Date: 10 August 1941
Weather: Clear, Clouds at 700 meters
The loss of Borchert really affected me. I'm glad the weather was bad the past two days. I doubt I was in any condition to fly. A recurring dream of watching Borchert's stricken 109 smash into the forest prevented me from getting much sleep. Yesterday I spoke with Leutnant Ahler about the dream and he reassured me the dreams eventually go away.
The Kommandeur gives the briefing today. He promises the skies will be filled with planes today. Good weather is forecast and the Geschwarder will be up in force to support the offensive towards Leningrad. It is hoped that our forces will be at the city gates within two weeks. Another column of Russian vehicles has been spotted just south of Pushkin and appears to be heading towards Krasnogvardesik in an attempt to reinforce the beleaguered town. Flight time will be short; the target is less than 40 kilometers away. Instead of bombers, a 1st Staffel schwarm will strafe the column. It is believed the column is mostly trucks and lacking any armored support. I certainly hope so since a 15mm cannon won't do much against a T-34. Everyone is disappointed with the assignment. We fliegers want to be hunters. Leave the vehicles and tanks to the Jaboschwarm
Historical Note: On August 10, 1941, clear weather allowed the Luftwaffe and VVS to launch massive sorties to support or thwart the German offensive towards Leningrad that began on August 8. [Black Cross Red Star Vol 1, Chapter 17, Bergstrom and Mikhailov].
The Oberwerkmeister informs me that I'm flying "White 4" today because one of White 19's oil lines ruptured during engine testing. I'm disappointed since a pilot likes to fly the same mount. It's difficult to learn the idiosyncracies of a plane if one keeps changing planes day to day. Ironically, White 4 has a solitary victory bar on its rudder as well. This is Feldwebel Schmidt's machine, but he has a stomach virus and can't fly this morning. The Obrerwerkmeister also tells me that tomorrow a new aircraft, "White 14", will be assigned to me on a more permanent basis.
Leutnant Ahlers leads the schwarm to altitude. We're cruising at 1,000 meters. A schwarm of III./JG 27 Emils is flying cover for us. To me this is an odd arrangement since the Emils have two cannons available for strafing compared to single 15mm cannon. They should be attacking the column with their heavier armament while we fly cover for them.
I'm flying on Feldwebel Hadamer's wing. He's a smart fellow and the "Professor" of First Gruppe. The Professor is very into books and even uses the fuselage compartment of his Friedrich to store his collection. One mission a Rata placed a few bullets into his machine. Upon landing he opened the comparment to find several books riddled with bullet holes. We all had a good laugh. The Professor wasn't laughing, which made us all the more merrier.
Leutnant Ahler steers us clear and northwest of the flak-defended town of Krasnogvardeisk. Two Friedrichs with brown splotching race past our flight. I see the Chevron-Bar of the Kommodore! Hannes Trautloft is in the air today. His wingman is none other than his adjutant, Werner von Hofe. Today must be an important day indeed to have the Kommodore leading the Geschwader! Another flight of III./JG 27 Emils escort the Kommodore. I can sense the schwarm be even more attentive with the Kommodore watching. Ahler completes the snake-turn and steers us back to the southwest so the sun is at our back. Gunners will have to stare into the fiery ball of the sun in order to get good aim on us.
"Achtung! Target below. Attack!" Leutnant Ahler orders us to attack. I nose down and I'm racing parallel to the road. A column of vehicles is below and rapidly grows in the windscreen.
I press the trigger. Machine guns and cannon fire dances across the road. I see my bullets enter the trucks in the middle of the column, but they don't erupt into flames. Doors fly open; crews begin to abandon their vehicles. But it's too late. The next plane in line is already upon the column, greeting it with bullets and cannon. I glance over my right shoulder to see two vehicles belch smoke and flame.
I peel around and position myself from out of the east again. Our first attack caught the column by surprise. They didn't even bother to shoot at us. Now a single vehicle is shooting back. Tracer reach up into the sky, trying to swat one of the flies annoying its protected charges. Another truck explodes! I concentrate on the flak vehicle on my second pass. My aim is poor and the tracers rip up the ground immediately behind the moving vehicle. Hopefully my attack will distract it from the rest of the schwarm.
I come around for a final attack. Many vehicles are burning on the road. As I line up the flak car again, I catch movement out the corner of my right eye. It's another Friedrich cutting diagonally across my intended flight path. There are visions of a horrific collision above the column. I quickly press the trigger, but I'm too worried about the other 109 to hit anything. I pull up sharply. I doubt the other flieger even noticed me. He destroys the flak vehicle and sets fire to the stragglers of the column.
The Leutnant orders a halt to the attack. The column has been thoroughly destroyed. Again we avoid the flak defenses of Krasnogvardeisk on the way home. Above the Emils of III./JG 27 keep station above us. Everybody is home, safe and happy the Jabo mission is finished - at least for now.
Later in the day, the Kommodore congratulates Leutnant Ahler. He witnessed the effectiveness of our attack on the column and the commander on the ground has sent a complimentary letter to the Geschwader.