ORDER FOR FORMATION OF JAGDVERBAND 44
JV 44 is established at Brandenburg-Briest with immediate effect. Ground personnel are to be drawn from 16./JG-54, Factory Protection Unit 1 and III./Erg JG-2. The commander of this unit receives the disciplinary powers of a Divisional Commander as laid down in Luftwaffe Order 3/9.17. It is subordinated to Luftflotte Reich and comes under Luftgaukommando III (Berlin). Verband ‘Galland’ is to have a provisional strength of sixteen operational Me 262s and fifteen pilots.
(signed) Generalleutnant Karl Koller - Chief of the General Staff of the Luftwaffe (25 FEBRUARY 1945)
Galland’s JV-44, the legendary “Squadron of Experts,” was established on February 5, 1945. The unit was commanded by its founder, the legendary Generalleutnant Adolf Galland. Hitler had himself given his permission for Galland to organize a small unit to demonstrate the superiority of the Me 262 as a fighter. Adolf Galland had long championed the jet fighter as being the only viable method of challenging the bomber streams pounding Germany and getting through the Allied fighter escorts that outnumbered sometimes fifty to one in the air. Ever since his test flight in 1943, he used every method and contact at his disposal to try to push his plan ahead.
Galland already had the perfect man in mind when it came to staffing his new unit of elite pilots. Johannes Steinhoff, who wore the Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords and scored 176 victories during the war (six in the jet), was recruited by Galland to be the unit’s training and recruitment officer.
The early missions for JV-44 were fraught with teething problems, as may have been expected, but problems or not, the war came to the unit. JV-44 was also suffering from the same malady of lack of supplies in all forms from the day it was created, which was not unusual for all fighter units in the Luftwaffe. For the jet units in the west, these problems were compounded by the fact that Allied tactical fighter-bombers destroyed anything moving in daylight, and roads, railways, and bridges had to be repaired around the clock to keep supplies moving. Also, Galland still had the problem of his superior, Hermann Göring, who had wanted his head for insubordination, if not treason.
JV-44’s missions and table of organization were rather unusual when compared with the conventional fighter units. Rarely did a unit at squadron strength operate under the command of lieutenant general, with the majority of the pilots holding the rank of lieutenant or higher, flying wing men to lieutenant colonels. Also, there was no other unit in the Luftwaffe that had most of its members wearing the Knight’s Cross—and half of those being the Oak Leaves or even higher.
However, JV-44 was also quite similar to most other units, in that the attrition rate among its pilots was high. Even the most experienced fighter pilots still felt themselves in a learning curve. The first missions were light duty compared to what most of the pilots had experienced during the war, especially the men who had flown on the Eastern Front, or in the West against the ever-growing American air armadas that never seemed to stop coming.
By 14 March 1945 JV 44 had taken delivery of its first Me 262. JV 44's improvised training programme continued into late March. A Kette of 3 Me 262s led by Oberst Steinhoff mounted the first combat mission by JV 44 in late March, Steinoff claiming a Soviet Il-2 shot down.
General der Flieger Koller issued orders for JV44 to relocate to southern Germany in order to operate in the defence of the aircraft manufacturing plants and fuel and ammunition storage facilities in the area. Thus the unit was on the move constantly as the Allied ground forces advanced, including short stays at Munich-Riem, Salzburg-Maxglan, Ainring (Platzschutz) and Innsbruck, also allegedly using converted Reichsautobahn roadbeds serving as improvised highway strips in early 1945, eventually surrendering at the end of the war. Nearly all the aircraft were destroyed, including some deliberately blown up as Allied troops advanced. A number of aircraft however survived the war and were tested extensively by the United States.
Surviving records suggest the unit shot down approximately 47 Allied aircraft during April/May 1945. Oberstleutnant Heinz Bär was the unit top claimant with 16 kills, while Hauptmann Georg-Peter Eder claimed at least 12. Galland himself claimed 7 kills before being wounded in action.
On 26 April 1945 Adolf Galland was shot down and was wounded in the knee. Temporary command of the unit was then given to Bär. Whilst in hospital Galland devised a plan to prevent the JV 44 pilots and aircraft from falling into Russian hands or being accidentally destroyed by approaching Allied ground troops. He discharged himself from hospital and set up his headquarters in Tegernsee. Still in contact with Heinz Bär he obtained an Fi 156 "Storch" liaison plane.
American troops advanced on the JV 44 base near Salzburg and shortly before surrendering, the remaining Me 262's were blown up by JV 44 personnel, grenades being inserted into the engine intakes. Some of the JV 44 Me 262's were earlier flown out to Innsbruck where they met JV 44 personnel under command of Oberst. Hans Ekkehard Bob, who was ordered to prepare the Innsbruck airfield for operations.
Jagdverband 44 Protection Squadron
Because of the greater length of runway it required, and the slow acceleration it had at low speeds, the Me 262 was especially vulnerable during take-off and landing. Galland thus established his own protection flight. Five Fw 190D-9s and D-11s were attached to JV44, the Platzschutzstaffel (Airfield protection squadron), headed by Leutnant Heinz Sachsenberg, to provide air cover for takeoffs and landings. Flights were to be undertaken in a two-aircraft Rotte up to altitudes of 500 metres, covering both the Me 262s taking off or landing and monitoring the surrounding skies for Allied fighters.
The Platzschutzstaffel flew the long-nosed 'Dora', Fw-190 D-9, or Fw-190 D-11 variant of the well-known Fw 190. These aircraft were painted bright red on their wings' undersurfaces with contrasting white stripes so anti-aircraft batteries could distinguish them from Allied piston-engined aircraft, leading to their humorous postwar nickname of the Papagei Staffel (Parrot squadron). The Staffel was nicknamed "Die Würger-Staffel", a play on the common nickname for the BMW 801 radial-engined original A-version of the Fw 190, which was Würger or Butcher-bird.
Jagdverband 44 was formed in February 1945 on Hitler's orders, to fly the Me 262 "Stormbird", the world's first operational jet fighter, and demonstrate its superiority. The unit was also known to have flown the FW190 D9 while protecting the Me262 bases. The unit was led by the legendary Adolf Galland, who recruited some of Germany's leading aces into it, to the extent that it was said that the Knight's Cross was its unofficial badge.