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Old 4th March 2005, 21:59
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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“I checked only a old print (5.6.200) for II/JG 51, and according to it II/JG 51 lost in Jan. 43 durch Feindeinw. 9 Bf 109Gs and ohne Feindeinw. 9 Bf 109Gs that makes 18.
And if I added the figures right the JG 77 lost 56 Bf 109s in Jan .43.”
Juha, I have the exact and complete list of daily loss returns to Generalquartiermeister, down to every individual aircraft, its Werknummer, pilot, cause of loss, etc.

The website you refer to lists all aircraft above 10 % damage degree. Losses of 60 % damage degree and above were total losses, i.e. destroyed. All other aircraft were in repairable condition.

In fact, II./JG 51 registered not 18, but 19 aircraft sustaining damage from 10 % damage degree and above in January 1943. The breakdown is as follows:

60 % damage degree and above (i.e. destroyed) to hostile action: 7
Below 60 % damage degree (i.e. repairable) to hostile action: 3*

60 % damage degree and above (i.e. destroyed) not to hostile action: 6
Below 60 % damage degree (i.e. repairable) not to hostile action: 3

(* = There is one record of a Bf 109 G-2 Bauchlandung nach Luftkampf mit Bomber, and it seems as though the damage it received could have been below 10%. That probably is the reason why the total on the website which Juha refers to gives 18, while I found 19. But I decided to include it, since it was included in the returns to Generalquartiermeister.)

You may count all damaged aircraft if you like, but that doesn’t show real losses, does it?

As an example, we all know - for instance - that US 8th Air Force lost 64 heavy bombers during the operation against Schweinfurt and Regensburg on 17 August 1943. No one includes the damaged aircraft to say that the Americans lost 232 heavy bombers on that day (which would give a horrific loss rate of 73.6 % for a single major mission). (All figures from Freeman, “Mighty Eighth War Diary”, pp. 89 - 90.)

JG 77’s daily loss returns to Generalquartiermeister totals 68 aircraft which received any kind of damage from 10% and above, to all causes. But only 15 of these were shot down by the enemy and destroyed.

You may count as you wish, but if you are going to include also aircraft which were damaged in take-off accidents etc, you have to compare it with similar figures on the Allied side. Since there were more Allied aircraft than Axis aircraft, and thus logically more Allied aircraft which encountered no enemy aircraft on missions, the number of aircraft lost or damaged due to accidents as a share of all aircraft which were lost or damaged ought to have been higher on the Allied side. Since the relation between aircraft shot down & destroyed and all aircraft destroyed or damaged to all causes is 1:4 for II./JG 51 and JG 77 in Tunisia in January 1943, the relation in the Allied air forces in the same area in January 1943 can be estimated to have been at least 1:5. Thus, if we include all of JG 77’s and II./JG 51’s damaged and destroyed aircraft to all causes, those two units would have “lost” altogether 87 aircraft through January 1943.

I think you solved it, Juha! Probably that was how Williamson Murray got his figures!

Out of 32 German fighters shot down and destroyed in the Mediterranean in January 1943, a total of 22 (= nearly 70 %) were from II./JG 51 and JG 77. If we add all aircraft which received any kind of damage from 10 % and above to any reason, the figures for II./JG 51 and JG 77 in January 1943 are 87. And 87 equals 70 % of Murray’s figure of 124 for “German fighter losses in the Mediterranean in January 1943”.

Let us now compare that figure with an estimated corresponding number on the Allied side.

Let’s assume that the British wartime published figure of 151 Allied aircraft (78 fighters and 73 bombers) lost in air combat over Tunisia in January 1943 is correct. (The actual figure probably is higher than what the British admitted to the press in 1943.)

Now, if we estimate according to the relations above, we would arrive at a figure of 755 Allied aircraft “lost” in Tunisia in January 1943, according to that way of counting: 390 fighters and 365 bombers.

I suggest that we stick to the classical way of counting, namely that we confine our comparison to aircraft shot down and destroyed.

So we still have at least 151 Allied aircraft shot down and destroyed versus 32 German fighters shot down and destroyed.

At least we now know how Murray got those exaggerated numbers; they don’t represent losses, but both aircraft destroyed and aircraft damaged.

Funny, though, that he seems to be comparing apples with pears. I found that he gives the figure 332 destroyed aircraft on the Eastern Front for September 1942; those figures relate only to aircraft totally destroyed and do not include damaged aircraft - of those, 277 were destroyed due to hostile action.

Maybe Murray put together figures from various sources, where all Eastern Front figures were only destroyed aircraft, while the Mediterranean figures obviously included both damaged and destroyed? However, not even that theory holds. While Murray includes all aircraft with even a damage degree above 10 % to all causes for the Mediterranean in January 1943, his figure for the Eastern Front in January 1943 is inexplicably low: 85. But the number of transport planes alone (He 111s not included) which were destroyed due to hostile action on the Eastern Front is 79 in January 1943! Add the number of aircraft destroyed through hostile action in just one Eastern Front Geschwader, SchG 1, which is 12 for January 1943, and you have already surpassed the figure Murray gives for the whole Eastern Front.

As some of you may have seen in “Black Cross/Red Star”, Vol. 2, I have started to give the monthly numbers of aircraft destroyed in each Geschwader on the Eastern Front. I will continue to do so throughout the series. I don’t want to give the figures for the Eastern Front here and now - I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to wait for that volume of “Black Cross/Red Star”. But I can say that the number of German aircraft which were destroyed due to hostile action on the Eastern Front in January 1943 is way above both the figure given in Murray’s table and the number of Luftwaffe losses in the Mediterranean. The loss figures for the transport aircraft and SchG 1 above should give you a hint.

(The source for these loss tables are the daily loss returns to Generalquartiermeister.)


The Luftwaffe standard for the classification of damage to aircraft was divided as follows:

Below 10 %: Minor damage that can be repaired by the aircraft’s ground crew.
10 % - 24 %: Medium damage that can be repaired through small repair works at the unit.
25 % - 39 %: Damage that requires a major overhaul at the unit.
40 % – 44 %: Damage to that requires whole replacements of landing gears or other systems, such as hydraulic systems.
45 % - 59 %: Severely damaged aircraft where large parts of the aircraft needed to be replaced.
60 % - 80 %: Write-off category. Certain parts could be used as spare parts for other aircraft.
81 % - 99%: Totally destroyed, crashed on German-controlled area.
100 %: Totally lost, crashed or disappeared over enemy-controlled area or over sea.

BTW 2:

I have put together my various postings (plus some new stuff) from the discussion on the effect of Allied numerical air superiority over Normandy 1944 to an article, which I posted to my new Bergström Aviation Books website. Scroll down on the site to reach a link to the article:

And watch that Messerschmitt pilot on the photo! 8) :P

There will be more non-Eastern Front air war articles posted to that site soon.
All the best,

Christer Bergström