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The German air force was divided into three operational branches:
- Flying Troops
- Air Signal Troops
- Ground Combat Forces
- Anti-Aircraft Artillery
- Armored Paratroop Division
The Condor Legion (German: Legion Condor) was a unit composed of volunteers from the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and from the German Army (Wehrmacht Heer) which served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to March 1939. The Condor Legion developed methods of terror bombing which were used widely in the Second World War shortly afterward. The bombing of Guernica was the most infamous operation carried out by the Condor Legion. Hugo Sperrle commanded the unit’s aircraft formations and Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma commanded the ground element.
Fallschirm-Panzer Division 1 Hermann Göring
The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring (1st Paratroop Panzer Division Hermann Göring – abbreviated Fallschirm-Panzer-Div 1 HG) was a German Luftwaffe armoured division. The HG saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on the Eastern Front. The division was the creation of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring and increased in size throughout the war from an Abteilung (battalion) to a Panzer corps.
Luftwaffe Organization Chart
Jagdgeschwader 1 (JG 1) was a German World War II fighter unit or “wing” which used the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 aircraft, between 1940 and 1944. The name of the unit derives from Jagd, meaning “hunt” and Geschwader, meaning “wing”. First formed in May 1939 in eastern Prussia, I./JG 1 was one of the original groups created by the Luftwaffe as part of its expansion plans.
Between 1940 and 1942, JG 1 operated primarily over the Western Front and northern occupied Europe. During the initial days of the war, JG 1 faced little resistance, apart from occasional Royal Air Force (RAF) excursions. The unit was rarely engaged in large-scale confrontations during this time. From late 1942 onwards it was tasked with defence of the Reich. After D-Day, elements of JG 1 were moved to France and were tasked with air support to the Wehrmacht Heer, along with their air defence role. Operation Bodenplatte severely reduced the strength of JG 1. JG 1 was the first unit to attempt “aerial bombing” techniques against the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) heavy bomber formations. It was the only unit to be equipped with the Heinkel He 162 jet fighter.
Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2) “Richthofen” was a German fighter wing during World War II.
Jagdgeschwader 3 (JG 3) “Udet” was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. The Geschwader operated on all the German fronts in the European Theatre of World War II. It was named after Ernst Udet in 1942.
Jagdgeschwader 4 (JG 4) was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. JG 4 was formed as a full Geschwader on 15 June 1944 in Ansbach from Stab/Jagdgeschwader z.b.V. and its first Geschwaderkommodore was Major Gerhard Schöpfel.
Jagdgeschwader 5 (JG 5) was a Luftwaffe fighter wing during World War II. It was created to operate in the far North of Europe, namely Norway, Scandinavia and northern parts of Finland, all nearest the Arctic Ocean, with Luftflotte 5, created specifically to be based in Occupied Norway, and responsible for much of northern Norway.
Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11) was a German fighter wing (German: Jagdgeschwader) of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Its primary role was the defense of Northern Germany against Allied day bomber raids. Formed in April 1943, the unit primarily used the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190.
The growing daylight bomber offensive of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) 8th Air Force forced the Luftwaffe to augment its day fighter strength. It countered these bombing raids by expanding the number of daylight fighter units assigned to the Defense of the Reich (German: Reichsverteidigung). Due to a scarcity of resources and trained pilots, the Luftwaffe increased its strength by splitting Jagdgeschwader 1 to form Jagdgeschwader 11 (JG 11). JG 11 was initially based along the North German coast, protecting the northern flank of occupied Europe. During the summer of 1943, as the unescorted bombers penetrated deeper into Germany, JG 11 saw intensive action, with about 40 percent of some 1,200 ‘kill’ claims submitted by the Western Front fighter wings in this period being credited to JG 1 and JG 11 .
JG 11 trialled new tactics such as dropping 250 kg bombs on top of the bomber formations or using the heavy-calibre Werfer-Granate 21 unguided, underwing-launched rockets. In spring of 1944 the introduction of P-51 Mustang made the job of units such as JG 11 ,very difficult as they fought through the escorts to reach the bombers. Several measures were introduced to counter the bomber offensive such as the introduction of Bf 109–G high altitude aircraft with a pressurized cockpit.
In January 1945, the Luftwaffe made a last-ditch counterattack to stem the Allied offensives with Operation Baseplate. JG 11 targeted the USAAF base at Asch called Y–29 and Ophoven. What followed became known as the “Legend of Y–29”. JG 11 lost its commander and several group commanders with many pilots. In mid 1945 JG 11 moved to Poland, although it later withdrew back to the Western Front and surrendered to British forces in early May 1945.
Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) Schlageter was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. It operated mainly in Western Europe against Great Britain, France the United States but also saw service against the USSR. It was named after Albert Leo Schlageter, a World War I veteran and Freikorps member arrested and executed by the French for sabotage in 1923.
Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27) Afrika was a fighter wing of the Luftwaffe during World War II. It served in the North African Campaign, supporting the Afrika Korps.
Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51) was a German fighter wing during World War II. JG 51’s pilots won more awards than any other fighter wing of the Luftwaffe and operated in all major theatres of war. Its members included Anton Hafner, Heinz Bär, Karl-Gottfried Nordmann, and Günther Schack.
Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) (52nd Fighter Wing) of the Luftwaffe, was the most successful fighter-wing of all time, with a claimed total of more than 10,000 victories over enemy aircraft during World War II. It was the unit of the top three scoring flying aces of all time, Erich Hartmann, Gerhard Barkhorn and Günther Rall. The unit flew exclusively with the various versions of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 throughout the war.
Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. It operated in Western Europe and in the Mediterranean. Jagdgeschwader 53 – or as it was better known, the “Pik As” (Ace of Spades) Geschwader – was one of the oldest German fighter units of World War II with its origins going back to 1937. JG 53 flew the various models of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 throughout World War II.
Jagdgeschwader 54 (JG 54) was a Luftwaffe fighter wing during the Second World War, which was the second highest scoring wing of all time, JG 52 being the highest. JG 54 flew on the Eastern Front claiming over 9,600 aircraft shot down, with pilots such as Walter Nowotny, Otto Kittel, Max-Hellmuth Ostermann and Hannes Trautloft being termed experten.
Having participated in the air battles over the Channel and South-east England during the summer of 1940, the unit was transferred to the Eastern Front in the spring of 1941 for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union. JG 54 first flew Bf 109Fs and then the Fw 190.
Nachtjagdgeschwader 3 (NJG 3) was a Luftwaffe night fighter-wing of World War II. NJG 3 was formed on 29 September 1941 in Stade from Stab./Zerstörergeschwader 26.
Kampfgeschwader 6 (KG 6) (Bomber Wing 6) was a Luftwaffe bomber unit during the Second World War. The unit was formed between April and September 1942 and was equipped with Dornier Do 217, Junkers Ju 188 and Junkers Ju 88 bombers.
The Geschwader bombed Britain, the Eastern Front, North Africa, Italy, and Normandy.
Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG 200) (English: Battle Wing 200 or Air Battle Group 200) was a German Luftwaffe special operations unit during World War II. The unit carried out especially difficult bombing and transport operations, long-distance reconnaissance flights, tested new aircraft designs and operated captured aircraft.
Lehrgeschwader 2 (LG 2) (Demonstration Wing 2) was a Luftwaffe unit during World War II, operating three fighters, night fighter, reconnaissance and ground support Gruppen (groups).
Lehrgeschwader were in general mixed-formation units tasked with the operational evaluation of new types of aircraft and/or with the development/evaluation of new operational tactics or practices. Each Gruppe within the unit was equipped with a different type of aircraft. Each Gruppe consisted of several Staffeln (squadrons). The Gruppe was identified by Roman numbers (I./LG 2) and the Staffel by Arabic numbers (10./LG 2).
In 1939, Lehrgeschwader 2 thus consisted of a Bf 109 fighter Gruppe (designated I.(J)/LG 2), a Henschel Hs 123 ground assault Gruppe (II.(Schl.)/LG 2), and a reconnaissance Gruppe (III.(Aufkl.)/LG 2).
Schlachtgeschwader 1 (SchlG 1, since 1943 rather SG 1) was a German ground-attack wing during World War II. The first formation was on 13 January 1942, from the II.(Schl)/Lehrgeschwader 2, initially with two Gruppen each made of four Staffeln. The second formation was on 18 October 1943, by renaming the existing Sturzkampfgeschwader 1 (StG 1). The new unit’s name became abbreviated simply SG 1.
The Leonidas Squadron, formally known as 5th Staffel of Kampfgeschwader 200 was a unit which was originally formed to fly the Fieseler Fi 103R (Reichenberg), a manned version of the V-1 flying bomb, in attacks in which the pilot was likely to be killed, or at best to parachute down at the attack site. The Reichenberg was never used in combat because Werner Baumbach, the commander of KG 200, and his superiors considered it an unnecessary waste of life and resources, and preferred instead to use the Mistel bomb, piloted from a regular Luftwaffe single-seat fighter used as an integral parasite aircraft, as the only manned part of the composite aircraft Mistel ordnance system, which released the lower, unmanned flying bomb component aircraft towards its target and returned.
- Versuchs Staffel 210