1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 (2nd Formation)
(Unit Code 7A+)
Formation. (November 1938)
Polish Campaign and Phony War in the West. (September 1939 - May 1940)
After re-equipping in part with Do 17Ps during the first half of 1939, transferred from Prenzlau to Stargard-Klützow at the end of August with 12 Do 17Ps and Fs for the attack on Poland. September 1939: flew strategic reconnaissance over North Poland directly under Luftflotte 1. 5 September 1939: a Do 17, badly shot up by AA fire, made a forced landing at Neuhausen/East Prussia and was subsequently written-off. This is believed to have been the only combat loss recorded for the Staffel during the campaign in Poland. October 1939: reassigned to Luftflotte 2 in the West, with station probably at Münster-Handorf, and began re-equipping with He 111Hs. 19 November 1939: a He 111 H-2 was reported shot up by AA fire and damaged (15%) during an operational sortie. 7 March 1940: a He 111H collided with another He 111 while landing at Münster-Handorf and damaged (45%). 12 March 1940: a He 111H flew into a hill near Bielefeld in north-west Germany killing the crew of 4.
Attack on France and the Low Countries. (May 1940 - June 1940)
10 May 1940: commenced strategic reconnaissance for the campaign in the West over Holland, Belgium and North France under IV. Fliegerkorps, operating from Münster-Handorf with 9 He 111Hs and 3 Ju 88As.
12 May 1940: a Ju 88A was shot down by a Hurricane over the Dutch coast, and a Do 17P was brought down by a Dutch Fokker D XXI near Amsterdam.
13 May 1940: a Ju 88A was lost to a Hurricane between Antwerpen and Brussels.
21 May 1940: a He 111H failed to return from a mission. June 1940: 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 reportedly absorbed most or all of the personnel of the disbanded Aufklärungsstaffel (F) II. Flakkorps, and by the end of June or beginning of July is said to have been stationed at or using Caen-Carpiquet in Normandy.
Air Offensive Against England (Battle of Britain). (July 1940 - December 1940)
15 July 1940: moved to Stavanger-Sola in south-west Norway and reassigned to X. Fliegerkorps for reconnaissance missions over the North Sea and along the east coast of England for the forthcoming Battle of Britain.
7 August 1940: a Ju 88 A-l failed to return from a sortie over Great Britain.
13 August 1940: a Staffel strength return filed from Stavanger-Sola reported 6(4) He 111Hs and 3(2) Ju 88s available for the opening phase of the air offensive against England. 25 September 1940: He 111 H-3 (7A+EH) crashed at Stavanger-Sola, probably on return from a mission, killing the crew.
11 October 1940: Ju 88 (7A+NH) failed to return from a sortie to Scotland, and Maj. Wilhelm Gerlach together with 3 other crew members were reported missing.
23 November 1940: a Ju 88 A-5 was reported damaged while making a forced landing at Stavanger-Sola due to engine failure. 10 December 1940: ordered to begin transferring to Catania/Sicily for operations in the Mediterranean area under X. Fliegerkorps.
Campaign in North Africa. (January 1941 - May 1943)
While the main element of the Staffel at Catania concentrated on recce sorties over Malta, a detachment in Kette- or Schwarm-strength, 3 aircraft or 4 aircraft, respectively, was sent to Benghazi/Libya during mid-January to become the first Luftwaffe air unit to take up station in North Africa, and another detachment was occasionally dispatched to Rhodes to operate over the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean.
16 January 1941: a Ju 88 A-5 was totaled and the crew killed when it collided on take-off with an Italian plane at Benghazi.
26 January 1941: Ju 88 (7A+DH) was shot down by RAF Hurricanes on return from a sortie over Malta.
30 January 1941: a Ju 88 A-5 was blown up by its crew or by German forces at Benghazi to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, while the remainder of the detachment in Libya moved further west to Sirte.
9 May 1941: a Ju 88 was shot up by Fleet Air Arm Fairey Fulmars from the carrier Formidable while searching for the Royal Navy's Tiger Convoy that was approaching Malta with desperately needed supplies. 6 Jun 41: Staffel now at Athens-Tatoi.
July 1941: the Staffel and its detachment in North Africa were reunited and transferred to Athens-Tatoi in Greece.
26 August 1941: a Ju 88 A-5 was totaled when it struck an obstacle at Athens-Tatoi, killing two of the crew and injuring the other two.
September 1941: 3 Ju 88s were once again sent to Libya as a detachment, this time to Derna, to operate directly under Fliegerführer Afrika.
16 December 1941: a Ju 88 A-5 and a Bf 110 E-3 were destroyed on the ground during an Allied air attack on Benina airfield/Libya.
21 December 1941: a Ju 88 was shot down by AA fire during a sortie over Msus to the south-east of Benghazi.
February 1942: the remainder of the Staffel transferred from Athens-Tatoi to Barce/Libya, where its so-called “Afrikakette” had in the meantime moved.
22 February 1942: Ju 88 A-5 (7A+NH) was shot down by Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks south-east of Gazala and the crew reported missing.
1 March 1942: the Staffel reported 3 Ju 88 A-1, 3 Ju 88 A-5, 1 Ju 88 D-5 and 4 Bf 110 E-3 on strength.
March 1942: moved forward from Barce to Derna and remained there until early November 1942.
5 April 1942: Ju 88 D-1 (7A+FH) was shot down by Hurricanes while on a recce sortie over the front area east of Tobruk.
21 May 1942: Ju 88 D-l (7A+AH) was lost to Hurricanes near Bir el Arab during a mission over the Tobruk-Bardia area.
July 1942: Hptm. Erwin Fischer, a 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 12l veteran almost from its inception and recently promoted, took command of the Staffel and deserves special mention. He was an early Party member, a Göring favorite and had received the Ritterkreuz on 12 April 1941. On 10 February 1943 he becarne the first Aufklärungsflieger to be decorated with the Eichenlaub to the Ritterkreuz. Colleagues remembered Fischer as a very energetic and courageous pilot who frequently risked his career to protect his men from the wrath of higher authorities and to defend the Staffel's reputation.
Mid-July 1942: while the Staffel’s rear echelon remained behind at Derna, most of the aircraft, crews and servicing personnel moved forward to Fuka/Egypt, just 100 km west of El Alamein.
23 July 1942: a Ju 88 D-l fell to Spitfires over the El Alamein area.
August 1942: 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 flew its 2,500th combat sortie since the beginning of the war, an event greeted with much celebrating and a visit by war correspondents.
2 September 1942: a Ju 88 D-1 failed to return from a recce sortie over the Suez area east of Cairo.
7 September 1942: a Ju 88 D-1 was shot down by fighters near Fuka, wounding the crew.
26 September 1942: another Ju 88 was shot down by a Hurricane over the Suez Canal.
20 October 1942: 2 Ju 88 D-1s sustained moderate damage during an air attack on Fuka in the opening phase of the British counteroffensive at El Alarnein.
5-18 November 1942: 5 Ju 88 D-ls were lost during the rapid retreat across Cyrenaica to Sidi el Magrun airfield south of Benghazi, one of which was shot down by a fighter on 11 November while the others were destroyed on the ground or in crashes.
End of November 1942: transferred to Tamet near Tripoli, where on 17 December a Ju 88 D-1 was destroyed on the ground during a raid on the airfield by Allied planes.
End of December 1942: moved to Bir el Ghnem/75 km south-west of Tripoli, where on 31 December it had just 5 Ju 88 D-1/C trop on hand.
10 January 1943: a Ju 88 D-l was destroyed in a crash landing at Bir el Ghnem after being shot up while on a sortie behind enemy lines. Moved to Castel Benito just south of Tripoli a day or two later where another Ju 88 D-1 was lost on 17 January during an attack on the airfield. Transferred to Gabes-West in Tunisia around 20-24 January.
24 January 1943: a Ju 88 D-1 was shot down by a fighter near Sabratha to the west of Tripoli. Now operating under Fliegerkorps Tunis, recce missions were flown over South Tunisia and western Libya from Gabes until Allied advances forced a withdrawal north to El Djem in mid-March.
29 March 1943: a Ju 88 D-1 was lost to a fighter while operating over the lines west of Gabes near El Hamma.
7 April 1943: transferred to Catania/Sicily and reassigned to II. Fliegerkorps.
Operations in the West and Over the British Isles. (May 1943 - August 1944)
End of April 1943: ordered to Würzburg/Germany to rest and refit, and then in June moved to Paris-Buc in a strength of 12 aircraft and 250 officers and men where it was attached to Stab/Aufklärungsgruppe 123 for operations in the Luftflotte 3 area. The Staffel's recce missions in the West were directed at the British Isles, primarily the Channel ports along the south coast in search of a build-up in shipping that might suggest invasion preparations. Nearly two-thirds of the sorties were flown at night, and for this the Staffel is said to have received 4 Ju 88Ts that were able to carry 8 or 9 photographic flash bombs in the fuselage racks. The higher speed achieved by the Ju 88T was intended to provide some additional safety in the night fighter infested skies over England. However, not one single Ju 88T appears in the Staffel’s strength returns, so this is either an unsubstantiated claim or the Ju 88Ts were borrowed from another unit. Ju 88 D-1 take-off and landing accidents were recorded at Paris-Buc on 21 June, at Villacoublay-South on 5 July that cost the life of Oblt. Helmuth Spatz and another crew member, and on 12 August Ju 88 D-1 (7A+NH) was shot down by a RAF night fighter shortly after midnight 13 km south-east of Plymouth.
18 August 1943: a Ju 88D was totalled when it was struck by an Arado Ar 96 that crashed at Paris-Buc. A D-l was destroyed on 24 August during an air attack on Villacoublay-South, and on 4 September Ju 88 D-l (7A+LH) failed to return from a mission. Included in the crew reported missing was Obstlt. Alfred Giesse, Kommandeur of Aufklärungsgruppe (F) 123, who was flying as observer/navigator.
In late September/early October 1943 a few Ju 88s and crews were sent for a month at a time to reinforce 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 33, which was operating over the western Mediterranean from Montpellier/South France. One of these, D-1 (7A+UH) (or, according to the pilot, a Ju 88 A-4 marked 7A+HH), failed to return from a maritime recce sortie on 21 October and cost the Staffel two experienced officers who had been with 1. (F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 since 1941: Oblt. Franz Lorek. and Oblt. Walter Sonntag. They and the rest of their crew had been ordered to relieve a 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 33 Ju 88, which was shadowing a 47-ship Allied convoy off Cap Tenez/Algeria. Shortly after taking up position, they were intercepted by two shore-based fighters identified by the crew as P-40s and shot down into the sea. The crew, all wounded, piled into two one-man life rafts and were picked up two days later by a Polish destroyer and taken to Algiers. The pilot was subsequently flown to England for interrogation.
15 November 1943: Ju 88 D-l .(7A+CH) crashed near Schouwen in southern Holland killing the crew, probably while returning from a night sortie over southeast England. This was the last recorded Ju 88 loss for the Staffel, as conversion to the Me 410 A-3 began during November. Landing accidents and crash landings of this type were charged to the Staffel at Guyancourt on 29 November, Paris-Buc on 12 December and at Paris-Orly on 18 December.
At the beginning of 1944, after work-up and certification on the Me 410s at Paris-Buc, the Staffel specialized in night photo reconnaissance over southern and central England using flash bombs for raid assessment purposes. On 1 February 1944, the Staffel reported 2 Ju 88 D-1, 1 Ju 88 D-7 and 11 Me 410 A-3 on strength. Around 20 April, 5 Me 410s took off from Paris-Buc for a one or two day tactical transfer to Soesterberg/Holland. While en-route, 3 of them were shot down by Allied fighters between Compiègne and Beaunont.
26 April 1944, a Me 410 was shot down by a RAF night fighter at 8000 meters (26,000 feet) over Portsmouth while flying a photo recce mission to assess the damage inflicted by an attack a few hours before. The pilot and Staffelkapitän, Oblt. Hermann Kroll, was killed, but his radio operator baled out and was taken prisoner. Similar missions were flown over the Normandy invasion area after 6 June, and following the breakout from the beachhead area and the drive toward Paris, the Staffel transferred to Juvincourt around 18 August, to Florennes/Belgium on 27 August, and then to Langendiebach on 1 September.
Germany to the End of the War. (September 1944 - May 1945)
Conversion to the Bf 109 began immediately, with the pilots going to Herzogenaurach near Nürnberg for retraining. The last Me 410 operational loss occurred on 27 September, all but one of the remaining Me 410s having been replaced with Bf 109Gs on 11 October, and on 16 October the Staffel filed a strength return reporting 9 Bf 109Gs, 1 Me 410, 1 Fw 190 and 1 Ar 96 on hand at Langendiebach. On 21 October 1944 the pilots undergoing conversion training at Herzogenaurach were ordered to Gelsenkirchen-Buer to gain operational experience with 5.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 123, which was based there with Bf 109Gs.·A few weeks later the planned future employment of the Staffel was changed again and the pilots were sent to Lechfe1d for conversion training on the Me 262. 1 November 1944: the Staffel listed 1 Me 410 B-3, 1 Fw 190 A-7, 1 Bf 109 G-5 and 11 Bf 109 G-6 on hand. On 22 November 1944 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 was officially renamed 1./Nahaufklärungsgruppe 1.
By way of a postscript, and a matter that remains to be clarified, a small detachment of 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 may have been re-established and existed until the end of the war. This is supported to a certain extent by the recollections of at least one surviving Staffel veteran, the existence of a Staffelkapitän between November 1944 and May 1945,· and one order of battle listing showing elements of 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 at Hohenmauth (Vysoke Myto)/Czechoslovakia on 3 May 1945. Further, the Staffel’s Feldpost number was never deleted or changed, and the last edition of the Field Post Directory gives Luftgaupostamt XIII (Nürnberg) as its address up to 28 April 1945. Since there is no evidence to the contrary, it therefore seems likely that the last remnants of 1.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 121 were ordered to Czechoslovakia at the end of April, where they were assigned to Fernaufklärungsgruppe 3 and joined 4.(F)/Nacht at Hohenmauth.
FpN:1.(F)/121 (L 17920).
Maj. Fritz Reinshagen (1 May 1934 - 1 February 1936)
Hptm. Arnold Klinkicht (June 1939 - January 1941) 9/39, 6/40, 8/40
Hptm. Hans von Osterhausen (acting?) ( ? - July 1942) 1942
Oblt. Friedrich-Wilhelm Ruthers (acting) (May 1942 - May 1942)
Hptm. Erwin Fischer (1 April 1942 - 25 February 1943)
Oblt. Waldemar Lutsch (March 1943 - 4 September 1943) MIA
Hptm. Otto Hirdes (4 September 1943 - 19 June 1944) 10/43
Oblt. Hermann Kroll (acting?) ( ? - 26 April 1944) KIA
Hptm. Heinrich Ruhe (acting?) (c.26 April 1944 - ? ) 5/44, 9/44
Hptm. Georg(?) Pfeiffer (acting?) ( ? - ? ) 7/44
Oblt. Otto Kern (acting?) (c.October 1944 - November 1944)
Hptm. Friedrich Dünkel (November 1944 - 8 May 1945)
AMM, Hans, Hptm.
BALLMANN, Heinrich, Lt./Oblt.
BERNERT, Karl, Lt.
BETASCH(?), Engelbert, Lt.
BIRNKRAUT, Paul, Oblt.
BLAICH, Theodor, Hptm.
BLUME, Werner, Lt./Oblt.
BOCK, Werner, Lt.
BRUNS, Eckard, Lt.
DANNAPFEL, Heinz, Lt.
EBERT, Hans, Oblt.
FELDER, Paul, Oblt.
FISCHER, G., Lt.
FUND, Helmut, Lt.
FUNKE, Karl-Ernst, Oblt.
GAUL, Alfred, Lt.
GENSCH, Walter, Oblt.
GERLACH, Wilhelm, Maj.
GIESEBERG, Erwin, Lt.
GÜNTHER, Rolf, Oblt.
HENKE, Georg, Lt.
ILLMANN, Werner, Lt.
KÄCHELE, Hans, Lt.
KETSCHER, Hans, Oblt.
KLEINE, August, Lt.
KNAPP, (Wilhelm?), Oblt.
KNOLL, (Werner?), Oblt., Stafü
KOHNKE, Friedrich, Oblt.
KUBISTA, Ernst, Oblt.
LAMMS, Ernst, Lt.
LIESEBERG, Erwin, Lt.
LOREK, Franz, Oblt.
LÜDTKE, Artur, Lt./Oblt.
MARZUSCH, Hans, Oblt.
MEIER, Heinrich, Lt.
MEIER, Herbert (Herman?), Oblt.
MELZNER (MELZER?), Gerhard, Lt.
MEYER, Heinrich, Lt.
MUGGENTHALER, Alfons, Lt.
OSBAHR, Heinrich, Oblt.
PANDEL, ? , Oblt.
PAPE, Horst, Oblt.
REIF, Günther, Oblt.
REINECKE, Gerhard, Lt.
ROHRER, Herbert, Lt.
SANDSUCH, Wilhelm, Oblt.
SONNTAG, Walter, Oblt. (Kr.O.)
SPATZ, Helmuth, Oblt.
SPILLMANN, Heinz, Oblt.
STEPPACHER (STEPPMACHER?), Günter, Oblt.
STERNMACHER, Günther, Oblt.
STUMPE, Erich, Oblt. (d.R.)
TEICHMANN, Ulrich, Oblt.
TRÜBSBACH, Otto (Wolf?), Lt.
VEIT, Walter, Hptm.
© by Henry L. deZeng IV (Work in Progress). (1st Draft 2022)
- G.Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945, 16+ Bde., Teil 14: Die Luftstreitkräfte (Osnabrück, 1980); W.Dierich - Die Verbände der Luftwaffe 1935-1945: Gliederungen und Kurzchroniken – Eine Dokumentation; N.Kannapin - Die deutsche Feldpostübersicht 1939-1945; NARA WashDC: RG 165/Entry 79 (Publications Files), Air Ministry Weekly Intelligence Summary No 181 (20 February 1943); AFHRA Maxwell: decimal 512.619 British AirMin P/W interrogations, ADI(K) series, microfilm rolls A5400-05, interrogations ADI(K) 189A/1942, 262A.1942, 296A/1942, 506/1943, 190/1944 and 223/1944; AFHRA Maxwell: decimal K 113 (Karlsruhe Collection); PRO London: DEFE 3 ULTRA signals VM859, VM2269, VM3794, VM4900, VM7525, VM8825, XL series (several), HP1719, HP3767, HP4167 and HP8068; BNA HW 5/19; BA-MA Freiburg: RL 2 III Meldungen über Flugzeugunfälle…..(Loss Reports – LRs); U.Balke - Der Luftkrieg in Europa: Die Operativen Einsätze des Kampfgeschwader 2 im Zweiten Weltkrieg, 2 Bde (Koblenz, 1989-90), pp.393, 402 and 413; K.Gundelach - Die deutsche Luftwaffe im Mittelmeer 1940-1945, 2 Bde (Frankfurt/M., 1981), pp.534 and 578; M.Rauchensteiner - Der Krieg in Österreich, 1945. (Wien, 1984), p.360; K.Ries - Luftwaffen Story 1935-1939 (Mainz, 1974), pp.80-89; M.Holm-website ww2.dk.
- The downing of the Do 17P by the Fokker D XXI has proven to be incorrect as it does not appear in the Luftwaffe loss records or in Dutch aviation claims records.