Kdo. Sommer

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1./ Versuchsverbande OKL.

This unit was activated at Udine, North-West of Trieste, and equipped with three AR234Bs.

The situation that caused S. Kdo Sommer to be raised was the lack of adequate aerial reconnaissance reports made by German forces in Northern Italy.

S. Kdo Sommer caused a radical change in the situation as, operating up to 39,000ft, they maintained regular reconnaissance over the Leghorn and Arcona sectors of the Italian front.

Unit Commander: Hauptmann Erich Sommer

No. of aircraft available: recorded as 3 on total strength but, due to maintenance requirements, one aircraft normally available at all times.

Diary

Orders, issued by Luftwaffenkommando West at 2100 on 1 February 1945, disbanded Oblt. Erich Sommer's Kommando Hecht ("Detachment Pike") and its Ar 234s were to be handed to 1.(F)/100, then at Biblis near Worms. Hecht's air and ground personnel were to be renamed Kommando Sommer and transfer to Italy by rail.

14 Feb 1945 – this unit suffered heavy material losses when its train was attacked by fighter-bombers near Worms. What could be salvaged was collected at Biblis barracks.

16 Feb 1945 - It was decided that Sommer's depleted Kommando would be reincorporated into the Versuchsverband and would remain at Biblis while Sommer took the equipment and personnel (but not the aircraft) of Kdo. Götz to Italy.

28 Feb 1945 - Oblt. Erich Sommer receive orders to move to Udine, an airfield at Campoformido, which was to be used as the base for this new reconnaissance unit – Kdo. Sommer.

14 Mar 1945 - The unit was composed of:

(1) Oblt. Erich Sommer - Arado Ar-234B-2b, Wn.140344 - registered: T9+EH – NM+BR).

(2) Lt. Gunther Gniesmer flying Ar-234B-2 - Wn.140142 - T9+DH, previously coded SM+FB, this aircraft was converted to reconnaissance configuration by the installation of camera equipment.

(3) Stabsfw. Walter Arnold flying Ar-234B-2 - Wn.140153 - T9+HH, previously coded SM+FM, this aircraft was also converted to reconnaissance configuration.

Arnold and Gniesmer flew to Italy from Oranienburg, via Munchen-Riem (which was both the base of the Ar 234 unit 1.(F)/100 and out-station of Luftwaffe Italien) Probably these two Arados were the ones referred to in the G.d.A.'s 26 February note as being in readiness at Oranienburg.

NB A 4th aircraft was designated to be part of this unit (T9+KH – Wn.140151, pilot Werner Muffey), but it never reached Italy. (Muffey was Kdo. Sperling 's TO)

NAG.11 (Hptm. Eckersham) was designated to cover and defend the operations of Kdo Sommer; but Sommer didn't think this was a good idea - because it had the potential to attract the attention of allied fighters. In fact the continuous and persistent presence of Allied aircraft in the vicinity of Udine anticipated the first operational flight.

15 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Ancona/S.Benedetto in a total of 2hrs 10m.

17 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Livorno/Elba/Pisa;

19 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to the Appennines – allied reports indicate the sighting of “Me 262”s 20 miles north of Udine.

20 Mar 1945 – Ar 234 landed at Lonate from Udine and departed west some 90 minutes later. This sortie was likely to have been flown by Sommer who had not yet allowed his subordinates to fly.

21 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Ancona.

23 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Livorno/Perugia/Ancona.

25 Mar 1945 - Sommer - transfered to Lonate Pozzolo - flight to Marsiglia/Tolone/Costa.

26 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to the Ancona/Firenze/Livorno area.

27 Mar 1945 - Sommer - sortie to Appennine Valichi - avoiding Allied aircraft which intensified their attacks on the airfields in the north-east.

29 Mar 1945 - Arnold - prepared T9+HH for its first take-off, but a surprise attack by Spitfires damaged the aircraft enough to force the suspension of the mission.

01 Apr 1945 - Sommer moved T9+EH to Lonate Pozzolo, arriving from Udine at 0823, the flight was recorded as a “mission transfer”. Gniesmer arrived at Lonate in T9+DH having transferred from Osoppo.

Sommer departed, in T9+EH, on a westerly heading at 10.14, his sortie covered Corsica and several airfields around Pisa – the flight was completed at 12.21, landing at Lonate.

02 Apr 1945 – Ar 234 sortie flown to the south of Bologna and along the front line to the Adriatic coast near Rimini – Spitfires of 1435 Sqdn were scrambled to intercept, unsuccessfully, this “Me 262”.

05 Apr 1945 – Sortie to the vicinity of Venice, a jet (Ar 234) was spotted by Allied radar flying at approx 35,000 ft with an airspeed of about 400mph. In addition a Spitfire reported an “Me 262” over Venice.

Udine (Campoformido) was attacked by Allied fighter bombers throughout the day.

Returning from a sortie, Sommer attempted to attack one of the fighter-bombers at approx 3,000 ft causing the aircraft to make rapid evasive manoeuvres. Once landed Sommer's Ar 234 (T9+EH) was damaged in dispersal when the ammunition of a nearby burning Bf 109 exploded – this resulted in the Ar 234 being out of commission for a few days.

08 Apr 1945 – Gneismer, in T9+DH, arrived at Lonate at 12.15 having flown in from Udine.

09 Apr 1945 – At 15.05 Gneismer flew a sortie to the Southeast. On return to Udine he had to evade marauding Spitfires in order to land. Sommer flew a recce sortie to the western part of the front, the flight lasted from 12.50 to 14.05. This sortie was cut short due to damage to one of the aircraft's engines.

10 Apr 1945 – Lt. Gneismer flew a sortie to Forli – Gneismer flew this as Sommers aircraft was unserviceable.

11 Apr 1945 - Gniesmer, transfered to Lonate Pozzolo, trying again to sortie over the Appennines area, but was intercepted by 2 P-51s of the 52rd FG of the 15th AF near Bologna. The aircraft was hit in port engine, crashed near Alfonsine. The pilot attempted to escape from the stricken plane, but the tail of the aircraft hit his head and Gniesmer died a few days later in the military hospital at Ferrara.

11 Apr 1945 - Arnold, sortied but suffered from fuel loss due to previously received damage and had to return to Udine to enable the fuel tank to be resealed. This misfortune ended his operational flights until the end of the war.

Sommer received an armament pod, the Magirusbombe, to be coupled under his Arado's nose.

20 Apr 1945 – In a sortie over Padua , Sommer was chased by P-51s. Sightings of jets were made over Bologna, Ravenna and Venice – all around midday.

Sommer carried out a test flight in T9+EH, but experienced problems with the main undercarriage. A forced landing was made with the front wheel extended, in order to save the attached pod. However, the landing caused severe damage to the wings and engines putting the aircraft out of operation.But Sommer escaped uninjured.

22 Apr 1945 - Sommer flew a recce sortie, using Arnold's T9+FH, over the Po valley in order to verify the situation regarding Allied troops along the Po river in relation to the German retreat.

24 Apr 1945 – T9+FH, piloted by Sommer, flew a sortie over Viadana, Reggio Emilia, Bologna and Bergentino.

28 Apr 1945 - Sommer ordered Arnold to take off with T9+FH stopping at the Bolzano and finally heading for Holzkirchen, where on 30 Apr the pilot destroyed his aircraft to prevent it ending up in Allied hands.

Sommer and the men of the ground echelon travelled to Austria by road, after they had totally destroyed the remaining aircraft at Campoformido – it transpired that despite Sommer's orders the remains of T9+EH had not been destroyed and the pieces were later discovered by the Allies.

References

1. Air War Italy - Nick Beale et al.

2. Posting by Francisco D’Amico on a Bulletin Board.

3. Rosch - Luftwaffe Codes, Markings and Units 1939-45

4. Greihl - Strahlflugzeug Arado Ar 234 “Blitz”

5. Holm - The Luftwaffe, 1933-45 (web-site)

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