Out of these, 5-10 were women.

Between July 1st and October1st 1944, I./KG 200 dropped 157 agents in 11 major operations on the western theatre. In the same period, 114 minor operations were flown by I./KG 200 through its Frontaufklärungskommandos in combination with the responsible Ic-Abt.

 

The I./KG 200 was divided into three squadrons ("Staffeln"):


1st squadron: missions in distant areas ("Ferneinsätze")

2nd squadron: missions in near areas ("Naheinsätze")

3rd squadron: navy pilots ("Seeflieger")

The 3rd squadron of KG 200 had one He 115, located in Rissala/Finland. [Gellermann 4]


The second group of KG 200, II./KG 200, had one Staffel for commando raids, the 3rd Staffel. They were located and trained in Dedelstorf, Germany. In September 1944, this Staffel was no longer under the command of KG 200, but under the Army Paratroopers command as "Bataillon Schäfer".


The abbrevation for Küstenfliegergruppe was Kü.Fl.Gr. or St. for Staffel. All these units [KG 200 and KüFlGr] were under command of Gen. D. Lw b. Ob. d. M [General der Luftwaffe beim Oberkommande der Marine und Befehlshaber der Marinefliegerverbände und zugleich Inspekteur der Marineflieger (L.In. 8)] in Berlin until 7.9.1944, then this command-position was striken.

 

Luftwaffe's Secret KG 200

 

KG 200 took part in many covert missions against the Allies and became the subject of much postwar speculation

The history of the German Luftwaffe in World War II has been examined by scores of authors and eyewitnesses. The case of Kampfgeschwader (Battle Wing) 200, or KG 200, is a different story, however. The real story of this special Luftwaffe unit has remained shrouded in mystery, and most members maintained their silence after the war. The commander of the unit, Colonel Werner Baumbach, a winner of the Knight's Cross and a celebrated Junkers Ju-88 bomber pilot, did not even mention KG 200 in his memoirs, Broken Swastika.

KG 200 was a unique unit, which operated a wide variety of aircraft--from the Blohm und Voss Bv-222 Wiking (the largest flying boat of the era) to the Junkers Ju-52, Ju-90, Ju-290 and Ju-188, the Heinkel He-111, and even captured British and American aircraft such as the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

B-17 “Flying Fortress”

 

Werner Baumbach was a bomber pilot in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and commander of the secret bomber wing KG 200.

Born on December 27, 1916 in Cloppenburg, Baumbach entered the Luftwaffe in 1936 and was trained as a bomber pilot. He was one of the first pilots to fly the Junkers Ju 88 bomber and flew various bombing missions with KG 30.

In 1942, Baumbach was removed from active pilot duty and started working on new bomber designs; among others, he helped design the composite bomber system Mistel.

In 1944, he was placed in command of the newly-formed KG 200 and was in charge of all Luftwaffe special missions.

After the war, Baumbach spent three years as a prisoner of war before he moved to Argentina where he worked as a test pilot. He died in a plane crash on October 23, 1953.

Baumbach released his memoirs, "Zu spät: Aufstieg und Untergang der deutschen Luftwaffe" (english title: "Broken Swastika"), in the late 1940s. The book demonstrates that even after Germany's defeat, Baumbach still believed to a very large extent in the National Socialist ideology.

The fact that Baumbach's time as commander of KG 200 is not mentioned with a single word highlights the extreme secrecy of Germany's special missions program.

 

The earliest incarnation of KG 200 was Special Squadron Rowehl, a unit subordinate to the Abwehr, the German military intelligence organization. Colonel Theodor Rowehl, who had been a reconnaissance pilot in World War I, heard rumors that Poland was building new forts along its border with Germany. Now a civilian, Rowehl began flying photoreconnaissance missions over Poland in civilian aircraft. (Military planes were not allowed to fly in that area.) The Abwehr was impressed with Rowehl's photographs and paid him to continue his flights. From 1930 to 1934, Rowehl flew solo reconnaissance flights as a civilian. A short time later, he put together a squadron of airmen that was given an official military designation. His efforts led to the creation of a unit operating for the Luftwaffe's 5th Branch (air intelligence). The new unit flew high-altitude photoreconnaissance missions over all of Europe, Africa and the Soviet Union in a wide variety of military and civilian aircraft.

During the late war period, when the Abwehr fell under a cloud of mistrust due to anti-Hitler activities, the prestige of the squadron suffered through its association with the intelligence arm. Captain Karl Edmund Gartenfeld, a specialist in long-range reconnaissance and navigation and in inserting agents behind enemy lines, formed his own new unit in the summer of 1942. By 1944 his squadron, the 2nd Test Formation, had grown to a group of four squadrons.

KG 200 was officially formed by order of the air force high command on February 20, 1944. In March 1944, the 2nd Test Formation was united with the 1st Test Formation, a research squadron. This combined unit came under the command of then Lt. Col. Werner Baumbach and was renamed KG 200. The 2nd Test Formation became the first group of the new KG 200, and Gartenfeld was replaced by Major Adolf Koch. Within days, 32 types of aircraft were ready for use, complete with 17 fully trained crews. Heavy training began at once, and by the end of July 1944, five new crews were ready, and refresher classes had been provided for 75 additional crews. Even at this early stage special missions were already being flown.

KG 200 was divided into several sections, each of which had subsidiaries across the German empire. The first group (I/KG 200) handled agent work; the first squadron (1/KG 200) handled long-distance operations; 2/KG 200 covered short-range operations from various "outstations"; 3/KG 200 was concerned with transport and training duties and was based at the Baltic island of Ruegen, later Flensburg; 4/KG 200 handled technical matters. The second group (II/KG 200) provided pathfinders, radar-jamming aircraft, bombers and Mistel composite aircraft; 7/KG 200 handled replacement and training for II/KG 200.

The first two groups of KG 200 were the only ones ever fully developed, although several other projects were planned. III/KG 200 was to have fitted Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighters with torpedoes but was never inaugurated. IV/KG 200 was the training and replacement group for KG 200 and trained the nearly 100 "self-sacrifice" pilots who flew the Reichenberg modified V-1 suicide weapons. KG 100, which handled Fritz X and Hs 293 guided missiles, was also associated with KG 200. The fifth long-range reconnaissance group flew Ju-90s and Ju-290s on their missions. The test unit of the Luftwaffe commander flew high-altitude reconnaissance and testing aircraft and also conducted evaluation flights of captured Allied aircraft.

2/KG 200 covered different combat fronts from various outstations. The headquarters of each outstation was located in a wooded area, and the airfield had to appear abandoned during the day in order to avoid unwanted Allied scrutiny. Outstation Carmen, in northern Italy, covered the western Mediterranean, the southern Mediterranean, and North and West Africa. Outstations Klara and Toska handled the Eastern Front, and Detachment Olga covered Western Europe, England, Ireland and Iceland (and later took over Carmen's areas as well).

By 1944, because of the increasing action on the Western Front, Detachment Olga at Frankfurt am Main was very busy. Olga was commanded by P.W. Stahl, an experienced pilot who had flown supply missions in the fall of 1942 to Finnish long-range reconnaissance units operating deep in Soviet territory. His book, KG 200: The True Story, is one of the few accurate accounts of the unit.

 

Secret Missions

Despite its importance, Outstation Olga was little more than a rough runway beside a forest. The command post consisted of two huts hidden in the woods. The operational aircraft included six Junkers Ju-188s and a pair of captured and renovated Boeing B-17s, redesignated Dornier Do-288s. Enemy "Jabos," as the Germans called Allied ground-attack aircraft, were overhead so often that personnel took the precaution of dodging from tree to tree, never appearing in the open during daylight.

Detachment Olga was responsible for landing agents in France, which was under Allied control. The KG 200 pilots usually dropped agents by parachute, but on some flights they would drop a personnel drop device--a metal and plywood container holding three agents and their equipment that would parachute to earth. The KG 200 pilots made supply runs to keep their covert activities in operation.

Agents were trained at the Reich Main Security Office's well-fortified luxury hotel, on a mountain in southwestern Poland. The hotel was ringed by guards and could be reached only by cable-car. Upon graduation, the new agents were sent to KG 200 for transport to their areas of operation.

These secret missions were only flown at night, and the runway lights were turned off as soon as the aircraft had taken off or landed. Under cover of darkness, as they dropped their passengers or acted as airborne listening posts, the KG 200 pilots and planes were relatively safe from attack. Landing was another matter; the airfields often came under attack and were extensively damaged while the KG 200 pilots were in the air, making landing impossible and leading to the loss of airplanes and crews.

Pressed by a shortage of long-range aircraft, KG 200 used captured Allied aircraft--given German markings--to fly their missions. Phyllis Marie, a Boeing B-17F, was one example. Phyllis Marie went down with battle damage on March 8, 1944, at Werben, Germany. The plane was captured and repaired from the large stock of B-17 spare parts that the Germans had amassed during the years of heavy daylight bombing attacks by U.S. planes. Maltese crosses were painted on the wings and a raked swastika on the rudder, but otherwise Phyllis Marie remained unchanged. U.S. forces recaptured the plane on a runway at Altenburg on May 4, 1945.

By July 1944, the war was turning against the German Reich on all fronts. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, commander (under commander in chief of the SS, Heinrich Himmler) of all SS intelligence operations and head of the Reich Main Security Office, informed the KG 200 operations officer that he needed to provide a plane that could fly almost to Moscow, land and unload cargo and people, all unnoticed. The purpose of that mission, code-named "Operation Zeppelin," was to kill Josef Stalin. The aircraft chosen for the job was the Arado Ar-232B--a four-engine version of the Ar-232A Tatzelwurm (Winged Dragon)--known as the Tausendfüssler (Millipede) because of the 11 pairs of small idler wheels under the fuselage that were used to land on unprepared fields.

On the night of September 5, two agents, their baggage and their transport were loaded aboard, and the Ar-232B took off. The agents intended to reach Moscow, where they had a place to stay. They carried 428,000 rubles, 116 real and forged rubber stamps and a number of blank documents that were meant to gain them entry to the Kremlin so that they could get close to Stalin.

There was no word from the plane until long past its maximum projected flying time, and it was assumed lost. Then a radio message came from one of the agents: "Aircraft crashed upon landing, but all crew members uninjured. Crew has split up into two groups and will attempt to break through to the west. We are on the way to Moscow with our motorcycle, so far without hindrances." The two would-be assassins were later captured at a checkpoint when a guard became suspicious of their dry uniforms on a rainy day. Some of the German crew did manage to make it back to friendly lines, but others had to wait until the end of the war to return.

Bizarre schemes and deceptions such as the Stalin assassination plot came from both sides. In October 1944, an agent who had been dropped behind Russian lines suddenly resumed contact with his controller in Germany with an astonishing story to tell. He was in contact with a large German combat group--2,000 men strong--that was hiding in the forested and swampy region of Berezino, roughly 60 kilometers east of Minsk. The Germans, under the command of a Colonel Scherhorn, had been caught behind Russian lines during the Wehrmacht retreat that summer. German intelligence accepted the report as true. KG 200 was dispatched to provide the German troops with supplies that the German high command hoped would allow "Kampfgruppe (Battle Group) Scherhorn" to break out and return to German lines. Not until April 1945 did the Germans learn that "Colonel Scherhorn" was in fact a Soviet operative using the name in an elaborate ruse.

KG 200 was also in charge of the German suicide pilots. The Germans mirrored the Japanese kamikaze efforts with the Reichenberg IV suicide bomb. The concept was developed by a glider pilot who was a veteran of the famous 1940 assault on the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael. As the war turned against Germany and his fellow pilots were slaughtered, he thought that if glider pilots were to be sent to perish, they should be armed with a suitable weapon to bloody the enemy. The Reichenbergs were to be piloted by "self-sacrifice men." Thousands of men volunteered for vaguely defined "special operations," and 70 of them were sent to KG 200.

Although these men were trained on gliders, they were to fly a manned variant of the V-1 buzz bomb. The V-1, also known as the Fiesler Fi-103, was already in mass-production for its primary purpose as a flying bomb. The German Research Institute for Gliding Flight at Ainring modified the V-1 to carry a pilot. By 1945, however, the attitude toward using the flying bomb had changed so much that only criminals or pilots who were in a depressed state or were ill would be allowed to fly Reichenbergs.

 

Operation Iron Hammer

As early as 1942, researchers also began to develop Mistel (mistletoe), a piggyback aircraft--a smaller aircraft mounted above a larger, unmanned aircraft such as a medium-sized bomber. After a series of false starts, the combination settled upon was a Messerschmitt Me-109 or Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighter atop a Junkers Ju-88 bomber. The machines were joined by a three-point strut apparatus, which was fitted with explosive bolts that would sever the connection when the carrier aircraft--armed with an 8,377-pound hollow-charge warhead in the nose--had been aimed at its target. The warhead would detonate on impact in an explosion that could penetrate 8 meters of steel or 20 meters of ferroconcrete.

By May 1944, the first operational Mistels were delivered to 2/KG 101, a unit closely affiliated with KG 200. The unit was originally slated to attack Scapa Flow in northern Scotland, but the Allied invasion of Normandy changed that plan. On the night of June 24, 1944, Mistels were dispatched against targets in the Bay of the Seine, in the English Channel. Although one of the Ju-88s had to be jettisoned prematurely, the remaining four pilots had successful launches and sank several block ships.


Luftwaffe planners placed all Mistels under the aegis of KG 200 and Colonel Joachim Helbig, an expert Ju-88 pilot. Task Force Helbig was handed a daunting and audacious plan--it had been decided that the Mistels would be used to single-handedly cripple the Soviet war industry. The operation, known as Plan Iron Hammer, was the 1943 brainchild of Professor Steinmann of the German Aviation Ministry, who had pointed out the benefit of raiding selected points in the Soviet infrastructure in order to damage the whole. Iron Hammer was meant to attack the Soviets' Achilles' heel--their electrical generation turbines. The Soviets relied on a haphazard system of electrical supply with no integrated grid, which revolved around a center near Moscow that supplied 75 percent of the power to the armament industry. The Germans sought to destroy an entire factory system in one quick blow.

The mission called for KG 200 to launch strikes against power plants at Rybinsk and Uglich and the Volkhovstroi plant on Lake Ladoga. The planes were to drop Sommerballon (summer balloon) floating mines. In theory, a Sommerballon would ride the water currents until it was pulled straight into the hydroelectric turbines of a dam, but the weapon never performed as designed. In addition, the unit soon became short on fuel, and the operation was halted.

Iron Hammer was resurrected in February 1945, with several new twists. The Soviets had overrun all the advance bases included in earlier planning, so the attack would have to be launched from bases near Berlin and on the Baltic. Mistels would now be the primary weapon. Furthermore, Iron Hammer had become a part of a master strategy to regain the initiative in the East. After the strike rendered the Soviet production centers impotent, the Wehrmacht would wait until the Soviets had exhausted their front-line materiel. Freshly rearmed Waffen SS divisions would swarm northward from western Hungary, attempting to drive straight to the Baltic Sea and catch the advance elements of the Red Army in a huge pincer movement. After the Soviets had been eliminated and Central Europe was safe, the Germans would negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, and the struggle against Bolshevism could be continued. Iron Hammer was never launched, however. American daylight raiders destroyed 18 Mistels at the Rechlin-Laerz air base. With this main strike force gone, the entire mission was rendered moot even before Iron Hammer was officially cancelled.

On March 1, 1945, Hitler appointed Colonel Baumbach to the post of plenipotentiary for preventing Allied crossings of the Oder and Neisse rivers. At his disposal were Mistels and Hs-293 guided bombs. On March 6, an Hs-293 hit the Oder bridge at Göritz. The same bridge was attacked two days later by five Mistels escorted by Ju-188 bombers. The Ju-188s scattered air defences, and the Mistels destroyed two bridges.

These victories and those in following days did little to change the inevitable outcome of the war. KG 200's remaining pilots and machines were shuffled to various air bases in futile attempts to destroy the Oder bridges. In Berlin, Baumbach was replaced by another officer, who released the KG 200 headquarters group on April 25, 1945. Some men changed into civilian clothes and attempted to reach the Western Allies, while others proceeded to Outstation Olga to continue the fight.

The American advance into Germany forced the relocation of Outstation Olga from Frankfurt am Main to Stuttgart, and then again to the Munich area, where the unit settled inside a Dornier aircraft factory. Stahl and company continued their duty until the situation became untenable. He issued discharge papers and a final service pay and said goodbye to his men.

After the war, the Allies sought out members of the "ominous secret group," sure that they had been involved in spiriting Nazi officials out of Europe. The continuing mysteries and half-truths about KG 200 prompted Stahl to write KG 200: The True Story, "to clear up this business of 'Hitler's spy Geschwader.'" He also attempts to justify his unit's record: "The fact that not a single former member of KG 200 has ever been accused of any specific misdeed, never mind prosecuted, speaks for itself."


 


Luftwaffe Bomber Wing KG 200

This top secret Luftwaffe unit flew the most special missions with the most special aircraft


Luftwaffe secret weapons - everyone knows about Germany's V-1 and V-2 missiles and the Luftwaffe jet and rocket aircraft, but they were no real secret, even during the war, as London's civilians and allied pilots knew about them and saw them in action, and allied intelligence knew about them even earlier.

This  is about the most secret Luftwaffe unit, which operated its most secret aircraft and flew its most special missions. A ghost unit which became known to allied intelligence only after World War 2 ended. This is the story of Luftwaffe wing 200.

Every large air force has squadrons and aircraft for strategic intelligence missions and for missions requiring the use of special aircraft and special weapons. Sometimes "innocent" civilian aircraft are being used for espionage missions, or even a few captured enemy aircraft. There are also units that test fly experimental and captured aircraft. These special and secret aircraft are usually flown by the most experienced and skilled pilots, and covered by the deepest secrecy, often for decades
. For example, in the post-war United States these were the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, the stealth aircraft, the CIA-operated aircraft, and the captured Russian aircraft and experimental aircraft flown from Area 51 in Nevada, nicknamed Dreamland.
 

In Nazi Germany, the top secret Luftwaffe unit code-named Bomber Wing 200 (KG 200) was all that.

 

Civilian aircraft photo recon flights

When the German military began to prepare for world war 2, it needed air photos of the countries it intended to invade. Since flights by the standard Luftwaffe photo recon aircraft were not just violation of those countries airspace but also a clear warning sign of German intentions, the German military intelligence used aerial cameras carefully hidden in German passenger and commercial aircraft which flew over those countries.

The rise in landing delays by the formerly precise German pilots made the polish intelligence suspect that the innocent civilian German aircraft are used for photo reconnaissance, but they could not find the hidden cameras, when they checked those aircraft when they landed in Polish airports.

The Luftwaffe operated civilian aircraft for photo recon missions all over Europe and north Africa before and during world war 2. Initially the aircraft belonged to the German military intelligence, but during the war they were assigned to the Luftwaffe.

When World War 2 started, German spies and saboteurs had to be inserted to or extracted from allied countries. Some were inserted or extracted by German submarines, some travelled via neutral countries, and some, like many allied secret agents, parachuted from Luftwaffe aircraft.

 

Flying all Luftwaffe special missions

In February 1944, Luftwaffe headquarters ordered that all strategic and covert aerial reconnaissance, secret agent deliveries, special delivery flights to Japan, and experimental aircraft testing, in fact all special missions, will be concentrated in one new unit, code-named bomber wing 200. The commander of the new unit was Werner Baumbach, a very experienced and highly decorated bomber pilot and leader who survived over four years of bombing missions over enemy territory, over France, Britain, Russia, and elsewhere.

KG 200 was made of several large squadrons. It was also geographically spread in multiple bases all over
Europe. The total secrecy in KG 200, as common in such top secret units, was such that its people knew very little of each other's activity, to minimize security breach in case of captivity. It had over 100 air crews and operated over 30 different German and allied aircraft types.

 The 1st squadron of KG 200 was in charge of flying German secret agents to and from allied territory. It had a long-range group, and a short-range group which was spread all over Europe. It got its operational orders directly from the SD, the Nazi party's intelligence service.

 The 2nd squadron of KG 200 was in charge of all other operations, including electronic warfare and special bombing missions, long range patrols as far as the US east coast, and special cargo missions which flew all the way to Japanese held north china. It operated from hidden airstrips all over Europe, usually near forests, used to hide their special aircraft from allied pilots.

 Additional squadrons which were established but did not become operational before the war ended, were the German suicide attack unit, equipped with a human-piloted version of the V-1 cruise missile, and a very long range squadron intended to reach the US east coast and other remote targets.

All secret agent delivery missions were night missions, to further minimize exposure to the enemy, and they relied on the navigation skills of the navigators, which were the best and most experienced navigators in the Luftwaffe.


To further minimize the risk to both pilots and agents in secret agent insertion missions, especially when a team of agents was involved, the Luftwaffe developed a special human air drop device. It was a bomb-like cylinder carried by a bomber, in which three secret agents and their equipment could be safely dropped from the bomber to the enemy ground. The cylinder was equipped with a parachute, a telephone which enabled the secret agents to speak with the bomber pilot during the flight, and a shock absorber to further ease the landing. It allowed the German intelligence to safely land single, or teams, of secret agents in enemy territory, with heavier equipment and without the common risk of parachuting leg injuries.

Allied bombers in Luftwaffe service

A short intelligence report on German and Japanese use of captured U.S. aircraft during WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 33, September 9, 1943.


AXIS USE OF CAPTURED U.S. AIRCRAFT

 

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The use of captured U.S. aircraft by the Axis countries should be seriously contemplated, in view of certain incidents which have occurred during the last few months both in the Pacific and over Europe.

 

Early in the year, there were two distinct occasions where unidentified U.S. Navy planes were observed in the Pacific area. One hovered over one of our task forces for a good part of a day, apparently on a reconnaissance flight. Another failed to respond to proper recognition signals. It is believed that some of these planes may have been captured by the Japanese and are in use for reconnaissance purposes.

 

On the Western front, sightings of B-17's apparently enemy operated, are increasing. Returning from one recent mission, the first wing of our heavy bombers was joined by one unidentified B-17 which accompanied the formation until near the German coast when it met some twin-engine enemy planes and turned back with them. While the purpose of this particular maneuver remains in doubt, the inherent dangers are obvious, although to date no attempts to imitate American markings have been observed. This is further illustrated by a recent report that on the return flight from an attack on a town in central Italy, one of a number of unescorted B-17's was destroyed and three damaged by a P-38 marked with a swastika which made five determined attacks on the formation. The next day, during a return flight from northwest Sicily, a formation of light bombers was trailed by a tan-colored P-38 for forty miles before it turned back towards Italy. Photo reconnaissance has indicated the presence of one of these fighters on a nearby Italian airdrome. On another occasion over France, a P-47 was observed flying in company with an Me-109 and another enemy plane.

 

In addition, a Fortress has been photographed at a German Air Force experimental station and reports that the enemy has in his possession examples of other U.S. aircraft in good condition have been received from time to time.

While all such information must be treated with some reserve, due to the possibility of mistakes in recognition under the difficult conditions which usually apply, the possibility that the enemy may continue to use captured aircraft against us cannot be dismissed, although the practical difficulties involved in such operations might be thought to outweigh other considerations

During the war, the Luftwaffe downed many allied bombers over German held territory. Others landed because of technical problems. Some of these bombers remained flyable. Initially these captured bombers, such as American B-17s and B-24s and Russian Pe-2s and Tupolevs and other aircraft, were flown by the Luftwaffe for studying their capabilities for intelligence and technological analysis. These test-flown bombers were given Luftwaffe markings.



Later, KG 200 began to use these captured long range bombers for its top secret missions. With the growing air superiority of allied air forces, the German retreats, and the growing use of radar and radar-equipped night fighters, it became ever harder for the German bombers to fly deep into allied airspace. Flying long-ranged captured allied bombers instead of the smaller and shorter range German bombers was a perfect solution for the Luftwaffe. These bombers could fly further and could fly over the most protected allied targets, day and night, without being even shot at, as they looked and sounded exactly like allied bombers. It was the perfect equivalent of the stealth bomber. The captured allied bombers used by KG 200 were not given German markings and remained with their original allied colours and markings for complete day or night deception of allied pilots and anti-aircraft gunners which saw them. They could fly anywhere, day or night, make aerial photos, drop agents, bomb targets, track allied bomber formations and constantly report their exact position and altitude without being intercepted by their fighter escorts, etc, etc, and so they did.



Bomber-size missiles

In World War 2, Germany led in the development of guided bombs and missiles
. In addition to operating normal guided weapons, such as the Hs-293 missile and Fritz X bomb, KG 200 operated the heaviest and most unique type of weapon operated by the Luftwaffe, the Mistel bomber-size missile.


Mistel was a bomber, usually a Junkers 88, that was transformed to a huge missile by replacing its cockpit with a four tons warhead, placing a mount on its back for carrying a mounted fighter aircraft, and connecting the unmanned bomber's flight controls to the fighter, so that the fighter's pilot could fly the dual aircraft all the way to the target, usually a large fixed strategic target such as a dam, a power station, or a large bridge, aim the bomber to its final dive to the target, and then disconnect the fighter from it and fly home. The Mistel bomber-missile had a long range and could smash the largest targets.

In their first attack, in June 1944, four Mistels sank ships in the
English channel. One of the major planned Luftwaffe attacks was supposed to destroy Russia's largest hydro-electric power stations with Mistels, and by doing so reduce Russia's electricity production by 75%, but most of them were destroyed on the ground by a US air attack before the operation. The Mistel's last attack, in march 1945, was personally led by Werner Baumbach, commander of KG 200. A large group of Mistels took off for the mission, most of them were shot down, but five Mistels destroyed large bridges over rivers in east Germany, in order to delay Russian advance into Germany.



The German suicide units

The Mistel was like a suicide aircraft but without the suicide. As Germany was losing the war, there were some fanatic and influential Nazi officers like Hanna Reitsch, a famous female test pilot and pre-war gliding champion, Otto Skorzeny, a special operations expert, and Hajo Hermann, a senior bomber and night fighter leader, who suggested, unrelated to the Japanese use of kamikaze suicide pilots, that Germany will use volunteers as suicide pilots in order to overcome the allied technological and numerical advantages with their fanatic spirit. The idea had roots in German mythology that was glorified by Nazi propaganda, it was "Totenritt", a death ride.

Hitler was reluctant, but eventually agreed to Reitsch's request to establish and train a suicide attack air unit, in condition that it will not be operated in combat without his approval. The new unit, nicknamed the Leonidas Squadron, also became part of KG 200.

Leonidas was the Greek warrior king of Sparta who in 480BC stopped the invading Persian army at the narrow Thermopylae pass in east Greece with just 300 elite warriors who fought to the last man. Their sacrifice saved Greece from occupation, and a statue of Leonidas still stands at Thermopylae. The desperate Nazi fanatics thought they can save Germany
too by suicide tactics.


The aircraft to be used was the Fi-103 Reichenberg, a manned version of the German V-1 cruise missile
, equipped with a small cockpit and flight controls. After two volunteers were killed trying to test fly it, it was successfully flown by Hanna Reitsch, the experienced test pilot who was the first to sign as a volunteer suicide pilot. 24 V-1 cruise missiles were initially modified to manned suicide missiles and over 70 volunteers, mostly young recruits, began training to fly the V-1 as a suicide missile. They were called 'self-sacrificers'. Theoretically they were supposed to try to bail out after aiming their piloted missile to its final dive at the target, but it was clear that the chances of survival were very low. Also, unlike the much faster rocket-powered Japanese Okha suicide missile, that was much faster than all allied fighters, the jet-powered V-1 was slow enough to be intercepted.

The suicide squadron of KG 200 was never used in combat because Werner Baumbach and his superiors considered it an unnecessary waste of life and resources, and preferred the Mistel. Baumbach claimed that Mistel was better than both a manned bomber and a suicide missile, because of the minimal loss of crew lives, as losing a manned bomber meant the loss of a full crew while Mistel was flown by a single pilot, and unlike a suicide missile pilot, the Mistel pilot had a chance to return safely.

Eventually another German suicide tactic was used in combat. It was the interception of heavy bombers by ramming, as suggested by Hajo Hermann, head of the German night fighters command. Fighter wing 300 (JG 300) was assigned to use this tactic very late in the war, equipped with ordinary Me-109 and FW-190 fighters, but it was used just a few times, with little success. Few bombers were destroyed by collisions, and few suicide pilots who managed to bail out were killed by the furious gunners of the other bombers.



The end of KG 200

At the last days of World War 2, Luftwaffe bomber wing 200 retreated its remaining special aircraft to south Germany, the documents about its secret activities were destroyed, and that's were its secret war ended.

In March 1945, shortly before the end of world war 2, Werner Baumbach, the highly decorated bomber pilot, and commander of KG 200, was promoted to commander of what was left of the German bomber command. After the war, still a Nazi, he wrote an autobiography. The total secrecy spirit of KG 200, which remained even after the war, is best demonstrated by the fact that while he describes his long and distinguished wartime service as a Luftwaffe bomber pilot in the book, he does not mention KG 200 there with a single word. Like many other Nazis, he immigrated after the war to
Argentina where he worked as a test pilot. He was killed in 1953 at age 36 during a test flight, taking many secrets of KG 200 with him.

 

 

Last Updated

02/10/2014

 

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