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  #21  
Old 28th April 2022, 16:16
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Taking things in a different direction, again for what it is worth, if anything.

This time, looking at the experience of Steinbock aircrew, as indicated by medals and war flight awards.

I get the impression that one reason sometimes suggested for the lack of success achieved by the Steinbock crews was their inexperience and poor levels of training.

I wonder if this is true. Certainly, there were some very inexperienced men among those who were taken prisoner - among them, some who were on the first or second war flight when shot down.

But there were also many prisoners who were decorated airmen and who appear to have flown quite large numbers of war flights.

Some data and examples:

Among the 130 prisoners, 63 (i.e. almost half) were identified by interrogators as holding at least the EK 2 and/or WF Bronze (in other words, a decoration or award of some sort). There were 36 EK 2s and 31 EK 1s (11 men held both, so there were 25 men listed with just the EK 2 and 20 with just the EK 1 = 56 Iron Cross winners in total).

WF awards included 13 Bronze, 2 Silver and 9 Gold (24 total). Of the 9 Gold WF holders, 5 were identified as also holding the EK 1 and 2. There was one Deutsches Kreuz in Gold recorded.

This information is likely to be a minimum statement of the decorations and awards held by these 130 survivors (prisoners). For example, Oberfeldwebel Gopp, wireless operator in 9./KG 100 Do 217 6N+IT, captured on 30 April after the raid on Plymouth, was identified by interrogators as holding the Deutsches Kreuz in Gold. But since he also claimed Luftwaffe service since 1940 and 449 war flights, he must have had the WF Gold award and probably other decorations too (since he served in Spain with the German Army, he probably held decorations from that conflict too). Likewise, the three surviving crew members of 3./KG 2 Do 217 U5+CL, shot down on 24 February, were all identified as holding the EK 1 and 2 (as was the fourth, dead, crew member); yet despite the fact that all claimed to have flown 21 operational flights together as a crew since July 1943, no reference is made in the ADI(K) report (#93) to any of them holding the Bronze WF award – for which they were all presumably eligible. As another example, none of the three surviving crew of 3./KG 54 Ju 88 B3+AL, shot down 29/1, are listed as having any award. Yet at least two of them (the wireless operator and air gunner) claimed 42 war flights since autumn 1942, which suggests that they should have had the WF Bronze award and probably some EKs too. Likewise, of the six crew (four of whom survived) of 1./KG 40 He 177 F8+HH, lost 21 January, only one (the wireless operator) was explicitly stated to have received awards (EK 1 and 2 plus WF Gold). Yet from what it is stated in the report about the experience of almost all his other crew members (three of whom were prisoners) it is difficult to believe that they were not also in receipt of a range of decorations and awards.

Another way of quantifying the experience of crews is to look at the proportion of aircraft from which prisoners were taken (59 aircraft in total) which are believed to have included at least one (often several) members – both alive and dead – who bore some sort of decoration. In this case, the figures are as follows:

KG 2: 9 of 15 aircraft
KG 6: 7 of 15 aircraft
KG 30: 5 of 6 aircraft
KG 40: 2 of 2 aircraft
KG 54: 5 of 10 aircraft
KG 66: 1 of 3 aircraft
KG 76: 1 of 2 aircraft
KG 100: 3 of 6 aircraft

TOTAL 33 (55.9%) of 59 aircraft from which at least one prisoner survived had at least one crew member with an Iron Cross and/or Bronze WF badge.
Again, this is likely to be an under-estimate. To give one example, ADI(K) 214 lists no award or decorations for the crew (two of whom survived to become prisoners) of 1./KG 6 Ju 188 3E+MH (lost 15 May). Yet given the description of the career of the pilot, Oberleutnant von Manowarda (Staffelkapitän of 1./KG 6) available at https://www.ww2.dk/Lw%20Offz%20-%20L-R%20Apr%202022.pdf, I struggle to believe that this was an aircraft whose crew bore no war flights awards or medals.

As always, more work needed, but I can't help feeling that along with some interesting information presented in some ADI(K) reports about the quite lengthy training undertaken by even the less operationally experienced airmen, there is room here for some challenge to the view of Steinbock airmen as under-trained and inexperienced, or at least a bit more nuance?

As before, constructive criticism and suggestions for angles on this topic / sources of additional information, is very welcome.

Thanks,

Simon
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  #22  
Old 28th April 2022, 16:40
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Crikey this is going deeper than I would ever have thought! I should say that EKI and EKII were commonplace and not much indication of experience while the wound badge was not an award per se but recognition of what one had experienced in combat. Frontflugspange are a better means of judging experience but the mention of the Manowarda crew is a good example of how imprecise this can be. Manowarda, who I knew well, first flew operationally in October 1940 and his logbook (copy of which I have to October 1943) gives a good idea of what Frontflugspange he wore (albeit photos I have of him only show him with the EKI & EKII). EKI and EKII were awarded to him early on and it would appear he only received the Ehrenpokal the day he was shot down. Perhaps it was because he was Austrian and according to members of his staffel with 1./KG 6 that he spoke his mind. Don't forget also that some POWs received decorations after their capture

Last edited by Chris Goss; 28th April 2022 at 17:46.
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  #23  
Old 28th April 2022, 18:22
Tim O. Tim O. is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Hi Simon.

Interesting research!

Just a few points to add on the awards. All men with the EK1 will have had the EK2 as well (the EK1 was only awarded to those who already held the EK1 - on very rare occasions they could be awarded together).

All men with the DKiG and Ehrenpokal would also have had the EK2 and EK1. Again, they were prerequisites for the higher awards.
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Looking for any information or documents relating to:
Alfred Schmittka 5./KG 54; Josef Harmeling 4.(Schlacht)/LG 2; Wilhelm Gaul 1./106, 2./906 & III./KG 40; Karl Müller I./KG 2; Werner Breese 5.(F)/122
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  #24  
Old 28th April 2022, 19:10
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Chris, Tim,

Thanks for these thoughtful and helpful responses. I'm most grateful. I thought one would have the EK 2 if one also had the EK 1, but I'm grateful for the confirmation.

I do apologise if some of my points appear naïve or not as well-informed as they might be. I've spent the last 30 years working mostly on land warfare topics (as a War Studies lecturer at The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst). My PhD was about the resistance movements in wartime Yugoslavia (not a huge amount of air power there) and my first degree was in International Relations (which I also taught for a while at Keele University). None of this is necessarily the best preparation for a foray into Luftwaffe operations in 1944. But I'm genuinely interested in the topic - which has grown out of my main focus on the 1944 Normandy campaign - and trying to get my head around some interesting material found in ADI(K) and other intelligence sources. In that respect, I must again express my gratitude to those who made my membership of this forum possible, as well as those who are taking the trouble to reply to my postings.

The point about EK 1 and 2 being "commonplace" is intriguing, and begs questions. Was this because the awards were "easy" to get? Or was it because the things required to get them were within the compass of those who went through the selection process to get in positions to earn the awards in the first place? Or was it because those responsible for writing up the recommendations found the right 'format' for doing so (in this respect, I'm reminded of the spectacular differences indicated by one of the appendices in the First United States Army Report on Operations for June and July 1944, which shows that some divisions - 1st US ID being a classic example - secured spectacularly more medals of certain types for their soldiers than divisions that were new to combat, and who hadn't quite worked out what combination of nouns, verbs and adjectives were most likely to get the desired results)? or was it largely about inter-service (or intra-service) politics?

I guess an obvious observation is that if the medals were 'easy' to get, then why did quite a few airmen not have them?

In my various attempts to number-crunch stuff, I'm partly influenced by ideas developed in Mullers' 'Elite des Fuhrers' - a book about German land forces who fought in Normandy, but which deploys some interesting analytical tools.

Anyway, enough rambling from me. I'll keep on plugging away at trying to 'profile' the Steinbock airmen and continue to appreciate the feedback.

Bye for now,

Simon
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  #25  
Old 28th April 2022, 19:11
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Link to 'Elite des Fuhrers' = https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elite-F%C3%...s%2C61&sr=8-26
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  #26  
Old 28th April 2022, 23:26
Adriano Baumgartner Adriano Baumgartner is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Simon,

Both EKII, EKI and further awards were "recommended for" or "suggested" to the High Command by the Staffelkapitän or Gruppenkommandeur. There were variations in terms of number of sorties and number of victories to be awarded with the EKII (generally after 2-3 victories) and EKI (I have read variations from 7 victories up to a bit more).

For the Kampfgeschwader airmen, it was in terms of number of sorties and, of course, success (ships sunk, or bridges destroyed, etc.).

Some airmen seems to have been "persecuted" by some of their senior officers....so even though they had the number of sorties or victories to receive the awards, the Officers did not push the "paper ahead"....It ocurred also in the RAF and USAAC as well...as far as I remember reading on "war diaries", books, etc.

Your work seems really incredible and be sure that you will have support from me and others. KEEP GOING....it gonna be a "helluva of a book" when published.

Adriano
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  #27  
Old 29th April 2022, 00:29
Tim O. Tim O. is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Simon

It is a bit of an over-simplification but broadly speaking it is true to say that Commonwealth and US bomber crew served for a tour of typically 25 or 30 missions. They then often went off to instruct for anything up to a couple of years before doing a second tour and some went on to do three tours (or maybe more). German airmen typically continued to fly until they were killed or became instructors at the end of their careers, often when highly decorated. It is therefore not surprising that those that survived (and many who died) typically got both the EK2 and EK1 as they would have flown the equivalent of 4x, 10x or even more missions than might result in a DFC or DFM for a Commonwealth airman. Large-scale awards of the EK were also made for the conquests of Poland, France, Crete, etc. in recognition of unit successes. This explains at least in part why these awards were so commonly encountered.
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Looking for any information or documents relating to:
Alfred Schmittka 5./KG 54; Josef Harmeling 4.(Schlacht)/LG 2; Wilhelm Gaul 1./106, 2./906 & III./KG 40; Karl Müller I./KG 2; Werner Breese 5.(F)/122
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  #28  
Old 3rd May 2022, 12:25
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Again, thank you for the replies, and apologies for the delay in responding (domestic duties over the long weekend).

Tim, Chris (or any other forum contributor): please can you help me understand a little more clearly? Tim, you seem to imply that EKs were basically a form of recognition for operational experience (including participation in early-war air operations). Yet Chris, you say that they were "commonplace and not much indication of experience". This difference in perspective may be more apparent than real, but can you help me square this circle? For example, would it seem reasonable to suggest that even quite high levels of experience on one front (e.g. the Mediterranean, Russia) would not be especially helpful in preparing air crew to deal with the specific challenges of operations against a well-integrated air (and civil) defence system, in bad weather, during 'Steinbock'?

I suppose it's stating the obvious, but what I'm trying to get straight in my mind is the degree to which the failures (from the German perspective) of 'Steinbock' should be credited to the skill and achievements of the defender(s), and the degree to which they represent German 'deficiencies'. Clearly, these are not mutually exclusive and lots of things (and the relationships between these things) matter in explaining the outcome of any military operation, not just this one. It's just that I think it's reasonable to suggest that there is a tendency in some sources to push towards the 'inexperience and poor training of Steinbock air crews' explanation, and I continue to wonder if this is at least a bit of a distortion, if not inaccurate per se.

On another (albeit related) matter, and again for what it is worth, if anything:

ADI(K) reports contain information about the security-consciousness and morale of all but five of the 130 prisoners taken from among ‘Steinbock air crew. Of the 125 about whom information is recorded:

Seventeen or eighteen were said to have low morale, although this did not always equate with poor security. Several airmen with low morale appeared resistant to interrogation.

Approximately sixteen men were regarded as having medium or ‘fair’ morale. Again, some of these were quite (or very) secure.

The balance – certainly, over ninety men – were stated to have high or very high morale (some of them were also stated to be ideologically ‘fanatical’ and/or insolent in their behaviour). Almost without exception, these airmen were stated to be secure under interrogation – at least, initially.

A few impressions might be worth recording:

First, there appears to be no significant diminution in morale or security-consciousness from January to May (inclusive) 1944. In particular, those prisoners stated to have low morale and/or a tendency to be insecure were spread reasonably evenly across the months, rather than concentrated in March, April or May 1944.

The largest number of prisoners with low or only fair morale was in March. But this is also the month in which the largest number of prisoners (46) were taken (c.f. January = 22; February = 30; April = 23; and May = 9). As an overall proportion of prisoners, although there was certainly a tendency to record slightly lower morale in March compared with January or February, there is no evidence of anything resembling a ‘collapse’ in morale in March. And even if morale ‘sagged’ a little among prisoners captured in March, this was certainly not the case in April or May, when 29 of 32 prisoners were described as having high morale and/or good security.

Some crews contained prisoners with differing levels of morale and security-consciousness. There were seven cases where differences could be described as significant, meaning that at least one man in a crew was described as having low morale but at least one other from the same crew was described as having high morale (1./KG 40 F8+HH, lost 21/2 January; 5./KG 2 U5+LN, lost 20 February; 3./KG 2 U5+EL, lost 24 February; 4./KG 6 3E+AM, lost 25 March; 5./KG 2 U5+EN, lost 28 March; 2./KG 54 B3+FK, lost 28 March; and 2./KG 100 6N+AK, lost 19 April). In most cases, however, where more than one man from a crew survived to be taken prisoner, morale tended to be similar across the crew. For example, all three survivors from 3./KG 76 F1+BL (lost 22 January) were described as being insecure, whereas all four prisoners from 3./KG 54 B3+PL (lost 19 April) fell towards the opposite end of the spectrum.

‘Lone survivors’ tended not to show much evidence (in terms of low morale or tendency to break down rapidly under interrogation) of the shock of losing friends and all their immediate crewmates. They tended to have high morale and to be secure, even in cases where they bore quite serious injury. For example, the only men to survive from 4./KG 6 3E+LM (lost 21 January), I./KG 66 Z6+HH (lost 13 February), 6./KG 54 B3+MP (lost 20 February); 4./KG 30 4D+DM (lost 14 March); and 5./KG 2 U5+EN (lost 26 April) were all described as exhibiting quite or very high morale and/or security-consciousness.

Among the relatively small number of prisoners who were described as having poor morale and/or a tendency to insecurity, there is no evidence of any particular unit being ‘over-represented’. Admittedly, three of the four prisoners taken during ‘Steinbock’ from I./KG 76 were described as insecure. But all three came from the same aircraft (see above) and the morale of the fourth prisoner (from 2./KG 76 E1+AK, lost 29 January) was described as “very high indeed, and he refused all information” (ADI(K) 51). With such a small sample from this unit, and the variation in the morale among even this very limited number of prisoners, it would seem odd to draw any strong conclusions about the morale in KG 76.

All of this ‘observation’ needs to be balanced, of course, against the considerable detail contained in many ADI(K) reports. Evidently, at least in some cases, prisoners who initially showed high morale and pronounced security-consciousness later provided quite large amounts of information; the contents of the ADI(K) reports were not simply the products of the revelations of the ‘weaker vessels’ or of information revealed by monitoring reports of secretly-recorded conversations. AIR 40/2636 (‘Intelligence from Interrogation’ ADI(K) report) is of course a useful source in explaining the reasons why.

Thanks again,

Simon
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  #29  
Old 3rd May 2022, 17:53
Tim O. Tim O. is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Hi Simon

As Chris mentioned in a previous post, if experience is what you want to assess it would be better to look at the Frontflugspange (FFS - Operational Flying Clasps). These tend to be a reasonably accurate way of assessing experience rather than EK 2, EK 1, etc. as there are so many variables around why EKs were (or were not) awarded. The FFS were issued from spring 1941 so work for your period of interest.

Two extreme examples from my collection of why this is a better method:

1. An Oberfeldwebel Bordfunker with 5./KG 54. Awarded his first FFS on 23 June 1941. The award was new at this time so his first award was in Gold as he had been in action in Poland and Norway and had completed 131 Frontflüge by that date. Unusually he was not awarded the EK 1 until 4 July 1941 - he had completed 144 Frontflüge by then.

2. A Feldwebel Bordschütze with 8./KG 55. Awarded the FFS in Bronze on 13 May 1941. He only flew over Britain and had completed 24 Frontflüge when he was shot down over Britain and made a POW on 12 May 1941. He had already been awarded the EK 1 on 11 May 1941 with 'just' 22 Frontflüge completed.
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Looking for any information or documents relating to:
Alfred Schmittka 5./KG 54; Josef Harmeling 4.(Schlacht)/LG 2; Wilhelm Gaul 1./106, 2./906 & III./KG 40; Karl Müller I./KG 2; Werner Breese 5.(F)/122
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  #30  
Old 4th May 2022, 13:24
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Re: Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

Again, Tim, thanks very much for your help.

I take your point (and Chris's) about the Frontflugspange. I referred to these (using the term adopted in the ADI(K) reports of 'war flight' awards) in my post of 28 April. A problem is that like the information about the medals (but I think even more so), the ADI(K) reports are clearly incomplete in their coverage of who had what. So although 13 bronze, 2 silver and 9 gold operational flying clasps are explicitly mentioned (24 total for 130 prisoners or 18.5%), it is evident from other information presented in the reports that there were some airmen (possibly quite a lot of airmen) who had flown enough operational missions to have awards of this kind, but for whom no information on this specific topic is provided.

I would be grateful for tips about how to proceed with getting more information on this subject. I'm guessing that it is a lot easier to find out things about this topic when it comes to officers (about 11% of the Steinbock aircrew, as previously mentioned) than NCOs?

I'll be pleased to do what I can to pursue this matter, but I'm still getting the sense that imperfect evidence though it is, the quantity and type of medals awarded (EK etc) is a useful secondary indicator of personnel operational experience. Clearly, one would benefit greatly from knowing the specific circumstances leading to the award of EKs (and I guess there are some TOCH contributors for whom this is a particular interest), but does it seem fair to suggest that if a substantial proportion of air crew had EK 1s, they can hardly be described as 'novices'?? Put another way, is it reasonably safe to assume that they had at least a handful of war flights behind them? Or was it really possible in the Luftwaffe to get the EK 1 without having acquired any operational experience whatsoever?

Best wishes,

Simon
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