THE WHITE EAGLE
Oberleutnant Gerhard Barkhorn leads the Me109Gs of 4./JG52 against Ilyushin II-2 ground-attack aircraft ahead of a major Russian counter offensive in the Caucasus in January 1943. Below, the Germany 6th Panzer Division, heavily outnumbered, desperately attempt to prevent a Soviet breakthrough.
By the early months of 1943, the situation for the Germans on the Eastern Front was becoming desperate. Von Paulus’ 6th Army at Stalingrad was doomed after a hastily conceived offensive to relieve them had failed to break through to the city. Instead, Field Marshal Erich Von Manstein was forced onto the defensive by a huge Soviet counter-attack that now threatened to destroy the whole German campaign in the Soviet Union. The savage winter weather made it all the more difficult for the Germans.
In the air, the Luftwaffe found themselves flying in appalling conditions, and heavy snow blizzards and ice on airfields made operations treacherous. Luftwaffe fighter units were ordered to assist the hard-pressed German army by flying ground-attack sorties, missions not really suited to their Me109 fighters. To enhance their firepower, extra gun-packs were fitted beneath the wings of the Messerschmitts and JG52 went in search of any enemy ground targets they could find. Many of the leading Luftwaffe aces were involved in this new tactic including one of the finest, Gerhard Barkhorn, who had flown with JG52 since the Battle of Britain.
- Leutnant Hugo Broch KC
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