By Pierre Kosmidis
Photos, documents and additional information by Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach, used by kind permission.
Click the links below for additional reading:
Identified! WW2 German Stuka Ju 87 aircraft S7+GM shot down in a dogfight on October 9 1943 recovered west of Rhodes
Dogfight over the Aegean: A minute by minute account of the Air Battle west of Rodos island, October 9, 1943
Dogfight over the Aegean: The Leverette Report illustrated – P-38 “Lightnings” against Ju 87 “Stukas”, on 9 October 1943
“Only the dead have seen the end of war”, General Douglas MacArthur said in his farewell address to the cadets at West Point in May 1962, a quote misattributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.
Looking at the bigger picture of every conflict, we tend to forget that wars are being fought by human beings, by individuals who found themselves in the turmoil of warfare.
World War 2, the largest conflict humankind has ever witnessed, involved millions of young men who served their countries, fought and in many cases died before the war ended.
A largely forgotten episode of World War 2 happened in Greece, overshadowed by battles of epic proportions happening on the eastern front, or in the Pacific, back in 1943.
Nevertheless, these battles in this tiny spot of the globe, on the southern tip of Europe and in the skies over the Mediterranean were as fierce, bloody and intense as in any other battlefield across the world.
Thanks to Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach, www.ww2wrecks.com is now able to unfold the personal story of Friedrich “Fritz” Eisenbach, a 22 years old Stuka pilot, his uncle, who saw action in Greece, in the skies over Kefalonia, Leros, Rodos and Samos.
On top of that and thanks to Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach, www.ww2wrecks.com is also unraveling the circumstances around the air attack of Stuka bombers against Allied naval ships and the ensuing air battle that resulted in the downing of several Luftwaffe aircraft.
One of those Stuka dive bombers shot down on 9 October 1943 close to Rodos island, Greece was salvaged almost 7 decades later and we now know the aircraft specifics and the names and sad fate of its crew.
Fritz was involved in one of the biggest air battles that happened in the eastern Mediterranean in October 1943 and died at the age of 23, when his aircraft was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, after 79 combat missions, in the eastern front in 1944.
After the battle for Leros in November 1943, I./StG 3 was deployed to Skopje. There Fritz wrote a letter to his mother. It was already Christmas, Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach explains:
Fritz, who was 22 years old, said in his letter:
“I hope that I will not have to perform my deadly skills on Christmas Day” and added: “We will enjoy life on Christmas Day, we will drink, we will dance, we will kiss the girls, because we will soon die”.
Just to highlight the importance of the human element in every war, on 15 September 1943, Fritz flies his first combat flight with I./StG 3 from Araxos, as Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach found out.
The Battle for Kefalonia starts!
Parts of this video were used for the propaganda newsreel we see below, a unique testament to the air attacks against the Italians on this Greek island:
www.ww2wrecks.com has asked Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach questions regarding the actions of the Stuka pilot and through the eyes of his ancestor we can now see, a first-hand account of History, as it happened back in 1943.
As I joined the German Air force between 1972-2006 I was also interested in the story of my uncle Fritz, who joined the Luftwaffe as a “Stuka” dive bomber pilot between 1940-1944. So there was a very personal interest.
As Fritz was Killed In Action in 1944 I also wanted to preserve his memory for my nephew and grand nephew, otherwise he would be forgotten.
So this was also a family approach.
I also wanted to share my information about the Stuka missions in the Mediterranean theatre of operations with “the rest of the word”.
You could not find anything of these Stuka operations in 1943 until 2007.
With the details of the Flight Log “Flugbuch” of Fritz I was able to make for the first time available the operations of I./StG 3 to a wider audience.
With the Flugbuch of Fritz in my hands I started to dive into history, which was never told from this point of view.
I was very impressed to link the personal combat flights to the WW2 history in general.
I started with the battle for Kefalonia in September 1943.
So I could now follow the air operations along the flights of Fritz and suddenly a propaganda video on youtube gets an very personal aspect.
Knowing that Fritz was the pilot of the cameraman was an exciting revelation!
And at the same time, a fisherman catches a Ju 87 in his net.
Realising that this event too is directly is linked with the air operations in 1943 was amazing.
We have three periods in 1943:
1) The battle for Kefalonia in September 1943.
2) The battle for the Aegean Sea in October 1943.
3) The battle for Leros in November 1943.
The battle for Kefalonia in September 1943.
During this battle I./StG3 flew 12 missions from Araxos to Kefalonia with an average flight time of 90 minutes. Italian air defense was not very strong and enemy fighter aircraft not available.
So there was not a really threat for the German Junkers Ju 87 “Stuka”. For the experienced pilots it was not a challenge.
The battle for the Aegean Sea in October 1943.
Between 3 – 5 October 1943 I. and II. /StG 3 flew missions in support of the German invasion of Kos. They have had some losses and the risk of being lost in the sea. This was tough.
From 6th October til 9th October II. (Argos) and I./StG 3 flew missions from MEGARA against British warships west of RHODOS. The flight time was up to four hours in this slow moving small Ju 87 aircraft.
Imagine 4 hours in such an aircraft!
In the target area heavy anti air artillery fire of the British warships met the Ju 87. And with the last drop of fuel the Ju 87 had to return to Megara.
These were really very difficult missions mentally and physically, threatened by heavy air defence.
The battle for Leros in November 1943
From 6th October on I./StG 3 flew missions from MEGARA against Leros.
Between 6.10. and 17.11.1943 19 missions were flown from Megara with an average flight time of 167 minutes. Again these missions were mentally and physically difficult missions threatened by air defence.
I wanted to know, what Fritz did on October 9, 1943 as the flight time -230 minutes – was extremely long. Leros was from/to Megara approx. 180 minutes. So the target could not be LEROS.
The problem was: The Germans reported in A-Time and the British reported in C-Time. So there was a gap of two hours and on a first look it was not evident, that Fritz attacked at 12.00 hrs.
Official British reports on the event were WRONG. They mentioned 12.15 hrs as time over target. This was the time of the second Ju 87 wave. HMS Panther sunk at 12.03 hrs. I had to confirm this. It took a long time.
All post war authors did not realize, that there were two different Ju 87 groups – I./StG 3 from MEGARA and II./StG 3 fram ARGOS. They tried to explain what has happened with one Ju 87 group.
But this did of course not work and so all the explanations in post war books are, because of that, unrealistic.
Due to these discrepancies I started to investigate the event in detail, based on original German and US reports.
I took a big map of the Aegean Sea and plotted time, speed and heading of all forces. This is how I managed to get a clear picture of the situation.
The life and death of Stuka pilot Friedrich “Fritz” Eisenbach, 1921-1944, as described by Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach
16.02.1921 My uncle is born near Frankfurt / Main
10.05.1926 The brother of “Fritz” my father Hans Eisenbach is born.
1940 Fritz joins the German Air Force. Basic military training
02.01.1941 Fritz is starting his basic flying training at Flugzeugführerschule A/B at DANZIG
23.10.1943 Fritz ends his basic flying training at Flugzeugführerschule A/B at DANZIG with flight number 592. He has flown in total 592 flights=194 hrs 38 minutes
16.11.1941 Fritz is starting his pre-Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at Flugzeugführerschule BAD AIBLING / Bavaria with flight number 593.
27.03.1942 Fritz is ends his pre-Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at Flugzeugführerschule BAD AIBLING / Bavaria with flight number 651. 59 flights = 21 hrs 23 minutes
06.10.1940 Fritz is starting his Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at Stuka-Flugzeugführerschule KITZINGEN / Bavaria with flight number 652.
12.01.1943 Fritz is ends his Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at Flugzeugführerschule KITZINGEN with flight number 758. 106 flights = 46 hrs 52 minutes
20.01.1943 Fritz is transferred to Ergänzungsstaffel Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (E-Staffel StG 3 / Recruiting Squadron Dive bomber Wing 3) Athen-Kalamaki
29.03.1943 Fritz is starting his supplement Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at E-Staffel StG 3 with flight number 759.
25.06.1943 Fritz ends his supplement Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training at E-Staffel StG 3 with flight number 826. 68 flights = 52 hrs 14 minutes
01.07.1943 Fritz is transferred to I. Gruppe Sturzkampfgeschwader 3 (I.StG 3) in MEGARA.
02.07.1943 Fritz is starting his operational Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training with flight number 827.
23.08.1943 Fritz ends his operational Stuka (Dive bomber) flying training with flight number 855. 28 flights = 13 hrs 6 minutes
27.08.1943 Fritz is starting routine flying with flight number 856.
14.09.1943 Fritz is ending routine flying with flight number 861. 28 flights = 13 hrs 6 minutes
15.09.1943 Fritz is starting with I./StG 3 from Araxos for his 1st Combat flight (Flight number 862) The Battle for Kefalonia starts!
15.09.1943 Fritz his 1st Combat flight (Flight number 862): Fritz does not drop bombs, but has a cameraman on board his Junkers Ju 87.
24.09.1943 Fritz flight number 874 = Combat Flight Number 13. The Battle for Kefalonia is over.
04.10.1943 Fritz flight number 880 = Combat Flight Number 14. The Battle for the Aegean sea starts.
09.10.1943 Fritz flight number 884 = Combat Flight Number 19. Target: Formation of 6 British cruiser and destroyer west of Rhodos.
09.10.1943 I./StG 3 MEGARA Take off time 10.00 hrs C-Time (08.00 A-time). Flight time to target 120 minutes. Attack on British Force between 12.00 hrs C-time and 12.05 hrs.
09.10.1943 I./StG 3 MEGARA landing time 11.50 hrs A-Time / 13.50 hrs C-time.
09.10.1943 II./StG 3 ARGOS Take off time 10.13 hrs C-Time. Flight time to target 122 minutes. Attack on British Force planned for 12.15 hrs C-time.
09.10.1943 II./StG 3 is intercepted by 37th US Fighter Squadron between 12.15 hrs C-time and 12.30 hrs Charlie time. A minimum of six Junkers Ju 87 are lost. Also S7+GM.
25.11.1943 Fritz flight number 903. Take off for RUSSIA.
27.02.1944 Fritz flight number 930. Landing in Dorpar airfield. Eastern Front.
28.02.1944 Fritz flight number 931 = Combat flight number 48. First combat flight in RUSSIA.
31.03.1944 Fritz flight number 977 = Combat flight number 79. Last combat flight in RUSSIA. Fritz is killed in Action by Russian air defence guns 312 Km south of Leningrad.
03.04.1944 The personal items of Fritz, including the flight log books, are sent from the unit to the family in FRANKFURT/Main.
10.10.1952 Hans Peter Eisenbach is born in FRANKFURT/Main (Of course also living in the family home of Fritz).
01.10.1972 Hans Peter Eisenbach joins the German Air Force
30.09.2006 Hans Peter Eisenbach retires from the German Air Force as Lieutenant Colonel
01.04.2007 Hans Peter Eisenbach starts to investigate the life of his uncle Fritz based on the flight log book of FRITZ. “What did Uncle Fritz do in II. World War”
27.03.2009 Hans Peter Eisenbach published his first book on the life of his Uncle Fritz “Fronteinsätze eines Stuka Flieger” (Events of 9 October 1943 still unclear.)
01.01.2011 Hans Peter Eisenbach starts to investigate the mission of his Uncle Fritz on October 9, 1943. “What really happened on this day?”
Links to Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach publications:
Fronteinsätze eines Stuka-Fliegers
Mittelmeer und Ostfront 1943 – 44 von Hans Peter Eisenbach. Ein Buch aus der Dokumentationsreihe »Der Krieg von unten 1939-45« 120 Seiten, fest gebunden, 103 Photos und Flugbuchauszüge, Format 17 x 23,5 cm
ISBN 978-3-938208-96-0 Preis: 18,50 € © 2009 Helios Verlag
Stuka-Einsatz an der Pantherlinie
Der Abwehrkampf der Heeresgruppe Nord im März 1944 an der Ostfront 190 Seiten, 171 Abbildungen s/w: 115 Fotos, 44 Karten, 5 Zeichnungen, 4 graphische Darstellungen, 3 Tabellen, Hardcover, 21 x 28,7 cm, ISBN 978-3-86933-162-1, 36,00 €
I wish to personally thank Lt. Col. (ret.) Hans Peter Eisenbach for his kindness and willingness to share all this information and respond to my questions, not only as a tribute to the memory of his uncle Friedrich “Fritz” Eisenbach, but as an important first-hand account of the events that unfolded in the skies and seas of Greece in 1943.