Demyansk and Kholm

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Contents

Introduction

9 Feb 1942 - During the Soviet 1941/42 winter offensive II. Armee Korps with 95,000 men commanded by Generalleutnant Walter Graf von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt, was surrounded at Demyansk. While simultaneously 281. Sicherung Div. (commander – Generalmajor Theodor Scherer) was enveloped at Kholm, southwest of Demyansk.


Demyansk

Operations

12 Feb 1942 – The commander of Luftflotte 1 (GeneralOberst Alfred Keller) began airlift operations using Transport units under his command.

Image:Junkers_Ju-52_during_the_Demyansk_airlift_Feb_1942_01a_jpg.jpg

13 Feb 1942 - GeneralOberst Franz Halder requested, during a telephone conversation with Jeschonnek, that a full scale airlift be commenced to relieve the surrounded units.

Image:Junkers_Ju-52_during_the_Demyansk_airlift_Feb_1942_02_ajpg.jpg Ju 52 of KGrzbV 9 during the airlift

18 Feb 1942 – Morzik (GeneralMajor a. D Fritz Morzik) Lufttransportführer beim Generalquartiermeister der Luftwaffe and Kommandeur der Blindflugschulen) was ordered to transfer his units from Fliegerkorps VIII to the command of Luftflotte 1. Morzik established his headquarters at Pleskau-Sud (Pskov-Sud) with a staff consisting of himself, five officers and three enlisted men. The five officers were:- Hptm. Metscher (Operations and Intelligence Officer), Hptm Trautwein (TO), Oblt Langer (Personnel Officer), Oblt Oberländer (Communications Officer) and Lt Bernt.

Image:Junkers_Ju-52_during_the_Demyansk_airlift_Feb_1942_03a_jpg.jpg

Morzik began assembling a force of 15 Gruppen.

Prior to the arrival of Morzik and his staff KGzbV 172 (based at Riga) and KGrzbV 9 at Pleskau-Sud were stationed in the operational area.

Initially, there was friction between Morzik and Keller.

During operations to supply the Demyansk Pocket the transport aircraft flew in “pulks” of between 20 and 40 aircraft, operating between 1800 and 2400 metres. The airfields within the Demyansk enclave were organised so that they could always receive supply aircraft.

Image:Junkers_Ju-52_during_the_Demyansk_airlift_Feb_1942_04_japg.jpg

19 Feb 1942 – Five transport gruppen were transferred to Luftflotte 1 to take part in the first major supply missions to Demyansk. They were:-

  • IV./ KGzbV 1 based at Ostrov.
  • KGrzbV 600 moved from Orsha to Korov’ye-Selo.
  • KGrzbV 700 moved from Orsha to Pleskau-West.
  • KGrzbV 800 moved from Vitebsk to Korov’ye-Selo.
  • KGrzbV 900 moved from Vitebsk to Pleskau-West.
  • 20 Feb 1942 – the first 40 Ju 52s flew into Demyansk. Such were the conditions that the gunners of the planes stayed at their posts while their aircraft were unloaded – there was always the chance that they would be attacked by low-flying Soviet ground attack aircraft.

    Image:Junkers_Ju-52_during_the_Demyansk_airlift_Feb_1942_05.jpg

    Demyansk airfield was relatively small so each day those units scheduled to fly were given a time schedule based on the number of aircraft the unit had declared operational for that day. The schedule allocated a specific time for each unit to land at Demyansk, unload and take-off for the return flight. The timing was planned to avoid the danger of too many aircraft queued for landing and to ensure the best use of the resources on the airfield at Demyansk was achieved.

    Image:Ju_52_Demyansk.jpg

    Date Unit Aircraft Type Code Wkr.No. Notes
    24 Feb 1942 II./KGvbV 1 Ju 52/3m 5431 Crash landing at Demyansk 35% damage.
    24 Feb 1942 II./KGvbV 1 Ju 52/3m 7262 80% Damage Demyansk


    26 Feb 1942 – Soviet bombers started attacking Demyansk regularly at dawn and dusk of each day.

    Date Unit Aircraft Type Code Wkr.No. Notes
    26 Feb 1942 KGrvbV 900 Ju 52/3m 5438 Damaged on take-off at Demyansk – 55%.


    End Feb 1942 – by now additional transport gruppen had been moved from Luftflotte 4’s control to that of Luftflotte 1, they were:-

  • KGrzbV 500 transferred from the Mediterranean area to Pleskau-West.
  • KGrzbV Posen based at Ostrov-Sud
  • KGrzbV Oels based at Pleskau-Sud.
  • II./ KGzbV 1 moved from Dnepropetrovsk to Ostrov.
  • KGrzbV 105 moved from Vitebsk to Pleskau-Sud.
  • Early Mar 1942 – five more gruppen were moved into the area of operations, they were:-

  • KGrzbV 4 based at Riga.
  • KGrzbV 5 based at Riga.
  • KGrzbV 6
  • KGrzbV 7
  • KGrzbV 8 based at Daugavpils.
  • The KGrzbV 6 and 7 were both mixed units, they were soon deactivated and the equipment and personnel were used to bring other units up to strength.
  • Image:Ju 52 Demyansk_1.jpg

    Date Unit Aircraft Type Code Wkr.No. Notes
    2 Mar 1942 4./KGrvbV 9 Ju 52/3m 4V+AMH -SE+HU 6132 Lost between Dno and Demyansk. 100%. Uffz Karl Meyer, Fw. Gerhard Gnida and Uffz. Jakob Gerhardy all killed and Ogefr. Herbert Geyer missing.
    2 Mar 1942 KGrvbV 9 Ju 52/3m 2971 Rammed by Ju 52/3m W.Nr. 5097 on take-off at Demyansk. 100%.
    2 Mar 1942 KGrvbV 9 Ju 52/3m 5097 Rammed Ju 52/3m 2971 on take-off at Demyansk –unknown amount of damage
    2 Mar 1942 KGrvbV 999 Ju 52/3m 5487 Destroyed on take-off at Demyansk 100%
    100%.
    
    2 Mar 1942 KGrvbV 4 Ju 52/3m 7404 Shot down by flak, Demyansk 100%
    100%.
    
    2 Mar 1942 KGrvbV 5 Ju 52/3m 2901 20 % damage en route from Riga to Demyansk due to involuntary ground contact.
    100%.
    


    3 Mar 1942 – Soviet attack on the airfield at Staraya Russa.

    Date -3 Mar 1942 Unit -KGrzbV 7 Aircraft Type -Ju 52/3m Code - SN+FX Wkr.No. - 7430 Notes - 100% Demyansk


    Date -3 Mar 1942 Unit -KGrzbV 172 Aircraft Type -Ju 52/3m Code - Wkr.No. - 6924 Notes -100% Staraya-Russa

    Date -6 Mar 1942 Unit -KGrvbV 9 Aircraft Type -Ju 52/3m Code - Wkr.No. - 7105 Notes -Rammed by a Ju 88 at Pleskau-sud 70%


    Date -6 Mar 1942 Unit -KGrvbV 9 Aircraft Type - Ju 52/3m Code - NJ+KT Wkr.No. - 7371 Notes - Rammed by a Ju 88 at Pleskau-sud. 70 %, Uffz. Kurt Golinek injured.


    17 – 25 Mar 1942 – Luftwaffe Transport units lost 23 Ju 52s.

    April 1942 - Oberst Morzik changed tactics and started to use large formations of transports escorted by fighter units. This resulted in a reduction in losses due to Soviet fighter activity.

    6 Apr 1942 – 360 sorties to and from Demyansk escorted by elements of JG 51 and JG 53.

    18 May 1942 – corridor established into the Demyansk pocket.

    After the ground breakthrough KGrzbV 8 was disbanded and it’s planes returned to the training schools.

    Airfields Used as Take-Off Bases

    Pleskau-Sud (Pskov-South) – 1200 metres square – equipped with hangars and repair facilities. It had a connection to the main railway line. Facilities – runway, permanent barracks, facilities for bad weather and night landings.

    Pleskau-West (Pskov-West) – and emergency airfield. Facilities – none.

    Korov’ye-Selo – located 22.5 Kms SSW of Pleskau (Pskov), this was an advance airfield of approx 1 Km square. It possessed no hangars or established runways and only had temporary barracks.

    Tuleblya – an emergency airfield with no facilities.

    Riga – a commercial airfield adapted for military use.

    Riga-Nord – a temporary air strip located on the ice of the Bay of Riga – in use during muddy periods when other airfields were unusable.

    Daugavpils – another existing airstrip.

    Each of these airfields were allocated a workshop section to maintain the Ju 52 operating into Demyansk. However, supplies of engines and spare parts were slow to arrive and failed to meet demand, as a result of this badly damaged aircraft were cannibalised for spares.

    Airfields / Drop Zones in the Demyansk and Kholm pockets

    Demyansk – an improvised field strip lacking in facilities. The landing strip was approx 800 metres long by 50 metres wide, there were taxying and unloading areas. All of this had been created by removing the top layer of snow and packing the underlying snow hard. This created a facility that could be used by between 20 and 30 aircraft at a time.

    Pieski – located within the Demyansk pocket to the SSE of Demyansk itself. A strip approx 600 metres long and 30 metres wide, made of hard packed snow on flat terrain. Could only handle from 3 to 6 aircraft at a time.

    Demyansk Supply Drop Area – a marked area on open ground where supplies could be dropped if the aircraft were unable to land.


    Kholm

    Operations

    28 Jan 1942 - Soviet forces encircled the city of Kholm trapping approximately 5,500 men of 281. Sicherung Div. within a 2 km square pocket under the command of Generalmajor Theodor Scherer.

    Initially, elements of KG 4 were requested to fly supplies to the men surrounded at Kholm.

    To start with an area of no-mans land was used as a landing area – this was in the main line of resistance and as such was exposed to direct fire from all Soviet arms. However, use of this was eventually abandoned as a result of the many crashed aircraft and the Soviet shelling.

    25 Feb 1942 – Seven Ju 52/3ms of KGrzbV 9 landed on the small temporary landing ground at Kholm. Soviet aircraft then attacked the landing ground and four of the Ju 52s were damaged..

    Date Unit Aircraft Type Code Wkr.No. Notes
    25 Feb 1942 KGrvbV 9 JU 52/3m 6062 Damaged in a bombing attack on Fl.Pl. Kholm
    25 Feb 1942 KGrvbV 9 JU 52/3m BJ+EN 3178 Damaged in a bombing attack on Fl.Pl. Kholm. Oblt. Schubert and Ofw. Karl Hansen killed.
    25 Feb 1942 KGrvbV 9 JU 52/3m 6955 Damaged in a bombing attack on Fl.Pl. Kholm.


    From then on with no airfields, Kholm was dependent upon Go 242 and DFS 230 gliders towed by aircraft from KGrzbV 5. The DFS 230s arrived in the landing areas at dusk and dawn. Several gliders a day were flown into the pocket – dependent upon the weather and aircraft availability. The gliders landed where they could – this sometimes meant on the towns streets – losses in gliders, crews and troops being flown in were high. Those glider crews that survived the flight and landing then fought alongside the ground troops until the pocket was relieved.

    6 Mar 1942 - Another attempt was made to reach the beleaguered soldiers at Kholm. After achieving good progress at the start the assault became bogged down due to the combined effect of the Soviet forces and the snow and ice.

    Date -21 Mar 1942. Unit - KGrvbV 9 Aircraft Type - Ju 52/3m Code - 4V+HL Wkr.No. - 6115 Notes - Shot down by Soviet fighters near Kholm. Hptm Ernst Plogstys, Ofw. Luis Belser, Ogfr.Peter Colgarski, Uffz. Ernst Knotsch and Uffz Josef Schick all killed aircraft 100%

    Date -21 Mar 1942 Unit - KGrvbV 9 Aircraft Type - Ju 52/3m Code - 4V+FL Wkr.No. - 6355 Notes - Shot down by Soviet fighters near Kholm. Uffz. Helmut Baden, Gefr. Eitel Saborewski and Uffz. Sigmund Jungkind all missing, aircraft 100%.


    31 Mar 1942 – This latest attempt to relieve Kholm was abandoned.

    Flight Operations

    Aircraft engaged in the supply flights flew from Pskov-Sud, these flights also involved KG 4 whose aircraft were used to drop supply containers to the besieged troops. The flight to the drop zone was from the southwest over the wedge driven by the relieving troops in the direction of Kholm. The rest of the flight was over Soviet held territory, which held a high concentration of Soviet AA guns. The supply aircraft generally flew at approx 1,300 feet, staying low so that the containers that they dropped would land in the extremely narrow drop-zones. By doing this they exposed themselves not only to the flak but also to small arms fire.

    Final Relief

    5 May 1942 – Relief of the Kholm pocket, by grenadier Regiment 411, after a siege that had lasted 103 days. This was the third and last attempt to relieve Kholm, other attempts had been made – the first was immediately after the encirclement and the second took place between 6 March 1942 and 31 March 1942 when it was broken off.


    Statistics

    From Jan 1942 64,844 tons of equipment,food, ammunition, spares, clothing, weapons, medical supplies and other miscellaneous materiel were airlifted into the pockets. 30,500 men were flown in to join the 2nd Armee Korps as replacement or relief troops. The transport units evacuated 35,400 wounded and sick (as well as a number of troops going on leave).

    To achieve this 32,427 sorties were flown by the transport units to bring supplies into Demyansk. In addition a further 659 sorties were flown purely to bring in personnel.

    The transport units themselves consumed 42,155 tons of aviation fuel plus an additional 3,242 tons of lubricants.


    References

    Luftwaffe Im Focus No 4 (Start Publications) – Pages 48 & 49.

    German Airforce Airlift Operations - Fritz Morzik (USAF Historical Studies No 167 ARNO Press NY) – Pages 137 – 179

    German Airforce vs Russia 1942 – Herman Plocher (USAF Historical Studies No 154)

    Eagle In Flames – E.R. Hooton (Brockhampton Press)

    Ju 52 Aircraft and Legend – Heinz Nowarra (Haynes)

    Luftwaffe Verband No 3 – Kampfgruppe z.b.V 9 –updated loss list.

    Remi Tracanelli – extracts from loss database.

    Black Cross Red Star Vol 2– Bergstrom/Mikhailov (Pacifica)

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