View Full Version : Allied fighter sweep at Belgrade on 17 April 1944

Günther Ott
5th December 2010, 20:32
Does anyone know details about an Alliied fighter sweep in the region of the Yugoslav capital Belgrade on 17 April 1944, downing 1 or 2 Ju 52s in the vicinity of Semlin airport and subsequently ground strafing on airplanes at this airfield? Details on unit and crews involved would be highly appreciated.

Thanks and regards,


6th December 2010, 13:37
97th FS, claimed 2 Ju 52s, 1 He 111, and 1 Ju 88 damaged in Belgrade area.

Laurent Rizzotti
6th December 2010, 17:12
To be precise, the three victories of 97th FS on 17 April 1944, all in Belgrade area:

Cpt James A Force claimed a Ju 52 as his first (and only) victory.
1st Lt William W Patterson claimed a Ju 52 and an He 111 as his first and second (and only) victories.

I didn't list the damaged claim.

I have a note that Force went MIA on 17 May 1944, one month later.

Martin Gleeson
6th December 2010, 18:58
Hallo Gunther,
To expand on the other contributions the following can be added. Using Frank Olynyk's 'USAAF (Mediterranean Theater) Credits for the destruction of enemy aircraft in air-to-air Combat, World War 2' there is only one possible claiming unit, the 97th Fighter Squadron of the 82nd Fighter Group. However there is no mention of any claim that day by any US fighter unit in the MTO for a Ju 88.
On 17 April 1944 the 82nd FG flew as escort for a B-17 5th Wing mission to Belgrade. Their 97th FS were the only squadron to engage enemy aircraft in the air. They encountered 2 Ju 52s and 2 He 111s some 20 miles NE of Belgrade. 1/Lt. William W. Patterson shot down one Ju 52. The remaining Ju 52 and one of the He 111s were both hit by more than one of the P-38 pilots and shot down. After gun camera review Patterson was given credit for the He 111 while Captain James A. Force,Jr. was credited with the second Ju 52. The second He 111 escaped. The American pilots thought the enemy aircraft might have been returning to base after being scrambled on warning of the incoming raid.
Patterson was later awarded the Silver Star for this action. Apparently the gunner in the He 111 that was shot down damaged three P-38s, two of which were later crash-landed in Italy and were written off. The third damaged P-38 was Patterson's, but he managed to land safely at an airfield in Italy with one engine shot out. There was no strafing of airfields that day by the 82nd FG. Perhaps another USAAF unit was involved ?
16 P-38s of the 97th FS were in action that day. The flight leaders were Lts. Tate, Engh, Patterson and Batie. The other two squadrons in the group, the 95th and 96th FS, did not see any action against enemy aircraft on that mission. The action probably took place between 1200 and 1230 hours (US time).
The above comes from a combination of the very fine unit history of the 82nd FG, 'ADORIMINI' by Steve Blake and John Stanaway and the original mission reports of the 82nd FG (on DVD).
Gunther, do you know anything about the Ju 52/He 111 units or crews involved in this clash ?
Hope this helps, regards,
Martin Gleeson.

Günther Ott
7th December 2010, 13:26
Thank you all for hinting on the involvement of 97th FS, this helps me a lot.

Here are the details on the two Ju 52s which were lost during their sweep on 17 April 1944:

Ju 52/3m g8e W.Nr. 130859 1Z+FH of 1./TG 1 came down in flames at Pancevo . All 4 crew members were injured, however, the pilot, Ofw. Willi Lichy, died at the military hospital 521 at Belgrade on the same day.

Second victim was unarmed Ju 52/3m g14e W.Nr. 640996 D-AOCA “Harry Rother”, which was enroute on Lufthansa’s scheduled service E.17 from Vienna to Belgrade, continuing to Sofia, Thessaloniki and Athens with a crew of 3. Aboard were 4 passengers and a large load of mail. The radio operator had noticed the downing of the other Ju 52 and the crew tried to escape in vain by changing direction and flying close to the ground. Hits were received from the rear and from starboard and the plane caught fire immediately. It crashed at Alt-Pasua (Stare Pazova) about 26 km north of Semlin (Zemun) airfield. Three of the four passengers, among them a Red Cross nurse, were killed in the crash while the fourth died at hospital after two days. The pilot, 47 year old Flugkapitän Kurt Vogel, died of his serious injuries on 23 April 1944, while the two other crew members survived with only minor injuries.

It still puzzles me what it was about with the strafing of Semlin (Zemun) airfield. It is known that this attack took place only after the all-clear signal was released there, so that the majority of the 15th AF planes were supposed of having been on their way back to Italy. What other USAAF or possibly RAF unit could have been involved?



7th December 2010, 14:21
Could have strafing been confused with dropping of frag bombs by 451st BG on Zemun (Semlin) a/d?
With regard to damaged Ju 88, it is mentioned in MASAF summaries, it might have been encountered by 31st FG and 325th FG, they both made claims on escort to Sofia.

Martin Gleeson
8th December 2010, 00:05

Gunther. Thanks for the excellent information on the Ju 52s that were shot down. Nothing on the He 111 I suppose ?

Gunther and Schenck. I found no mention of strafing that day in any of the unit histories that I have for the MTO USAAF fighter groups. Specifically there is nothing in "IN A NOW FORGOTTEN SKY" by Dennis C. Kucera about strafing or attacking a JU 88 on that date.

I wonder is it possible that one or more pilots engaged in a little unofficial strafing ? Suppose they had been ordered 'to stay with the bombers at all costs' but could not resist the temptation to attack an already damaged target ? If so then this would not have been officially reported ? Just a thought.



Larry deZeng
8th December 2010, 14:30
I tried to PM the following to Herr Ott but he did not reply to my PM:

These are the German reports in full for the two days of interest taken from the consolidated daily report from Commander-in-Chief Southeast (Army Group F) to OKW, OKH, Ob.d.L. and other addressees and classified GEHEIM, my translation. They include all relevant information provided by Luftwaffenkommando Südost and Feldluftgaukommando XXX, both headquartered at Belgrade-Pančevo:

16 April 1944 (German Report)
Approx. 150 4-engine bombers attacked the city of Belgrade, with the bomb carpet marched through the center of the city (few military losses, but considerable civilian casualties). Airfield at Pancevo hit (little damage) and the airfield at Zemun (2 aircraft totally destroyed, 3 damaged, runway and taxiway damaged). Supplemental damage report postscript: a total of 3 aircraft destroyed at Zemun airfield, repair shops 50% destroyed and hangars damaged. In Belgrade, 13 German and 318 Serbian dead, great damage to buildings in city center. At Pancevo airfield, runway damaged, 2 aircraft totally destroyed.
Own Luftwaffe: Schlachtflieger employment in Croatia with weaker forces. Fighters shot down 10 enemy aircraft plus 3 probables, while Flak shot down another 4. 1 Ju 52 with 17 men aboard was shot down by an Allied escort fighter.
(Oberbefehlshaber Südost daily report 17.4.44 in NARA T-311).

16 April 1944 Allied fighters strafed Uljan, 2 men badly wounded. (NARA T-314:562/397).

Allied Confirmation:
"15th AAF B-17s bombed industrial targets, airfields and an aircraft factory in the Belgrade area." (Kenn C. Rust, 15th Air Force Story in World War II. Temple City (CA): Historical Aviation Album, 1976. p.16).

17 April 1944 (German Report)
Renewed attack on Belgrade (17.4.44), by approximately 300 4-engine aircraft. Rail lines and bridges (great damage to the marshalling yard and the railway bridge over the Sava, and heavy damage to buildings in city center). Estimate of attacking aircraft later increased to 530 bombers and escort fighters. Zemun airfield was also hit again during this raid, with heavy damage.
Own Luftwaffe: stronger Schlachtflieger employment against Partisans in Croatia. 1 Allied aircraft certain and 3 probables shot down by fighters over Bulgaria.
(Oberbefehlshaber Südost daily report 18.4.44 in NARA T-311).

17 April 1944 Fighter-bombers attacked Rogaz Bay destroying 1 boat and damaging 2 others. In another fighter-bomber attack on the Split railway station, 4 men were wounded.
10 Fighter-bombers attacked Knin destroying barracks and damaging headquarters buildings; additionally, 3 trucks were destroyed. (NARA T-314:562/403).

Allied Confirmation:
"15th AAF B-24s bombed the marshalling yard at Sofia, while B-17s bombed industrial targets, airfields and the marshalling yard at Belgrade." (Kenn C. Rust, 15th Air Force Story in World War II. Temple City (CA): Historical Aviation Album, 1976. p.16).

During the 15th AAF attack on Belgrade, 325th Fighter Group flew escort with 38 P-47s. Lt. Emmons shot down two aircraft (type not given) bringing his score to 8, while
Lt. G.B. Edwards and F/O P.J. Kastner each downed a Bf 109, One further enemy aircraft was claimed as "probable". The Group lost no aircraft.” (McDowell, Earnest R. and William N. Hess. Checkertail Clan: The 325th Fighter Group in North Africa and Italy. Fallbrook (CA): Aero Publishers, 1969. Card cover. 98p. Heavily illustrated. Rosters and mission lists. Index. p.45).


These reports show one (1) Ju 52 going down, but on the 16th rather than the 17th. They do not show the loss of the other Ju 52, presumably because it belonged to Lufthansa and not to the Wehrmacht.

The above is provided in the interest of completeness only.

Günther Ott
9th December 2010, 17:35
Many thanks to Larry for his additional and most interesting information.

Just for adding to that, it should be noted that the loss of a Ju 52 on 16 April 1944, so as shown in the OBSO report for the day, was not linked to the Allied attacks around Belgrade. Involved was in fact Ju 52/3m g8e W.Nr. 501325 of 9./TG 4, which was downed by Allied escort fighters at Toplitz, some 9 km to the West of Orsava in the Banat region of Romania. 16 men aboard were reportedly killed. Another 16 men came to death on 17 April 1944 when the Ju 52/3m g8e W.Nr. 501132 1Z+JX of 11./TG 4 was hit by Allied eascort fighters and ditched on the Danube river in an attempted emergency landing some 32 km South of Orsava.

The three victims on the ground at Semlin (Zemun) on 16 April 1944 were likely Ju 52/3m g6e W.Nr. 3126, as well as Me 323 E-2s W.Nr. 130030 and 130045. They were shown with 100, 90 and 75 percent of damages respectively.

Best regards,