WW2 - Latvian Fighter pilots in the Luftwaffe


LATVIAN FIGHTER PILOTS IN THE LUFTWAFFE





THE SELECTED FEW

In August 1944 the training facility at Liepaja Grobini, the two existing units of NSG 12, an anti-aircraft unit and a (yet unformed) fighter squadron were combined into the Luftwaffen Legion Lettland.

Already in June a group of five promising Latvian pilots had been selected from NSG 12 and sent to Germany for fighter pilot training. First, they reported to Gatow airfield, in Berlin, from where they were went to Parow to begin the training program on Arado 90 aircraft. Later, they were advanced to the Focke-Wulf 190 training, conducted at Plathe and Sagan airfields. In August their training program was moved to Liegnitz, in Silesia, where they flew both the FW-190 and the Messerschmidt Bf-109. At this time the Soviets were beginning to re-take parts of Latvia and the Latvian pilots requested, and obtained, a two-week leave to return to Latvia and make arrangements for their families' safety.

This first group graduated in late September and were available for assignment in early October. By that time the Luftwaffen Legion Lettland was already being dismantled, so all five were assigned to JG-54 "Grunherz", based in Tukums, Kurzeme. The OKL Order No. 10570/44, paragraph 1 indicates that the plan was to eventually convert JG-54 "Grunherz" into a Latvian/Estonian unit. The changing needs and circumstances of the war at that point meant that this never came to pass. Regardless, at the end of October, all five aviators were withdrawn from JG-54 and sent to Stettin to join the latvians who were already gathering there as their elements of the Luftwaffen Legion Lettland disbanded.
Major Endress, the German officer who had been in charge of the Liepaja-Grobini training unit, interviewed the five fighter pilots and decided to recommend that they be reassigned to a fighter squadron. Accordingly, they were sent to Berlin and, from there, assigned to JG.1 "Oesau".

At that time, JG.1 was based at Greifswald, in Germany. When they arrived, they were assigned to different flights (Staffeln) within the squadron. They flew Focke-Wulf FW190A-8 aircraft and here, working with their German colleagues, they continued to receive tactical training. In particular, they were trained to work as a team when attacking the large allied bomber formations. On December 17, 1944 JG.1 "Oesau" tranferred to Twente airfield, in Holland.

In July, 1944 a second group of five Latvians, newly graduated from the Liepaja-Grobini flight school, were also selected for fighter pilot training. Their training was not as thorough as the first group's. The training units were already short of fuel, and this greatly limited the flight time for these pilots to develop their skills. One pilot, J.Stars, died in a training accident. The remaining four were transferred from school to school, but everywhere the problem remained the same - no fuel and little actual training. Finally, in March 1945, Livmanis , Dumpis and Lagzdins were assigned to JG.4, then based in Juetebock, near Berlin. The fourth, Berkis, could not wait any longer for a flying assignment and had already requested a transfer to the Latvian Legion.

In April, 1945 a number of the surviving Latvian pilots were assigned to Erlangen to receive training on Messerschmidt ME 262 jet fighters. However, this order came too late to be implemented. Germany capitulated on May 8 and the training did not take place.



THE INDIVIDUALS
  • Berkis, Vitolds(Cprl)
    • Member of the second group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • This group received very poor training, as the lack of fuel and aircraft meant they were transferred from training facility to facility, but still did not receive the required flight hours.
    • Eventually, in frustration and impatience, Berkis decided he could no longer wait for a flying assignment and instead requested a transfer to the Latvian Legion. His request was approved.
    • Survived the war and, afterwards, emigrated to the USA.
  • Dumpis, Roberts
    • Member of the second group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • This group received very poor training, as the lack of fuel and aircraft meant they were transferred from training facility to facility, but still did not receive the required flight hours.
    • March, 1945 - assigned to JG.4, based in Juetebock (near Berlin).
    • At the end of the war he was in action against the Soviet troops, attacking ground targets. On May 1, 1945 his unit was disbanded and the aviators managed to escape to the western front to avoid capture by the Soviets.
  • Klints, Harijs (Sgt.) (aka Harijs Vasiljevs)
    • February, 1944 - assigned to the 1st Squadron of NSG.12 (Latvian night bomber unit in the Luftwaffe)
    • Member of the first group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • October 1944 - assigned to JG-54, stationed in Tukums, Latvia.
    • November 1944 - assigned to JG.1 "Oesau", stationed in Greifswald, Germany.
    • January 1, 1945 - participates in "Operation Bodenplatte", an early morning massed attack on allied airfields. His unit was assigned to attack the Maldegema airfield in Belgium, which required a considerable flight across allied-held Holland and the sea. En route to his target his flight met up with another flight which had been assigned a different target and some pilots, including Klints, accidentally joined up with the wrong group and therefore attacked a different airfield than originally assigned. Klints ended up attacking the Spitfires of three Polish squadrons of the RAF, based at St.Denis-Westrem, near Ghent. These pilots, rather than being asleep or hung-over from New Years' celebrations, were actually already in the air on their own morning missions. At 9:30 am the Germans attacked the airfield.
      While the Germans benefitted from the initial surprise, they soon found themselves in serious combat with the polish-flown Spitfires of 302 Squadron. As the Poles from the other squadrons returned from their missions they joined the fight, though many of them were low on fuel and soon had to make forced landings.
      Harij Klints' Focke-Wulf, marked with the number 5 and a blue band around the fuselage, was set upon by Ltn.B.Mach of 308 Squadron and Warrant Officer Stanislawa Bednarczyk. He was shot down near the airfield, beside the Brussels-Ostend highway, by the Zwijnaarde property. It remains unclear if Klints died in the crash of his aircraft or, surviving the impact, was set upon by others on the ground.
  • Lagzdins, Edgars
    • Member of the second group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • This group received very poor training, as the lack of fuel and aircraft meant they were transferred from training facility to facility, but still did not receive the required flight hours.
    • March, 1945 - assigned to JG.4, based in Juetebock (near Berlin).
    • In April Lagzdins was sent to pick up an aircraft and fly it back to base. En route, he was trapped in a pocket of German troops surrounded by the soviets. He was hospitalized and, shortly thereafter, the soviets captured the hospital. However, the Germans immediately pushed the soviets back, recaptured the hospital, and Lagzdins lived to emigrate to the west after the war.
  • Lecis, Janis (Ltn.)
    • December 1936 - graduates from the Riga flight school Sport Aviator program.
    • Member of the Latvian Aviation Regiment.
    • June 30, 1939 - graduates from military flight school.
    • February, 1944 - assigned to the 1st Squadron of NSG.12 (Latvian night bomber unit in the Luftwaffe)
    • Member of the first group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • October 1944 - assigned to JG-54, stationed in Tukums, Latvia.
    • November 1944 - assigned to JG.1 "Oesau", stationed in Greifswald, Germany.
    • December 5, 1944 (with JG.1) - while attacking an allied bomber formation, Lecis is shot down. He manages to make a 'belly landing' on a heavily damaged airfield near Neurupin, but the landing is very hard and he ends up in hospital.
    • In mid-April 1945 he was assigned to Erlangen for training on Me-262 jet fighters. Germany capitulated before the training could take place.
    • After the war, emigrated to Venezuela.
    • April 16, 2004 - dies, in Naguanagua, State of Carabobo, Venezuela. Survived by his widow, Velta.
  • Livmanis, Voldemars (Cprl)
    • Member of the second group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • This group received very poor training, as the lack of fuel and aircraft meant they were transferred from training facility to facility, but still did not receive the required flight hours.
    • March, 1945 - assigned to JG.4, based in Juetebock (near Berlin).
    • April 16, 1945 - Livmanis is sent to Dresden to collect an FW 190 and fly it back to Gluecksburg. He is never heard from again.
  • Makars, Haralds (Sgt.)
    • December 4, 1936 - a member of the 2nd graduating class from the Latvian Aero Club sport pilot's course.
    • July 10, 1938 - participates in the Aviation Festival at Kuldiga.
    • 1938 - participates in the "Flight around Latvia" contest as the passenger in the VEF I-12 flown by Rudzitis.
    • February, 1944 - assigned to the 1st Squadron of NSG.12 (Latvian night bomber unit in the Luftwaffe)
    • Member of the first group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • October 1944 - assigned to JG-54, stationed in Tukums, Latvia.
    • November 1944 - assigned to JG.1 "Oesau", stationed in Greifswald, Germany.
    • In mid-April 1945 he was assigned to Erlangen for training on Me-262 jet fighters. Germany capitulated before the training could take place.
  • Mencis, Arnolds (Ltn.)
    • February, 1944 - assigned to the 1st Squadron of NSG.12 (Latvian night bomber unit in the Luftwaffe)
    • Member of the first group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • October 1944 - assigned to JG-54, stationed in Tukums, Latvia.
    • November 1944 - assigned to JG.1 "Oesau", stationed in Greifswald, Germany.
    • Awarded the Iron Cross.
    • April 23, 1945 - Captured by the americans, but then turned over to the Soviets. While being transported to the east, he manages to escape and hide in Brest-Litovsk.
    • Autumn 1945 - returns to his parents' home in Riga.
    • July 14, 1952 - arrested and sentenced to 25 years forced labour for having served in the police battalion in 1941-43 and for his Luftwaffe service.
    • November 5, 1955 - released from forced labour as one of the Kruschev period amnesties.
    • 1997 - Awarded the Latvian Order of the Three Stars.
  • Millers, Eduards (1st Ltn)
    • Born in 1913, Millers served with the Rezeknes Infantry and, later, with the Latvian Aviation Regiment.
    • 1939 - Graduated from flight school (observer).
    • February, 1944 - assigned to the 1st Squadron of NSG.12 (Latvian night bomber unit in the Luftwaffe)
    • May, 1944 - while flying with NSG 12, earns the Iron Cross, 2nd Class.
    • Member of the first group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • October 1944 - assigned to JG-54, stationed in Tukums, Latvia.
    • November 1944 - assigned to JG.1 "Oesau", stationed in Greifswald, Germany.
    • December 27, 1944 (with JG.1) - while on a ground-attack mission near Bastogne, Miller and his unit are attacked by P-51 Mustangs of the American 364th Fighter Group. Twelve of the german aircraft are brought down, including Millers'. Millers attempted to bail out, but his parachute snagged as he left the cockpit. At the last possible moment he managed to get out of the cockpit, but his right shoulder received a terrific blow from one of the surfaces at the tail of the airplane. He was able to pull the rip cord with his left hand and floated to the ground safely, but wounded.
    • He was hospitalized until mid-April 1945, at which time he was assigned to Erlangen for training on Me-262 jet fighters. Germany capitulated before the training could take place.
    • After the war Millers emigrated to Venezuela.
  • Stars, Julijs (Cprl)
    • Member of the second group of five Latvian fighter pilots.
    • This group received very poor training, as the lack of fuel and aircraft meant they were transferred from training facility to facility, but still did not receive the required flight hours.
    • On October 10, 1944, on his second flight in an FW-190, Stars engine begins to malfunction and he has to make a forced landing away from the airfield. The aircraft flipped on its back and Stars, unable to open the canopy to escape, was overcome and suffocated by the fuel vapors.




Sources
  • Bruvelis, Edvins Latvijas Aviacijas Vesture
  • Krastins, K. Gulbenes Eskadrilas Liktenis in Daugavas Vanagu Menesraksts, 1982, No.5 to 1983, No. 6.
  • Mencis, Arnolds Kadets No. 20.
  • Millers, Eduards 1. Latviesu Naktsbumbvezu darbibas Otra Pasaules Kara Laika in Daugavas Vanagu Menesraksts 1975, No.1
  • Millers, Eduards Musu Kara Lidotaji Vacu Iznicinataju Aviacija in Kadets no.4
  • Ozols, Indulis Serzanta Klinta Pedejais Lidojums, in Daugavas Vanagu Menesraksts, 1992, No.1




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