Focke-Wulf 190s Over Dieppe

The aim of this page is to give a summary of German fighter operations over northern France on 19 August 1942. Unfortunately, I don't have access to some of the essential sources, so consider this an incomplete first draft. If you can help with further details, please contact me.

On Wednesday, 19 August 1942, the Allies launched a major cross-channel attack, with landings taking place at the French port of Dieppe. The Luftwaffe played a major role in countering this raid, and the air battle over Dieppe proved to be one of the Focke-Wulf 190's finest hours. The two German fighter units involved, J.G. 2 and J.G. 26, both called upon three FW 190 fighter Gruppen, along with FW 190-equipped Jabostaffeln. Other Luftwaffe units involved in the day's fighting included II./K.G. 40 with Do 217 E-2s, K.G. 2 with Do 217 E-4s, and 1.(F)/123 with a variety of single and twin-engined reconnaissance types (including a single FW 190 A-3). The Allies considered air cover essential to the success of their landings, and they could rely on around-the-clock assistance from RAF Spitfires, Hurricanes, Typhoons and Mustangs. 48 squadrons of Spitfires took part, including 42 equipped with Spitfire Vs, two with Spitfire VIs, and four with Spitfire IXs.[1] Support for the mostly Canadian landing force was also provided by R.A.F. bomber units, along with the Spitfires of the American 31st FG and the B-17s of the 97th BG. However, Allied numerical superiority did not prove enough to secure the skies over Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

Jagdgeschwader 2
J.G. 2 had begun to re-equip with the FW 190 in March 1942 and by July, the entire Geschwader had recieved the potent radial-engined fighter. Stab J.G. 2 converted in July, I./J.G. 2 in June, II./J.G.2 in March and April, and III./J.G. 2 in May.[2] The Geschwaderkommodore was Walter Oesau, and with over 100 aerial victories to his credit, he was one of the most able pilots on the Channel Front. Erich Leie commanded I.Gruppe, and Helmut-Felix Bolz was Gruppenkommandeur of II./J.G. 2. Two holders of the Ritterkreuz served as Staffelkapitäne in II./J.G. 2. Oblt. Erich Rudorffer led 6.Staffel, and Lt. Kurt Bühligen led 4. Staffel. Hptm. Hans 'Assi' Hahn led III./J.G. 2. He was one of the characters of the Luftwaffe, and downed 108 Allied aircraft before being captured by the Soviets on 21 February 1943. Hahn's Gruppe had many skilled pilots, including the Staffel leaders, Egon Mayer, Bruno Stolle and Siegfried Schnell. The Jabostaffel of Jagdgeschwader 2 - 10.(Jabo)/J.G. 2 - converted from Bf 109 F-4/Bs to FW 190 As in mid-1942, and was very successfully led by Oblt. Franz Liesendahl until his death on 17 July. His place was taken by Oblt. Fritz Schröter. The Jabostaffel played an important part in countering the Dieppe landings with its FW 190 A-2s and A-3s, and for his actions, the Staffelkapitän was later awarded the Reich's highest honour, the Ritterkreuz.[3]

Jagdgeschwader 26
J.G. 26 had been the first German fighter unit to equip with the FW 190, and it achieved a good deal of success with the type. By 28 March 1942, J.G. 26 was entirely equipped with the FW 190, with the exception of 11.(Höhe)/J.G. 26, which like its counterpart in J.G. 2, used Bf 109 G-1s.[4] Major Gerhard Schöpfel led J.G. 26. He had succeeded Adolf Galland, and Schöpfel proved himself to be the equal of his famous predecessor. I.Gruppe was commanded by Johannes Seifert, who had amassed a victory tally of 40 Allied aircraft before 19 August 1942. His unit was based at St. Omer-Arques, about 125 km north-east of Dieppe. The Luftwaffe unit based closest to Dieppe was II./J.G. 26, at Abbeville-Drucat, and it was led by Hptm. Conny Meyer. 4./J.G. 26, under the command of Kurt Ebersberger, was one of the more successful Staffeln in the skies over Dieppe. Commanding 5./J.G. 26 was Wilhelm-Ferdinand Galland, who had joined the II.Gruppe on 27 June 1941, and by 19 August 1942 had gained thirteen aerial victories and risen to become the leader of 5.Staffel.[5] Hptm. Josef 'Pips' Priller was Gruppenkommandeur of III./J.G. 26, and he had a trio of good Staffelkapitäne, Klaus Mietusch (7.Staffel), Karl Borris (8.Staffel), and Kurt Ruppert (9.Staffel). 10.(Jabo)/J.G. 26 was based at St. Omer-Wizernes with the Geschwaderstab.
The Dieppe Air Battles
The first Luftwaffe fighters to go into action on the morning of 19 August were those of the duty Schwarm of 5./J.G. 26. Rottenführer of the first pair of FW 190s to take-off from Abbeville-Drucat at 06:15 was Lt. Horst Sternberg, a ten-victory Experte.[6] Another of these four pilots was Ofw. Heinz Bierwirth. At 06:20, 1./J.G. 26 took off from St. Omer-Arques and flew to Dieppe, led by Oblt. Haiböck. The rest of I.Gruppe soon followed, but they did not have any success.[7] It was to be Ofw. Bierwirth who claimed the first Spitfire over Dieppe at 06:43. This was the first of more than 100 Luftwaffe victory claims made during the day.

J.G. 2 entered combat over Dieppe minutes after Bierwirth's victory, and quickly began to down Spitfires. Uffz. Kurt Epsiger of 1./J.G. 2 made the Geschwader's first claims, a Hampden at 06:46, and a Spitfire two minutes later. Taking part in these first skirmishes was the Gruppenstab of II./J.G. 2. The Kommandeur, Hptm. Bolz, claimed a pair of Mustangs, the first at 06:55 and the second at 07:02. Ofw. Günther Seeger and Uffz. Rudi Röbbers of 3./J.G. 2 had success during these early dogfights. Seeger was involved in a low-level combat, and observed his victim crash into the sea five kilometres north of the town of Dieppe. After getting his victory at 07:09, Rudi Röbbers was himself shot up and wounded, and he force-landed near Dieppe.[8] After these battles, the sky cleared of German aircraft. One observer on the ground wrote of the first wave of air combats:

"As we talked, the air almost at cliff-top height over our heads was suddenly full of fighters snarling, screaming and twisting in a dogfight ... I could see the heads of the Germans in their Focke-Wulf 190s, and of the R.A.F. pilots in their Spitfires".[9]
It was more than half an hour later when the Luftwaffe re-appeared over Dieppe. Ofw. Hermann Staege of 11.(Höhe)/J.G. 2 claimed a Spitfire about fifteen kilometres east of the town. A few minutes later, II./J.G. 2 and II./J.G. 26 arrived. Lt. Bühligen of 4./J.G. 2 downed a Spitfire at 08:10, and a minute later, a member of Bühligen's Staffel, Ofw. Kurt Goltzsch, also claimed destruction of a Spitfire. Fw. Brychy made the last of 4./J.G. 2's claims during this combat, a Spitfire at 08:37. After taking off from their base at Abbeville-Drucat, 4./J.G. 26 had flown north-west to the Somme Estuary, where Lt. Roland Prym shot down a Spitfire at 08:17. Twenty minutes later, Ofw. Wilhelm Philipp got another British fighter south-west of Dieppe. Two more victories were achieved by J.G. 26 before 09:00. Ofw. Kurt Kruska (6.Staffel) downed a Mustang between 08:45 and 09:00, the combat occurring at Vron, 20 km N.N.W. of Abbeville-Drucat. At 08:53 the Staffelkapitän of 2./J.G. 26, Oblt. Zink, claimed a Spitfire just north-west of Dieppe at 2,500 metres.

Another major wave of air combats began just after 09:00, as I./J.G. 2 returned to Dieppe. Within fifteen minutes, the unit claimed six Spitfires and a Blenheim in the area, with three victories going to Ofw. Josef Wurmheller of 1./J.G. 2. Willi Morzinek got a pair of Spitfires, Fw. Alois Immerl downed the first Spitfire of his career, and Lt. Gebhart from 2./J.G. 2 got the seventh victory. 6./J.G. 2 was next to enter the fray, claiming three victories between 09:25 and 09:37, and at the same time, the Bf 109 G-1s of 11.(Höhe)/J.G. 26 fought with Spitfires at 4,000 metres. Oblt. Rolf Hermichen and Uffz. Erich Scheyda of 3./J.G. 26 claimed Spitfires at low-altitude at 09:51 and 09:52 respectively. 4./J.G. 26 and III./J.G. 26 fought combats with Spitfires in the Dieppe area between 10:00 and 10:30, claiming six R.A.F. fighters during that time. After both units returned to base, there was almost an hour without combat (with the exception of a claim for a Spitfire by a reconnaissance pilot of 1.(F)/123).

Bombing raid on Abbeville-Drucat
Between 10:32 and 10:40, Abbeville-Drucat airfield was bombed by 22 B-17s with an escort of Spitfires. Particularly targeted were airfield buildings and hangars. The mission was flown to divert Luftwaffe attention from Dieppe, and three B-17s were damaged.[10] Abbeville-Drucat, home to II./J.G. 26, was 60 km north-east of Dieppe. The following is the account of a Canadian pilot who flew with a R.A.F. Spitfire squadron, and had escorted the B-17s to Abbeville. On the return flight, he flew over Dieppe at 10,000 feet:

"A quick glance showed that there was terrific activity on land, on the water, and in the air. I saw a FW 190 alone about 1,500 feet below me. I did a barrel roll to lose height, levelled out about 150 yards behind the Hun, opened fire and closed to a range of about 25 yards. Pieces of the FW 190 about a foot square flew off from around the cowling. Just as both the enemy aircraft and I ran into a cloud, he blew up with a brilliant flash of flame and black smoke.

My wind-shield and hood were smothered in oil, and there was a terrific clatter as pieces of the Hun struck my plane. I broke away, hardly able to see through the hood. Afterwards my Number 2 told me that one of the pieces he saw break off the enemy aircraft was about ten feet long.

I did not realize at that stage that the debris of the exploded aircraft had done such serious damage to my Spitfire that I would have to bale out a few moments later. But, just as I was turning for home, flying at about 1,000 feet, my engine started to cough and the aircraft shuddered violently.

Realizing that I should have to bail out, I started to climb, and had reached low cloud at about 2,000 feet when my engine stopped completely. I took off my helmet, undid my straps, and opened the hood. Then I crouched on the seat and shoved the stick forward, but in some way my parachute became caught, and I figured that I was only about 250 feet above the water when I got clear.

The aircraft plunged into the water as my parachute opened. Almost at once I had to press my parachute quick-release gear, for I had also hit the water. But I inflated my dinghy and climbed into it without difficulty. Two Spitfires circled over me, while a third went for a rescue boat which was not far away".

I was rescued within fifteen minutes, the captain of the rescue launch estimating my position as 17 miles off Dieppe
At around 11:30, FW 190s appeared in great numbers over the beachhead, resulting in the fiercest combat of the day. Rolf Hermichen of 3./J.G. 26 claimed destruction of a P-39 at 11:38 (a case of mis-identification). Karl Willius of the same Staffel claimed a Spitfire at 11:33. 3./J.G. 2 had also arrived over Dieppe, and made claims for Spitfires at 11:33 (Günther Seeger), 11:35 (Josef Heinzeller), 11:39 (Günther Seeger and Günther Brietz), and 11:40 (Georg Keil). By the last-mentioned time, Hans-Günther Adam of 2./J.G. 26 had claimed a Spitfire. 9./J.G. 2 had also arrived in the area, and within thirty minutes (11:39 - 12:06), the Staffel claimed seven Spitfires. The Stab of I./J.G. 2 made two Spitfire claims at this time, Lt. Fritz Edelmann at 11:48, and the Gruppenkommandeur Erich Leie at 11:50. Fierce combats continued until about 12:45. I. and II./J.G. 2, and I., II. and III./J.G. 26 all claimed more victories during this period. There were some German aircraft losses between 11:00 and 12:45. Shortly after 11:00, a pair of J.G. 26 pilots were shot down and killed by Spitfires. Ofw. Paul Czwilinski of 2./J.G. 26 was killed when his FW 190 A-2 'Black 10 + ' crashed in Dieppe harbour. Uffz. Hans Rieder of 5.Staffel was the other J.G. 26 pilot killed. J.G. 2 also suffered losses, but details of aircraft and pilots involved are unknown.

After half an hour with no air combat over Dieppe, at 13:20 4./J.G. 2 and 11.(Höhe)/J.G. 26 again engaged the Spitfires. Kurt Bühligen, Peter Faßhauer, Theobald Eicher and Kurt Goltzsch all made claims for 4./J.G. 2, while for the Bf 109-equipped 11.Staffel of J.G. 26, Emil Babenz downed his 20th and 21st victims, and the Staffelkapitän, Johann Schmidt claimed his eleventh at 13:30. 30 minutes later, I./J.G. 26 provided escort for the Do 217 E-2s of II./K.G. 40. During this mission, Do 217 gunners claimed one Spitfire destroyed, and the Gruppenkommandeur of I./J.G. 26, Johannes Seifert, got another at 14:00.

Elements of J.G. 2 were over Dieppe again at 14:20. Ofw. Karl Pfeiffer of 5.Staffel shot down two Spitfires, and Herbert Böttcher (6.Staffel) and Elmar Resch (3.Staffel) claimed one each at 14:25. Towards 15:00, 9./J.G. 26 and more J.G. 2 FW 190s made several claims. Stammberger, Ruppert and Dörre from 9./J.G. 26 downed Spitfires at 14:57, 15:00, and 15:20. 1./J.G. 2's Josef Wurmheller achieved victories over three British fighters between 15:16 and 15:22, and Theo Eicher of 4./J.G. 2 got his sixth career victory at 15:10. A few minutes later, Siegfried Schnell led his 9./J.G. 2 into combat, getting three victories for himself in quick succession. Fifteen minutes later, it was the turn of Oblt. Egon Mayer of 7./J.G. 2, as he shot down R.A.F. fighters at 16:03 and 16:05.

II./K.G. 40 flew another mission to Dieppe, arriving over the target at around 16:30. J.G. 26 provided escort, and the Geschwaderkommodore, Major Schöpfel, shot down one Spitfire from an altitude of 4,000 m. The Do 217 gunners of 5./K.G. 40 claimed another three Spitfires. Combats were becoming sporadic as the afternoon wore on. 6./J.G. 2 put in a final appearance over the battle area just before 17:00, and Erich Rudorffer was twice successful against the Spitfires. At 17:30, Focke-Wulf 190 pilots claimed another four enemy fighters, and at 17:52, Willi Roth of 4./J.G. 26 got one north-east of Dieppe. Wilhelm-Ferdinand Galland made his only claim for the day at 17:55. Major Gerhard Schöpfel made his unit's last victory claim at 18:30, and at 18:45, Josef Wurmheller made J.G. 2's final claim. However, it was a Do 217 gunner who shot down the last Spitfire over Dieppe, at 19:43.

The 31st Fighter Group at Dieppe [12]
The only American air unit to take part in the Dieppe action was the 31st Fighter Group. It consisted of the 307th, 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons, and would receive a harsh baptism of fire over Dieppe on 19 August 1942.

The 308th FS took off at 07:17 for the 31st Fighter Group's first mission of 19 August 1942, and after arriving over the Allied invasion fleet, the unit's Spitfire Vs were badly bounced by FW 190s. Lt. Inghram had to bail out off the coast, and Lt. Smith's plane was hit by 20 mm and 7.92 mm rounds. The 309th FS arrived over Dieppe not long after the 308th, and Lt. Junkin of the 309th made the first U.S.A.A.F. victory claim in Europe, for a Focke-Wulf 190 destroyed. The 307th FS sent off its first mission at 09:55, led by Major McNickle and Wing Commander Thomas. At 10:15 they arrived at Dieppe, and immediately dived to intercept FW 190 fighter-bombers attacking shipping. However, the German fighter-bomber tactics were too good for the Americans. The FW 190s built up great speed in the dive to attack the ships, and this meant the German aircraft could flee towards the coast when pursued by the American Spitfires. Lt. Merlin P. Mitchell's Spitfire V was badly damaged by 20 mm cannon fire, but he returned to base. Two 307th FS pilots went missing.

The 308th FS began its second mission of the day at 10:02 with twelve Spitfires. They returned at 11:32, with one pilot missing and three aircraft suffering damage, and without making any victory claims. A third mission by the 308th FS/31st FG commenced at 12:24, and a minute later the 307th began its second mission of the day. Again no claims were made, and Lt. Wells of the 308th was posted missing in action (he was later found dead by Allied ASR). The 308th FS flew its fourth mission as an escort for ships in mid-afternoon (landing at 15:15), and this was more successful, with no losses.

The final mission of the day for the 307th began at 16:05. Twelve Spitfires were to protect the Allied invasion fleet as it returned to England. The ships were mid-Channel when the 307th FS reached them, and immediately the American pilots spotted four FW 190 fighter-bombers attacking the ships. Lts. Whisonant and Wooten attacked the leading FW 190, hitting it. It flew back to France trailing black smoke. Two other American pilots successfully attacked an FW 190, hitting it numerous times, and it was claimed probably destroyed. This was the 31st Fighter Group's last combat for the day.

The very inexperienced American pilots had performed reasonably well on 19 August 1942, but they were clearly outclassed by the J.G. 2 and J.G. 26 FW 190s. For the day, four 31st FG pilots were missing, one killed, and one wounded, and seven Spitfires were damaged. In return, two FW 190s were claimed destroyed, three claimed probable, and two damaged. The 31st FG would gradually learn and improve, and would eventually become the highest scoring American fighter unit in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.

FW 190 fighter-bombers
The Canadian R.A.F. pilot who was picked up by a rescue launch (see above for his account) witnessed the effectiveness of the FW 190 fighter-bomber attacks on shipping off Dieppe:

"During the afternoon we answered several crash calls, often operating within sight of the French coast. We saw a heavy bomber attack on our raid fleet beaten off by A.A. fire. We saw the explosion of two aircraft colliding head on. We could see the gun-fire from both ships and the shore, and we watched aircraft laying smoke-screens.

Later in the afternoon two FW 190s passed over us at 1,000 feet, and they attacked and set on fire another rescue launch. We raced off to get help from a naval boat, but as we went back towards the burning launch we saw another rescue boat going to its assistance.

Suddenly four more FW 190s set the second launch on fire. Then Spitfires arrived. We signalled to them where the trouble ahead lay, and they went on to find it. No sooner had the Spitfires left us than six more FW 190s dived on us. I am afraid our guns did not have much effect on them, but I think the fire from the naval boat shook them quite a bit. Only when they had run out of ammunition did the FW 190s fly off. We and the naval rescue launch then picked up the crews of the two burning launches
The FW 190's performance as a fighter-bomber at Dieppe impressed the Germans, as the following extract from a Luftflotte 3 report reveals:
"The FW 190 is in every way suitable as a fighter-bomber. However, it needs additional armour without reducing its manoeuvrability and speed. 1-2 fighter-bomber squadrons are not sufficient to deal with large warships. At least two full-strength fighter-bomber squadrons are urgently required for each fighter central command area. Employment of the other fighters as fighter-bombers is not possible owing to their numerical weakness and the many other tasks they have to carry out. The fighter-bomber has proved so effective that its radius of action should be increased to 400 km as soon as possible."[14]
The aerial battles fought over Dieppe on 19 August 1942 demonstrated the potency of the Focke-Wulf 190 as a fighter and fighter-bomber. The pilots of J.G. 2 and J.G. 26 had to respond quickly to a surprise enemy landing supported by a strong air element, and judging from victory and loss records, they did this very successfully. J.G. 2 lost eight pilots killed or missing, and six pilots wounded, and in return the Geschwader claimed destruction of 67 enemy aircraft. J.G. 26 lost six pilots killed or missing, and claimed a total of 38 enemy aircraft destroyed. Despite the inevitable overclaiming, this was a clear victory for the Germans.[15] Dieppe was one of the finest moments in the service career of the Focke-Wulf 190, and the combats of 19 August 1942 represent the climax of the Luftwaffe's dominance on the Channel Front.


Click to view German Victory List

Click to view Allied Victory List

Click to view German Loss List

Click to view German Air Order of Battle

Click to view German Ground Order of Battle

[1] A. Price, Spitfire: A Complete Fighting History, Promotional Reprint Company, London, 1997, p.72
[2] M. Holm, Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen Stab/JG 2,; Holm, F & B I./JG 2, jagd/bijg2.html; Holm, F & B II./JG 2, jagd/biijg2.html; Holm, F & B III./JG 2, jagd/biiijg2.html
[3] Fritz Schröter recieved the Ritterkreuz on 24 September 1942; E. Obermaier, Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe: Stuka-und Schlachtflieger 1939-1945, Verlag Dieter Hoffmann, Mainz, 1976, p.190;
[4] Holm, Single engine fighters - 28.03.42,
[5] E. Mombeek, Luftwaffe: A Pictorial History, The Crowood Press, London, 1997, p.91
[6] J. Weal, Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Aces of the Western Front, Osprey Publishing, Botley, 1996, p.26
[7] Weal, Fw 190 Aces of the Western Front, p.26
[8] W.J.A. Wood, 'J.G. 2 Loss List', p.22
[9] A.B. Austin, We Landed At Dawn, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1943, p.103
[10] J. McKillop, Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces, August 1942,
[11] Austin, We Landed At Dawn, p.140
[12] Dennis C. Kucera, In a Now Forgotten Sky: The 31st Fighter Group in World War II, Flying Machines Press, Stratford, 1997, pp.19-20
[13] Austin, We Landed At Dawn, pp.140-141
[14] Luftflotte 3 Intelligence Report No.8655/42, p.9
[15] Allied aircraft losses amounted to 106, including 88 Spitfires and 18 bombers; Weal, op.cit., p.26; via M. Williamson

A.B. Austin, We Landed At Dawn, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1943

C. Bowyer, Hurricane At War, Ian Allan, London, 1974

M. Holm,

E. Mombeek, Luftwaffe: A Pictorial History, The Crowood Press, London, 1997

Dennis C. Kucera, In a Now Forgotten Sky: The 31st Fighter Group in World War II, Flying Machines Press, Stratford, 1997

E. Obermaier, Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe: Stuka-und Schlachtflieger 1939-1945, Verlag Dieter Hoffmann, Mainz, 1976

A. Price, Spitfire: A Complete Fighting History, Promotional Reprint Company, London, 1997

J.H. Schuurman, '19-08-1942', posted on Luftwaffe Discussion Group: 12 O'Clock High!, 18 December 2003

J. Weal, Focke-Wulf FW 190 Aces of the Western Front, Osprey Publishing,

W.J.A. Wood, 'Jagdgeschwader Nr. 2 (JG 2) "Frhr. von Richthofen" - The "WASt. List"', [referenced as 'J.G. 2 WASt. List']

W.J.A. Wood, 'Flugzeugunfälle und Verluste bei dem Verbänden Genst.Qu.Gen.6.Abt Nr.4949/40 g. Kdos 1C. 1939-45', [referenced as 'J.G. 2 Loss List']

W.J.A. Wood, Luftwaffe Victory Claims Lists,