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Christer Bergström 21st February 2005 04:50

Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972.


Here are the official loss figures for the VVS KA in 1944:

http://my.tele2.ee/airacesww2/airace...losses1944.htm

Although I haven't arrived there yet in my research, I feel there is reason to doubt the German loss figure. It appears to be a bit low. The incomplete Generalquartiermeister loss records for 1944 list 529 Bf 109s for JG 52 alone (1944 only). Of course this number includes aircraft with damage degrees above 10 %, and due to all reasons, it must also be kept in mind that it is far from complete.

I think that we'll see one day. . . :wink:

All best,

Christer Bergström

JoeB 21st February 2005 07:16

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972.


Here are the official loss figures for the VVS KA in 1944:

Thanks, but if I read the Soviet table correctly, a real kill ratio would seem to depend greatly on the actual fate of the large category "did not return from sortie". I wonder how many of 972 German losses would be to AAA or losses on the ground (or would those be included?).

Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher, or some general reason about known German loss accounting practices? In the Korea case it's my observation that it's often the following combination: some assume various known quirks in US loss accounting must have had a very major statistical impact because official losses are so much at variance with opponent claims. But actually at the primary record level, while a few examples of the expected quirks can be found it's not significant %-wise: the often quoted official figures are not that far from correct, insofar as can be determined by the large volume of records that are declassified, and the specific claims. Of course this is not necessarily the same for German loss records. However the same assertion of loss undercount is made about 1939 Japanese losses, so there is something of a recurrent pattern of questioning VVS opponent loss records, and therefore value IMO in discussing the three cases comparatively.

Joe

Christer Bergström 21st February 2005 19:42

Quote:

if I read the Soviet table correctly, a real kill ratio would seem to depend greatly on the actual fate of the large category "did not return from sortie".
This is the problem which faces anyone who tries to make any deeper research into such topic: There simply are no 100 % reliable figures of the kind you want. One reason why the Soviets used the category "MIA" is because the exact cause of the loss could not be established. The Eastern Front was different than the US air operations over Germany, where there often were hundreds of eye witnesses to the shootdown of a certain B-17. (And even regarding US 8th Air Force there were cases where losses were erroneously attributed to Flak simply because no one saw the rapidly attacking German fighter.)

So if you are looking for a 100 % complete list which contains the exact reason to every single Soviet aircraft loss, I'm afraid you are looking for some kind of unfindable Holy Grail - which you will never find (whatever Dan Brown says). So you have to try to analyse what there is, and draw your own conclusions. That's the approach of a historian, contrary to the approach of a medium-level matematician (or a bureaucrat).

Sometimes people tend to overemphasise statistics, thus forgetting that in order to analyse statistics, a certain amount of understanding is necessary. The truth can't always be easily found in a single column of figures.

Yes, I think it is a matter of understanding before one tries to evaluate various figures.

I have covered the general subject which you discuss - which boils down to comparative standards between German and Soviet fighter pilots - in the narrative texts in Classic's series "Jagdwaffe":

Vol. 3, Section 2: "Barbarossa"
Vol. 3, Section 4: "The War in Russia Jan - Oct 1942"
Vol. 4, Section 3: "The War in Russia Nov 1942 - Dec 1943"
Vol. 5, Section 2: "War in the East 1944 - 45"

Of course I examine this even deeper in my "Black Cross/Red Star" series (where Vol. 3, covering the period June - Nov 1942, will be published this summer), but since you are interested in the last year of the war, I can only suggest that you go to Jagdwaffe Vol. 5, Section 2: "War in the East 1944 - 45".

Maybe one should not recommend one's own books, but to defend myself I can say that I have already received my full payment for the Jagdwaffe series, and will not earn more through more sales. Also, I don't know if there are any other books where any attempts have been made to analyse the phenomenon you are interested in.

One start could be this article:

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/text.html

All best,

Christer Bergström

PS: "Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher" :shock:

Well. . . :roll: please re-read what I wrote: "Official figure of German fighter losses attributed to enemy action on the Eastern Front in 1944: 972. The incomplete Generalquartiermeister loss records for 1944 list 529 Bf 109s for JG 52 alone (1944 only). Of course this number includes aircraft with damage degrees above 10 %, and due to all reasons, but it must also be kept in mind that it is far from complete."

- Maybe I wasn't clear here, but JG 52 constituted only a small part of all Luftwaffe fighter units which saw action against the Soviets in 1944. (The other were JG 5, JG 11, JG 51, JG 53, JG 54, and JG 77, to which should be added the elements of various SGs which flew fighter missions on the Eastern Front in 1944.)

JoeB 22nd February 2005 01:23

Quote:

Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
1. One reason why the Soviets used the category "MIA" is because the exact cause of the loss could not be established. The Eastern Front was different than the US air operations over Germany,

2. The truth can't always be easily found in a single column of figures.

3. "Do you doubt the German figure because Soviet claims were much higher" :shock:
Well. . . :roll: please re-read what I wrote:

1. That's a suprisingly high % for such a category though, in the KW even the Soviets didn't end up with a large "unk" category. Either they didn't have that category in lower level reports, or the usually quoted totals simply assume (reasonably, and easier to conclude for that war) that "failed to return" meant air combat loss. Anyway you presented the fact for WWII and educated me, thanks. On drawing own conclusion, I guess I'd assume "failed to return" were air combat losses at a minimum of the ratio of known air combat/AAA losses, since air combat losses are more likely to occur in reduced situational awareness within a unit or formation.

2. I agree of course, perhaps seldom found in a column of numbers.

Thanks for the references.

3. I think I understood your point, but again trying to draw a parallel, the main reason to closely re-examine USAF loss records for Korea (at least what piqued my curiosity) is the existence of a list of a specifc claims (besides a total) a high multiple of the official losses. Intrinsic apparent inconsistencies in the numbers (% of total losses to air combat v other causes for air combat types, and so forth) might contribute to the curiosity, but the high number of opposing claims is the main reason. I just wondered if this was similar for East air war, whether Soviet claims far in excess of 972 was a reason and to what degree besides the possible intrinsic disrepancies in the German figures you mentioned.

Joe

Jens 23rd February 2005 18:03

"People in the East are not that divided but perhaps some people involved some way with the ancient regime. Actually most people are surprised and indignant with the Western approach to communism. Is not it surprising the communism responsible for about 100 million deaths (including whole nations) is still considered something better that German Nasism which killed some 25 million people? Is not surprising the active role of Soviet Union in starting WWII is not recognised in the West?
There is a lot of ignorance and lack of knowledge but not in our part of the Europe. "

I think this statement proves my thesis, that some people discussed from a biased point. I lived in GDR and can imagine, why people hate the communists and the SU, but this shouldn't lead to make a false look at the historical facts. Same in the other view, hate of nacism shouldnt lead to underestimate power of Wehrmacht.

"Secondly, also SU was saved from that kind of fighter activity almost during the whole war, IIRC most of the time less than half of LW fighter force was concentrated against SU. For example on 31.5.43 there were 547 Jagdflugzeuge against SU and 1,077 Jagdflugzeuge against Western Allies and that is from Olaf Groehler's Geschichte des Luftkriegs 1910 bis 1980. Berlin 1981. So this isn't a info from "bourgeois history-falsifiers" but from DDR."

The question behind these figures is, how much of the "western" fighters were in schools and Erg.-jagdgruppen? At schools alone 11500 airplanes were totally and 10000 damaged lost. Out of these 15000 were pure school planes. So roughly 9000 combat planes were more or less lost at schools. It's clear that most statistics say, they were lost against western allies. Additionaly in 1944 ~20% of all planes of LW were in Erg.-jagdgruppen (without schools).

I think Christer Bergström has given the right questions and some answers.

Franek Grabowski 23rd February 2005 19:10

Jens
Are you kidding?

Quote:

I think this statement proves my thesis, that some people discussed from a biased point. I lived in GDR and can imagine, why people hate the communists and the SU, but this shouldn't lead to make a false look at the historical facts. Same in the other view, hate of nacism shouldnt lead to underestimate power of Wehrmacht.
Do you deny Ribbentrop-Molotov and subsequent agreements that started WWII and allowed both countries to conquer almost whole Europe by mid 1941? Do you deny that policy of both Germany and Soviet Union resulted in genocide deaths of millions of people? Do you deny that half of Europe was occupied by Soviets?
Now, whatever is your answer, please explain me where is the link to purely technical matters discussed here?

Quote:

The question behind these figures is, how much of the "western" fighters were in schools and Erg.-jagdgruppen? At schools alone 11500 airplanes were totally and 10000 damaged lost. Out of these 15000 were pure school planes. So roughly 9000 combat planes were more or less lost at schools. It's clear that most statistics say, they were lost against western allies. Additionaly in 1944 ~20% of all planes of LW were in Erg.-jagdgruppen (without schools).
I do not see any reason why the German command had to include their school aircraft into OdeB. Anyway, simple count of JGs engaged show that most of them were engaged on the Western Front and the situation changed only in April when both Fronts were so close, that there was no distinction between the units.

Quote:

I think Christer Bergström has given the right questions and some answers.
I see no particular reason to believe there are more unknown losses due to Soviets than to Anglosaxons.

Christer Bergström 23rd February 2005 22:53

Quote:

For example on 31.5.43 there were 547 Jagdflugzeuge against SU and 1,077 Jagdflugzeuge against Western Allies
In all humility, this is an example of what happens when one approaches history from the viewpoint of a medium-level matematician, who tries to understand history by watching selected statistical figures.

The reality - which always is more complicated than a few statistical figures - looked like this on 31 May 1943:

The more than one thousand Luftwaffe fighters in action against the Western Allies broke down into these forces:

The West (France, Belgium): 328 fighters (mainly JG 2 and JG 26) - opposed to an overwhelming Allied numerical superiority, including approximately fifteen hundred RAF fighters. (RAF Fighter Command carried out 15,447 sorties in June 1943.)

Home defence (Luftwaffenbefehlshaber Mitte): 296 fighters - opposed mainly to the heavy bombers of US 8th Air Force (mustering 705 heavy bombers on 31 May 1943).

Sicily and Sardinia (Luftflotte 2): 290 fighters (of which only 160 were serviceable) - opposed to 4,900 Allied aircraft, including 2,100 fighters.

Western Norway: 76 fighters, which saw very little action.

Southeastern Europe: 90 fighters, mainly assigned to protect the Rumanian oil fields, also saw very little action by this time.

Before I go any further, I will make one reservation. Regarding the air war at night, the situation is the opposite to that in daytime: At night time, it is absolutely clear that the Western Allies (or more precisely, the RAF Bomber Command) encountered a level of opposition in the air which the Soviets were lucky to be saved from. I would say that the RAF Bomber Command and the Soviet Air Force were those two Allied air forces which faced the strongest opposition from the Luftwaffe. That said, let’s return to the day fighting:

Let us now study the Eastern Front on 31 May 1943. Indeed, there were “only” 547 Luftwaffe fighters on the Eastern Front on 31 May 1943. But that's only one part of the story.

By 31 May 1943, the huge Air Battle at Kuban (the German Kuban Bridgehead in northwestern Caucasus) had just ended. At the climax of this battle, the Luftwaffe mounted Fliegerkorps I with around 1,000 aircraft (including 200 fighters) against 800 Soviet aircraft (including 270 fighters). This German concentration of aviation assets was made at the expense of other sectors of the Eastern Front (e.g. the Ukraine had to do more or less without any German fighters during one period during the Air Battle over the Kuban), but this could be tolerated because spring thaws prevented any major operation by the Red Army by that time.

If we subtract all German aircraft apart from the fighters - as has been done above - the Eastern Front appears to be given a fairly low priority. But of course the Soviet airmen faced not only fighters, but many other aircraft. If not, their task would have been much easier.

If we exclude transport planes, liaison aircraft, etc, plus the aircraft in western Norway and the Balkans which saw only limited action, and instead focus on the actual first-line force of combat aircraft which saw regular daylight combat, we will find the following for 31 May 1943:

Opposed to the Soviets: 2,500 Luftwaffe combat aircraft (night fighters excluded).

Opposed to the Western Allies: 1,700 Luftwaffe combat aircraft (night fighters excluded).


Interestingly, the date chosen above - 31 May 1943 - is just between two major air battles on the Eastern Front. One, at Kuban, has already been described. The other one was “Operation Zitadelle” at Kursk.

For “Operation Zitadelle” the Luftwaffe gathered a force of over 2,000 aircraft (including 630 fighters and Zerstörer) at Kharkov and Orel - opposed to a Soviet force of 2,400 aircraft (including 1,000 fighters). (Khazanov & Gorbach, “Aviatsiya v bitve nad Orlovsko - Kurskoy dugoy”, p. 11.)

Imagine this formidable Luftwaffe force - which included the top elite among the Luftwaffe fliers as far as experience and combat skills is concerned - assembled in Sicily, instead of the badly depleted remnants of Luftflotte 2 which were in place to meet the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943. Then imagine the Western Allied aviation in Tunisia cut in half from 4,900 aircraft (2,100 fighters) to a numerical similar to the Soviet at “Zitadelle” - 2,400 aircraft (including 1,000 fighters). Then you would have the Western Allies facing the same kind of opposition as the Soviets were up against. Wouldn’t that have brought the Western Allies into greater difficulties?

Finally this:

Quote:

simple count of JGs engaged show that most of them were engaged on the Western Front and the situation changed only in April when both Fronts were so close, that there was no distinction between the units.
I don’t know what Franek means here. However, it is a fact that immediately following the Soviet breakthrough on 12 January 1945, almost the entire Luftwaffe -including most of the Home Defence Jagdgeschwader – were rapidly transferred to the Eastern Front. These units included JG 1, JG 3, JG 4, JG 6, JG 11, and JG 77. Already in January 1945, the number of Bf 109s and Fw 190s assigned explicitly and exclusively to the Eastern Front reached fifteen hundred. In fact, the bulk of the air fighting in Europe in 1945 would take place on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmachtführungsstab noted on 19 January 1945 that all available reserves of aircraft fuel was to be concentrated to air operations on the Eastern Front: “Air operations on all other war theatres are in comparison [to the Eastern Front] of absolutely negligible importance.” This would not change during the remainder of the war - to the benefit of the airmen in the USAAF and the RAF.

Just before that, there actually had been a couple of isolated incidents when the Western Allies had been unfortunate to encounter at least a numerical opposition in the air of the same magnitude as the Soviets had to face all the time from 22 June 1941 to late April 1945. That took place during the German Ardennes offensive in December 1944, when Göring concentrated a uniquely strong force of Luftwaffe aircraft against the Western Allies. (Unique after 22 June 1941.) No less than 2,300 German aircraft were stationed along the Western Front to support the Ardennes offensive. (In other words, a number which is comparable to the force which was available for Operation “Zitadelle”, although the Western Allies could muster 5,000 aircraft against the Ardennes offensive - i.e. twice the numbers the Soviets dispatched at the eve of “Zitadelle”.)

The first days of the Ardennes offensive, air activity was hampered through bad weather, but on 23 and 24 December the RAF and the USAAF faced the onslaught by the whole Luftwaffe force which had been concentrated in the West. On 23 December 1944, the Americans alone lost 67 aircraft in the West. One Jagdgruppe, IV./JG 3, claimed to have shot down 31 B-26 bombers and three Thunderbolts. The next day, no less than 94 US and British aircraft were shot down in the West.

The Luftwaffe made 800 sorties in the West on 23 December 1944, and 1,088 on 24 December. It should be kept in mind that these sorties were carried out by “Western units” which had been badly depleted after twelve months of terrible attrition in a fight against a growing Allied numerical superiority. The bulk of the pilots in these units were inadequately trained rookies. As I have showed in a previous post, the situation in the “Eastern units” was dramatically different. One can imagine what the outcome had been if the RAF and the USAAF had faced the “super veterans” of JG 51, JG 52 and JG 54 over the Ardennes, instead of the rookies of JG 1, JG 11 and JG 4.

As mentioned, I advice against drawing too many conclusions form statistical numbers, but the statistics from two days of Luftwaffe operations during the last period of the year show some interesting relations. On both days, the Luftwaffe was assigned to carry out tactical support at the frontline, and on both days losses were due to both air combat and ground fire.

23 December 1944: 800 Luftwaffe sorties in the West, leading to 115 German victory claims and 135 German aircraft lost.

8 February 1945: 1,654 Luftwaffe sorties in the East, leading to 8 (eight) German victory claims and 43 German aircraft lost (mainly Bf 109s and Fw 190s).

All best,

Christer Bergström

http://www.graf-grislawski.elknet.pl/index.htm

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/bc-rs/

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/...-ace/index.htm

Dénes Bernád 23rd February 2005 23:28

Flak
 
Just a small note, without the intent to get involved too much in this thread.

If one discusses the air war in general, including statistics of losses, he/she must consider the flak force as well.
I am not very knowledgeable in this topic, but IIRC most of the medium and heavy German flak was concentrated in the West, complementing the available fighter force.
Wasn't the Flakwaffe responsible for more enemy aircraft shot downs than the Jagdwaffe (in the West, incl. the IIIrd Reich)?

Dénes

Franek Grabowski 23rd February 2005 23:48

Denes
You are absolutelly correct, Polish AF lost about 6 day fighters to German aircraft since June 1944 and claimed about 70 destroyed at the same time. All the remaining losses were due to Flak and accidents. I do not think the proportion was much different for Commonwealth and USAAF, and it must be remembered the German claims were wildly exagerrated.

Christer Bergström 24th February 2005 03:21

Yes, that's right, Dénes. If we take RAF fighter losses on 24 December 1944, for instance, 12 were shot down by German Flak and six by German fighters. Meanwhile, it appears as though many more German fighters were lost in air combat than to Allied AAA by this time.

However, losses due to sudden hit-and-run fighter attacks sometimes were erroneously interpreted as due to AAA. If we study the air battle in the West on 23 December, US sources admit that a large part of their losses were due to German fighters. Thus, 391 BG alone reported 16 B-26s shot down by German fighters in a single engagement that day.

Indeed, the German claims sometimes were wildly exaggerated - but this applies to fighter pilots in all air forces.

I am trying to understand the series of air battles between US 8th Air Force and Luftflotte Reich over Germany on 4 - 6 August 1944. During those battles, the fighters of US 8th Air Force claimed 128 German aircraft shot down (including six by Major George Preddy of 352 FG on the 6th), but so far I have only been able to find 29 losses among those of Luftflotte Reich’s units which, AFAIK, served in northern and western Germany and participated in the battle with 8th AF over Germany on those days.

The units in question are I./JG 3, II./JG 5, III./JG 53, JG 300, JG 301 and JG 302. Apart from these, I./JG 2 and JG 4 were based in the vicinity and might have participated in these battles, although these units filed no claims. However, through the whole month of August 1944, these units (I./JG 2 and the whole of JG 4) recorded no more than 20 losses due to hostile action (Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen) - which hardly covers all the "missing" 100 US claims.

Maybe someone can provide me with some additional information here? (Meanwhile, 82 American aircraft - 52 bombers and 30 fighters - were shot down, the majority though through AAA; the German fighters claimed 12 bombers and 17 fighters shot down.)

I find this surprising, since I have the impression that the claims made by US 8th AF's fighter pilots generally seem to be fairly accurate - at least compared to claims made by fighter pilots of many other air forces. (Perhaps as a result of a wider use of gun camera?) - For instance, RAF Fighter Command claimed 909 German aircraft shot down in 1941, while actual German losses only were 183. Also, a comparison between the number of aircraft claimed shot down by the Soviets (in air combat and through ground fire) in 1941, and the actual number of German aircraft recorded as lost in the air on the Eastern Front to hostile action in 1941, gives an average Soviet overclaim ratio of 2.8 claims per actual German combat loss in the air. (I will present the exact figures in a monthly loss table in a forthcoming second edition of Black Cross/Red Star, Vol. 1.)


All best,

Christer Bergström


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