P-47  "JUG"
 
 
 

German Operation "Bodenplatte"

 
 

1 January 1945

 
 

Summary

On 1 January 1945, the Luftwaffe dealt a savage New Year's Day blow at Allied air bases in the Netherlands and Belgium. Between 0800 and 1000 hours, about 700 German aircraft (Goering later said 2,300) laid on a stunning attack. It was an ugly surprise for the Allies, who lost 156 Airplanes, 36 of which were American. Spaatz paid tribute to the careful planning that lay behind the German operation. Again the Luftwaffe had demonstrated its versatility and aggressiveness. Yet the Fuehrer, who had fathered the idea, lost far more than he gained. While he was able to replace his losses of airplanes readily, just as the Allies could, he had expended some of his last remaining capable pilots and key squadron leaders. The evidence indicated in fact that 1 January 1945 was one of the worst single days for human and aircraft losses the Luftwaffe ever experienced, and the military effect on the Allies, save for some embarrassment, was truly negligible.

Operational History

This period had a duration of one day and was defensive in nature. Between 0920 and 0945 hours on 1 January 1945, Site A-92, St. Trond, Belgium underwent strafing attacks by 7 FW 190's and ME 109's. The attacking squadron made three or four runs across the field inflicting damage to combat and administrative aircraft. The 404 and 48 Groups were located on this field as well as Headquarters Flight of the XXIX TAC and numerous bombers of the VIII Air Force which had landed on the field. The attacking aircraft were fairly successful in their mission although the cost to themselves was great.

Of the combat aircraft on the field, the enemy destroyed two P-47's, damaged 11 P-47's category AC and 16 P-47's category A.

Of the Command aircraft on the field, one UC 78 was destroyed and 4 other aircraft were damaged.

One B-24 and two B-17's were destroyed and two B-17's were damaged category AC. Thus, the seven attacking planes destroyed 6 aircraft and damaged 33.

Three enlisted men of the anti aircraft complement were seriously wounded. The field was not otherwise affected from an operational point of view.

None of our fighter planes were able to give battle to the enemy but AA destroyed 3 FW 190's and 2 ME 109's and damaged another enemy plane.

The one attack is of interest in itself as it represents the first attack of its kind during the invasion of German held Europe. However, as the day wore on it appeared that the attack on us was only a small part of a very well planned and coordinated attack on all fighter-bomber fields in the Brussels-Eindhoven area. It is now thought that between 700/800 German aircraft were employed in this large scale offensive against our bases. The enemy achieved a maximum of surprise throughout the area as strict silence was maintained on the radio. Radar did not pick him up as he flew at deck level on a well planned route which took advantage of the "Bulge" area and all terrain features. Over the target area, however, the organization broke down to some extent, largely due to the inexperience of personnel. The final reports reveal that some 127 allied operational aircraft were destroyed and 133 damaged. Only 11 pilots were lost. GAF losses were enormous in comparison. 160 aircraft were claimed shot down the air and nearly 300 were claimed by anti aircraft.

The considerable number of documents taken from crashed German aircraft and statements of German pilots have thrown a great deal of light on the manner in which the GAF raid on our airfields was carried out on the 1st of January. It seems to have been the enemy's plan to attack both Y-89, Le Culot and A-92, St. Trond, Belgium with considerable forces on each.

The rendezvous point for the attack on A-89 appeared to be Bingen, Germany, marked with a beacon and a smoke bomb, then to St. Vith and south of Liege to A-89. It is estimated that between 40 to 50 enemy planes started on this mission, but after leaving the "Bulge" got slightly mixed up and vigorously attacked B-56 at Brussels.

Approximately 30 FW 190's left the area of Limburg, Germany for the attack on A-92. Their route was Keblenz to west of St. Vith to Malmedy to north of Liege to A-92. Of the thirty, only seven reached the target.

The entire operation, as directed against the airfields of 2nd Tactical Air Force, XXIX Tactical Air Command and IX Tactical Air Command, appears to have been a prodigious effort for any air force, let alone the [missing]

The effort was brilliantly planned, but, fortunately for us, was too difficult for the pilots of the GAF to carry out to the letter.

It should be called to mind that by January 1, our ground forces were []cing the enemy back at Celles and Bastogne and undoubtedly the German high command knew he would be forced to withdraw before long. It is my opinion that this action on the part of the GAF was to cripple the fighter bomber effort which was certain to be used against such a withdrawal. Had he been successful, he would have prevented the mass destruction of motor transports, armored vehicles and tanks which took place only a little later in the month.

Due to the fact that the aircraft from the XXIX Tactical Air Command was on missions or on the ground, we had little part in destroying the enemy in the air. Only one ME 109 was damaged and this in the St. Vith area. 50 E/A were seen during the day but they succeeded in evading our aircraft by diving into the clouds.

 

 
  Pages G-1 through G-4 from "A Report of the 412th Fighter Squadron Operations During World War II" by Colonel Frederick C. Bealke, Jr. AUS (Ret) 12 July 1988  
     
 
 
 
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412th Squadron patch image courtesy of Bruce Lowell and Bob Colangelo.