Luftwaffe Pilots - Sanctioned to Bail Out?

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by jayastout, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. jayastout

    jayastout Member

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    My name is Jay Stout. I recieved help from several forum members while writing my last book, The Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe and am hoping that someone can help me once more.

    While doing research for a new book I've noted that many encounter reports recounted how Luftwaffe pilots, once cornered, often abandoned their fighters even before they were fired on. Late in the war this certainly was not a bad idea from a practical perspective as it was much easier to produce a new aircraft than it was to produce a new pilot.

    My question is this: Is anyone aware if this practice was officially sanctioned or encouraged by the Luftwaffe leadership? If so, can you quote a source?

    Thanks in advance,
    Jay A. Stout
     
  2. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    short answer: no. its a fly till you die policy. I'm sure it happened on both side at one point however. the truth of the matter of late war is that some groupe Commanders ignored orders thought to be suicidal. there main concern was saving there men.

    and one more thing, starting around mid 1944. the Allies started to 'machine gun' Luftwaffe pilots that bailed. so if the pilots can get to the ground in the aircraft.. thats what they did.
     
  3. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    You've read the encounter reports. The allied pilots seemed surprised by the willingness of the Luftwaffe pilots to abandon their aircraft. I have never seen any evidence that this was in any way officially sanctioned. I suspect,like the allied air forces at the time,that it reflected a lack of "fighting spirit" in the young and under trained airmen being committed to the fray by the Luftwaffe late in the war. This is supported by radio intercepts in 8th Air Force intelligence documents which demonstrate the unwillingness of some Luftwaffe units to engage escorted bomber formations.
    It's interesting to reflect that the possibility of airmen abandoning their aircraft rather than fighting with determination was the very argument used by the Royal Flying Corps when it refused to issue parachutes to its air crew during WWI.
    Steve
     
  4. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    That's a very bold statement without some serious supporting evidence. Men in parachutes were attacked by all sides throughout the war but it was never an official policy of the USAAF,RAF or Luftwaffe.
    Almost any pilot will attempt to land a controllable aircraft rather than abandoning it.
    I had to explain to someone recently that just because a parachute appears on gun camera footage does not mean that it is being attacked. Filming a parachute,which could be done without firing the weapons,was a good way to back up a claim.
    Steve
     
  5. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    I know that. I also know its was practiced on both side. but undoubtably it happened. A good friend of mine ( name withheld for privacy) seen it first hand, to excess in Jan 1945. His commrads would open their chutes at 600m or less. more often less. I won't go into more detail then that. out of respect for all concerned.

    cheers.
     
  6. Kryten

    Kryten Member

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    it was known to happen throughout the war as mentioned above, at Malta the LW was accused of both attacking men in chutes and of flying close by to collapse the chute, there is one instance quoted where thier victim was actually a LW pilot, it was also mentioned the RAF reciprocated!
     
  7. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

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    #7 bobbysocks, Aug 8, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
    its always better to live to fight another day. during the BoB the raf stayed close to home rather than venture too far from mainland england. that way if the pilot bailed out he could be back in the air later that day or the next. so when the airwar centered over german occupied areas the LW pilots were more inclined to use that same strategy. like was mentioned before they didnt rotate out after so many missions they were to fly until they died or the war ended. one pilot on the return leg of a Frantic mission got behind a LW ac before he realized he traded all his ammo for vodka....never fired a shot and the hun bailed. kinda like "ok, you got me...see ya tomorrow".

    "and one more thing, starting around mid 1944. the Allies started to 'machine gun' Luftwaffe pilots that bailed. so if the pilots can get to the ground in the aircraft.." I dont know where you got this idea. that is a gross overstatement. that practice was not santioned or common....in fact it was frowned upon. if you are going to shoot enemy pilots hanging in the silk...what do you expect they are going to do to you or your buddies if they bail....and many fighter jock bailed. did they strafe an ea that bellied in? yes. did they strafe the pilot on the ground? on occasion. but the only known story i know of an intentional shooting a LW pilot in the silk was where that pilot had been doing such to a bailed out bomber crew. so the us pilot shot him up until he had to bail then gave him the same treatment.
     
  8. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    again when It comes to strafing pilots while parachuting I'll keep it brief. niether side will report it for the most part. the only eyewitnesses are those who survived the war. their stories are chilling.

    cheers.
     
  9. seesul

    seesul Active Member

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    As for shooting at the pilots hanging on his chute...it happened on both sides. During the battle over my born town on Aug 29, 1944, the Germans were shooting on the bomber crew members while descending to the ground. One of them was even injured on his arm. It´s written in their statements and also confirmed by several (Czech) eye witnesses who saw it from the ground.

    One of the Germans even shoot at the young Czech boys who were trying to get closer to the crash site of one of downed B-17s. Then he landed at the closest airfield ,toke a motorbike and drove t the crash site. To take the pics there. When he saw those young boys he said that he was shooting at them as he thought their white shirts are the parchute...
    The local photographer toke few pics of him at the crash site and hid the copies of them for the future.
    Here they are FalkeEins - the Luftwaffe blog: unidentified Jagdflieger - B-17 shoot-down on 29 August 1944

    On the other side there were also cases when Allied pilots shot at the Germans hanging under the chute. Willi Reschke´s statement from Aug 24, 1944 perhaps comes to my mind.

    From a human point of view it´s something very bad. But should I be in shoes of a pilot whose comrade was killed under the chute who knows what would I do during my next mission...war is a hell.

    Btw, when I spoke about it with Willi Reschke he told me that it was strictly forbidden in his unit to shoot at the pilots under the chute. And should something like this happen, the pilot would immediately be eliminated from the 'team'.

    But sorry Jay, I´m not answering your question...
     
  10. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    also reminds me of an account by Dulias:

    "The guidance provided to Luftwaffe pilots included standing orders to, 'never shoot a parachuting flyer nor to strafe an enemy who is forced to land'. And based on my training as a Luftwaffe pilot and my upbringing as a morally honorable person, I refused to go for the easy kill. (Dulias) recounts:

    He went down to tree top level in the direction of the front to get home. I followed him and dove but did not shoot at him because he would not have had a chance to bail out at that low altitude. I was not out to kill him. I wanted to get his forced landing into my gun camera as proof of another victory. I was hoping he would go down in our territory but he kept going, hedge humping. He wound up behind the Russian side of the front.”


    many more cases of this type of Airmanship. It seems to be the norm. But theres always a few bad apples.
     
  11. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

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    I would take anything Gottfied Dulias said with a large bucket of salt. He is a Walt.

    Solders have shot at unarmed enemy solders running away. Your Tiger/Sherman/T-34 is hit and you bale out and are gunned down.

    So why is it different shooting at a pilot parachuting into his own territory?
     
  12. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    #12 Ratsel, Aug 8, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2011
    Dunno.. you'd have to ask him/them. I'm just the messenger my friend. not everybody in Germany during WWII were genecidal meglomaniacs who followed Nazi SS doctrine to the tee.
     
  13. jayastout

    jayastout Member

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    I've not uncovered anything at all that has addressed the issue of Luftwaffe pilots premptively bailing from their aircraft, and was not really expecting to find anything. However, I thought that I'd check here and a couple of other places. Tough to prove a negative, but lacking any evidence I'll characterize the practice as a form of self-defense.

    Relative to the issue of pilots getting shot in their chutes...as others have noted, it happened in all the air forces. I've uncovered a U.S. encounter report that describes doing so. Too, Eisenhower expressly forbad it in a memo to his commanders (however, the memo was about a larger issue) just before D-Day. This indicates that it happened often enough that he felt compelled to do something about it.

    Thanks to all.
     
  14. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    Self Defence in my opinion would be the wrong term to use. I think an more apt description would be Self Preservation. I don't believe they would bail not before engaging B-17 formations. I would believe that some would have say coming apon P-47s or P-51s that severely outnumbered them. that would be more plausable.
     
  15. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I've read various accounts of Luftwaffe pilots jumping jumping even before receiving any fire. But this was late in the war, no doubt it was some of the very low time pilots the Luftwaffe was forced to put in the air , with very little experience and probably with no confidence of being able to survive a encounter . Just simple self preservation, not self defense.

    I wonder if the tales the Luftwaffe pilots were told of allied pilots shooting parachutes might have been greatly exaggerated to cut back on or prevent these early bailouts ?
     
  16. Readie

    Readie Well-Known Member

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    #16 Readie, Aug 9, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
    There is another thing to consider.
    I have read this book 'Another Bowl of Kapusta': The True Life Story Of A World War II Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot and P.O.W. in Russia.
    I'm told that the pilot does not exist but, it made an interesting read nevertheless.
    I have now been told that the whole book is a tissue of whoppers. Fit for the bin, which is where it is now...
    I can see no reason why a German pilot would want to bail out early and land in the tender hands of the Russians.
    The other books I have read gave me the impression that the German pilots fought hard to the bitter end driven by their code of honour and pride.
    I cite examples of allied bombers being rammed for example.
    Cheers
    John
     
  17. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    That would be the ' Rammkommando '. Pilots flew stripped down Bf109's with the intention of ramming the tail, wing, or a last resort the cockpit of four engine bombers. The pilots however had no intention of dying. They planned either to bail out right before or right after impact. It was tried one day only. 8 B-24s were succesfully destroyed.
     
  18. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    7 April 1945

    Sonnderkommado Elbe
     
  19. stona

    stona Well-Known Member

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    Yes,if you dive into a bridge then you intend to die.

    As far as shooting men in parachutes go it was discouraged on all sides for the reasons mentioned. It leads to retaliation and you might be the next poor bugger hanging in a parachute.
    Churchill thought that Luftwaffe pilots should be shot descending in parachutes during the BoB. It was Dowding who argued that as they were descending into captivity they were already effectively prisoners of war and therefore not legitimate targets. This of course begs the question whether a pilot descending into friendly territory,whence he might become active again in hours,is a legitimate target. It seems that the Luftwaffe and Western Allied Air Forces did not think so. There were always exceptions.

    As far as prematurely bailing out into Soviet captivity I don't know if it happened. All the instances I have seen evidence for,and there are many,come from Anglo-American reports.

    Cheers
    Steve
     
  20. Ratsel

    Ratsel Banned

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    I think the reasoning for not shooting pilots who bailed was two fold:

    1. they are no longer a threat.
    2. they have no way to defend themselves.

    regardless of whether they bailed over friendly territory or not. even once they landed, say on US held territory, if they did not pose a threat and were shot and killed anyways, that was a courtmartial offence with serious jail time.

    anyways, seems alot are mentioning the USAAF RAF as the main suspects. I suspect from what I've read/heard that the VVS had zero problems with shooting pilots under their chutes.

    as far as prematurely bailing over russia, I think no Luftwaffe pilot in their right mind would willingly do so.
     
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