Finished model 2011-I

The cover art on Matchbox’ “Focke-Wulf FW.190” kit has the following caption:
Two F.W. 190’s patrolling over the Eastern Front on the 17th December 1942 are shown attacking one of the seven Petlyakov PE-2’s they destroyed on this their first sortie with the new F.W. 190.

The painting instructions on the back of the box indicate that the aircraft on the cover comes from “111 Group J.G. 51 Fighter Unit (Eastern Front)”, i e presumably III/JG 51. More specifically, since the aircraft carries red numbers, it would be from 8./JG 51, or, spelling out the abbreviation: 8. Staffel/III Gruppe/Jagdgeschwader 51 „Mölders“. (More explanation)

Finding out more about this incident required trawling through quite a bit of references. It was known that a Günther Schack had shot down five of those Pe-2s, but what was the exact date, what unit did he belong to and what subtype of Fw 190 was he flying?
  • Campbell [1975] says a Lt. Gunther [sic] had shot down six Pe-2s on his first sortie with a Fw 190A-4 of III/JG 51, at some point before 1943-02-11.
  • Weal [2000] says Oblt Günther Schack flew a Fw 190A-4 of 9./JG 51 and shot down five Pe-2s on 1943-01-29. This is contradicted by Weal [2006], where he says Lt Günther Schack shot down five Pe-2s on 1942-12-17 (possibly, unclear from context) while flying with a unit of III/JG 51, possibly 7./JG 51, extrapolating from the unit he’d flown with earlier in 1942.
  • Shores [1974] says Lt Günther Schack shot down five Pe-2s while flying a Fw 190A-4 of III/JG 51, but gives no date.
  • Kacha says Günther Schack performed this feat both on 1942-12-17 and on 1943-01-29, while flying a Fw 190A-4 of III/JG 51, possibly 7./JG 51.
  • Lexikon der Wehrmacht says he flew with 7./JG 51 and was promoted Leutnant on 1943-01-01.

Fortunately we can go to more primary sources: the Luftwaffe claims lists give us the information we need:
17.12.42Ofw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-225 km. N.E. Sychëvka: 250 m. (Smolensk)11.58
17.12.42Ofw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-227 km. N.E. Sychëvka: 2.500 m.11.59
17.12.42Ofw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-235 km. N.E. Sychëvka: 2.500 m.12.00
17.12.42Ofw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-233 km. N.E. Sychëvka: 2.500 m.12.01
17.12.42Ofw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-220 km. S. Subzoff: 3.000 m.12.17

And, we also find this:
29.01.43Fw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-263 322: at 1.800 m.08.31
29.01.43Fw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-263 444: at 1.700 m.08.32
29.01.43Fw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-263 444: at 1.600 m.08.33
29.01.43Fw. Günther Schack7./JG 51Pe-263 444: at 1.500 m.08.34

So, we have one occasion of five Pe-2s shot down, and a second of four shot down. The unit definitely seems to be 7./JG 51, though it seems unlikely that Schack would have been demoted from Oberfeldwebel to Feldwebel between December and January, so some error in the sources seems to be present.

In the December incident, we see that there is a first group of four shot down within minutes (it seems likely that the first kill is also at 2500 m, rather than 250) and the last one 16 minutes later, some distance away and at a different height. When we plot this on a map we see some interesting things: III/JG51 were at the time based in Orel (marked with a red blob on the map) [Holm], and the patrol’s interception was over 200 km to the north, past Moscow. The first three kills are made while flying on a north-easterly course, but the patrol has then doubled back for the fourth. At 12:10 Unteroffizier Baumestner (presumably Schack’s wingman) shot down another Pe-2 12 km south of „Subzoff“, i e further west, and then at 12:17 Schack shot down the final Pe-2 almost at the point of the first kill. (Assuming the positions given are trustworthy and precise. Movable Type’s lat/long scripts were invaluable in fixing them on a map.) The north-easterly course would imply that the Soviet bombers were on their way home, but the question is then why the last kills were further west, as it seems unlikely that the Soviet crews would try to escape to safety in that direction, but possibly these were stragglers that had become separated from the others. That the positions are given with reference to Zubtsov rather than Sychyovka, suggests that the patrol had moved about and taken new bearings before finding the last two bombers.

The January mission was closer to home, if I have managed to convert the Jägergradnetz coordinates correctly (using LUMA). Further, the given times would indicate that the kills were made just before daybreak. Might this in fact have been an interception of a dawn raid on the airfield itself? (It is also possible that the time given was Berlin time, rather than local, Moscow, time.)

Show a bigger version.

(The map also indicates that while the landscape is not completely flat, it does not feature anything like the dramatic snow-covered mountains on the box art.)

Now, what about the aircraft? In this case the relevant document is Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen III./JG 51 which gives us that III/JG 51 during the relevant months had:
1942-11:7 Fw 190A-3, 6 Fw 190A-2
1942-12:11 Fw 190A-3, 23 Fw 190A-2
1943-01:16 Fw 190A-3, 16 Fw 190A-2
1943-02:15 Fw 190A-3, 25 Fw 190A-2

Clearly Schack could not have flown an A-4 at this time, but it could have been either an A-2 or an A-3. For modelling purposes they are identical, as the difference lies in the engine subtype [Baugher 2004], so we will not worry unduly about this distinction. The Matchbox kit claims to be an A-3, but in fact contains a mixture of A-3 and A-4 features, the most visible being having both the A-4’s high antenna post on the fin and the A-3’s direct lead into the fin. Well, this is pretty typical Matchbox, but onto more visible features: how would the aircraft have been painted? The painting instructions indicate a 70/71/65 camouflage, with a high demarcation line and a spinner with concentric circles in black and white, but is this supported by photographic and documentary evidence? There is relatively little in the way of photographic evidence of JG 51 Fw 190s [though see Arthy], but we can extrapolate from other Fw 190 units on the Eastern Front, primarily JG 54.

German fighters had switched from 70/71/65 to 74/75/76 camouflage in 1941, but this was dictated by high altitude flying where grey colours blended in better with the sky. On the Eastern Front, fighters were sent out against low-level bombers and attack aircraft and also needed to be better hidden on the ground, so units there reverted to the old-style camouflage. Then, when winter arrived, they were winter camouflaged with white paint over the top surfaces. However, photographs indicate that green/green aircraft were used in parallel with white-painted aircraft, there were also aircraft only partially white-painted over the green/green surfaces and then the thin layer of white would wear off fairly quickly, letting the green/green surfaces shine through.

In the end I decided, mostly out of time constraints, to go for an all-white scheme, and since they supposedly were on their first patrol, the paint would still be fresh. Weal has drawn a profile of Herbert Wehnelt’s Fw 190A-3 from 7./JG 51, though without giving any photographic source for it, that I let myself be inspired by.

Then, the markings. Clearly Matchbox’ markings were spurious (which actually is a bit surprising, usually they are based on some well-known individual), and worse, the „10“ numerals on the actual decals were for no good reason drastically simplified from the rendition on the box art, the latter which correctly depicted 8 Staffel markings in red with white surrounds. In the absence of any other evidence, I just pilfered a white number „1“ and III Gruppe vertical bar from the Kagero decal sheet nr 25 „JG 26 vol II“. Something clearly visible from available photographs was that, in opposition to JG 54, JG 51 aircraft did usually not carry any unit emblems at this time, so I didn’t have to worry about that.

Yeah, and then the actual building of the model:
I scratch-built a cockpit interior, opened up the cooling louvres behind the engine and also deepened the space behind the exhaust tubes (but didn’t bother making the tubes themselves). I wanted to build an aircraft in flight, so I filed down the tail wheel to its correct semi-retracted position. I also added an antenna cable and removed the incorrect antenna post. Some amount of filler was needed, in particular around the wings, and some panel lines needed to be (re-)scribed. Another curious item was that the wings had the bulges for MG FF cannon, but no barrels supplied. These were of course easy to add. I also created a pitot tube out of a length of syringe and a Q-tip that I stretched over a candle.

Painting was a bit of a painful process, I’m using the airbrush too seldom to become really proficient, but I think I learned some useful lessons.

Chronik Jagdgeschwader 51 »Mölders«, Gebhard Aders & Werner Held, 2009, Motorbuch Verlag.
Aircraft Archive: Classics of World War Two, Argus Books, 1989.
“Early Focke-Wulf FW 190s on the Eastern Front: The FW 190 A-1, A-2 and A-3 with Jagdgeschwader 51”, Andrew Arthy.
“Modeller's Guide to Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Variants: Radial Engine Versions—Part I”, Joe Baugher & Martin Waligorski.
Focke Wulf FW 190 in action, Jerry L. Campbell, 1975, Squadron/Signal Publications.
Luftwaffe at War: Fighters over Russia, Manfred Griehl, 1997, Greenhill Books.
„Jagdgeschwader 51 "Mölders"“, compiled by Michael Holm.
„Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen: III./JG51“, compiled by Michael Holm.
“Günther Schack”, Petr Kacha.
„Schack, Günther“, Lexikon der Wehrmacht.
German Aircraft Interiors 1935–1945, vol 1, Kenneth A. Merrick, 1996, Monogram Aviation Publiations.
Focke-Wulf FW 190 im Detail, Jens Nissen, 2002, Motorbuch Verlag.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190A/F/G Luftwaffe, Christopher Shores, 1974, Osprey Publishing.
Luftwaffe Air & Ground Crew 1939–45, Robert F. Stedman, 2002, Osprey Publishing.
Oberflächenschutzverfahren und Anstrichstoffe der deutschen Luftfahrtindustrie und Luftwaffe 1935–1945, Michael Ullmann, 2000, Bernard & Graefe Verlag.
Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Aces on the Eastern Front, John Weal, 2000, Delprado Publications.
Jagdgeschwader 51 ‘Mölders’, John Weal, 2006, Osprey Publications.
“O.K.L. Fighter Claims Chef für Ausz. und Dizsiplin [sic] Luftwaffen-Personalamt L.P. (A) V Films & Supplementary Claims from Lists Eastern Front (Ostfront) August–December 1942”
“O.K.L. Fighter Claims Chef für Ausz. und Dizsiplin [sic] Luftwaffen-Personalamt L.P. (A) V Films & Supplementary Claims from Lists Eastern Front (Ostfront) January–June 1943”, compiled by Tony Wood.


Martin said...

Good historianship!

thnidu said...

Ahhhh! How delightful to see such informed, devoted, and detailed geekery from another fandom!

thnidu said...

... AND such a fine piece of work.