Letka 13 also known as 13.(Slow)/JG 52

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by imalko, Mar 31, 2009.

  1. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    #1 imalko, Mar 31, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2009
    Authors : Stanislav Bursa and Jozef Anďal
    Translated from Slovak language by imalko

    By the number of aircrafts available Slovak Air Arms (Slovenske Vzdušné zbrane or SVZ) was one of the smallest air forces in World War Two. Already in first days of its existence, in March 1939, its members were forced to defend their country from Hungarian aggression. Then came a moment of false glory with participation in German attack on Poland in September 1939. Most controversial and at the same time most successful period in short history of the SVZ was deployment of several Slovak squadrons on the Eastern front during 1941-1943. The joining of the majority of members of SVZ to the Slovak National Uprising against the Germans in the fall of 1944 marked the simbolic end of its existence. This is the short history of the pilots and airplanes of the most successful and famous unit of the SVZ in World war Two - 13th fighter squadron or (in Slovak language) Letka 13.

    Letka 13 was formally established on 31st of January 1940 and equipped with Avia B.534 biplane fighters. In July 1941, the squadron was sent to its first tour of duty on the Eastern front as part of larger contingent of air and ground units of Slovakian army. Succesfull deployment of outdated biplanes B.534 on the front was possible only due to the absolute air suppremacy of the Luftwaffe. However, with comming of the winter there were no doubts that this planes are not suitable for deployment in harsh front conditions. Therefore Letka 13 was returned to Slovakia without any confirmed air victory.

    If unit was to be deployed on the front again, reequipment with more modern fighter planes was essential.
    Therefore Slovakia made agreement with Germany on purchasing Bf 109 fighter airplanes and training of Slovakian pilots in Luftwaffe’s training centers. In February 1942 men of the Letka 13 arrived to Gröve in Denmark for training on Bf 109 fighters. In July first 12 examples of Bf 109E were delivered to Slovakia. These were old and many times repaired aircrafts, which saw service with the Luftwaffe in France and North Africa.

    Since the Germans demanded immediate deployment of Slovak squadron on the front, as soon as in October 1942 first group of 14 pilots and associate ground personnel arrived on the Eastern front for their second tour of duty. Slovak squadron was assigned to the II Gruppe Jagdgeschwader 52 becoming officialy 13.(Slowak)/JG 52. Slovak pilots were engaged in air fighting over the southern part of the Eastern front - over Caucasus and Cuban areas. Messerschmitts Bf 109E with which squadron was equipped were quickly loosing their battle effectivnes, they were old and immediate replacement with new aircrafts was needed. In that situation the Germans „loaned“ to Letka 13 some Bf 109Fs and later also Messerschmitts Bf 109G-2 and G-4. First group of Slovak airmen remained on the front up until July 1943. Althogh exhausted with continuous combat activity, they were very succesfull. During the period October 1942-July 1943, pilots of Letka 13 flew 1504 combat sorties, engaged in 206 air battles and achieved 154 comfirmed and 16 uncomfirmed air victories. Most succesfull fighter pilots in history of Slovak Air Force became: Ján Režňák (32 air victories), Izidor Kovárik (28 victories) i Ján Gerthofer (23 air victories).

    First group of Slovak pilots on the front was replaced by the second group in July 1943. Upon their return to Slovakia, some members of the first group of front pilots were deployed on mission of home defence against Allied air raids, flying outdated Bf 109Es once more. In the meantime, situation in the East changed considerably in favor of the Soviets and this had negative effect on the battle moral of the second group of Slovak pilots. Germans were on retreat and Letka 13 always remained in the first lines. Slovak pilots began to evade air combat and three pilots with their Bf 109G-4s defected to the Soviets. Desertions began in some Slovak ground units too. In that circumstances German command decided to withdraw Slovak squadron from the front. Before their return to Slovakia, pilots of the second group flew 1100 sorties and shoot down 61 confirmed and 13 uncomfirmed Soviet aircraft. Together, both groups of Slovak pilots managed to shoot down total of 215 Soviet aircrafts in the East.

    Upon return of all members of Letka 13 to Slovakia, the squadron was reorganized and deployed as Readiness squadron (Pohotovostna letka) in home defence and equipped with new fighters Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6. However, in this new circumstances Slovak pilots were unwilling to fight the Allies. They flew intercept missions but peacefully tolerated Allied bomber formations which were on their way to targets in Germany or Austria. However, after Allied raid on Slovak capitol city Bratislava and German repeated accusations of cowardice, pilots of Letka 13 attacked American bombers on 26th of June 1944. Result was virtual destruction of Letka 13 at the hand of nummerically superior American fighter escort. In air battles fought on that day three Slovak pilots were killed and one was severelly wounded. Letka lost 7 fighters Bf 109G-6 and, indeed, only one Slovak Messerschmitt returned to its base undamaged. Pilot Gustav Lang managed to shoot down one American bomber B-24, but later was shot down and killed by the Allied P-38 escort fighters. Several other American planes were damaged by the action of Slovak pilots. The ellite fighter squadron of SVZ never again recovered from losses suffered on 26th June and when allout national uprising against the Germans began in late August, this unit ceased to exist. Number of pilots and two Bf 109G-6 of the former 13th squadron participated in the uprising as the part of insurgent so called Combined squadron (Kombinovana letka), achieving some air victories against German and Hungarian aircrafts. After Germans suppresed the uprising some Slovak pilots managed to join 1st Czechoslovak Air Division in Soviet Union.

    That is all for now. I hope some of you guys will find this interesting. I will post further informations on this subject, most notably about top scoring Slovak fighter pilots. But since all my materials are in Slovak language it will take some time to translate them to English.

    This text and fallowing pictures are from HT model Špecial, which had several publications published on this subject.

    All comments, opinios, questions... or maybe some aditional informations that I might have overlooked are welcomed.

    Here are some pictures: Aircraft and men of Letka 13, first tour of duty on the Eastern front, summer 1941
     

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  2. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Training on Bf 109E at Grove, Dennmark
     

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  3. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Departure to the second tour of duty in the East, October 1942...
     

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  4. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    #4 imalko, Mar 31, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
    Letka 13 also known as 13.(Slow)/JG 52 in summer 1943 at Anapa...
     

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  5. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Hello,

    their most succesful pilot Jan Reznak lived in Piestany, about 70 miles away from my born town. Passed away on Sept. 19, 2007.
    A friend of mine was in touch with him.
     
  6. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Wow, thanks for the info and the pics!
     
  7. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, W.Nr. 161 717, "white 6", flown by Pavel Zeleňak from Letka 13, damaged in combat with Allied escort fighters and crash landed at Horna Streda on 26th June 1944.

    Picture and illustration from HT model Špecial, artist Vaclav Hochmuth
     

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  8. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Wreck of Bf 109G-6 flown by Gustav Lang (picture from "Slovenske letectvo 1939-1944 volume 2") and....

    ... Ján Režňák carrying Lang's medals during funeral service (picture from Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 58 - Slovakian and Bulgarian Aces of WW2).

    Lang managed to shoot down one B-24 on 26th of June but he himself was shot down and killed by Allied escorting fighters.
     

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  9. Milos Sijacki

    Milos Sijacki Member

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    Great post and pics
     
  10. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Nice pics and info!
     
  11. rochie

    rochie Well-Known Member

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    great info on what is for me a lesser known aspect of WWII
     
  12. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    I knew Režňák had lived in Piešťany, but I wasn't aware he had passed away.
    :salute:
     
  13. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Can you read Czech? I´d post you an interesting interview with him...
     
  14. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    Sure! (I am Slovak by nationality you know.) As I wrote earlier all additional informations on the subject are welcomed. Although I'm not sure if it would be ok to post a text in Czech language in this thread or if it would be better suited for multilingual corner. Anyway I'm looking forward to read it.
     
  15. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

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    Hi,all. As a sidenote this might be interesting:
    During the time I spent in the ex-Yu army, one of my comrades was also a Slovak (born in Vojvodina, Serbia). We were stationed in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and were involved in the 'Slovenian war'. My SP AAA battery (fielding Praga V3S 30/2mm vehicles) were separated into 2 platoons and were tasked to aid some infantry units to recapture the alpine border crossings from Slovenian police territorial defence units. My Slovak comrade (1st name was Jan, last name I can't remember) was with the other platoon now.
    Anyway, there was not much of a fighting since Slovenian forces decided it's wiser to negotiate a withdraw from those crossings. So, they've allowed to leave, only to block us afterwars. After 4 days there, we negotiated a retreat to Kranj, and there my father visited me (I was 19 years old then). We eventually moved back to our barracks in Ljubljana.

    Now comes the Slovak fellow part. His platoon was captured by by Slovenians and all soldiers were allowed to go home. He returned to Vojvodina, only to be ordered to join an army unit, and he found himself as a crew member of a tank!
    Don't know what happened to him after that (he might be involved in Vukovar/Osijek area fightings in Croatia, late 1991, but that's pure speculation).
     
  16. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    O.K., so just to avoid boring the other members by copying the whole text in Slovak language here, here´a link: Ako pilot bojoval na strane Nemcov, no ne¾utuje to | História | aero.sme.sk

    Btw, where where you born, in Slovakia and then moved to Slovenia, or in Slovenia and one of your parents has Slovak nationality?
     
  17. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    #17 imalko, Apr 3, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2009
    OK, this is little off-topic, but since you asked...

    Roman, you have probably misunderstood Tomo's post. He was talking about someone else and in fact I had been in Slovenia only once when I was a kid.

    I was born and live in Vojvodina, which is northern region of Serbia. Both my parents are Slovaks. In fact there is a large national minority of Slovaks living in Vojvodina today (around 60 000 people). Our ancestors settled here in second half of 18th century, which was then Military frontier of Habsburg Empire. They served as soldiers in Grenzer regiments of Austrian army and as Protestants enjoyed considerable religious liberties in turn.

    We have preserved our language and national identity to this day and we even have elementary schools with Slovak teaching language in almost every town where Slovaks live in numbers in modern day Vojvodina. There is also one high school and one faculty with Slovak teaching language in Bačsky Petrovec.

    But I do have relatives in Slovakia too. My sister and her husband moved to Bratislava six years ago, so I go to visit them when ever I can, but at least once a year.

    By the way, that was excellent interview with Režňák. Many thanks for posting that link.
     
  18. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    Aha, thx for the explanation!
    I´m often in Bratislava, at least once in a month...for a business trip as we have some customers there. It´s 2 hours away from here by car...
     
  19. imalko

    imalko Well-Known Member

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    #19 imalko, Apr 5, 2009
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2010
    Roman had kindly provided a link to a great interview with top scoring Slovak fighter pilot Ján Režňák. Interview is in Slovak language so I have translated most interesting parts for other members to be able to read it.

    ......

    After the war Czechoslovak communists were trying to justify participation of Slovak airmen in war in the East by saying that their air victories were made up, that they had evaded combat and sabotaged German aircraft.

    Režňák: That is simply not true. Germans had such sophisticated observation system, that if a dog fight occurred somewhere, they knew about it even before our return to the base. For every aircraft claimed we were obligated to write and sign a statement describing in detail a fight in question. It happened on more than one occasion, that while I was still in the air my air victory was already confirmed. In fact, I have achieved one kill even without a single shot fired. I have engaged in a dog fight above the clouds. Russian pilot tried to escape by diving into the clouds. He haven‘t saw the ground level and crashed. I was fallowing him. When I saw explosion I‘v started to poll-out just in time to save my life. I was credited for destruction of that aircraft, though.

    Have you ever met any pilot you have shoot down?

    Režňák: No, but I saw a group of around 30 shoot downed Soviet pilots at Krasnodar once. We were giving them food. They were very scared of being tortured or shoot, but we told them not to be, becouse it is only propaganda.

    ..............

    What was your relationship with German pilots?

    Režňák: We had get along nicely. Our Gruppenkommandeur was Dietrich Hrabak. He was a great man. Some five years ago I’v wrote to him if he remember one of our missions when we were escorting German bombers. That took some 15 minutes and afterwards I told my wingman Jozef Štauder that I will proceed on Freie Jagd. However he had some engine troubles so I went alone. I was on the Russian side of the frontline. We called Russian fighters „Indians“ and I was on alert if some of them should appear. Suddenly I noticed four dots in distance. They had noticed me too. I’ve told myself that one of them is surrelly going down. I was ready to fire when I have noticed that these were in fact Messerschmitts. They too had reckognized me as one of their own. Shortly after I have returned to base, a staff car came. Hrabak came out of it and I was expecting to be punished. Then I saw he was smiling. We shook hands and he congratulated me for my brave behaviour. I was happier becouse of that more then if I had shoot down 10 Russians.

    .........

    After your return to Slovakia 13th squadron was criticized by the Germans for not attacking Allied bomber formations, but this was allegedly because SVZ command was saving planes for planned uprising.

    Režňák: We received unofficial orders to evade combat with Americans. There were hundreds of American fighters out there, you know. And there were only 8 of us in our squadron. If we had attacked Americans, that would be plain suicide.

    Eventually you did attacked them and it ended with a disaster.

    Režňák: I was already in my Bf 109G on that 26th of June and ready to take of, when my friend Zeleňák asked me if he can go instead. He even went to our commanding officer, who ordered me through the radio to let him to take my place. When they took off, I have seated to cockpit of one broken down Messerschmitt and listened the course of the battle through the radio. Our commanding officer Haluzický was with me asking me all the time what is happening. I knew it won’t end well becouse our fighters could not concentrate in time and their formation was scattered. I was listening with great anxiety. Haluzický wanted to abbort the mission but he didn’t had the authority to do so. Zeleňák was shoot down at Horna Streda. I saw three Lightnings chasing him. He had crash landed to the field and broke his back. After 10 years he died.

    Have you ever regreted that you were fighting against the USSR?

    Režňák: No, never. When we were there, we were living with families which respected and loved us even when we were fighting against their fathers and sons. I myself lived in house of a woman called Lyda and her husband was major in Red army. While I was there, she only benefited of it. She respected me for living in her house.

    You could have killed her husband...

    Režňák: She never said a word about it.
     

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  20. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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