by Don Hollway
Appearing in the March 2015 issue of AVIATION HISTORYmagazine
by Nicholas Trudgian
Me109s and Fw190s of JG-3 hurtle across Eindhoven for 23 minutes, while Spitfires from 414 Sqn RCAF fight back
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On New Years morning, 1945, Allied pilots in Northwest Europe might have expected to see pink elephants before they saw Nazi aircraft. Since the Normandy invasion, RAF and USAAF fighters had driven the Luftwaffe from the skies. Poor late-December weather had hindered efforts to counter the German Ardennes offensive, but with the new year dawning cold and clear, all that prevented a renewed Allied aerial assault was aircrew hangovers.
“The first hours of 1945 were spent letting in the New Year, wishing each other all the best and having a few beers,” recalled Leading Aircraftsman Desmond Shepherd, an armorer with RAF 137 Sqn. at Eindhoven, Holland. “…After breakfast I was crossing the runway, going toward the armoury….At that moment I heard gunfire. Looking up the runway I saw what looked like an Me262 jet go streaking above my head. This was closely followed by several FW190s, and coming in the other direction were several Me109s. I threw myself down onto the grass at the side of the runway.”
Sgt. Peter Crowest, an RAF air controller at Ursel, Belgium, reported for duty at 0900 hours. “We barely had time to judge the extent of our hangovers from the ‘night before’ when we heard and saw a squadron of low flying fighters approaching. An enquiry from my CO as to whether we were expecting Spitfires was answered when I said they were not Spitfires but Focke-Wulf 190s. Moments later I was firmly gripping the ground!”
With Germans fighters raking his field at Knokke, Belgium, Sqn. Ldr. G. Dickinson put through an urgent call to headquarters, only to be told, “This is January 1st, old boy, not April 1st.” Then he heard, “My God, the bastards are here!” and the line went dead. Anyone receiving all the reports of simultaneous attacks all across Northwest Europe might have thought the Luftwaffe was attacking all at once, and would very nearly have been right.
Read about it in the March 2015 issue of AVIATION HISTORY magazine
“Unhappy New Year”
by David Pentland
Lt. Col. Heinrich “Pritzl” Bär leads the Focke-Wulf FW-190s of Jagdgeschwader 3 against Eindoven, Netherlands.
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General of Fighters Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland
Commander, II. Jagdkorps Brig. Gen. Dietrich Peltz
General of Fighters Adolf Galland had long seen the futility of battling fighters while bombers devastated German cities. He wanted to concentrate his forces beyond enemy escorts’ reach and attack the bombers all at once: a Grosser Schlag, Great Blow. New long-range Allied fighters, however, left no place for such a blow to be struck. By October 1944 Reichsmarshal Hermann Göring, feeling Hitler’s wrath, blamed everything on his fighter pilots and their general in particular. “Mustangs are practically doing training flights over Bavaria,” he railed, tearing off Galland’s medals in front of all his men. “I'll put them back on when your damned fighter pilots start shooting planes down again.”
Galland’s Great Blow was handed over to Brig. Gen. Dietrich Peltz. What Galland was to fighters, Peltz was to bombers: an experienced Junkers Ju-87 Stuka and Ju-88 ground-attack expert. Plus, at just 30 years old, he was ambitious and loyal, and obsequious where Galland was obstreperous. Instead of a Great Blow in the air, Peltz wanted to destroy Allied fighters before they ever took off.
Targeted Allied bases (blue) were outnumbered 2-1 by attackers' German bases (red).
Mouse over for base info. Switch to satellite view & zoom to see modern bases & former sites. (Some no longer exist.)
In the early hours of Jan. 1st, four Arado Ar-234 jets overflew Brussels and Liège, dropping nuisance bombs—the world’s first night raid by jet bombers—but their role in Bodenplatte was limited.
Focke Wulf Fw 190 D-9 “Blue 13” of 3./JG 2 “Richthofen” during Operation Bodenplatte
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Me-262s of Kampfgeschwader 51 claimed to have bombed Gilze-Rijen and Einhoven but were more useful in post-strike camera reconnaissance.
Captain William “Whiz” Whisner in his Mustang “Moonbeam McSwine” leads Red Section of the 487th FS 352nd FG up over Asch, Belgium in “The Battle for New Years Day” by Nicholas Trudgian.
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