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Old 16th March 2005, 20:57
Boris Ciglic's Avatar
Boris Ciglic Boris Ciglic is offline
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Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

If I remember correctly, few months ago there was a debate about attacks on refugee columns and civilians in France by Luftwaffe fighter pilots. I have several Yugoslav reports from Balkanfeldzug in April 1941 about just such things happening, but did not want to bring them out as I could not conclude the units responsible. A friend of mine was working through mfm NAW T 501, Roll 256 at Military Archive in Belgrade today and just gave me this very intriguing excerpt. Pilot in question is Günther Stedtfeld of 4./JG 51.

Im Nachgang zum schreiben Nr.2769/44. Geh. Vom 3.V.44. wird ein Bericht der F.K. Nisch übersandt:
“Nach einer hier vorliegenden Meldung der II./J.G. Mölders sah der in dem Flugzeug befindliche Staffelführer Leutnant Stedtfeld in jener gegend ein brennendes Dorf, ferner 8 – 10 km. von diesen Dorf entfernt ein Gehöft und in dessen Nähe 20 Zivilpersonen, die er als Banditen ansprach. Nach mehrfachen überfliegen des Gehöfts gab der Staffel-Führer den Befehl vom Angriff mit Bordwaffen durch die vom ihm geführte Kette. Bei dem brennenden Dorf handelt es sich um offenbar um Häuser da aus ihnen von Banditen geschossen worden war – die kurz zuvor durch Sturmgeschütze der Sturmgeschütz-Abt.-201. vernichtet worden worden waren. Die 20 Zivilisten gehörten zweifellos zu den Zivilarbeitskräften,die im gennanten Tage von Prokuplje nach Beli Kamen zu Stellungsbauarbeiten geschickt worden waren. Irgendein Kampfauftrag lag für den Staffelführer nicht vor. In ihrer Meldung an das Reichsluftfahrtministerium bezv. Feldluftgaukommando XXX. bezeichnet die II./J.G. Mölders das fragliche Gebiet als Bandenversucht bekannt. Das trifft nicht zu, zumal der Erkundungsoffizier der II./J.G. Mölders eingehend über die Bandenlage unterrichtet wurde.”

How should this be understand? As an misidentification, carelessness or manslaughter? Pilot flew several times over the group and could not have been fired upon by it. In my opinion being over alleged “Bandengebiet” was enough for the pilot to carry the strafing. I would also stress that it occurred in part of Serbia with very limited “Banden” activity at specified time. It is clear that some sort of investigation was performed. Stedtfeld became acting Staffelkäpitan of 4./JG 51 few weeks later.
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Old 17th March 2005, 10:13
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Csaba B. Stenge Csaba B. Stenge is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Boris,

It happened many times during the war, and not just by the Luftwaffe. For example the US fighter pilots butchered a lot of Hungarian civilians deliberately also (I have many sicky details).

I guess, all of this kind of attacks were personally motivated and the pilots later reported "military" targets, or kept their "feats" to themselves (BTW I am curious, how explained the US pilots their gun camera films, when the targets were biking children, ambulance cars, working farmers on the filelds, etc., because the gun camera films - with their not to good quality - preserved their actions)
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Old 17th March 2005, 11:49
Ju88G1 Ju88G1 is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

That is easy, Csaba
- a taxi becomes a German staff car
- an old age home with the flag flying becomes a German headquarter
- a farmer in the field becomes a German gun emplacement
- two guys in a row boat fishing becomes a German mine sweeper
- a train becomes a troop train
- a street in a village filled with civilians becomes German troops on the march
- a kid on a bike becomes a German kurier on a motor bike
- a painter on a roof becomes a German Flak emplacement
- a fishing wessel becomes a German E-boat/minesweeper/cruiser !

Thats the 'rewriting' that pilots used when attacking civilians in Denmark

Carsten
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Old 17th March 2005, 13:18
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

A image and a testemony comes to my mind now.

The image are scenes from gun cameras of american planes straffing civilians when attacking Japan. Those images are seen on several documentarys, some in color.

The testemony comes from a Brazilian pilot that fought in Italy. In a DVD released in Brasil he talks abour a little red car he attacked in a road. He says he flew around the car several times and then fired at till it blew ( Can´t imagine the impact of 8 gun´s at one in a little car... ). In the documentary he says to be regretful in attacking the car.

A former Blohm und Voss worker, sorry don´t remember the name now ( he wrote a book released by Monogram Publications years ago) also mentions the straffing of civilians in Germany by american planes.

So, in the heat of the battle, decisions must be taken in a very short time and sometimes we can´t blame the pilots or other soldiers for wrong decisions. It´s always easy to comment those facts years after... My thinking do not applies for deliberate attacks but talking about war is always very confliting. You can´t fire your guns on civilians but can drop tons of bombs on them...
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Old 18th March 2005, 19:37
Ju88G1 Ju88G1 is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Hi Sergio
I understand pilots who are attacking targets that they do not know is 'out of bounds' Errors are made in a time of war. I fully understand the pilots of 20th FG who attacked trains in Denmark the 27th of August 1944. They had just attacked hundreds of trains in France. They attacked a number of civilian Danish trains and nobody is blaming them. Not even the train driver who's foot they shot off!
I do not understand the pilots of 55th FG who attacked trains in Denmark the 7th of January 1945. They knew that they were over Denmark and falsified the pilot reports when they came home. They attacked trains in an area that was declaired 'out of bounds' and claimed after they came home that they attacked trains in the area of Hamburg (several hundred miles away). They knew where they were. They did not attack military targets during the mission even though that there were plenty. And there was no reason to attack the people trying to seek shelter from the bullits by running over the frozen fields. These pilots had a great time shooting up Danish civilians even though there were several German air fields close by that were packed with air planes.
I do not understand Bob Braham that did quite a few ranger missions to Denmark and who almost every time shot up civilian targets. He knew what he was shooting up - and he did not shoot down the number of planes that he claimed. Quite a few danes think that Braham was a war criminal. By the way, Braham did not attack military targets on the ground in Denmark - he normally attacked traffic out in the country side far from anything that could only smell of German military.

Carsten
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Old 18th March 2005, 20:01
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Well Carsten, as I posted "My thinking do not applies for deliberate attacks". The ones you mentions here belongs to this "category", unfortunately.
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Old 18th March 2005, 20:08
Jon Jon is offline
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Cool Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Whilst i obviously do not agree with the killing of any civilians, i think we should all remember that it is difficult almost impossible for us to judge acts that happened so long ago when we are safe in our homes sat infront of nothing more dangerous than a computer.
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Old 19th March 2005, 00:08
mhuxt mhuxt is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Hi:

I'm building a database of Mosquito claims - can you post about which of Braham's claims are in doubt, and the reasons for the doubt?

Thanks,

Mark
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Old 19th March 2005, 21:13
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

A very important document concerning Allied straffing is presented in a scanned form in a Spit & Polish book.
Anyway, I was interested in German straffing, not Allied one.
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Old 21st March 2005, 16:57
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Csaba B. Stenge Csaba B. Stenge is offline
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Re: Gunther Stedtfeld and strafing of civilians

Sergio,

I don't want to take part in fruitless discussions with too sensitive topics, but you should read carefully, what I wrote above. I wrote deliberately.
In some cases, the fighters strafed accidentally civil objects/persons (for example the first Hungarian driver, who killed during a strafing attack was very close to a military vehicle column, so his death was an accident)

However, I have many proofs regarding the US fighter strafings, when these actions were deliberately attacks with cold blood (and killing kids in this case is not really a mighty feat...)
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