Sonderkommando Elbe

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Sonderkommando "ELBE"
Balkenkreuz.svg
Active7 April 1945
Country Nazi Germany
RoleCounter special fighter
Size2000 aircraft
2000 volunteers
300 fighter pilots
Motto"Treu, Tapfer, Gehorsam"
ColorsBlack and White
EngagementsAir war/aerial ramming over Germany, 7 April 1945
Insignia
RoundelBalkenkreuz
Aircraft flown
InterceptorMesserschmitt Bf 109
 
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Sonderkommando "ELBE"
Balkenkreuz.svg
Active7 April 1945
Country Nazi Germany
RoleCounter special fighter
Size2000 aircraft
2000 volunteers
300 fighter pilots
Motto"Treu, Tapfer, Gehorsam"
ColorsBlack and White
EngagementsAir war/aerial ramming over Germany, 7 April 1945
Insignia
RoundelBalkenkreuz
Aircraft flown
InterceptorMesserschmitt Bf 109

Sonderkommando "ELBE" was the name of a World War II Luftwaffe task force assigned to bring down Allied bombers by ramming German aircraft into the bombers to suspend Allied tactical bombing for four to six weeks to create a significant amount of the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. Sonderkommando literally means "special command", and Elbe is a river that runs through Germany to the North Sea. While the Luftwaffe had a ready supply of airplanes at this point in the war, well-trained pilots and fuel were two components in short supply. Despite the grim prospects of survival of such a mission, the unit was not a true "suicide unit" in that the pilots were expected to either attempt to bail out just before colliding with the Allied aircraft, or attempt to bail out after colliding. This is quite unlike the Japanese kamikaze attacks, in which Japanese forces loaded their pilots' aircraft with explosives, most often within the structure of the aircraft, and therefore had no chance of survival, as the explosives detonated with the crash of the aircraft itself - purpose-designed into the nose of the dedicated Ohka rocket-powered suicide aircraft.

The aircraft of choice for this mission was usually a later G-version (Gustav) of the Messerschmitt Bf 109, stripped of armor and armament. The heavily stripped-down planes had one synchronized machine gun (usually a single MG 131 in the upper engine cowling) instead of up to four automatic weapons (usually including a pair of 20mm or 30mm calbre underwing-mount autocannon) on fully equipped Bf 109G interceptors, and were only allotted 60 rounds each, a normally otherwise insufficient amount for bomber interception missions. To accomplish their mission, Sonderkommando Elbe pilots would typically aim to ram one of three sensitive areas on the bombers: the empennage with its relatively delicate control surfaces, the engine nacelles which were connected to the highly explosive fuel system, or the cockpit itself. One of the most famous reports of cockpit ramming was against a Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, nicknamed "Palace of Dallas", along with another bomber that the German plane careened into after slicing the cockpit of the "Palace of Dallas"[citation needed].

Adding to the last-ditch nature of this task force, the only mission was flown on 7 April 1945 by a sortie of 180 Bf 109s. While only 15 Allied bombers were attacked in this manner, eight were successfully destroyed.[1][2][3]

Contents

History

Similarities to Japanese kamikaze units

Unlike that of Japan, Germany′s geographical position did not allow mass self-sacrificing attacks on enemy troops and installations. The largest targets that Germans were able to hit with ramming tactics were Allied four-engined bombers and some strategic bridges over the Oder (see Mistel).

Order of battle

Successful missions

Rank / Name / Former Unit e/a Unit Status

Luftwaffe records claim at least 22-24 American aircraft fell victim to the Sonderkommando Elbe unit.

(WIA - wounded in action / KIA - killed in action)

References

External links