By Carl Molesworth
JG fifty one have been one of many Luftwaffe’s best wartime fighter devices, but their tale hasn't ever been instructed in English. The unit’s background encapsulates the fortunes of the Luftwaffe’s fighter arm as a complete - the heady successes of the early months, the regular attrition and the starting to be energy of the competition through the mid-war years, and the ultimate chaos and cave in of the final days.
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Additional info for Jagdgeschwader 51 ‘Molders’
The presentation would be made by Hitler himself the following day. Molders was only the second member of the Wehrmacht to receive the Oak Leaves (the first had been the 'Hero ofNarvik', General of Mountain Troops Eduard Dietl). The award set a new benchmark for fighter pilots. If 20 victories won them the Knight's Cross - and the Geschwaders third such decoration had just gone to Oberleutnant Hermann-Friedrich Joppien, the Kapitan of 1. StafJel, for his two Spitfires claimed on 'Battle of Britain Day' - then double that number would now assure them of the Oak Leaves.
G 51 was by far the most successful of the three Gruppen during October. Hauptmann Matthes' pilots were credited with a total of 26 enemy aircraft destroyed. The single Hurricane downed over Tunbridge Wells on 17 October provided victory 20 for the Kapitan of 6. Staffel, Oberleutnant]osefPriller. He received the Knight's Cross 48 hours later. One of a series of pictures purportedly taken on the occasion of Werner Molders' half-century. If this is indeed the case, everybody appears to be rather glum particularly visiting Jafii 'Onkel Theo' Osterkamp, to whom Molders is reporting.
JG 77 moved base four times in less than three weeks while discharging these duties. The ground personnel were undoubtedly kept busier than the pilots, for the latter encountered little opposition in the air. The Gruppe's three aerial kills of the campaign - all claimed within the first week - included firsts for both Hauptmann Hannes T rautloft and 2. Staffel pilot Leutnant Karl-Gottfried Nordmann. The unit's only loss was a Bf 109 written off in a belly landing after being damaged by enemy ground fire.