Me-323 Massacre

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Dec 9, 2007
Revis Island.
On April 22,1943 16 Me-323 were flying over cape Bon Tunisia. They were interceped by 2 RAF fighter squadrons and 4 SOuth African Squadrons with KittyHawks. 14 of the 16 were shot down. They were filled with 240 tons of fuel for the Afrika Korps, out of the 140 crews 19 suvived. 4 days earlier the Luftwaffe lost 24 Ju-52's.

Me-323 Motorized Gigant

Why did the Luftwaffe give the ME-323 the fighter protection needed? It must have been a field day. :shock:
Hi B-17,

>Why did the Luftwaffe give the ME-323 the fighter protection needed? It must have been a field day. :shock:

They obviously expected to get through undetected. According to Winterbotham's "The Ultra Secret" ...

F. W. Winterbotham - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

... it was only due to information from codebreaking that the aerial convoys could be intercepted, and the view of the intelligence community seems to have been that they shouldn't have intercepted as the danger of the Germans understanding that their Enigma communication could be read was too high.

Fortunately, the Germans seem to have blamed Italian sources for any security leaks they suspected, so the Allied codebreakers remained in business.


Henning (HoHun)
The Me-323 was just a bad idea. Sure it could carry alot, but it would be a sitting duck without comprehensive fighter support. They where also so big that painting them bright red with yellow polka-dots wouldn't have made them any more visible then the already where
The Holy Thursday Massacre came on the heels of the Palm Sunday Massacre which involved Ju 52s. There was fighter cover. Here is what I have - a composite from several sources:

The Luftwaffe again tried to supply the forces in Tunisia by sending transports loaded with fuel across the Med. 10 Ju 52s of Kampfgruppe zbV 106 took off from Pomigliano at 06:40 hours bound for Tunis. The formation was led by Staffelkapitaen Oblt. Biedermann. the Junkers were supposed to fly with a group of 14 Me 323s which took off from Pomigliano at 07:10 hours with the maximum available fighter escort. Each Gigant was carrying about 12 metric tons of fuel or ammunition destined for Heeresgruppe Tunis, the remnant of the Afrika Korps. 16 Me 323s were originally supposed to take part in the mission, which was supposed to be a repeat of a mission on 19 April when all transports returned safely. The 16 transports were not the last available to KGzbV 323 according to strength reports. I Gruppe had 15 aircraft while II Gruppe had 23 Me 323s although not all were servicable.
....The fighter escort of 39 Bf 109s assembled over Trapani at 08:30 hours. Another 35 fighters were supposed to fly out from Tunis to meet the formation. At 08:35 hours, the formation overflew the island of Marettimo, west of Sicily and descended to a height of 20 to 50 meters above the sea. The specified route was not over Cap Bon, a fact which had been stressed at the flight briefing but over Cape Farina, which lay about 75 kms farther west. The area around Cap Bon was considered especially dangerous. The Ju 52 group was flying on the right, the Me 323s on the left. About halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, the Me 323s seperated from the Ju 52 formation and, contrary to orders, set a course for Cap Bon. Why the Gruppenkommandeur of II./KGzbV 323, who was flying in Gigant 'C8+AR' ordered this course change will never be known. Most of the escort fighters which had taken off from Sicily stayed with the Ju 52s and did not go after the Me 323s until the fighters from Tunis had reached the Junkers. This splitting of the fighter force meant that the Giganten had only 36 escorts instead of the planned 104.
....The SAAF sent out 38 P-40s, covered by a SAAF Spitfire squadron and additional flights of British and Polish-manned Spitfires. Intercetpted over the Gulf of Tunis by the Allied fighters, the formation was mowed down. Oblt. Biedermann saw the attack on the Me 323s beginning in the distance - however he and his formation of Ju 52s reached Cape Farina unmolested about 09:35 hours. Biedermann was supposed to take his aircraft into the holding area near Cape el Fortass. Instead, he led his formation to a German fighter base at Andeless and circled there until he recieved clearance to land.
....At 09:25 hours, two large groups of Allied fighters began attacking the Me 323s between Cap Bon and the island of Zembra. Conditions were hazy. The first group of Allied fighters engaged the Bf 109s of II./JG 27 which were flying at an altitude of about 2400 meters, and forced them away from the transports. This allowed the second formation, which was larger and made up mainly of P-40s of the SAAF to attack the Giganten. The arrival of the fighters was no accident. First, Tunis and the surrounding airfields were the transports only possible destination and they could only arrive within certain hours. Second, a secret transmitter, which was discovered that same day, had been sending information to the Allies on all German flight movements from Trapani. The radio was hidden in a confessional in a church on Monte Giovanni above Trapani. Under these circumstances, it was no problem for the Allied fighters to intercept and destroy the transport units, especially since shortages of personnel and aircraft meant that they were usually weakly escorted.
....The Allied fighters estimated the size of the Me 323 formation at 20 aircraft instead of the actual 14. Once attacked, the Me 323s took evasive action and the wedged-shaped formation disintegrated. The huge, cumbersome transports had little chance of even reaching the African coast. Usually able to sustain a great deal of battle damage, on this day the Giganten were carrying volatile cargoes and most caught fire and exploded after a few hits. Though they put up a stiff resistance, claiming to shooting down 5 to 7 enemy fighters, the Me 323s were shot down one after another until the last Gigant crashed into the sea in flames. The escort fighters from Tunis were still with the Ju 52s and were too far away to intervene. The fighters from JG 27 did manage to tangle with some of the Allied planes and Lt. Bernd Schneider of 5./JG 27 claimed 2 Kittyhawks while Uffz. Dagobert Stanglmaier of 4./Jg 27 destroyed a Spitfire for his first victory.
....Only after he had arrived in Tunis did Oblt. Biedermann contact the adjutant of the Fliegerfuhrer by telephone and inform him of the air battle. On reading Oblt. Biedermann's report, the Geschwaderkommodore of KGzbV 323, Obstlt. Gustav Damm, became furious and demanded to know why the air-sea rescue had not been alerted by radio. The belated (beginning at about 12:00 hours) rescue - Fiesler Storchs dropping one-man life rafts, most of which missed their targets - was hampered by heavy seas and rain. Some men were picked up by motor torpedo boats, with the Storchs circling overhead to guide theboats to the men in the water. The last survivors were picked up at about 18:00 hours, after 8 1/2 hours in the water.
....Final confirmation of the early morning battle credited the Allied DAF fighters with 25 Me 323s, 8 Bf 109s, one MC 202 and one RE 2001, at the cost of 4 P-40s lost and one damaged, one Spitfire belly-landed but repairable and one damaged. However on this occasion there seems to have been a fair amount of double-claiming, particularily as the formation of Me 323s was assessed to be only 20 strong. All 14 transports with 700 drums of fuel were shot down, carrying the equivalent of a regiment into Tunisa, and 7 fighters were destroyed. Of the 140 crewmembers, the initial tally was 2 killed, 113 missing (including 6 officers), 4 badly injured and 14 with less injuries. In the end however it was found that only 19 of 138 men involved had survived the tragedy.
....JG 27 lost 2 pilots when Uffz. Heinz Holletz and Fw. Rudolf Lenz, both from 6./JG 27, crashed into the sea near Cap Bon. Of the transports, Gruppenkommanduer Obstlt. Werner Stephan was among the dead and he was officially honored by Genralfeldmarschall Kesselring for his "heroic actions". In transport officer circles, it was believed that Obstlt. Stephan had arbirarily changed course to reach Tunis more quickly and thus led the Giganten to their destruction. had he lived, he would probably have been required to answer for his actions before a court-martial.
....According to Me 323 pilot, Oblt. Ernst Peters, from the end of November 1942 to 22 April 1943, KGzbV 323 gad transported 15,000 meteric tons of equipment to Tunis and Bizerte in approxiamately 1,200 sorties. Among the items delivered: 309 trucks, 51 medium prime movers up to 12 tonnes, 209 guns up to 150mm caliber, 324 light guns, 83 anti-tank and AA guns, 42 AA radars including 'Wurzburg Riese' and 96 armoured troop carriers and self-propelled guns.
The Me-323 was just a bad idea. Sure it could carry alot, but it would be a sitting duck without comprehensive fighter support.

Explain to me how that is any different from any transport/cargo aircraft.

Seriously think about it. Any transport is going to be fodder for any fighter.
thanks for the info NJ.

If there was a transmitter tipping off the Allies, I wonder if they knew about the fuel loads and armed with more incendiary rounds.
>Explain to me how that is any different from any transport/cargo aircraft.

Seriously think about it. Any transport is going to be fodder for any fighter.<

Alright good point. Sorry. I was just thinking it was more of a target than aircraft such as the C-47.
A large number of smaller Transports (ie C-47, Ju 52 etc) would be more effective than a few large transports. (particularly if un escorted.)

It would be about as cost effective (if not better) and it would take alot more effort from interceptors to down 4 C-47s than a single Me 323.

And if you want to get into armaments the Li-2 (Russian version of C-47) carried a single 12.7 mm UBK dorsal turret along with 2x 7.62 mm ShVak waist guns and sometaime a 7.62mm nose gun too.

The Ju 52 could carry a similar armament, albeit no nose gun. (tri motor)

The problem with that is that these smaller a/c wouldn't have been capable of hauling the material which needed to be transported. A C-47 Ju-52 isn't capable of hauling even a single Marder TD, while the Me-323 could haul two at a time.
The 323 was ahead of it's time. Like any cargo aircraft, it was a sitting duck for fighters.

How well do you think the C-130, C141, C-5 or C-17 would fare against an F-86 or MiG-15?...

Was there any aircraft even close to the ME 323 until the Provider or Boxcar?

Which brings up an interesting point... What is the last cargo aircraft to have defensive armament?


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I should have realized that...

The C-46 could do more in that respect than the C-47, albeit still far less than the Me-323. The 323 could have used a better defensive armament though. 7.92 mm guns are just too weak to realy defend you. Some 13mm and a couple 20mm would have been nice. And it really needed escorts too. As the B-17 proved, a good defensive armament just isn't enough.

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