• Hi all,

    for the actions of april 22nd 1943 i made a special skinpack containing all 16 Gigants, which were
    assigned to the mission:

    The Cap Bon Massacre April 22nd 1943

    The following report is taken from Hans Dabrowski?s excellent book
    ?The Luftwaffe Giants in WWII? with some facts added by me:
    Holy Thursday, just before Easter 1943, was the blackest day of all for the Me 323s and their crews. The following account of the incident is based on war diary entries, teletype messages of the Luftwaffe operations staff and statements by men who were there.
    Ten Ju 52s of Kampfgruppe z.b.V. 106 took off from Pomigliano at 0640 hours bound for Tunis. The formation was led by Staffelkapitan Oblt. Biedermann. The Junkers were supposed to fly to Tunis with a group of fourteen Me 323s which took off from Pomigliano at 0710 hours and the maximum available fighter escort.


    Each Gigant was carrying about 12 metric tons of fuel or ammunition destined for Army Group Tunis, the embattled remnant of the former Afrika-Korps commanded by Rommel's successor, Generaloberst von Arnim. Sixteen Me 323s were originally supposed to take part in the mission, which was to be a repetition of a successful mission on 19 April when all aircraft returned safely. The sixteen aircraft were not the last still available to KG.z.b.V 323, as has been claimed in various publications. According to Geschwader strength reports from April 1943, at the beginning of the month I. Gruppe had fifteen aircraft, while II. Gruppe had 23 Me 323s, although not all were serviceable.
    One of the Giganten assigned to the mission on 22 April could not be made ready to fly and aircraft C8+BN of Obfw. Karl Kandzia went unserviceable as it was preparing to take off. Following engine run-up, two engines failed during the takeoff roll. In addition, one tire blew and the aircraft was unable to achieve flying speed. Kandzia's Me 323 rolled off the end of the runway past the DF shack and ended up in a field. It was later recovered.


    The fighter escort of 39 Bf 109s (II./JG27) assembled over Trapani at 0830 hours.


    Another 65 fighters (JG53 and JG77) were supposed to fly out from Tunis to meet the formation. At 0835 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 of flight was not over Cap Bon, a fact which had been stressed at the flight briefing the previous day, but over Cap Farina, which lay approximately 75 kilometers farther west. Cap Bon is a peninsula belonging to Tunisia, near Tunis. The area around Cape Bon was considered especially dangerous (because operation ?Flax? was launched by the allied air forces. Numerous sweeps and patrols to detect and destroy axis supply aircraft). The Ju 52 group was flying on the right, the Me 323s on the left.


    C8+BF aborted the mission and returned to Pomigliano because the crew smelled smoke in the cabin and couldn?t find out the cause.


    Approximately halfway between Sicily and Tunisia the Me 323s separated from the Ju 52 formation and, contrary to orders, set course for Cape Bon. Why the Gruppenkommandeur of II./KG.z.b.V 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 escort meant that the Giganten had only 36 escorts instead of the planned 104 (in fact only seven to nine Bf109s of II./JG27 escorted the gigants finally).


    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 at about 0935 hours. Biedermann was supposed to take his aircraft into the holding area near Cap el Fortass. Instead, however, he led his formation to a German fighter base at Andeless and circled there until he received clearance to land at Tunis.
    At 0925 two large groups of enemy fighters began attacking the Me 323s between Cap Bon and the island of Zembra. Conditions were hazy. The first group of enemy fighters (1st SAAF and 145th RAF Spitfires) 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 P40 Kittyhawks of the South African Air Force (No. 4 and 5 Squadrons SAAF), to attack the Giganten


    (those of No. 2 Sqn SAAF supported the spitfires) 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 enemy fighters to intercept and destroy the transport units, especially since shortages of personnel and aircraft meant that they were usually weakly escorted.
    The enemy 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 wedge-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 or exploded after a few hits. Though they put up stiff resistance, shooting down five to seven 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 Tunisia were still with the Ju 52s and were too far away to intervene. In any event, it is likely that they could have done little to alter the outcome of this uneven battle.
    Flight-Lieutenant Edwards of No. 260 Squadron (RAF, with Kittyhawks III) arrived on the scene toward the end of the massacre and discovered the last surviving Me 323, which had so far escaped attack. He and two other pilots gave chase. They opened fire on the Gigant, which caught fire and crashed into the sea.
    More allied fighters (112 shark squadron RAF) arrived at the end of the
    airbattle and two or three of these were lost to pilots of JG27 then.

    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 written report, the Geschwaderkommodore of KG.z.b.V 323, Oberstleutnant Gustav Damm became furious and demanded to know why the air-sea rescue service had not been alerted by radio. The belated (beginning at about 1200 hours) rescue - Fieseler Storks 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 Storks circling overhead to guide the boats to the men in the water. The last survivors were picked up at about 1800 hours, after 8 1/2 hours in the water.
    Aircraft losses: 14 Me 323s with 700 drums of fuel. Personnel losses: the initial tally was 2 killed, 113 missing (including 6 officers), 4 badly injured and 14 with less serious injuries. In the end, however, it was found that only 19 of the 138 men involved had survived this terrible tragedy. Oberstleutnant Werner Stephan was among the dead and he was officially honored by Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring for his "heroic actions." In transport officer circles, however, it was believed that Stephan had arbitrarily 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....
    JG27 lost three a/c in the cap bon airfights.

    Soon to come...

  • Great research and lovely skins Armin.

    I have this event as part of my current JG53 campaign, so these skins will be excellent news. I like your historic notes too.

    In the campaign I allow one flight of JG53 to make the rendezvous with JG27 and the others.

  • Great work and also loved the info.
    Regards Duggy

  • Wow!!
    Hey Armin, can you imagine the both of us standing by our Behemoth around 0600 smoking our last cigs before,..........................
    climbing aboard to make that flight to North Africa.
    Gulp...I'm getting dry mouth.


  • Great skins and story, Armin.

  • Great historic narrative and skins, plus action packed shots. When is the movie coming out.

  • When is the movie coming out.

    Hehe, it does sound like it would make a great movie.

    Thanks for the history lesson Armin.

  • PresentationcorrCapBon1943b




  • Superb as usual Armin and many thanks for the historical background, its always good to be able to put skins in their proper context. looking foward to these and glad they are already uploaded - hope we can download them soon!

    Over and Out.

  • yeah bro... all the big boys in one spot. thanks mate. i love your 323's!

Moderator(s): Boelcke, Buhli, cheruskerarmin, Cpt_Farrel, Duggy, Graf, Gumpy, Hayate, HBPencil, HEERDT, Jarink, Jaypack44, Juri_JS, kristorf, mapal, MarcoPegase44, monguse, PatCartier, PIPS, RAF_Loke, Rudi_Jaeger, Tailhook, Tomi_099, US_Grant