KG 100 IN ACTION

He.111H-3
Unit: 2./KG 100
Serial: 6N+CK
Spring 1941. Took part in night raids to Britain.

He.111H-3x
Unit: 1./KG 100
Serial: 6N+BN
Vannes airfield, France, July 1940. Aircraft in standard RLM70/71 painting. White identification letter ‘B’ repeated on vertical stabilizer, leading edges and top of the wing (? it is not clearly why ‘B’ is white. As I see on the tail ‘B’ is Red, under the wing ‘B’ is Black). The unit emblem was located under the crew cabin.

Early in 1934 the Secretary of Aviation, Erhard Milch, ordered Dr Plendl to begin the development of a secret navigation system called X-Verfahren (the ‘X-system’). As a radio-beam navigation aid, this would allow German bomber crews to locate distant targets by day or night, irrespective of the weather. The research work was carried out by a department of the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt or DVL (the German Aviation Experimental Institute), which worked with the Erprobungsstelle der Luftwaffe (Luftwaffe Test Establishment) based at Rechlin on Lake Müritz. By December 1935 it was possible to navigate over distances of some 550 km flying at an altitude of 6000 m. First trials were carried out with a Ju 52/3m (D-ADEH) whose crew succeeded in bombing an area of 90,000m2 in central Germany. From 1 May 1935 all experimental work on the X-beam system was taken over by the E-Stelle at Rechlin. An experimental unit was established, comprising Ju 52/3m aircraft fitted with the new system. From 1935 to 1940 some thirty X-Sendestationen (X-beam transmitting stations) were installed all over Germany to allow further operations over eastern and western Europe.

By 1 November 1937 the Luftnachrichtenschule und Versuchsregiment (Air Signals Training and Experimental Regiment) was established at Kothen but was not part of the Heeres Nachrichtenschule (Army Signals School). All units belonging to the regiment, commanded by Oberstleutnant Heinrich Aschenbrenner, became operational by early December. On 1 January 1938 the experimental unit of the regiment, 7/LnSchule und Versuchsregiment, led by Oberleutnant Hermann Schmidt, was equipped with twelve Ju 52s. The crews carried out several long-range missions to the Canary Islands and to Tripoli in North Africa.

During summer 1938 the Luftwaffe established a Flugfunkerschule und Versuchskommando (Radio Operators’ Training and Experimental Command), renamed the Luftnachrichtenabteilung 100, or LnAbt 100, (Air Signals Detachment 100) on 26 August that year. In the autumn it received its first Do 17U Führungsmaschinen (literally ‘leader-machines’, or ‘pathfinders’) but due to its narrow fuselage it was impossible to install the X-beam system in the Dornier. After a training phase the LnAbt 100 took part in the Poland campaign. The first operational mission was carried out on the night of 3/4 September to a target near the small town of Palmiry. On 18 November 1939, following the occupation of Poland the unit was renamed Kampfgruppe 100 (KGr 100) ‘Wiking’. As an independent unit, ‘Wiking’ was known solely by the abbreviation ‘KGr’ 100, whereas most Kampfgruppen names simply took the form of Roman numeral prefixes which preceded the parent Kampfgeschwader (KG) number. KGr 100 was not initially a subdivision of any of the existing Geschwader, though it was later to form part of a new parent unit (see below). After its formation, KGr 100 left the Luftnachrichtentruppe (Air Signals Branch) and became a real combat unit. An unarmed X-beam mission, ordered by the Führer, was carried out on 20 December 1939 under the command of Oberleutnant Schmidt whose crew was sent to the British capital to check the security of the X-beam system over large distances. Early in January 1940 only one Do 17 and one He 111 belonged to the Stab (staff) of KGr 100. Both of KGr 100’s Staffeln were equipped with He lllHs. Of twenty-four bombers only thirteen were ready for action over Western Europe in early 1940.

The unit operated against enemy vessels on the North Sea between January 1940 and the early summer, and took part in the Norwegian campaign of that year. Under the command of Luftflottenkommando 5 (led by Generaloberst Milch) KGr 100 was sent out to destroy Norwegian anti-aircraft positions and coastal batteries. The unit was also used for anti-submarine and anti-shipping missions near the Norwegian coast.

During summer 1940 the first new He 111H-3 fitted with X-beam equipment (X-Gerät) arrived at Lüneburg. From there the Gruppe was transferred to Vannes in Brittany where more than five X-beam radio stations had been installed in order to intensify the air war over Britain. The first pathfinder missions over Britain took place during August 1940. Twenty aircraft of Kampfgruppe 100 targeted the Nuffield factory in Birmingham with the help of the X-beam. The unit was subsequently used to lead bombing raids on targets all over the British Isles. Long-range missions to Liverpool and Glasgow were carried out between December 1940 and April 1941. Crews of KGr 100 took part in the last heavy attack on London on the night of 11/12 May 1941. Some crews belonging to the Kampfgruppe were engaged in raids on shipping targets and on ports along the southern coast Britain. Armed reconnaissance missions were carried out in June and July 1941.

After the German attempt to besiege the British Isles with the Luftwaffe and minor forces of the Kriegsmarine failed, Kampfgruppe 100 was transferred to Terespol behind the Eastern Front where the unit was used to assist the Luftwaffe to attack the Russian capital. Together with KG 28 and parts of KG 4 and KG 26, KGr 100 successfully bombed industrial targets in the Moscow area. In 1942 KGr 100 operated over the southern part of the Eastern Front where it was engaged in several costly missions up to 1943.

On 29 November 1941, Kampfgeschwader 100 (KG 100) ‘Wiking’ was established from KGr 100 and other units. It took the form of a well-equipped He 111 unit divided into a Geschwaderstab with four flying Kampfgruppen. One of the Gruppen under the command of the newly created KG 100 was the former Ergänzungsstaffel (replacement squadron) of KGr 100. It was designated as IV/KG 100 ‘Wiking’ and retained its original role of Ergänzungsstaffel until 20 August 1944.

On 15 December 1941 the old KGr 100 became I Kampfgruppe of KG 100 ‘Wiking’. The unit had by now flown pathfinder missions during the Battle of Britain and had operated over the Russian Front using the Y-navigation system. Because most attack units of the Luftwaffe were used against Russian targets, only a few Staffeln could be sent to continue the air raids against British towns, harbours and industrial targets. Among them was 2 Staffel of KG 100. It was the nucleus for the operational testing of new tactical navigation methods over the British Isles from March 1942. The unit was called Eprobungs– und Lehrkommando 100 (Trials and Evaluation Command 100), later renamed Erprobungs– und Lehrkommando XY.

On 12 January 1942 I Gruppe landed at Focsani in Romania followed by its ground echelon two days later. A few days later the crews carried out attacks on heavy cruisers in the Straits of Kerch, the Black Sea and the harbour at Sevastopol. Although many hits on Russian vessels were reported by the Luftwaffe, the enemy’s anti-aircraft units were responsible for the loss of several He lllHs. Besides bombing attacks made on ships, the crews of I/KG 100 tried to sink enemy vessels with air-dropped mines in the shipping routes along the Black Sea coast. Because there were not enough German fighters available to protect their bomber forces, the KG 100 lost many men to fighters of the Red Air Force.

The former 4 Staffel of KG 26 was incorporated into I/KG 100 on 31 May 1942 in order to increase the number of missions flown over Russia. Between July 1942 and February 1943 I/KG 100 attacked targets over large distances. Besides Sukhumi and Grozny in the Caucasus, shipping targets near the mouth of the Volga were bombed during several raids. In summer 1942 I/KG 100 hit targets in the Stalingrad area. Railway lines and stations had become important targets and were bombed to prevent the enemy bringing up reinforcements and equipment.

The complete I/KG 100 was renamed I Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 4 on 10 October 1943, though it simultaneously served under the command of KG 100 ‘Wiking’. This Gruppe then became III Gruppe of Kampfgeschwader 1 ‘Hindenburg’ on 31 May 1944. Throughout much of this time the Gruppe was engaged in costly missions under the command of Luftflottenkommando 4 (led by Generaloberst von Richthofen). The Soviets threatened the German forces in the Caucasus and moved steadily towards the Crimea. After the German 6th Army was besieged by the Red Army at Stalingrad, the He 111 crews of I/KG 100 were ordered to assist the encircled German divisions by delivering ammunition, food and equipment by airdrop to enable the encircled troops to continue fighting. The Soviet encirclement was not broken and Stalingrad was lost. After the loss of the city and the 6th Army, I/KG 100 was withdrawn from operational service and re-equipped with He lllH-lls and H-16s. On 18 April 1943 the Gruppe mounted a series of air raids after being transferred to Stalino airfield. Mines were airdropped over the Volga. Early in May 1943 the ‘Molotov’ tank factories were hit by a composite group of the Staffeln of I/KG 100. In July the unit was needed for Operation ‘Zitadelle’, the last great German offensive in the east, launched in July 1943. But the German forces were on the retreat, moving steadily westward.

The II Gruppe of KG 100, which formerly served as III/KG 26, joined KG 100 on 15 December 1941. The II Gruppe operated from airfields positioned behind the central sector of the Eastern Front. Early in February 1942 II/KG 100 was sent to northern France. Their He lllHs were handed over to I/KG 28. New He 111H-6S were delivered to II/KG 100 at Poix but before the handover could be completed the unit was engaged in an air raid on Hull, losing two of its existing He lllHs. A few weeks later II/KG 100 flew to Kalamaki near Athens to operate in the Mediterranean. On 28 April 1942 fifteenHe Ills of II/KG 100 together with twenty-five Ju 88s of Lehrgeschwader 1 carried out a night attack on targets in the region of Alexandria. Among the key targets were the harbour at Alexandria and the Suez Canal.

In June 1942 several Allied airfields in North Africa were bombed by He lllH-6s of II/KG 100. The following month saw further action over the Mediterranean Sea. At night the well-trained flyers of the ‘Wiking’ Geschwader tried to interdict the lines of communication of the British forces and destroy targets in the heart of the battle zone at El Alamein. Later in the year, II/KG 100 was sent to Catania on Sicily to prevent Allied forces invading the southern part of the Axis-controlled region. Desperate missions were carried out to support German ground forces in Tunisia. By the end of 1942, only four out of the seventeen remaining crews of II/KG 100 were completely operational. In April 1944 after many more missions the operational strength of the II Gruppe was lower than ever. The unit was withdrawn from active operations and sent to Graz on Usedom Island in the Baltic Sea.

One Einsatzstaffel (operational squadron) of KG 100, consisting of twelve crews with seventeen He 111H-6S, remained in Greece. This unit came under the command of Luftflottenkommando 2 (under Generalfeldmarschall Kesselring) and was needed to attack British forces all over the Greek islands. After one particular British raid on the Eleusis airfield the Einsatzstaffel lost its last aircraft and was disbanded on 10 November 1943.

The Erprobungs– und Lehrkommando 15 was raised on 20 April 1943 from parts of the II/KG 100 to test and introduce new air-to-ground weapons. At the end of April 1943 parts of II/KG 100 were used to form Erprobungsstaffel (test squadron) KG 100 which ended its career on 10 November 1944.

The remaining Staffeln of II Gruppe saw action until 31 May 1944. At that time 6/KG 100 was substituted with 8/KG 100. During the following month II/KG 100 operated all over Western Europe. The Gruppe was finally disbanded on 2 February 1945 because there was no opportunity to continue offensive operations due to lack of fuel and to the overwhelming air superiority of the Allies.

The III Gruppe of KG 100 ‘Wiking’ was built up from units formerly belonging to Aufklärungsgruppe (See) 126 (Martime Reconnaissance Wing 126) on 20 September 1942. In October the Gruppe flew one Bv 138 (a three-engined flying boat) and eighteen Ar 196s (single-engined floatplanes) and some fifteen He Ills. It was planned to introduce thirty-six He lllH-14/trops (’tropicalised’). Parts of III/KG 100 operated over the Mediterranean Sea and carried out attacks in North Africa. The Gruppe was based at Salamis near Athens and was commanded by Major Schulz. In February 1943 it reverted to Aufklärungsgruppe (See) 126 and left the Geschwader. On 20 April 1943 KGrzbV 21 (which had formerly flown transport missions to Stanlingrad) became the new III Gruppe of KG 100 and served in the ‘Wiking’ Geschwader until 7 September 1944 when Oberkommandoluftwaffe (OKL) ordered the Gruppenstab and all three Staffeln belonging to III/KG 100 to disband.

Later in 1943 the II and III Gruppen of KG 100 were re-established with new crews and an entirely new kind of naval weapon: guided glider bombs. Instead of He Ills both units were equipped with Do 217E-5s and K-2s in early summer 1943. Both types could be used to carry the glider bombs for anti-shipping raids. The Gruppen were transferred to southern France in readiness for operations. In July 1943 some smaller units operated from southern Italy. Early in September 1943, III/KG 100 carried out fourteen missions against the Italian navy which was preparing to surrender to the Western Allies. The Italian battleship Roma was sunk by two FX 1400 Fritz-X glider bombs. The crews were then concentrated at Istres to attack the Allied landings at Salerno. Allied convoys were also attacked but with only minor success. The end of 1943 saw glider bombs hit a few merchant ships before Allied forces landed at Anzio. Night by night III Gruppe was engaged in defensive missions but could not prevent the Allied forces enlarging their beachhead.

The II and III Gruppen of the ‘Wiking’ Geschwader, which were equipped with Do 217Es and Ks, were also trained to fly the heavy bomber He 177A in order to carry out attacks against enemy vessels in the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean because the Heinkel had a longer operational range than the Dornier.

In late 1943 OKL decided to launch an operation against targets in the British Isles: Operation ‘Steinbock’ (‘Ibex’), which became known as the ‘baby blitz’. The operation was to be carried out with the bombers of KG 6, KG 30, KG 51, KG 54, KG 76 and KG 100, which were concentrated in northern Germany and parts of the occupied territories to the west. On 21 January 1944 the operational order arrived to attack industrial targets in London. With the He 177A-3s of 3/KG 100, a total of 227 bombers headed for their target. Due to the British air defences, which included night-fighters and anti-aircraft batteries, twenty-five German crews were shot down, while eighteen more failed to return due to technical difficulties. Three He 177s were shot down or severely damaged that day. The raids continued on the following nights. Again, on 4 February 1944, 240 German bombers launched attacks on British targets marked by pathfinders of I Gruppe of KG 66. The IX Fliegerkorps tried to operate as many bombers as possible to destroy all the designated targets. Due to many casualties and raids on the German airfields the number of available bombers was reduced. Only 125 of them carried out the last attack on London on the night of 25/26 April 1944. A few raids on Hull and Portsmouth followed.

Early in May 1945 the He 177s belonging to 2/KG 100 and 3/KG 100 were withdrawn from Rheine and Chateudun and flown to Fassberg. At the end of May 1944 I/KG 100 was re-established as I/KG 1 to see action over the Eastern Front. After severe losses the Kampfgruppe was disbanded.

A fourth Gruppe of Geschwader ‘Wiking’ was responsible for training new crews. IV/KG 100 which had been part of the Geschwader since November 1941, received a fourth Staffel (13/KG 100) on 20 April 1943. The unit was renamed Erprobungs– und Lehrkommando 36 on 31 July 1943. On 20 July 1944 another Staffel belonging to the ‘Wiking’ Geschwader, 12/KG 100, was reestablished as 3 Ergänzungs–Kampfgruppe 111 (Replacement Bomber Wing 177). The IV Gruppe was disbanded on 20 August 1944 after there was no longer any need to train new crews for offensive raids with KG 100. The Geschwader stab set up in late in 1941 was also disbanded on 20 August 1944. Thus, only two Gruppen of the ‘Wiking’ Geschwader – the II/KG 100 and III/KG 100 – were available for further operations. While the Allies landed on the shores of Normandy the remaining KG 100 crews suffered many more losses which finally caused the units to be declared ineffective and were disbanded.

Only the He 177s formerly used by II/KG 100 and based at Aalborg in Denmark remained operational until early 1945. Later the aircraft were scrapped after the engines had been dismantled. The operational life of KG 100 ‘Wiking’ was over. Several members of the aircrews and ground crews were taken over by Luftwaffe paratroop units and saw the war’s end fighting as infantry.

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