Andrew here. The following story had to be cut from our Kurt Bühligen eArticle due to lack of space, so I thought I’d post it here instead. Hope it’s of interest. The Bühligen article will be ready for layout very soon, and should be of great interest to Luftwaffe fighter pilot enthusiasts.
12 September 1944 Combat and Kurt Bühligen
In his article about Kurt Bühligen, Christian Sturm includes a photograph of 334th FS/4th FG P-51D 44-14271 ‘QP-K’, and states: “This photo of a P-51D Mustang of the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 4th FG has been published numerous times, but captions have never revealed the aircraft was shot down by Bühligen during the summer.” Christian Sturm conducted an interview with Kurt Bühligen in the early 1980s, so presumably that is how he determined Bühligen’s responsibility for downing that particular Mustang.
The 334th FS/4th FG P-51D was definitely shot down over Germany on 12 September 1944. However, there is no evidence from the Luftwaffe victory claims microfilms of any Stab JG 2 aerial victory claims on 12 September 1944. To make Sturm’s claim seem even less credible, the aircraft depicted in his article was actually reported to be shot down by anti-aircraft fire, with the pilot, Captain Thomas E. Joyce, taken prisoner.
However, the story of Bühligen’s 12 September 1944 victory becomes much more plausible when other evidence is considered. First, the USAAF aerial victory claims for that day. The 334th, 335th and 336th FS/4th FG engaged Fw 190s and Bf 109s near Wiesbaden and Frankfurt between 12:24 and 12:35, claiming multiple victories. The Mustang-equipped 354th FG also reported victories over German fighters in the Frankfurt a.M. area between 11:50 and 13:15. Also involved were the P-51 pilots of the 55th FG, who claimed five Bf 109s destroyed between 12:45 and 13:00.
Then the German side of the equation. Allied Y-Service material and ULTRA signals reveal that Bühligen was very probably involved in this battle. At 12:00 the Fw 190s of Kurt Bühligen’s Geschwaderstab were ordered to jettison their drop tanks (this presumably being heard by the Allied Y-Service). An ULTRA signal provided further details, with JG 2 reporting that it became involuntarily involved in combat with Allied strategic raiders while the Germans were rendezvousing over Wiesbaden prior to flying to the battle area (II. Jagdkorps units, including JG 2, were meant to carry out anti-fighter bomber and artillery spotter patrols at the front on this day). The Germans initially reported that fifteen of their aircraft were shot down (actual loss figures were higher than the initial report), while the Germans claimed five Mustangs shot down, two probably shot down, and two damaged.
The JG 2 casualties were all from the I. Gruppe, which reported nine Fw 190 A-8s destroyed and eight pilots killed on this day in the Wiesbaden area. I./JG 11 reported two killed and two wounded, with seven of its Fw 190s destroyed. I./JG 77 lost four killed and two wounded for its single P-51 victory.
The only Richthofen Geschwader victory claim for the day recorded in the Luftwaffe victory claims microfilms was for a I./JG 2 pilot in the Wiesbaden area at 11:16. This was presumably when the encounter began. 54 minutes later the Fw 190-equipped I./JG 11 began to report victories in the Wiesbaden area, downing six P-51s between 12:10 and 12:30. I./JG 77, a Bf 109 unit, was based at Babenhausen near Frankfurt a.M., and it made the last German claim of the combat, at 12:38.
Further information on this combat is available from interrogation reports and secret recordings of JG 2 prisoners. One participant who was lucky to survive was Unteroffizier Kollmeyer of 3./JG 2:
“Once we got into a bad mess over Wiesbaden, but it was only the fault of the whole Jagdführung. The Jagddivision directed all sorties abominably. We continually had four-engined aircraft flying in. ‘Horizon’ kept on coming through: ‘Look out! Very many enemy Indianer are in the box’, and they let us assemble right over Erbenheim. For the Jagddivision knows very well that enemy fighters are flying in there continually. We were just assembling when about two hundred Mustangs came sweeping in between and we had about 120 aircraft. First of all there was the surprise – we had seen the four-engined aircraft but not the enemy fighters at the moment – and we were still in the act of assembling when they got in between us and there was some terrific weaving, and we lost sixteen men. … Two men bailed out, the others were all killed. We lost three men just in the Staffel alone.”
II. Jagdkorps reported “repeated and very hard air battles from bases to the target area” in its four missions on this day.
Unfortunately, no evidence exists for a victory claim by Kurt Bühligen in this encounter, but there remains a possibility that he was indeed responsible for shooting down the P-51 Mustang of Captain Thomas E. Joyce on 12 September 1944.