Sonderkommando Elbe

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Sonderkommando Elbe


also as: Kommando Elbe
Rammkommando Elbe
Schulungslehrgang Elbe
Lehrgang Elbe


Formation and History. (Mar 45 - Apr 45)

Formed 8 March 1945 at Stendal under Maj. Otto Köhnke to train approximately 125 fighter pilot volunteers in air-to-air ramming tactics using Bf 109 fighters. A further 60 or so volunteer pilots were trained at Prague by II./KG(J) 6. The volunteers all agreed to sacrifice their lives in the fulfillment of their duty, if necessary. Training, which consisted mostly of classroom instruction and political harangues by officials from the SS and the Propaganda Ministry, began a week later and concluded on 4 April. The pilots were mainly from Jagdgeschwader 1, 3, 300, 400, 102, 104 and Erg.JG 1. On completion of the course, they were divided into five Gruppen and sent to the airfields at Delitzsch, Mörtitz, Gardelegen and Sachau, while 50 or so remained at Stendal.[1]


Only one operation was flown, and that was on 7 April against 1,261 heavy bombers and 830 escort fighters from the 8th U.S. Army Air Force based in England. It was one of the largest missions flown by the 8th AAF and it was the last massed fighter response by the Luftwaffe. The targets were airfields, marshalling yards, fuel and munitions dumps and related infrastructure in North-Central Germany. Of the 120 or so Rammjäger that took off, around 70 intercepted the bombers between Hannover and Hamburg in the early afternoon. The 8th AAF lost 17 heavies, 8 falling to ramming tactics, and 5 escort fighters, but at a cost to the Luftwaffe of nearly 40 fighters belonging to Sonderkdo. Elbe. Several days later the Kommando was dissolved and the surviving pilots were ordered to Pocking in South Germany.


Most authors agree with this account, although their numbers vary. According to Girbig, 183 Bf 109s and Fw 190s from Sonderkdo. Elbe scrambled for the 7 April engagement, but most other accounts give around 120. Girbig also differs on the losses, stating that 133 fighters were lost and 77 pilots reported killed or missing, presumably all or most of these being from Sonderkdo. Elbe. Alfred Price, on the other hand, states that by the third week of March 1945 Sonderkdo. Elbe had three Gruppen of 45 pilots each and a total of 150 Bf 109s. Of these, about 120 Bf 109s were scrambled on 7 April for the intercept, but only something less than 59 of them were shot down by the P-51 escort fighters and 8th AAF bombers.




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

(1st Draft 2023)

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References

  1. U.Saft - Das Bittere Ende der Luftwaffe: “Wilde Sau” – Sturmjäger – Rammjäger – Todesflieger – “Bienenstock” (Langenhagen, 1992), pp.73-111; R.Freeman - The Mighty Eighth War Diary, (London: Arms and Armour Press, 1990); W.Girbig - Six Months to Oblivion: The Eclipse of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force (London, 1975), pp.137-39; A.Price - The Last Year of the Luftwaffe – May 1944 to May 1945 (Osceola (WI), 1991), pp.148, 160-61; AFHRA Maxwell: decimal 512.619 British AirMin P/W interrogations, ADI(K) series, microfilm rolls A5400-05, interrogation ADI(K) 294/45.