Theo Nibel

Theo Nibel

 

Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D-9

Flown by Leutnant Theo Nibel, 10./JG 54, Varrelbusch, Germany, Jan 1, 1945.

Oberstleutnant Josep 'Pips' Priller led Stab./JG 26, I./JG 26, III./JG 54 and 3 instructor pilots from JG 104 into the air at 8:15 a.m. on January 1, 1945. As part of Operation 'Bodenplatte', this force of 67 Fw 190D-9's was to attack the airfield of Grimbergen, which was just north of Brussels. Among the pilots, was Leutnant Theo Nibel of 10./JG 54, flying 'Black 12'.

The pilots followed the Ju-88 guide-plane, which promptly led them over a German AA position. The heavy flak knocked down three planes. The group then flew near the mouth of the Schelde Estuary, and Allied naval flak opened up and shot down two more aircraft. Add together the normal aborts from mechanical problems, and Priller's attack force was down to 50 aircraft.

To make matters worse, once the airfield of Grimbergen was reached, Priller found not the rows of parked Allied aircraft he was briefed to expect, but only four B-17's, one P-51 Mustang, and a twin-engined liason plane. Angered and chagrined at the intelligence screw up, the Focke-Wulfs continued the attack anyway and destroyed the planes, as well as several petrol trucks and other vehicles.

Ltn. Nibel chose to attack the twin-engined plane. As he lined up for the strafing run, his Fw 190D-9 was hit by rifle fire. After destorying the communications plane, Nibel's engine lost power and then suddenly cut out. Nibel was able to make a safe forced landing near Wemmel, and was promptly captured by Belgian policemen, along with his 'Dora-9', the first intact sample to fall into Allied hands.

A Belgian resistance fighter emerged and claimed that it was the bullet from his rifle that brought down Nibel's plane. When the engine was examined, there was not a bullet hole, but a partridge clogging up the radiator! Legend has it that the partridge was used by the Belgian Resistance to ferry messages.