Hello Mr History,

Did Germans fighters ever ‘jump’ an airfield where a mass bomber formation was in the process of taking off?  If so which airfield and were there big losses?

Thank you

Pete Cockram


Dear Mr. Cockram,

As far as I have been able to determine, German fighter-bombers operating en masse never caught a large bomber formation taking off at an airbase during World War II. They didn’t have the range, and German bombers were more often used for striking at airbases during the Battle of Britain and the invasion of the Soviet Union. On the latter front they scored a big victory at Poltava on the night of June 21, 1944, when 80 bombers destroyed or irreparably damaged 43 Boeing B-17s, three Douglas C-47s and a Lockheed F-5 of the Eighth Air Force.

The only comparable fighter attack by the Jagdwaffe was Operation Bodenplatte, although its targets were primarily fighters and medium bombers. On January 1, 1945, 940 fighters from 11 Jagdgeschwader, or fighter wings, along with 60 fighter-bombers of Schlachtgeschwader 4 and 30 jet bombers, hurled themselves at 17 airbases in France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in an attempt to catch and destroy a significant percentage of Allied aircraft on the ground. In sum, it resulted in the destruction of 134 Ninth Air Force, 40 Eighth Air Force airplanes and 144 planes of the British 2nd Tactical Air Force on the ground, 62 American and 84 British aircraft damaged beyond repair and 70-80 Allied planes shot down. Relatively few personnel were casualties, however, and the Allies were able to replace their losses within two weeks. The Luftwaffe, on the other hand, paid for its last hurrah with 304 aircraft, 85 of which had fallen victim to anti-aircraft fire from fellow Germans unaccustomed to seeing their own planes in the air. More serious was the loss of 151 pilots killed or missing, and 63 taken prisoner. Too many of them were irreplaceable trained, experienced airmen, including 11 Staffel leaders, six Gruppe leaders and three Geschwader commanders. The latter casualties included Major Günther Specht of JG.11 and Oberstleutnant Alfred Druschel of SG.4, both killed, and Oberstleutnant Johann Kogler of JG.6, who bailed out over Allied territory. The Jagdwaffe would fight on to the end, but ultimately Bodenplatte had only served to hasten that end.



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History


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