Company floor slab
The Bodenplatte company was an air raid by German Luftwaffe fighters on Allied airfields in the Netherlands , Belgium and France on January 1, 1945. The Luftwaffe planned to destroy 17 enemy airfields at the front in this attack. In particular, the lack of combat experience of many German pilots thwarted the hoped-for success: Even though several hundred Allied aircraft were actually destroyed or damaged, the high own losses, especially to experienced pilots, were ultimately more significant and accelerated the decline of the Luftwaffe considerably while the combat strength of the Allied air forces was hardly affected.
Planning and execution
In autumn 1944, the German Wehrmacht began planning a major offensive against the Allies in the Ardennes area ( "Enterprise Wacht am Rhein" ). Preparations for an accompanying large-scale operation by the Luftwaffe against Allied airfields began on September 16. From October 16, the relocation of units from the Reich area to the vicinity of the operational area began. Hermann Göring's order demanded, on the one hand, to decimate the Allied tactical air forces by means of a surprise attack on their airfields, and on the other hand, to give their own ground troops freedom of movement through air support. Major General Dietrich Peltz was entrusted with the implementation as commander of the II. Hunting Corps, who on December 5th led the detailed planning of the "Bodenplatte company" with the squadron commanders. The majority of the available fighters were intended for this purpose. These were to attack the bomber and fighter units of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) stationed in Belgium, France and the Netherlands at low altitude and, if possible, destroy a large number of enemy aircraft on the ground. The ground offensive, later referred to as the Battle of the Bulge, began as planned on December 16. Because of bad weather, the accompanying air attack could not take place at the same time. Because of the long delay and the stalled ground offensive, some squadron commanders allegedly assumed that the ground plate had been canceled when the order was carried out on December 31, 1944.
All fighter squadrons that were stationed on the western front to defend the Reich took part in the attack. For this purpose, they were stationed at the air bases in Bonn-Hangelar , Cologne-Ostheim and Cologne-Wahn . 44 Junkers-Ju-88 - night fighters of the II. Or III./ NJG 1 , III./ NJG 5 , II./ NJG 6 , II./ NJG 100 and I. or II./ NJG 101 conducted as “pilots “The attack groups to their targets.
The main burden of the attack was carried by single-engine fighters and fighter-bombers of the types Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 , which could not carry bombs because of the length of the operation. There was heavy resistance from anti-aircraft guns over the area of operation, which led to high German losses. However, only relatively few Allied interceptors could rise to defense. Since the German pilots were mostly inexperienced and insufficiently trained for air-to-ground missions, the surprise effect could hardly be used.
Overview of targets and units involved
The Jagdgeschwadern (JG), Kampfgeschwadern (KG) and battle squadrons (SG) of the Luftwaffe faced the allied side:
- the Royal Air Force with the 2nd Tactical Air Force (2nd TAF). This was divided into four groups (squadrons), which in turn were divided into wings (German group) of three to five squadrons (corresponds to a German squadron ) with an average of twelve operational aircraft.
- the 8th and 9th Air Force These were divided into Fighter Groups (Jagdgruppen) and Bombardment Groups (bomber groups) and further into Squadrons .
The main tasks of the 2nd TAF and the 9th Air Force during the invasion of Normandy were to provide close air support to the ground forces. With the advance of the ground war, the units were relocated to mainland Europe. The task of the 8th Air Force was the strategic air war against Germany.
|Target of attack||Air Force unit||Allied forces||effect|
|Antwerp-Deurne (Belgium)||JG 77||four Spitfire seasons of the 2nd TAF, five Typhoon seasons of the 2nd TAF||minor destruction|
|Asch (Belgium)||JG 11||three squadrons P-51 of the 352nd Fighter Group, three squadrons P-47 of the 366th Fighter Group||little destruction|
|Brussels-Evere||II., III./JG 26||numerous American and British fighters, bombers and transport planes||severe destruction|
|Brussels Grimbergen||I./JG 26, III./JG 54||Except for six aircraft, the airfield was unoccupied and closed to flight operations||minor destruction|
|Brussels-Melsbroek||JG 27 , IV./JG 54||three reconnaissance squadrons from the 2nd TAF and three bomber squadrons from the 8th Air Force||severe destruction|
|Eindhoven (Netherlands)||JG 3, I./JG 6||eight Typhoon squadrons and three Spitfire and Mustang squadrons of the 2nd TAF||severe destruction|
|Sint-Denijs-Westrem (Belgium)||II./JG 1||three Polish Spitfire squadrons (302nd, 308th and 317th Squadron )||severe destruction, intense dogfights|
|Gilze-Rijen (Netherlands)||I./KG 51, III./KG 76||three reconnaissance squadrons of the 2nd TAF (Mustang / Spitfire)||minor destruction|
|Heesch (Netherlands)||Target not recognized||five Spitfire seasons of the 2nd TAF||without effect|
|Le Culot (Belgium)||JG 4||three Thunderbolt squadrons and two F-5 squadrons of the 9th Air Force||Missing space, no destruction|
|Maldegem (Belgium)||I./JG 1||two Spitfire squadrons of 2nd TAF||severe destruction|
|Metz-Frescaty (France)||JG 53||about 40 thunderbolts of the 365th Fighter Group of the 9th Air Force||moderate destruction|
|Ophoven (Belgium)||II./JG 11||four Spitfire squadrons of 2nd TAF||moderate destruction|
|Sint-Truiden (Belgium)||JG 2 , IV./JG 4, SG 4||six Thunderbolt squadrons of the 9th Air Force||moderate destruction|
|Volkel (Netherlands)||II. And III./JG 6||three Typhoon and five Tempest seasons of the 2nd TAF||little destruction|
|Woensdrecht (Netherlands)||JG 77||five Spitfire squadrons of 2nd TAF, all in flight||without effect|
|Ursel (Belgium)||JG 1||Airfield unoccupied except for four damaged aircraft||minor destruction|
The last entry in the logbook of many German pilots was: "Order from Hermann 01/01/1945, time: 9:20 am". When the documents were found on the pilots who had been shot down, the Allies initially thought it was "Operation Hermann ", a company named after its alleged planner, Hermann Göring . In fact, “Hermann” only stood for “date of attack” and meant that all associations would open the attack on the opposing airfields at 09:20. Hermann Göring himself had nothing to do with the company's complex planning.
Air Vice Marshal (Lieutenant General) John Edgar "Johnnie" Johnson, who was in Brussels-Evere that day, described the attack as follows:
“Operation Hermann was a bold move. We could see that the average German pilot was not up to the task. "
Based on the current state of knowledge, a total of 305 Allied aircraft were destroyed and 190 damaged in the German attack. Of these, 15 aircraft were lost to aerial combat and another 10 were damaged.
Of the approximately 850 German aircraft in use, 292 were lost. 213 pilots were killed or taken prisoner. According to current knowledge, 30–35 machines were shot down by the German anti-aircraft defense (Flak) on the outward and return flight , earlier publications mention significantly higher losses. Due to secrecy, planning deficiencies and deviations from the flight route, some German batteries were not informed of the overflight by their own forces.
The loss of a total of 22 experienced unit commanders was particularly serious for the fighting power of the hunting units: three squadron commodors , five group commanders and 14 squadron captains never returned from the mission.
The Allies did not carry out a major attack from the airfields hit in the two weeks that followed. The German home defense was meanwhile irrevocably broken by the high loss of experienced pilots. The German Ardennes offensive had failed since January 3rd at the latest, when the Allied counter-offensive began, in which the Allies were able to fully exploit their unbroken air superiority despite the base plate .
- Steven J. Zaloga , Howard Gerrard: Battle of the Bulge. Osprey Publishing, 2004, ISBN 1-84176-810-3 .
- Werner Girbig: Start at dawn. A chronicle of the sinking of the German Jagdwaffe in the West in 1944/1945. Motorbuch-Verlag, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-613-01292-8 .
- John Manrho, Ron Pütz: base plate. The Luftwaffe's Last Hope. Hikoki Publ., 2004, ISBN 1-902109-40-6 .
- Air force. Operation “floor slab”. 1 January 1945. ( Memento from November 15, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) (English, PDF, 74 kB)
- John Manrho, Ron Pütz: base plate. The Luftwaffe's Last Hope . reprint edition. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA 2010, ISBN 978-0-8117-0686-5 , pp. 2, 3 (first published by Hikoki Publications, 2004).
- John Manrho, Ron Pütz: base plate. The Luftwaffe's Last Hope . reprint edition. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA 2010, ISBN 978-0-8117-0686-5 , pp. 7 (first published by Hikoki Publications, 2004).
- Air Vice-Marshal 'Johnnie' (JE) Johnson: Wing Leader. Goodall paperback edition by Crécy Publishing, Manchester 2000, ISBN 0-907579-87-6 , pp. 294-295.
- John Manrho, Ron Pütz: base plate. The Luftwaffe's Last Hope . reprint edition. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, PA 2010, ISBN 978-0-8117-0686-5 , pp. 461–462 (first published by Hikoki Publications, 2004).