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Oberleuinant Stuka pilot, St.G 2 'Immelmann', 1941. He wears normal service dress with peaked cap; the collar of the tunic and the seams of the cap are piped stiver, indicating officer rank, and the cap has silver cords for the same reason, and silver woven badges. The silver epaulettes, with one gold pip indicating rank, are backed with yellow, indicating aircrew; the silver-piped collar patches are the same colour, and bear the two stylised wings and single oak spray of Oberleutnant. A unit cuffband on the right sleeve bears the title Geschwader Immelmann. The Luftwaffe eagle is worn in silver on the right breast: and the Ritterkreuz hangs from its ribbon at the throat. On the left breast are the gold mission clasp, the Iron Cross 1st Class, the pilot's qualification badge in silver, and a black wound badge. The ribbon of the Iron Cross 2nd Class is worn in the buttonhole, and the German Cross is worn on the right breast.

Unteroflizier, 1942, in normal service dress at the front. He wears the fly-fronted flight blouse' much favoured by Luftwaffe personnel as an informal service dress, with sidecap, service dress trousers, and marching boots. The silver braid round collar and epaulettes, and the single wing on the collar patch, indicate Unteroflizier rank. The red piping to the epaulette and collar, and the red backing of the patch, indicate, in this case, armourer branch; and an armourer's trade badge of crossed rifles is worn on the left forearm. He wears a Luftwaffe long service medal ribbon in blue, with miniature eagle, and the War Merit Cross with Swords - black edged white and red, with bronze crossed swords. The ubiquitous Luftwaffe eagle, in white thread, appears on the right breast.

Table 1. Re-designations, 1.5.1939

I II & III/St.G 161 (code 15 +), became I, II & III/St.G 2 originally I, II & III/St.G 162 (code 21 +)
I, II & III/St.G 165 (code 52 +) became I & II/St.G 77 & III/St.G 51
I/St.G 167 (code 71 +) became I/St.G 1
I/St.G 168 (code 81 +) became I/St.G 76

The battle to encircle Stalingrad left the Russians in a strong position to advance, and aerial anti-tank defence became vital in areas of weak resistance or where unfavourable terrain or bad roads prevented German ground defences from engaging tanks which had broken through. The timely arrival of the Schlachtflieger often reversed an otherwise hopeless situation and there developed a strong bond of cameraderie between the German soldiers and the Schlachtflieger. An example occurred on 2 January, when some Schlachtjlieger on a 'free hunt' around Woroschovvgrad-Millerwo noticed Russian tanks and infantry attacking a small group of German troops enclosed in the village of Antonowka. After a number of tanks had been destroyed by the aircraft the remaining tanks and infantry fled, but one of the pilots was shot down and, after a lucky emergency landing, managed to stagger across to the relieved German troops:

'Wounded men, dressed only in makeshift bandages, dragged themselves over to give him their hand in thanks. The leader of the troops, an old Oberst, wanted to offer him something but the whole group did not have a single cigarette between them.'

Blurred but rare photograph of a Stuka 'scramble'. White-painted Ju87D-3s, almost certainly from St.G 2 'Immelmann', take off from a Russian airstrip, winter 1942-45. The staggered line abreast formation avoids the clouds of loose snow blown up by each aircraft blinding the next pilot. The Bf109s in the foreground are probably from JG 52. (Author's collection)

Table 2. Re-organisations, October 1943

St.G 1 became SG 1
St.G 2* became SG 2
St.G 3 became SG 3
Fw190 Staffeln,
II/Sch.G 2 becamt I/SG 4
II/SKG 10 became II/SG 4
Fw190 Staffeln,
I/Sch.G 2 became III/SG 4
I/SLG 5 became I/SG 5
Führcr der Pz. Jäger became Stab IV(Pz)/SG 9
4 & 8/Sch.G 1 became 10 & 11(Pz)/SG 9
4 & 8/Sch.G 2 became 12 & 13(Pz)/SG 9
Pz. Jäger Staffel/JG51 became 14(Pz)/SG 9
III/SKG 10 became I/SG 10
IV/SKG 10 became II/SG 10
St.G 77* became SG 77
*The Fw190-equipped Staffeln of I/Sch.G 1 probably integrated with II/SG 2, and those of II/Sch.G 1 with II/SG 77, Luftwaffe Order of Battle, 20.10.41 mentions Ju87 units 'II/St.G 2 (Pz)' and 'II/St.G 77 (Pz)' in addition to Fw190 units II/SG 2 and II/SG 77

Before spring thaws brought movement on the ground to a standstill, Russian attacks and German counter-attacks resulted in the front forming a large bulge of Russian territory around Kursk. The German effort to seal off this bulge under the code name Operation 'Zitadelle' was to be their last large-scale offensive in the East. Stuka and Sehlachiverbände collected in the area included St.G 1 under Obstlt. Pressler (RK 7.2.42, EL 28.1.43); Oberst Dr. Kupfer's St.G 2; St.G 77 under Obstlt. Helmut Bruck (RK, EL 21.2.43); III/St.G 3; and the Hungarian dive-bomber unit 102/1 - all equipped with the Ju87D - and the Fw190s of Hitschold's Sch.G 1. In addition, the Hs129s of 4 and 8/Sch.G 1, together with 4 and 8/Sch.G 2 (newly arrived from the Mediterranean) were operating under the command of Hptm. Bruno Meyer (RK) and the first Ju87Gs were in service with special anti-tank units attached to St.G 1 and St.G 2.

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