The Allies strategic bombing campaign main goal was the destruction of the German industrial base and the dislocation of the civilian population. Heavy industry, aircraft production, oil and petrochemical facilities were the main targets. The Allies paid a high price where many bombers and fighters were lost to flak, enemy fighters and other circumstances. The Germans repaired crashed Allied aircraft to flying condition for evaluation, training purposes, long range reconnaissance and clandestine missions behind enemy lines.
Luftwaffe Supermarine Spitfire PR Mk IX coded T9 # EB
Rechlin, located in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany, about 100 km (60 miles) northwest of Berlin was the official testing ground of the Luftwaffe. A turf-surfaced airfield, bounded by a hexagonal-layout ring road around its perimeter, was the central Erprobungsstelle (E-Stelle) test facility, and two more airfields: a second, smaller turf-surfaced field just east of the main site in nearby Roggentin and the other just south of the main site at Lärz. The purpose of the facility was to determine the usability of German aircraft and equipment. In addition, tests were carried out on new types of aircraft which included determining the maximum speeds, range, ceiling height, strength, stability and controllability. The maintenance, ergonomics, ease of repair and other aspects that had an impact on the later use of the aircraft were also examined. The testing center was not only responsible for German developments, but also for foreign aircraft types. Captured Allied aircraft were brought to Rechlin where they were repaired, examined and thoroughly tested.
Today, the Luftfahrttechnisches Museum (Aviation Technology Museum) in Rechlin houses displays of aircraft and related technology from the two World Wars and the Soviet era.
The massive Allied air raids over Germany and occupied Europe created a large logistical problem for the Luftwaffe on how to remove and use tons of Allied aircraft wreckage scattered around Europe since every heavy bomber provided approximately 35000 lbs (15876 kg) of useful salvage. Units known as the Berge-Bataillone (Salvage Battalions), under the operational control of the Luftwaffe, investigated each crashed site, evaluated the salvage potential and ship it to the proper destinations. The majority of the crashed aircraft were completely destroyed and were only usable as scrap metal. They were transported to large salvage yards where they were cut up and their metals recycled. The aluminum skinning and other structural parts were separated and later melted down. Tons of various metal ingots were shipped to aircraft plants in Germany and used in the manufacture of new German aircraft.
Occasionally Allied aircraft landed in fairly good or in perfect condition which usually happened for various reasons. If the aircraft air frame was not repairable, the hard to obtain items, such as engines and propellers would be carefully salvaged and sent to storage depots and used as spare parts for other captured flyable aircraft. New or unique items or equipment were sent to Rechlin or to other facilities to be carefully examined and tested by German engineers.
The salvage work was hurried since the intact crashed aircraft drew the attention of roaming Allied fighters. Many repairable crashed Allied aircraft were destroyed by strafing attacks before they could be successfully recovered or salvaged. In addition in the recovery of downed Allied aircraft, the Berge-Bataillone were also responsible for salvage of downed Luftwaffe aircraft which were processed in the same matter.
The Luftwaffe salvaged all usable aircraft parts to supply their “captured fighter rebuild program” with spare parts. A repair center for the restoration of Allied fighters was located at Göttingen, Germany, and all usable parts salvaged from Allied fighter crash sites were shipped there for storage. A number of crashed P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts and other Allied fighters were rebuilt using parts obtained from numerous crash sites and they were employed by the Luftwaffe.
B-17F-120-BO, s/n 42-30831, coded WF ☆ H, Tail: ▲G (Green band on horizontal stabilizer), named “Lazy Baby” of the 364th Bomb Squadron, 305th Bomb Group based at Chelveston, England. On 14 October 1943, after a bombing mission to Schweinfurt, Germany, the B-17 was damaged by enemy fighter and made a wheels up crash landing at Reinach Aesch, near Basle, Switzerland.
A number of B-17s wheels up crash landed with what appear to be minor damage but closer inspection often discover that on landing the belly gun turret had collapse upward severely warping the rear fuselage and causing major structural damage. The fuselage of B-17 “Lazy Baby” being transported through the streets of a town on its way to the scrap yard.
B-17F-25-DL, s/n 42-3136, coded DS ☆ P, Tail: ▲J (Red band across tail), named “No Balls At All” of the 511th Bomb Squadron, 351st Bomb Group based at Polebrook, England. Originally it was named “Eight Ball” but on 21 May 1943 the propeller from No. 2 engine flew off slicing away part of the nose wiping out the “Eight”. After it was repaired, the crew changed the name.
On 22 February 1944 during a bombing mission to an aircraft factory at Bernberg, Germany, “No Balls At All” was hit by flak and crash landed near Vijfhuizen, west of Amsterdam, 4 km (2.49 miles) southeast of Haarlem.
The fuselage of B-17 “No Balls At All” being transported to the scrap yard.
Zirkus Rosarius (Rosarius Circus) was an Erprobungskommando-style special test unit of the Luftwaffe under the command of Flugkapitän (Captain) Rosarius. The unit was tasked with testing captured Allied aircraft, all of which were repainted in German markings. Their purpose was the testing of allied aircraft to discover any strengths or vulnerabilities in their design or performance. This information was highly useful in enabling German service personnel to develop combat tactics to counter strengths and exploit any vulnerabilities. The Zirkus toured operational Luftwaffe units demonstrating the captured aircraft to the Axis pilots and trained them in techniques to counter these aircraft. Many Axis pilots were also allowed to fly the captured aircraft and/or flew training attacks against them. The Zirkus Rosarius aircraft usually carried its own Geschwaderkennung (“wing code”) of a “T9” and the undersides and tail were painted yellow.
North American P-51B Mustang coded T9 # HK was used to train Hungarian fighter pilots at Neuruppin, Germany, on how to use their FW 190s effectively against the P-51. The propeller spinner was painted yellow and there was a red band on the nose of the engine cowling. The fuselage was natural metal with the whole tail and the undersides painted yellow.
North American P-51C Mustang coded T9 # CK was tested at Rechlin in its original Olive Drab camouflage scheme. This P-51 was later based at Hannover-Wunstorf during the summer of 1944.
Model and Decals
AZ model AZ7513 P-51B Mustang “Captured” – 2015
Ventura Decals V4895 Luftwaffe captured P-51B and Spitfire PR.XI
Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG 200) was a Luftwaffe special operations unit which carried out difficult bombing and transport operations, long distance reconnaissance flights, tested new aircraft designs and operated captured aircraft. The purpose of KG 200 was a tightly guarded secret and many of its ground personnel were unaware about the nature of the unit’s actual mission or its operations The Germans had a shortage of suitable long range aircraft and captured Allied aircraft were able to operate at night over enemy territory without arising too much suspicion. Captured US B-17s or B-24s were used on some long range reconnaissance missions. Most of the clandestine missions used captured B-17s for re-supply roles (dropping supplies to German forces) and transporting agents or important personnel behind enemy lines. The B-17 was popular with KG 200 pilots who praised its handling characteristics and rugged construction which allowed it to land and take off from grass fields. The nose wheel of the B-24 was unsuitable for operations from grass fields so only a small number of Liberators were used by KG 200.
A B-17G of I./KG 200 under camouflage netting on Wackersleben air field in Germany during 1945. The nose cheek guns and the ball gun turret were removed. A Luftwaffe crew prepares for a mission over Eastern Europe.
This is my close up of the B-17G indicated by the chin gun turret under the nose. The drawing on the nose is white and depicts a goose from a 1906 childrens book “Nils Holgersson’s Wonderful Journey” written by Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf. The book is about a young boy, Nils, who caught an evil gnome on his family’s farm in Sweden. The gnome cast a spell on Nils shrinking him to the size of his thumb. In his small size, Nils befriended a goose named Mårten and he goes on a journey flying on Mårten’s back. Selma Lagerlöf was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
A captured B-17F of I./KG 200 hidden under camouflage netting at Wackersleben, Germany, in April 1945.
During July 1942, the USAAF started executing plans to establish three Martin B-26 Marauder Bomb Groups in North Africa. The 17th, 319th and 320th Bomb Groups would ferry their Marauder medium bombers via Labrador (Canada) and Greenland to England. After arriving in the UK, the three groups would operate as part of the US 8th Air Force to gain combat experience before taking part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. Several training accidents delayed the Marauder’s overseas deployment to Europe. These training problems were compounded by the B-26’s demanding handling characteristics and the inexperienced pilots. Within a month, the 320th Bomb Group reported the loss of 15 B-26s in training crashes. The B-26 quickly gained the reputation as being a “killer” and was nicknamed “The Widow Maker”, a reputation the Marauder never really able to lose despite its highly successful combat career with one of the lowest combat loss records in Europe.
In September 1942, the first Marauder successfully flew a test flight to England via the North Atlantic Ferry Route and arrived at Honington, East Anglia on September 15. On September 21, the 319th Bomb Group began its crossing to the UK but the B-26’s jinx followed them. One B-26 was lost on departure from Baer Field, Indiana and two more crashed while in transit. The B-26s were grossly overloaded with extra fuel and aircraft parts, 36500 lbs (16556 kg), which contributed to the fatal accidents. While at Presque Isle, Maine and Goose Bay, Newfoundland, the machine guns and associated items were removed from the bombers and the 3 gunners were left behind to reduce the aircraft’s weight. The unarmed bombers continued their flight to the UK.
The harsh winter weather and low clouds continued to plague the flight and on the leg from Bluie West, Greenland to Iceland, two B-26s disappeared without a trace. On October 3, the first 319th Bomb Group B-26 finally reached Scotland and then continued on to Horsham Saint Faith, Norfolk, England. Of the 57 B-26s that departed from the USA, only 34 B-26s completed the ferry flight to the UK. The USAAF decided that all future deliveries of twin engine aircraft to the ETO war zone would be via the South Atlantic Ferry Route which was much longer but without the harsh weather encountered on the shorter northern route.
One Marauder that failed to reach Horsham was B-26B-1, s/n 41-17790 of the 437th Bomb Squadron. On October 3, the B-26 left Iceland and headed for Scotland as a winter overcast closed in. Unable to navigate visually, it became lost in the low clouds. They picked up a radio homing signal which they believed originated from Scotland and the pilot promptly followed the beacon. The B-26 inadvertently overflew Scotland and southern England heading out over the North Sea towards continental Europe. While over the North Sea, the B-26 fuel transfer system malfunctioned causing one engine to die due to a lack of fuel. On one engine and only enough fuel left for five minutes of flying time, the pilot decided to belly land on a strip of beach which he spotted through a hole in the overcast. He quickly dropped down through the clouds and successfully crash landed the B-26 on the beach. The totally surprised B-26 crew quickly learned from the local Wehrmacht that they had landed in enemy held territory on the island of Noord Beveland (north of Kamperland), the smallest of five islands off the Dutch coast near Rotterdam.
Germans examining the wheels up landed B-26B on the Dutch beach. The propellers were badly damaged in the crash landing. The bomber was painted overall Dark Olive Drab over Neutral Gray underside. The only markings were the serial number “117790” painted in yellow across the tail fin/rudder and the national insignia, a five pointed white star over a blue disc painted on the fuselage sides below the tail fin and on the wings. Unit codes were not applied yet.
The unlucky B-26 was lured into a trap by a false homing signal transmitted by the German Signal Korps. The German trap had sprung and the B-26 crew spent the rest of the war in a German POW camp without seeing any combat. They had earned the dubious honor of presenting the Luftwaffe with a nearly intact Marauder before the B-26 was committed to combat over Europe.
German salvage specialists found the aircraft to be particularly interesting because it was the first B-26 they had ever seen. The B-26 was carefully dismantled and and shipped to the Luftwaffe airbase at Gilze-Rijen where the minor damage to the fuselage was repaired during November 1942. However, there were no suitable replacements available for the damaged propellers. The aircraft remained grounded at Gilze-Rijen until early 1943 when the Germans succeeded in obtaining a pair of B-26 propellers most likely from another crashed B-26.
This is a close up view of the tail showing the yellow fuselage band aft of the oversized Balkenkreuze (cross) and the yellow fin.
The B-26 was ferried to Rechlin and trials with the Marauder began in June 1943. A month later, one of the aircraft’s generators failed and a German built one was installed as a replacement. A number of Luftwaffe test pilots were involved in the test program and they reported the same handling difficulties that the Allied pilots faced on their first introduction to the B-26. The Luftwaffe pilots discovered that the short wing span of the Marauder resulted in high landing speeds. The grass runway at Rechlin was too short for the Marauder and after several test flights, the remainder of the test program was moved to Lärz airfield which had a longer, hard surface runway. On 2 November 1943, the Marauder took part in an exhibition of latest Luftwaffe innovations and captured aircraft at Rechlin. Shortly after this exhibit, all references to the Marauder in the Rechlin’s records had stopped. It is believed that the Luftwaffe B-26 was either destroyed in a test flight or during one of the numerous Allied bombing raids on Rechlin. B-26B-1, s/n 41-17790, was the only Marauder that was flown by the Luftwaffe.
On the starboard (right) side there is a number “6” painted aft of the yellow fuselage band. Its meaning is unknown but it could been part of the aircraft’s code applied at Rechlin.
Valom 72050 B-26B Marauder “Luftwaffe” & JM-1 Marauder “US Navy” – 2009
On the morning of 12 December 1942, the 1st Bomb Wing of the US 8th Air Force sent 78 B-17s to bomb the Luftwaffe servicing base located at Romilly-sur-Seine, about 60 miles (96.6 km) east of Paris. Based at Molesworth, Huntingdonshire the 303rd Bomb Group, the “Hell’s Angels”, provided 20 B-17s for the bombing mission. After the formation assembled, the bomber headed to France, but the weather steadily deteriorated and a number of the bombers were forced to turn back. A total of 17 B-17s, including 7 of “Hell’s Angels” continued on to the secondary target, the Rousen-Sotterville marshalling yards. Over Beauvais, France, the formation was attacked by at least 30 enemy fighters which continued to harass the bombers all the way to the target. At 1239 hours, the formation dropped 40 tons of bombs on Rousen. One 303rd B-17 was shot down in flames, but the crew did managed to bail out, becoming POWs for the rest of the war.
B-17 “Wulfe-Hound” received major damage and had dropped out of the formation. It steadily lost altitude and disappeared into the clouds. The remaining B-17s returned safely back to England, but 11 of them had suffered damage. The fatally stricken B-17 made a wheels-up landing in a hay field near Melun, France, 60 miles (96.6 km) southeast of Paris, with the ball turret guns pointing downward. This was Wulfe-Hound’s third and final mission with USAAF markings.
The German salvage crew were able to transport the crashed B-17 to nearby Leeuwarden airfield in the Netherlands. Wulfe-Hound had the honor of being the first US heavy bomber captured by the Germans nearly intact.
Boeing B-17F-27-BO, s/n 41-24585, coded PU ☆ B, named “Wulfe-Hound” was assigned to 360th Bomb Squadron, 303rd Bomb Group “Hell’s Angels”.
On the port (left) side is the “Wulfe-Hound” text and hound with a broken German fighter in its mouth.
At Leeuwarden, the B-17 had it US stars replaced with German Balkenkreuze (crosses) and was given the Luftwaffe Stammkennzeicken (side code) DL # XC. Temporary repairs were made to put it back into flyable condition and on December 14 a German crew flew the B-17, escorted by two Bf 110 fighters, to the German Test and Experimental Center at Rechlin. Luftwaffe fighter bases and flak units along the fight route were informed of the aircraft and its flight, but despite of these precautions, the Luftwaffe marked B-17 was still fired upon, receiving only minor damage.
At Rechlin, while the final repairs were being completed, German engineers carefully inspected every system on the B-17. The damaged ball turret was never replaced. A number of Luftwaffe pilots began studying the aircraft in preparation for a test program to determine it’s flight characteristics. The first test flight took place on 17 March 1943 and on April 15 other test/training flights were conducted. Between trials, the B-17 visited various fighter groups in France and Germany for affiliation and demonstration duties.
A view of the underside of B-17 Wulfe-Hound in flight.
In July 1943, B-17 Wulfe-Hound was equipped with glider towing equipment and was used as a tow aircraft during the DFS 230 combat glider program at Rechlin. The DFS 230 was a German transport glider operated by the Luftwaffe. It was developed in 1933 by the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug (DFS) – “German Research Institute for Sailplane Flight”. The glider was used in airborne assault operations.
In September 1943, B-17 Wulfe-Hound was then assigned to I./KG 200 and coded A3 # AE. Records on the B-17’s service with KG 200 are lost, but it is believed that Wulfe-Hound was one of four B-17s used by KG 200 for training and clandestine missions between May and June of 1944.
This photo was taken at the German-occupied Leeuwarden Air Base in the summer of 1943(?).
B-17 Wulfe-Hound at Deelen airfield, Holland, during 1944.
Model Kit and Decals
Kits-World Decalset KW148135 War Birds B-17F/G Flying Fortress ‘Sentimental Journey’ & ‘Wulf Hound’ – 2015
Hasegawa 00654 B-17F Flying Fortress ‘Luftwaffe Erprobungskommando’ – 2003
Kits-World Decalset KW172130 B-17G-85-DL “Sentimental Journey” & B-17F-27-BO “Wulf Hound” – 2015
One of the first US fighters to fall into Axis hands was captured by the Italians. On 12 June 1943, a Lockheed P-38G Lightning (unit and serial number unknown) flown by an unknown inexperienced pilot mistakenly landed at Capoterra airfield (near Cagliari) on the island of Sardinia (located west of the Italian Peninsula, north of Tunisia and immediately south of Corsica). The unlucky pilot immediately became a POW and the intact P-38 was flown to the Regia Aeronautica’s Test and Research Center at Guidonia (northeast of Rome). At Guidonia, Colonelio Angelo Tondi, a test pilot and the commander of the 1st Terrestrial Aircraft Unit of the 1st Experimental Center, conducted a number of test flights in the P-38, while engineers studied the aircraft’s systems and weapons.
Colonelio Tondi developed a plan to use the captured P-38 to intercept and shot down US bombers flying to targets in Italy. He believed with this P-38 he could get into firing range before the bombers discover his identity even with the P-38 carrying Italian national insignia and markings.
On 11 August 1943, Colonelio Tondi, with an escort of Macchi 202 fighters, took off on his first mission in the captured P-38. Tondi spotted a B-17 formation of the 419th Bomb Squadron, 301st Bomb Group, returning from an raid on the Tervi rail yard and he attacked the bombers. Firing from the 5 o’clock position, Tondi’s machine gun tracers and cannon shells raked the starboard side of the last bomber in the flight, B-17F-95-BO, s/n 42-30307, named “Sweet Adaline/Bonnie Sue”. Two 20mm shells exploded inside the cockpit killing the co-pilot and setting the instrument panel on fire. The B-17 crashed into the sea near Torvajanica (south of Rome along the coast), 7 chutes were seen, 3 crewmen were rescued after 60 hours on the water and they became POWs. Tondi damaged a second bomber, B-17F-85-BO, s/n 42-30093, which crash landed in the Algerian desert, about 10 miles (16 km) east of Saint-Donat Airfield near Tadjenanet and the B-17 was salvaged on 19 August 1943.
The Italian P-38 was used on several more occasions attacking Allied bombers but Colonelio Tondi was unable to score another victory with his “Trojan” P-38. The use of the low octane Italian fuel and low grade oil caused major damage to the two high performance 1,600-hp Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled turbo-supercharged engines which finally grounded the P-38. Colonelio Tondi’s single victory remains the only documented case of a captured US fighter flown by an enemy shooting down a US bomber.
On 8 September 1943, Italy officially surrendered to the Allies and the next day the Allies launched Operation Avalanche, the invasion of southern Italy around Salerno. The Germans reacted by launching Operation Achse ‘Case Axis’ which forcibly disarmed the Italian military forces in Italy.
Miss Nonalee II
The last B-17 captured by the Germans in 1943 was B-17F-100-BO, s/n 42-30336, coded GX ☆ E, named “Miss Nonalee II” from the 548th Bomb Squadron, 385th Bomb Group based at Great Ashfield Airfield, England. On 9 October 1943, the B-17 was on a bombing mission targeted against the Arado Component Factory at Anklam in East Prussia. The B-17 was piloted by 1st Lieutenant Glyndon G. Bell and along with the crew was a passenger, S/SGT Charlton K. Browning, assigned as an aerial photographer to record the bombing for headquarters. While on the way to the target, “Miss Nonalee II” lost pitch control on the Number Two propeller and Bell had to feather it. With only three engines, the B-17 lagged behind the rest of the formation and became prey for enemy fighters. The Crew decided to make their way to neutral Sweden and Bell changed their course to Sweden and to safety.
With the Number Two engine out, the 21 year old pilot nursed the B-17 at low altitude over enemy territory. The navigator spotted a large meadow and was sure it was inside neutral Sweden. With the navigator’s assurance, Bell decided to land and gave the crew the option to either bail out or stay with the aircraft. The crew all elected bail out and parachuted over the meadow. Unknown to them, they were still over occupied Denmark and they were immediately captured by the local police. They were arrested and held in the jail at Tyskerne before they were transported to the Interrogation Camp at Oberursel, Germany.
Lieutenant Bell successfully landed “Miss Nonalee II” in the large meadow at Nordholm Mark near Varde, Denmark. As he was instructed in England, Bell tried to burn the B-17 to prevent its use by the enemy but without success. Danish civilians approached the plane and told Bell that he was in enemy occupied territory. A local farmer, Sigurd Nielsen, kept Bell hidden until nightfall. Under the cover of darkness, the farmer took Bell to the small town of Bredson where Bell contacted the Danish underground. With their assistance, Bell was able to reach neutral Sweden.
After receiving reports of an undamaged B-17, a salvage team from Flensburg was flown in on an Arado Ar 232 Tausendfüßler (“Millipede”) transport plane with all the necessary equipment to recover the B-17 on board. The grass runway was 2100 ft (640 m) long with a grove of trees at the end. The salvage team determined that the B-17 with only three engines would only be able to take off safely if the B-17’s weight was reduced. It was decided to remove all the guns, armor, ammunition and radios before attempting to fly the B-17 out. After a few hours work, the lightened B-17 took off and was flown to Rechlin. At Rechlin, the pitch control on the Number Two propeller was repaired and the B-17 entered Luftwaffe service with the Rechlin code 7 # 8 and the B-17 remained at the Test and Experimental Center for the remainder of the year.
During the summer of 1944, “Miss Nonalee II” departed Rechlin on a demonstration tour to familarize Axis fighter pilots with the B-17 and is known to had visited units at Brandis, Munich-Riem, Vienna-Apern, Prague-Rusin and Königsberg (today Kaliningrad, Russia). The B-17 continued in this role, visiting various fighter units until the end of 1944. The bomber’s last recorded stop was at Leipzig-Brandis airfield in December 1944 after which all records of her activities just stopped. Most likely the B-17 was heavy damaged in a landing and was written off.
Republic P-47D-2-RA Thunderbolt, s/n 42-22490, coded YF ☆ U, named “Beetle” was assigned to the 358th Fighter Squadron, 3S5th Fighter Group at Steeple Morden, England.
On 7 November 1943, pilot 2nd Lieutenant William E. Roach (on his third mission) was providing escort for 9th Air Force Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers that were attacking German airfields at Montdidier and Meulan, France. On the his return flight, Lieutenant Roach ran into headwinds of over 100 mph (160.9 km/h) which caused excessive fuel consumption and his aircraft ran out of fuel. He began to look for a suitable field to make an emergency landing. Believing he was over southern England, he spotted a field, set up for a short pattern and landed. A “Follow Me” vehicle came out to meet him and led him to a parking spot. As he shut down his engine, he noticed the unusual uniforms the men approaching his plane with drawn guns were wearing. Roach mistakenly landed at the Luftwaffe air base at Caen, France delivering to the Luftwaffe its first intact and flyable example of the Thunderbolt. Roach was taken into custody and became a POW, spending the rest of the war at Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.
The Germans quickly repainted their newly acquired Thunderbolt replacing the US stars with Balkenkreuze (crosses) on the wings and fuselage. The US codes were not painted over. To avoid destruction by Allied air attacks, the Luftwaffe decided to move the P-47 to a safer airfield.
Some sources state that the Germans painted the nose of the engine cowl red. In the B/W photos it appears too light to be red but more likely is yellow which was the color which the Germans painted captured aircraft.
In this photo, the name “AGNES” can be seen just beneath the canopy.
From this angle, the wing tips on the under surface appears to been painted yellow.
On November 14, “Beetle” arrived at the Rechlin test center where it was given the code 7 # 9. The P-47 was subjected to an extensive series of trials, which provided the Germans with important information on the fighter’s performance, armament and handling qualities.
During early 1944, “Beetle” became the star in a German propaganda film at Rechlin where it was repainted in full current US markings. The original red surround star and bars insignias were placed with the 1944 blue surround star and bars insignia. White identification stripes were applied to the tail. The US side code of YF ☆ U and s/n 42-22490 was re-applied for the film. When the film was completed, “Beetle” was repainted with standard Luftwaffe insignia again.
After the P-47 was thoroughly investigated and its performance and flight characteristics were documented, it was released by the test center and became part of Rosarius Zirkus. “Beetle” was one of three Thunderbolts which were operated by the Luftwaffe until early 1945.
Peddinghaus Decals EP 920 P-47D-2-RA Thunderbolt “Beetle” US and German Markings WWII
Three Guys Replicas Decals TGR48009 In Enemy Hands I Captured USAAF Fighters – 1995
Peddinghaus Decals EP 921 P-47D-2-RA Thunderbolt “Beetle” US and German Markings
Ks Model Decals LFMC72142 Republic P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt over Europe
The Luftwaffe flew a small number of B-24 Liberator bombers, one of which was “Sunshine”, a B-24H-5-FO, s/n 42-52106, of the 719th Bomb Squadron, 449th Bomb Group, US 15th Air Force. This war weary B-24 began its combat career with the 716th Bomb Squadron completing 5 missions including the last mission where it was forced to abort due to an engine failure.
On 29 March 1944,the 449th Bomb Group, based at Grottaglie, Italy received the order for a maximum effort bomb mission against the marshaling yards at Bolzano, near the Italian-Austrian border. The marshaling yard was an main German supply route through the Brenner Pass into Italy. Maximum effort meant that all aircraft which were reasonably airworthy, would fly, including Sunshine. Sunshine was assigned to the 719th Bomb Squadron as a replacement. The ground crew worked throughout the night repairing the engine with parts salvaged from other, more severely damaged Liberators. By dawn the engine was repaired and the bomber was ready for the mission.
At 0821 hours on March 29, B-24 Sunshine took off on what was its last flight in US markings. During the flight to the target a squadron of Messerschmidt Bf 109s were seen off to the right of the formation. The formation tighten up to increase their mutual firepower and braced themselves for an attack but the enemy fighter chose not to attack. The formation pressed on towards Bolzano, Italy (south of Innsbruck, Austria) but before reaching the target Sunshine’s defective engine once again malfunctioned and had to be feathered. With only three engines, the B-24 began to lose speed and altitude. Unable to keep up with the formation, the crew knew that they would be easy prey for enemy fighters. A course was plotted for the nearest point of safety which was neutral Switzerland to the west. They dropped their load of five 1000 lbs (453.6 kg) bombs onto the side of a barren mountain and they prayed for a miracle.
As the stricken bomber flew on a course towards Switzerland, it continued to lose altitude getting closer to the mountains below. There were no enemy fighters in area and the crew thought they were safe when a burst of flak, possibly from Venegono, damaged a second engine causing the B-24 to begin losing altitude more rapidly. They were only two minutes from Switzerland so the crew decided to stay with the plane while the pilot tried to stretch their rapid descent enough to cross the border into Switzerland and to safety. They spotted an airfield and prepared for an emergency landing. The B-24 made a hard landing at Venegono airfield near Varese, only three minutes flying time from the safety of Locarno-Magaadino airstrip in southern Switzerland. As the crew exited the bomber, they were puzzled as they were surrounded by armed and hostile soldiers. They quickly learned that they were not guests of the neutral Swiss but prisoners of the Italian Fascists.
On 16 March 1944, the 47th Bomb Wing adopted new tail markings for the wing. On the top of the vertical stabilizer was a blue triangle inside a white circle which denoted the 47th Bomb Wing. At the bottom was a blue number in a white circle to denote the bomb group of the wing, 1 = 98th BG; 2 = 376th BG; 3 = 449th BG; 4 = 450th BG. The individual plane number was on the rudder, 719th Bomb Squadron (1 to 16), 718th Bomb Squadron (17 to 32), 717th Bomb Squadron (33 to 47) and 716th Bomb Squadron (48 to 62). Note the Fieseler Storch in the background.
The Italians and Germans discovered that the B-24 was basically undamaged. With two replacement engines and some minor repairs to the tail section, it would be completely airworthy. A luftwaffe Fieseler Storch flew in two test pilots with B-24 experience who would ferry out the Liberator once the repairs were completed.
The captured crew was transported through downtown Milano (Milan) to the city’s jail. The following morning they were again transported to another town and another jail and the same happened the next day. Each night and morning they were interrogated and each stop produced more severe forms of interrogation. Finally they were placed in solitary confinement in some Italian town. After several days of solitary, the crew was flown in a Junkers Ju-52 transport back to Venegono airfield.
At the airfield, the crew was brought back to their B-24. A German propaganda motion picture camera crew was there to film their “voluntary” surrender. They were instructed to line up along side the B-24 and walk toward the front of the aircraft as though they had just landed and deplaned. They were told to show the German people that they were happy to be coming over to their side. They had to do several “takes” since the captive crew were somewhat uncooperative.
The B-24 crew being filmed at Venegono airfield. In the center, is the tail gunner Angelo P. Meichiarre, followed by the nose gunner Malcolm Harper (flashing the “V for victory” sign). The third man on the right was an unknown Italian dressed as a US flyer.
An Italian officer in US flying clothes (left) discusses the B-24 with a German soldier (right). Note the name “STEVE” painted just below the cockpit and there are 15 bomb mission markings displayed.
Film: The Forced Landing of Sunshine during World War II
Film: German Air Defenses battle against US bombers during World War II. Capture of US B-24 “Sunshine”
After the filming, the US bomber crew was transported to the Luftwaffe Interrogation center at Oberursel (north west of Frankfurt) and then finally to Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.
Balkenkreuze (crosses) were painted on the B-24 replacing the US star insignias and a wide yellow identification band was added to the fuselage.
B-24 Sunshine in Luftwaffe markings landing.
A few days after the propaganda film was finished, the two Luftwaffe test pilots flew the B-24 via Munich-Riem to Rechlin. After a short evaluation period, the B-24 was transferred to the Erprobungsstelle der Luftwaffe, Aussenstelle Werneuche, the radio and radar research center. A Meddo-Berlin radar system was installed aboard the Liberator and after a short test period, the B-24 began night intruder missions against RAF bomber formations over Germany. With its twin tails, the Liberator had a similar silhouette to the RAF four engine bombers which enabled it to join British bomber streams under the cover of darkness. It was able to get close enough to the British bombers in the stream and with its Meddo-Berlin radar record their direction, calculated air speed and altitude.
Kits-World Decalset KW148069 War Birds B-24 Liberator Captured Aircraft ‘Sunshine’ – 2012
Kits-World Decalset KW172063 War Birds B-24H Liberator ‘Sunshine’ in USAAF & Luftwaffe Markings – 2012
Orly airfield (today Orly Airport) was located south of Paris. After the Normandy invasion and the retreat of German forces from the Paris area in August 1944, Orly was partially repaired by USAAF combat engineers and was used by US 9th Air Force as tactical airfield A-47. The US 50th Fighter Group flew P-47 Thunderbolts from the airfield until September 1944, then liaison squadrons used the airfield until October 1945. The airfield was used as a collection point for the Luftwaffe salvage teams.
On 11 September 1944, a Planet News photographer took photographs of wrecked B-17s at Orly airfield where the Germans were scavenging for parts.
The only marking that can be seen on the fuselage of this B-17 along the side of the airfield is the squadron code “JW’ which indicates the 326th Bomb Squadron, 92nd Bomb Group and the tail would had the marking ▲B. At this angle, we are unable to make out the individual plane letter which we would then probably be able to identify the bomber. Note the US fighters and transport on the airfield in the background.
B-17F-110-BO, s/n 42-30604, coded LN ☆ T, Tail: ■ D (Black rudder and wing band), named “Badger Beauty V” of 350th Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group based at Thorpe Abbotts, England. On 4 October 1943 on a bombing mission to SAARLUIS & HANAU, Germany (Factories), flak knocked out #3 engine and damaged another forcing the B-17 to crash landed near Saint-Dizier, France. All crewmen survived, 6 were POW and 4 evaded capture.
This is whats was left of B-17 “Badger Beauty V” at Orly airfield on September 11. The Germans had been stripping it for parts before the hangar was bombed by the Allies.
Inside the bombed out hanger are wreck sections of B-17s from the 390th Bomb Group.
Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, on 24 October 1921, Martin James Monti was the son of Italian-German immigrants. During the 1930s, Monti was anti-communist and an enthusiastic admirer of Charles Edward Coughlin, a Roman Catholic priest who made weekly radio broadcasts and was dubbed the “Radio Priest”. Coughlin was known for his sentiments towards anti-communism, antisemitism, and the admiration of the fascist governments of Germany and Italy. His broadcasts attracted millions of listeners before being stopped by the Roosevelt administration in 1939 after the outbreak of WWII. In October 1942, Monti traveled to Detroit, Michigan to meet and converse with Coughlin. Prior to enlisting in the US Army, Monti worked as an aircraft assembler.
On 19 December 1942, Monti enlisted in the US Army Air Force as an aviation cadet. After completing flight training in early 1944, he was commissioned as a flight officer. He was qualified on the P-39 Airacobra and the P-38 Lightning, and was promoted to Second Lieutenant. In August 1944, he was posted to the 126th Replacement Depot in Karachi, India (today in Pakistan). While at Karachi, he decided to join the 82nd Fighter Group in Italy. On 2 October 1944, without orders he boarded a Curtiss C-46 Commando transport bound for Cairo, then other transports to Cairo, Egypt and, from there, traveled to Italy, via Tripoli, Libya.
In Naples, Italy, Monti “borrowed” a Jeep to go to Foggia where he met General Clarence T. “Curly” Edwinson, commander of the 82nd Fighter Group. Edwinson ordered him back to Naples. He returned towards Naples but instead went to Pomigliano Airfield, near Naples. At Pomigliano, the 354th Air Service Squadron prepared aircraft for assignment to combat squadrons. On the morning of 13 October 1944, Monti spotted a brand new Lockheed F-5E, s/n 44-23725, with a “1A” card indicating mechanical problems requiring control tests.
Lockheed P-38J-25-LO Lightning, s/n 44-23725 was modified as an unarmed F-5E photo-reconnaissance aircraft (affectionately called “Photo Joe”) at Lockheed’s Dallas Modification Center. The F-5E carried 3 precision cameras in its nose which were operated by remote control from the cockpit. Since the F-5E had no armament, it was much lighter and faster than the standard P‑38.
Monti identified himself as a test pilot of the 354th Air Service Squadron and took off at 1230 hours in the faulty F-5E. At about 1500 hours, he landed at Milan-Linate airfield near Milan. On exiting the plane, he told the German personal surrounding him that he wanted to defect. The F-5E was quickly hidden at the end of the runway. A few days later, Tenente Brini, a pilot of the Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana (ANR), flew the F-5E to Villafranca, near Verona, where it was repainted with German markings. The F-5E was then given to the Germans, and sent to the test center Erprobungstelle at Rechlin and was given the code T9 # MK, then it went to the Rosarius Zirkus.
F-5E T9 # MK was recaptured by US troops at Schwangau, Bavaria, Germany in May 1945.
In 1945, Monti participated in a radio program titled “The Round Table Conference” at the SS-Standarte Kurt Eggers recording studio. The program consisted of political propaganda where he operated under various aliases, including “Martin Wiethaupt”. During his radio broadcasting, he came into contact with Mildred Gillars, the American broadcaster known as “Axis Sally”, who took an immediate dislike to him. Monti then officially joined the Waffen-SS and was given the rank of SS-Untersturmführer, equivalent to his rank was in the US Army. While in the SS, he never seen combat but instead participated in the creation of a propaganda leaflet to be distributed by the Wehrmacht among Allied POWs. With Germany’s defeat imminent, Monti fled Berlin to Milan, Italy, by railroad and military transport where he surrendered to the US Army. Monti had came full circle.
After the war, Monti was indicted for 21 accounts of treason committed between 13 October 1944 and 8 May 1945 (VE day). Monti was sentenced to 25 years in prison and paid a fine of $10,000 USD. He served his sentence in Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas and he was paroled in 1960.
Video: The US Pilot who Gave his Plane to the Nazis
Video: The American Pilot Who Stole a P-38 Fighter Plane and Joined the Germans
Luftwaffe P-47Ds T9 # LK and T9 # FK were recaptured at Göttingen, Germany. Before US Army troops arrived in Göttingen on 8 April 1945, all of the Wehrmacht combat units had left the area, hence Göttingen experienced no heavy ground fighting, artillery bombardments or any other major combat. The captured Thunderbolts were abandoned by the retreating Luftwaffe when they developed mechanical problems and could not be flown out in time.
Luftwaffe P-47D T9 # LK was originally Republic P-47D-16-RE Razorback, s/n 42-75971, number “27”, named “Ruthless Ruthie” assigned to 317th Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group “Checker Tails”, US 12th Air Force. Pilots: Lieutenant George P. Novotny (8 victories) and Lieutenant John M. Simmons (7 victories).
George Novotny posing next to “Ruthless Ruthie”.
On 29 May 1944, P-47D-16-RE number “27” was lost on a ferry flight, landing in error in the Rome-Littorio area. Apparently the pilot was flying in the wrong direction. The pilot was Lieutenant Lloyd S. “Scotty” Hathcock of the 301st Fighter Squadron, 332nd Fighter Group “Tuskegee Airmen” or “Red Tails”.
The Rome-Littorio area (today Littorio is Latina) is on the west coast of Italy, north of Anzio. Three days earlier on May 25, the US VI Corps successfully broke out of the Anzio beachhead and linked up with the US II Corps advancing from the south. Hathcock must had landed in a German held area between the Anzio beachhead and Rome where the Germans were retreating north while Allied forces were advancing towards Rome. The Allies entered Rome on 4 June 1944.
The captured P-47D was test flown by the Luftwaffe at Rechlin coded 8 # 6. On 12 October 1944, it was transferred to Zirkus Rosarius and flown as code T9 # LK.
This P-47D had several different paint schemes:
- Red nose cowl band, olive drab, white #27, yellow and black checkered tail (325th FG)
- Red nose cowl band, olive drab, white #27, red tail (332nd FG)
- Olive drab, 8 # 6 codes, yellow undersides and yellow tail (Rechlin)
- Olive drab, T9 # LK codes, yellow undersides and yellow tail (Zirkus Rosarius)
Luftwaffe P-47D T9 # LK in a hanger at Göttingen, Germany in April 1945.
Luftwaffe P-47D T9 # LK was pulled out of the hanger for a better look.
Luftwaffe P-47D T9 # LK parked on the field awaiting to be scrapped. Note the beat up tail rudder and bent elevator which was not damaged in front of the hanger indicating the plane was probably pushed by a tractor to the field.
Luftwaffe P-47D T9 # FK was originally P-47D-2-RE Thunderbolt, s/n 42-8370, coded OS ☆ L, named “Alabama Bound”, of the 357th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group based at Steeple Morden, England.
The Luftwaffe captured P-47D “Alabama Bound” on 7 November 1943 following a mid-air collision with another P-47 over France. P-47D “Alabama Bound” was piloted by First Lieutenant James E. Westfall who was providing escort for 9th Air Force B-26 formations attacking German airfields at Montdidier and Meulan, France. On the return flight, Westfall’s flight encountered thick cloud formations over France and his flight entered the clouds. Westfall’s P-47D collided with another P-47 and crash landed near Montdidier, France. Westfall baled out but struck the tailplane and broke both legs. He was captured and became a POW. The other Thunderbolt was P-47D-2-RE, s/n 42-7984, coded OS ☆ Q, named “On The Ball”, piloted by squadron mate First Lieutenant Edwin O. Carlson. After the collision, the P-47 crashed and Carlson was KIA. The German salvage managed to repair P-47D “Alabama Bound”, transported it to Rechlin and later it joined Zirkus Rosarius.
Note the large lighter color area around the small “T9” code on the fuselage side. It might be the repaired area from the mid-air collision.
During the French campaign in the summer of 1940, the Germans captured several dozen of French Armée de l’Air Curtiss H75A Hawk (exported US P-36) fighters. The Germans used the Captured French Hawks only as trainers.
A capture Supermarine Spitfire Mk I with Luftwaffe code G # X. The RAF tail fin flash appears to been over painted probably with yellow.
This is my close up of captured Spitfire G # X. Mounted underneath the fuselage appears to be lights and their purpose is unknown.
Spitfire G # X was also used in a German propaganda film.
Germans captured this Wellington Mk.IC, serial L7842, coded KX – T of the 311 Squadron RAF (Czech) based at East Wretham, England.
On 6 February 1941, six of the squadron’s Wellington Mk. IC bombers took part in a raid on Boulogne-sur-Mer in German-occupied France. On the return flight, one bomber, L7842, experienced navigation problems then it ran low on fuel. Its commander Pilot Officer František Cigoš mistakenly judged that they were over England and he landed at Flers in northern France. Both the aircraft and its crew were captured. The Germans repainted L7842 in Luftwaffe markings and transferred it to the Erprobungsstelle (experimental and test facility) at Rechlin–Lärz Airfield in Mecklenburg.
Germans captured this Hawker Typhoon Mk IB, serial EJ956, of the 486 Squadron (New Zealand), coded SA – I. On 24 March 1943, after being hit by flak, pilot F/Sgt William K. Mawson, belly landed near Fécamp (northeast of Le Harve), France. After it was repaired by the Luftwaffe, EJ956 was flown to Rechlin and was coded T9 # GK.
On 10 August 1943, EJ956 turned over in a forced landing near Meckelnfeld and the Luftwaffe pilot was uninjured. The subsequent fate of the aircraft is unknown but most likely it was scrapped.
A captured Spitfire PR.XI coded T9 # EK at Gottingen, Germany in July 1944. Its previous identity is still a mystery.
German officers and officials examine a captured de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito B Mk. IV with Luftwaffe code T9 # XB. This was the only Mosquito captured by the Germans and was listed on the order of battle of KG 200 on 10 November and 31 December 1944.
The Luftwaffe never flew this Mosquito since it had no propellers. The landing gear and propellers were severely damaged in a wheels up landing before it was captured. Apparently the Mosquito’s mostly wooden construction did not survive the wheels up landing intact. For display purposes, the Germans fabricated a makeshift steel tube fixed “undercarriage” using the original Mosquito’s tires.
In mid-1943, this Soviet Lavochkin La-5FN (late) white 21 was captured by the Germans after it made a forced landing at a German airfield (unit and location are unknown).
The La-5FN was coded T9 # PK at Rechlin-Lärz during September to November 1944 and in April 1945 was with Rosarius Zirkus at Stendal, Germany.
Wolf Hound (2022) – Rated R (Violence)
Starring: James Maslow, Trevor Donovan, John Turk, Michael Wayne Foster, John Wells
This so called WWII thriller has been in the works for almost four years and it finally was released in early June of this year. The movie is about the Luftwaffe special operations unit KG 200, which repaired downed Allied planes and used them for Trojan horse missions deep behind Allies lines. This low budget movie got poor reviews and the audience score was 54%. The weak fictitious plot was poorly acted and badly staged. The aerial dogfights with authentic vintage WWII aircraft was the best element of the film with only some CGI used for the special effects.
Video: Wolf Hound (2022 Movie) Official Trailer
4 thoughts on “Captured Allied Planes 1940-45”
Fascinating article Mike, thanks.
A very interesting read. Thank you
Have you seen that weird story Martin Caiden (Lightening book) told about the Tondi-P-38 incident. He had a whole bit about an American visit to Tondi’s girl friend or wife in occupied Italy, broadcasting suggestions of intimacy with her, a challenge to combat, and a meeting in which a YB-40 (!) shot Tondi down. How the heck did that story get started? He also has a super weird story about a missing Lightening showing up way too late and crashing at its home base.
Excellent work. I was searching info about KG-200 and this blog is excellent.