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  #1  
Old 4th March 2005, 18:21
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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Luftwaffe fighter losses in Tunisia

I found the loss figures for the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean area suspiciously high in Williamson Murray’s “Luftwaffe” (published in 1985). According to Williamson Murray, the Luftwaffe lost no less than 282 aircraft, including 124 fighters, in the Mediterranean area in January 1943 alone. (Murray, “Luftwaffe”, p. 211.)

These figures give a completely different impression than the picture one gets through Christopher Shores’s very detailed “Air War over Tunisia”. (In the latter book, Shore’s conclusion is that the Luftwaffe’s fighters held the upper hand in the air combats and generally sustained relatively few losses in air combat.)

If we go to another book which is quite similar to Murray’s “Luftwaffe”, and also based on a wealth of original documents, namely E. R. Hooton’s “Eagle in Flames: The Fall of the Luftwaffe” (published in 1997; ref. p. 221), we will find completely different figures:

Here is a comparison of loss figures for the Luftwaffe in the Mediterranean in Murray’s and Hooton’s books - all aircraft types included:

Jan 1943: Murray: 282. Hooton: 105
Feb 1943: Murray: 206. Hooton: 99

Hooton’s figures are more in line with other sources - not only with Shores’s “Air War over Tunisia”, but above all with the official “Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen” and the daily returns to Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe.

Due to “Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen” and the daily returns to Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe, the Luftwaffe fighter units in the Mediterranean sustained the following aircraft losses in air combat in January 1943:

II./JG 2: 2
JG 27: 0
II./JG 51: 7
JG 53: 8
JG 77: 15

Total sum: 32.

That should be compared with Murray’s figure of 124 Luftwaffe fighters lost in the Mediterranean in January 1943!

The character of the air fighting in the Mediterranean through January 1943 is clearly displayed by the statistics for the Luftwaffe fighter units: 269 victory claims against 32 own aircraft lost in combat. (Among those 269 victory claims, Heinz Bär was responsible for 13 and Ernst-Wilhelm Reinert for 10.)

Since I don’t have Shores’s “Air War over Tunisia” here - which contains most losses sustained by both sides - the only source I have for Allied losses is a quite unreliable, and probably “sweetened” British public source from WW II itself (i.e. publicly issued in 1943). Due to that source, the Allies lost 151 aircraft (78 fighters and 73 bombers) in air combat over Tunisia in January 1943. This figure probably is lower than the actual figure, but even this figure gives a relation of five Allied aircraft shot down in air combat for every Luftwaffe fighter shot down in air combat. The actual Allied losses in air combat probabably were higher than those wartime released figures.

(Shores's research in "Air War over Tunisia" shows that only a small part of Allied losses in Tunisia were due to Italian fighters.)

How shall we explain Murray’s unique and very high figures, when other sources give considerably lower figures? Maybe Murray used outdated and erroneous material - after all his book was published 20 years ago.

BTW, E. R. Hooton’s conclusion about the air war in Tunisia reads: “The Jagdgruppen exploited conditions similar to those in Russia a year earlier and inflicted heavy losses: om 4 December Oberleutnant Julius Meimber’s 11./JG 2 annihilated 11 Blenheim V bombers of Nos 18 and 614 Squadrons and on 13 March JG 77 wiped out seven P-39s, while experienced US 33rd Fighter Group was reduced from 75 to 13 fighters and withdrawn to Morocco.” (p. 220.)

As an indication of the Luftwaffe fighters’ effectivity - in the face of an Allied numerical superiority in Tunisia in January 1943 of 600 aircraft against 140 German and 288 Italian (Hooton, p. 219) - II./StG 3 and III./StG 3 flew successful operations against the Allied positions throughout January 1943 wihout more than two Ju 87s being registered as lost due to enemy fighters. (Another four Ju 87s were registered lost due to “Feindbeschuss” or unknown reasons.) Moreover, III./SKG 10 also flew fighter-bomber missions thoughout January 1943, without losing more than a single aircraft to Allied fighter interception. (Arthy & Jessen, “Fw 190 in North Africa”, pp. 153 - 154.)

It would be great if anyone could contribute with some facts (supported by source references). Maybe someone here has access to the figures of actual Allied aircraft losses in Tunisia in January 1943?
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  #2  
Old 4th March 2005, 20:48
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Juha Juha is offline
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Hello Christer
have You checked Michael Holms pages. 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. I haven't time to try to dig out Allied losses and I doubt that I can add the complete figure from my info fracments.

HTH a little bit
Juha
  #3  
Old 4th March 2005, 22:59
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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Quote:
“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.)

BTW:

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:

http://www.bergstrombooks.elknet.pl/

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.
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  #4  
Old 4th March 2005, 23:52
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Hello Christer
good point that of what Murray means on losses, checked a little bit from his book, in some earlier tables he gives Destroyed and Damaged but on these 1942 and 43 tables Losses. So his Losses seems to meant all those damaged over 10%. I should check more carefully, but nix time. Source for those 43 tables is given as BA/MA, RL 2 III/1185-1195, Genst. Gen. Qu. (6.Abt), "Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei den Fliegenden Verbänden." so it was that standard source.

If Murrey had used different criteria for different fronts that VERY bad. But Christer, You have been a little sloppy on this Murray gives in his Tables Eastern Front losses in Jan. 43 85 FIGHTERS but 482 a/c in TOTAL. Transport a/c and SchG 1 losses sure belonged under the TOTAL not under FIGHTERS. I'm afraid that You have mixed the tables.

But a) you cannot use only those lost in air combat, also those lost on the ground are lost to hostile action plus those lost in transit by enemy action. I think that is the classic way to count war losses and also those lost for operational reasons were also lost but those are usually given separately.

b) You way to estimate the relation between Allied aircraft shot down & destroyed and all aircraft destroyed or damaged to all causes is purely speculation, nothing scientific in it, I'm afraid. You need at least some randomly (statistically speaking) collected sample of real figures on that relation on Allied side to be able to approximate some sort of range inside which the real figure would be on certain probability.

Juha
  #5  
Old 5th March 2005, 00:29
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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Quote:
”If Murrey had used different criteria for different fronts that VERY bad. But Christer, You have been a little sloppy on this Murray gives in his Tables Eastern Front losses in Jan. 43 85 FIGHTERS but 482 a/c in TOTAL. Transport a/c and SchG 1 losses sure belonged under the TOTAL not under FIGHTERS. I'm afraid that You have mixed the tables.”
As a matter of fact, Murray seems to be using different criteria for different fronts regarding September 1942 - at least if we compare with January 1943. But I admit that I was sloppy when I read 85 losses for Eastern Front January 1943, not noticing that it was only for fighters, and that the total for all aircraft given by Murray was 482. The only defence I can think of is that my wife was calling: “When are you going to come and watch that film on TV with me?” (Yes - she actually said "watch film" and nothing else! )

Quote:
“But a) you cannot use only those lost in air combat, also those lost on the ground are lost to hostile action plus those lost in transit by enemy action. I think that is the classic way to count war losses and also those lost for operational reasons were also lost but those are usually given separately.”
It depends on the perspective. If the subject for our study is supremacy in air combat - which I think you were interested in in that other thread, where I said that the Luftwaffe “super veterans” inflicted very heavy losses on the Allies in Tunisia - we have to concentrate on aircraft destroyed in air combat. (That also is the classical way of comparing losses in e.g. the Battle of Britain.) To use one of your words - that would indeed be a scientific approach, the approach of a professional historian.

However, a professional historian can have various perspectives, and can focus his study on various issues. If the focus is to examine the overall attrition on the warring sides, then also aircraft which were damaged in take-off accidents and that had to be sent to repair must be included. Then of course one must include all aircraft which for one reason or another were put out of commission - including, naturally, those destroyed on the ground. And then you also have to include each side’s possibility to replace losses - a field where the Allies clearly were superior to the Axis, since in spite of their much higher losses, the Allies managed to increase their number of aircraft in Tunisia from 600 in January 1943 to 1,500 in mid-March 1943. (Hooton, a.a., pp. 219 & 223.)

However, in this case, I chose the perspective of supremacy in air combat. In that perspective, other losses are - from a scientific viewpoint - irrelevant.

Quote:
”b) You way to estimate the relation between Allied aircraft shot down & destroyed and all aircraft destroyed or damaged to all causes is purely speculation, nothing scientific in it, I'm afraid. You need at least some randomly (statistically speaking) collected sample of real figures on that this relation on Allied side to be able to approximate some sort of range inside which the real figure is on certain probability.”
Wow, strong words, or - as we say in Sweden - much noise but little workshop.

Couldn’t we agree to either contribute new facts, supported by source references, or just ask questions - but please not that kind of loose talk!


“Nothing scientific in it”? Which are your criteria for “scientific”? (That was a rethoric question - please donät answer it - at least not on this board!) If we agree that mathematics is a science, it is scientific. If we agree that logics is scientific, it is scientific. This is how professional historians operate, making assessments based on known factors. Juha, if you think that historians - or almost any scientist - operates only with 100 % waterproof facts, I have to say that I don’t agree. There is nothing unorthodox or unscientific to make assessments based on known factors. What distinguishes a scientific approach from a non-scientific approach is that the professional historian admits that some factors are unknown to him and he admits that he has made estimations based on other known facts, extrapolations; while the guy with a non-scientific approach yells that it is possible to know the WHOLE and FULL truth. Remember, when I wrote my estimations, I wrote: “Let’s assume that” and “if we estimate according to the relations above, we would arrive at. . .” If you think that is unorthodox, then you should ask a professional historian.

That said, please let’s all stop playing “scientists” here. :!:

I’ve said it before, and I say it again, no one among us here is a professional historian, and no one among us here approaches the subject with the methods of a professional historian - i.e. a scientist. :!:

And besides everything, I gave those “speculated figures” only as a reply to Murray’s in the context irrelevant figure for all damaged Luftwaffe aircraft. I thought I was clear that I think we can settle with the figures of at least 151 Allied aircraft shot down and destroyed versus 32 German fighters shot down and destroyed.

Now please - can we return to the subject as such and stop educating each other in other subjects? Or at least save that for the off-topic board.

Please letäs continue only by either contributing new facts, supported by source references, or just asking questions. Isn't that the best way to forward the discussion in a meaningful way?

Moderators, are you watching this time?

And please allow me to attend to my wife for a short while. :P
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  #6  
Old 5th March 2005, 01:10
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No reson continue this but some short notes.
I think it's important to count also those destroyed in ground on losses, was it during BoB, on the first day of Oper. Barbarossa etc. Ability to protect own bases and ability to knock out enemy bases are important factor when evaluating how good an AF was. In many important air campaigns the losses on groud had signifance.

Read what your opponent wrote, I happened to ephacize " some sort of range inside which the real figure is on certain probability.” that's entirely different than " a non-scientific approach yells that it is possible to know the WHOLE and FULL truth". I'm not going to make other comments of use of statics in historical research but I happened to have the education of historian.

It was You who baselessly gave impression that Murray, who didn't even participe on this board, is giving distord figures by using different basis for figures of different fronts, that You will proof in Your coming book that the losses in Jan. 43 on the Eastern Front were bigger than in Med contrary to those dubious figures of Murray when we few who had that book can easily see that according to Murray the losses in Jan. 43 were 482 in East and 282 in Med etc. So i think You should be able to take some critic without feeling too strong on that.

Juha
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Old 5th March 2005, 01:34
Nash Nash is offline
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Quote:
Due to that source, the Allies lost 151 aircraft (78 fighters and 73 bombers) in air combat over Tunisia in January 1943. This figure probably is lower than the actual figure, but even this figure gives a relation of five Allied aircraft shot down in air combat for every Luftwaffe fighter shot down in air combat.
Are you sure that the figure of 151 Allied aircraft lost over Tunisia is not all losses, or at least all combat losses, and not just "air - air combat" as you seem to be assuming?
  #8  
Old 5th March 2005, 01:36
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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Nash, it says explicitly "shot down in air combat".
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  #9  
Old 5th March 2005, 01:48
Gizmo Gizmo is offline
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Hi
In my favourite polish book about Jagdwaffe Aces - "Elita Luftwaffe" by Robert Michulec - I've read that JG 77 in Africa claimed 497 enemy a/c, against following own total loses: 218 Bf-109 lost, 61 seriously damaged, and 44 damaged. Also 67 pilots was KIA and 17 WIA.

One more:
During combat with III./JG 1 and Hptm. Weber, polish 306 Sqn lost 2 a/c, S/L Łapka (WIA) and F/O Łaszkiewicz (POW) . Next one was shot down by Flak (F/Lt Gęca - KIA). III./JG 1 did not claim any polish Mustang III, so maybe Hptm. Weber before his death shot down one or two of them ?
  #10  
Old 5th March 2005, 02:04
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
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Hi Gizmo,

Thanks a lot for your contribution. Generally, the number of fighters pilot casualties were close to the number of shot down and destroyed fighters. So we can assume, on fairly good grounds, that JG 77 had a victory-to-loss ratio of around 5:1 in Africa. (I don't have the time to sit down and go through the whole list.)


Quote:
During combat with III./JG 1 and Hptm. Weber, polish 306 Sqn lost 2 a/c, S/L Łapka (WIA) and F/O Łaszkiewicz (POW) . Next one was shot down by Flak (F/Lt Gęca - KIA). III./JG 1 did not claim any polish Mustang III, so maybe Hptm. Weber before his death shot down one or two of them ?
If you are correct, it means that out of four Mustangs which attacked III./JG 1, only one was not shot down? Quite a hard blow, if that is true. If so, then I have to change my mind. So those Poles suffered really badly from the Allied failure to fully exploit their numerical superiority on that occasion? If this version is correct, the lonely guy who returned must have been quite mad - also against his other 20 comrades who apparently were flying around in the vicinity, without coming to help their four badly pressed comrades against 10 bad Germans!

However, weren't those Polish losses sustained during Ramrod 980 in the morning, with Mustangs of 306 Sqn, 315 Sqn and 129 Sqn in combat with JG 26? (Four Mustangs were shot down on this occasion - including three in air combat - while two Fw 190s were lost. Sources: Clark CD, Caldwell "JG 26 Diary" II/pp. 269 - 270, Franks "F-Com Losses".)

Anyway, thanks again for your most welcome contribution, Gizmo! Could you please refer to your source?
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