Kdo. Sommer

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Sonderkommando Sommer

Unit Code: (F3 + ) to 3/45

(T9 + ) from 3/45


Ordered formed 1 February 1945 at Biblis/Hesse near Worms (ex-Sonderkommando Hecht) as a high-altitude strategic reconnaissance unit equipped with Arado Ar 234 twin-engined jets for service in North Italy.[1]

The situation that caused S. Kdo Sommer to be raised was the lack of adequate aerial reconnaissance reports made by German forces in Northern Italy.

Sd. Kdo Sommer caused a radical change in the situation as, operating up to 39,000ft, they maintained regular reconnaissance over the Leghorn and Ancona sectors of the Italian front.


4.2.45: ordered to transfer from Biblis to Osoppo/25 km NNW of Udine this date by the General der Aufkärungsflieger/OKL.[2].

11.2.45: organizationally, Sd.Kdo. Sommer was one of three Ar 234 and Me 262 reconnaissance detachments that comprised 1. (Eins.)/Versuchsverband OKL. [3].

14.2.45: while en-route to Italy, Sd.Kdo. Sommer's train was attacked by U.S. P-47 fighter-bombers and lost a considerable amount of its ground equipment. [4]

16.2.45: 3 Ar 234s from Sd.Kdo. Sperling ordered sent to Italy for Sommer, the first of these being flown to Osoppo on 24 February. [5]

1-11.3.45: Initial Ar 234B leaves Italy.[6]

10.3.45: Sommer obtains a “Magirusbombe” (WB151/20) at Oranienburg and has it and the associated gunsight fitted to Ar 234B T9+EH, W Nr: 140142.[7]

13.03.1945: The two Ar 234 B-2b, which had been parked in Oranienburg at the end of February 1945, arrived in Italy.

14.3.45: Sommer in Ar 234B T9+EH, W Nr: 140142 flies from Oranienburg via Biblis to Lechfeld and from there over the Austrian Alps to Campoformido.[8]

The unit was composed of:

(1) Oblt. Erich Sommer - Arado Ar-234B-2b, Wn.140344 - registered: T9+EH — NM+BR).

(2) Lt. Gunther Gniesmer flying Ar-234B-2 - Wn.140142 - T9+DH, previously coded SM+FB, this aircraft was converted to reconnaissance configuration by the installation of camera equipment.

(3) Stabsfw. Walter Arnold flying Ar-234B-2 - Wn.140153 - T9+HH, previously coded SM+FM, this aircraft was also converted to reconnaissance configuration.[9]

Arnold and Gniesmer flew to Italy from Oranienburg, via Munchen-Riem (which was both the base of the Ar 234 unit 1.(F)/100 and out-station of Luftwaffe Italien) Probably these two Arados were the ones referred to in the General d. Aufklärungsflieger (G.d.A.)'s 26 February note as being in readiness at Oranienburg. A 4th aircraft was designated to be part of this unit (T9+KH — Wn.140151, pilot Werner Muffey), but it never reached Italy. (Muffey was Kdo. Sperling 's TO)

NAG.11 (Hptm. Eckersham) was designated to cover and defend the operations of Kdo Sommer; but Sommer didn't think this was a good idea - because it had the potential to attract the attention of allied fighters. In fact, the continuous and persistent presence of Allied aircraft in the vicinity of Udine anticipated the first operational flight.[10]

Erich Sommer reported his command to the staff of the Commanding General of the General of the German Air Force in Italy, Ritter von Pohl. ready for action.[11]

15.3.45: Sommer - sortie to Ancona/S.Benedetto in a total of 2hrs 10m.[12]

17.3.45: after changing station from Osoppo to Campoformido/8 km SW of Udine and taking several weeks to settle in and set up, declared operational this date with 3 Ar 234Bs on strength. [13]

Sommer - sortie to Livorno/Elba/Pisa.[14]

19.3.45: Oblt. Sommer personally flew the Sd.Kommando's first operational sortie this date - a reconnaissance flight over the Ancona area. [15]Subsequent sorties covered the port of Livorno (Leghorn) and as far west as Corsica and Marseilles. [16]

23 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Livorno/Perugia/Ancona.[17]

25 Mar 1945 - Sommer - transferred to Lonate Pozzolo - flight to Marseille/Toulon and to reconnoitre the passes in the in the Maritime Alps.[18]

1.4.45: Sommer flew a sortie to Elba and Corsica. This sortie lasted from 10.14 – 12.21 hrs.[19]

2.4.45: A jet was spotted south of Bologna and Spitfires of 1435 Sqdn were scrambled in an attempt to intercept the “Me 262”.[20]

8.4.45: Gniesmer (T9+DH) transferred to Lonate.[21]

9.4.45:Gniesmer flew his first operational sortie. Sommer sortie to the western part of the front between 12.50 and 14.05 hrs. This was abandoned due to damage to one of the aircraft’s engines.[22]

10.4.45: Gniesmer (T9+DH) sortie to Forli.[23]

11.4.45: Ar 234 (T9+DH), after the pilot (Gniesmer) foolishly made a solo pass at an Allied bomber formation, was shot down northwest of Ravenna by P-51 Mustang escorts - this was the first and only intact jet crash reported by the Allies in Italy, but it was burned by the Germans before Allied technical intelligence teams could get to it.[24]

20.4.45: Sommer in T9+EH suffered hydraulic failure and the main wheels failed to extend. Sommer attempted to land between to bomb craters at Campoformido. The aircraft was destroyed, pilot safe.[25]

22.4.45: Sommer flew a sortie, using Arnold's T9+FH, over the Po River valley in order to verify the situation regarding Allied troops along the Po River in relation to the German retreat.

24.4.45: operating under Stab/Fernaufklärungsgruppe 122, but flew its last mission this date.[26]

T9+FH, piloted by Sommer, flew a sortie over Viadana, Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Bergentino.

29.4.45: the Sonderkommando's last Ar 234 (T9+FH) was flown from Campoformido to Holzkirchen/S of Munich where it was blown up by the pilot (Arnold) on 30 April to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.[27] Oblt. Sommer and the rest of the Kdo. withdrew through Austria and surrendered to U.S. Forces on 8 May. [28]

Sommer had given orders that the remaining Ar 234 was to be totally destroyed – it transpired that despite Sommer's orders the remains of T9+EH had not been destroyed and the pieces were later discovered by the Allies.[29]

FpN: Sd.Kdo. Sommer (none found).


Oblt. Erich Sommer (2/45 - 5/45)

Also see:

GNIESMER, Günther, Lt.

LOAH, Wolfgang, Oblt.

MÄNHARDT, Manfred, Oblt.

© by Henry L. deZeng IV (Work in Progress, 2022).

(1st Draft 2022)


  1. ULTRA BT3958; Smith/Creek-Ar 234
  2. BA-MA RL 4 II/32
  3. Org.Abt.(2.Abt.)/ OKL document of this date
  4. RL 4 II/32)
  5. RL 4 II/32; Beale-AWI:167-68
  6. Beale-AWI:168
  7. Griehl – Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz” - p109/110
  8. Griehl – Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz” – p110 also Beale AWI:168
  9. Beale-AWI:168
  10. Smith, Creek and Petrick – On Special Missions – Classic - p74
  11. Griehl – Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz” - p110
  12. Smith, Creek and Petrick – On Special Missions – Classic - p74
  13. RL 4 II/32; Beale-AWI:168
  14. Smith, Creek and Petrick – On Special Missions – Classic - p74
  15. RL 4 II/32; Beale-AWI:177
  16. Beale-op.cit.; Green-Warplanes:54
  17. Griehl – Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz”:110
  18. Griehl – Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz”:110
  19. Beale-AWI:185
  20. Beale-AWI:190
  21. Beale-AWI:190
  22. Smith, Creek and Petrick – On Special Missions – Classic:75; Beale-AWI:190 – some confusion here regarding whether Gniesmer’s first sortie was 9.4.45 or 10.4.45, Beale records a sortie on 9 April with Sommer stating that Gniesmer’s first sortie was 10.4.45; Smith, Creek and Petrick indicate that his first sortie took place on 9.4.45. Griehl states that his first sortie was 10.4.45.
  23. Beale-AWI:190 and Griehl - Strahlflugzeug:110
  24. Beale-AWI:191; Beale article in Aviation News 1988:469; Griehl–Strahlflugzeug:110 – Gniesmer hit the tail of his aircraft when he bailed out, this resulted in a fractured skull, he dies 48 hrs later.
  25. Smith, Creek and Petrick – On Special Missions:75; Griehl - Strahlflugzeug:111
  26. AFHRC 512.6258; Beale-op.cit.; Smith/Creek-op.cit.
  27. Beale-AWI:207
  28. Beale-op.cit.; Smith/Creek-op.cit.
  29. Beale-op.cit.

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