By Spring of 1942 the first mass produced variant of the Bf 109 “G” was entering combat service.
Let’s take a look at one from that year, and an important fighter pilot.
I’ll start this post with one little tidbit I’ve covered here before; “Bf 109” is the correct, German designation for this type. But because Willy Messerschmitt’s company changed its name to “Messerschmitt” before World War II even started, later aircraft by that company received an “Me” prefix. This led to mild confusion with the existing designs and Allied pilots in particular (even German pilots on occasion) most often referred to the older types as “Me 108”, “Me 109” and “Me 110”. This is technically wrong, but appears often enough in print (and was used in Allied publications during the War) we shouldn’t sweat the distinction. Even official German documents sometimes use both designations on the same page. Just know that both refer to the same aircraft.
The “G” model was the most produced variant of the famous Bf 109. Superficially it was a minor update from the “F” model. The “F” had been a pretty significant aerodynamic make-over of the type with a smoother nose contour, no external braces for the tail, rounded wingtips and other less obvious fixes. But pilots felt they wanted a bigger leap; more power, speed, firepower and better pilot armor. So work on the “G” model started almost immediately. The starting point for all its improvements was switching from the DB 601 to DB 605 engine. The ultimate versions of the DB 601 had put out over 1300 horse power, but it was truly at the end of its development. The new DB 605 had slightly greater displacement from the same size block and produced some 150 additional horsepower from its earliest development.
The extra power boosted performance, allowed for a thicker armored windscreen for the pilots, and permitted an upgrade of the engine mounted cannon from a 15 mm to a 20 mm type.
The Bf 109G-1 was only built to 167 aircraft. It was a high altitude variant with a pressurized cockpit. The “G-2” followed quickly, entering service by May of 1942. Over 1500 of this sub-type were built by January of 1943, while the “G-4” was in production at another plant by September 1942. The overlap and profusion of sub-types is characteristic of Bf 109G production. The most produced sub-type was the G-6 with over 12000, but coming from multiple factories with variations incorporated as they went these later sub-types were anything but similar. The last G was a “G-14” built in March 1945.
This particular aircraft was flown by Hannes Trautloft. He joined the German military (“Reichsheer” at the time) in 1931. Under the Treaty of Versailles Germany was allowed no Air Force, so naturally the young Trautloft started training as a pilot. He was part of a group of 10, sent under complete secrecy to the German fighter training school in Lipitsk, in the Soviet Union. Then in 1936, he was one of the first 6 German pilots sent to Spain to aid Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War. He made ace (scored 5 kills) by the end of 1936 flying an He 51 bi-plane. Also in December of that year he was one of the first pilots chosen to introduce the new Bf 109 to combat. He adopted the Green Heart as his personal emblem at this time and carried it on all subsequent aircraft he flew. After helping write the book on Bf 109 tactics he returned to Germany in 1937.
When World War II started he was flying as a Staffel commander [Staffel, Gruppe, Geschwader usually translates as “Squadron, Group, Wing”. But for an American reader more familiar with AAF sized units it might better be “Section, Squadron, Group”]. He scored his first kill of the War on September 5 over Poland. He was given his own Gruppe that following Winter that he led through the Battle of France and into the Battle of Britain.
By late August it was obvious the Battle wasn’t going so well. So Luftwaffe commander Hermann Goring decided to fire all his Geschwader commanders and replace them with younger blood. This worked out well for Hannes Trautloft who became commander of Jagdgeschwader 54 from this point.
JG 54 remained under Trautloft’s command for the next 3 years. Shortly before Operation Barbarosa, the attack on the Soviet Union, JG 54 re-equipped with the Bf 109F. So these mounts were basically new at the start of the War in the East. They were assigned to Army Gruppe North and would fight the next few years there. In spring of 1942 JG54 adopted Trautluft’s personal emblem as their own, becoming known as the “Grunherz” from then on. Bf 109G models started arriving late 1942.
In July 1943 General Hannes Trautloft was promoted to overall command of fighters on the Eastern Front, this was a home office sort of job so it represents the end of his operational flying. His total kills seem modest compared to some top aces, such is the burden of command. He is credited with 5 kills in the Spanish Civil War, 8 against the western Allies and 45 against the Soviets.
In late 1944 an ugly rumor came to his attention, that captured American airmen were being held at a Concentration camp. He set up an inspection tour that happened to include several concentration camps, where he discovered 160 aircrew at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. He had to exert his rank authority to over-ride local SS personnel and transfer these men to Stalag Luft III just a week before they had been scheduled for death.
In January 1945 he was a part of the “Fighter Pilot’s Revolt”. After Adolf Galland was removed from his position due to a dispute with Goering, several of the remaining pilots confronted Goering to demand Galland’s reinstatement and that Goering accept personal responsibility for the disaster of “Operation Bodenplatte” that wasted pilot lives for no gain. No surprise, all participants were fired. Trautloft finished out the War in command of a training squadron.
Post-War he joined the West German Air Force and retired in 1970. Hannes Trautloft passed away in 1995.
This is the old Hasegawa kit. The camouflage is interesting, certainly non-standard (not that there really is such a thing as “standard” where Luftwaffe camouflage is concerned). This is Scheme A for the kit, and is shown on the box art. I couldn’t find an exact match for this in any of my books, but something similar is shown on a new “EagleCals” decal set. A couple of my sources do mention that late 1942 Trautloft had several aircraft, possibly four Bf 109G all with the same markings. Same markings doesn’t mean same colors; so not finding this specific airplane doesn’t have to prove anything, something this odd remains a possibility. It looks to me like this might have been built as a Bf 109G-2 trop, with RLM 79 on all upper surfaces? Then perhaps a depot de-tropicalized the aircraft and painted RLM 02 and RLM 70 to make for a more “temperate” color scheme? All things considered I think the RLM 02 is the oddest choice of the bunch (the lighter grey-green). I’m sure there are Luftwaffe experten out there who will eagerly school me on this! But it looks fun and different. I can only assume Hasegawa had access to a book, or picture I haven’t seen.
I still have an unfinished ICM Me 109F-4 which wasn’t that fun. I will use it for practice my airbrushing skills. I love what you did her as well as your research.
Yeah the ICM kit doesn’t have a great reputation. Its one of their early ones, I think it was over-engineered and not well produced. A bad combination.
You tell me. I wrote about my problems with it. But I got over it. I have yet to dump a model kit.
You’re a better man than I! I’ve chucked a few.
Its funny, ICM has become a very good, very reliable manufacturer. But some of their early efforts were poor.
Love the camo!
Thank you much!
I figure that’s one of the two extreme reactions this might get…
I really enjoyed reading that! And well done to General Hannes Trautloft for saving all of those American aircrew. There were precious few good deeds by the Germans in WW2, and I have always thought we should give more publicity to the decent human beings among them.
I’ve heard bits of that story before, I’ve always wondered how they got there in the first place! Although the SS and Gestapo were notoriously not sympathetic towards POWs, so it could just be as simple as being captured by the wrong people in the first place.
But absolutely, kudos to a German officer who chose to take the Geneva Convention seriously. That had to take some nerve in the climate of the time.
A very interesting article about the 109. There was a much better sense of ‘fairness’ and camaraderie between Luftwaffe pilots and allied pilots, and it would seem was Trautloft was one of those who upheld such beliefs.
It was pretty consistent during the War that it was always best to captured by the Luftwaffe or Wehrmacht. They at least held to international expectations for POWs. Well, they did for the Western Allies at least!