KG200 (Kampfgeschwader / besonderen Verwendung) – Secret Luftwaffe Unit


The history of the German Luftwaffe in World War II has been examined by scores of authors and eyewitnesses. In the case of Kampfgeschwader 200 (KG200), it is a different story, however. The real story of this special Luftwaffe unit has remained shrouded in mystery, and most members maintained their silence after the war. The commander of the unit, Col Werner Baumbach, a winner of the Knight’s Cross and a celebrated Junkers (Ju-88) bomber pilot, did not even mention KG200 in his memoirs. KG200 was a unique unit which operated a wide variety of aircraft – from the Blohm und Voss Bv-222 Wiking (the largest flying boat of the era) to the Junkers 52, 90, 290 and 188, the Heinkel He-111, and even captured British and American aircraft such as the Consolidated B-24 Liberator and Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

During the month of February 1945, during one of the 741st Bomber Squadron mission against Vienna in Austria and just before reaching the target, a ‘phantom’ B-24 joined our formation. From our escort, one Red Tail P-51s of the Tuskegee Airmen came in and over the radio the German phantom pilot said he was from the 55th Wing and got lost. Unfortunately for the flying Krauts, the 55th Wing wasn’t flying that day and the plane had no tail markings. The fighter pilot squadron leader gave him some bursts from his guns and warned the phantom to turn back. He added, ‘You will be escorted.’ The German pilot replied that he could make it alone. The P-51 pilot said : ‘You are going to be escorted whether you want it or not. You’re going to have two men on your tail all the way back and don’t try to land in Yugoslavia.’ The phantom left with his escort and we heard nothing further from the event. (Erling Kindem)

The earliest incarnation of KG200 was Special Squadron Rowehl, a unit subordinate to the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence). Col Theodor Rowehl, who had been a reconnaissance pilot during World War One, heard rumors that Poland was building new forts along its border with Germany. Now a civilian, Rowehl began flying photo-reconnaissance missions over Poland in civilian aircraft. (Military planes were not allowed to fly in that area). The Abwehr was impressed with Rowehl’s photographs and paid him to continue his flights. From 1930 to 1934, Rowehl flew solo reconnaissance flights as a civilian. A short time later, he put together a squadron of airmen that was given an official military designation. His efforts led to the creation of a unit operating for the Luftwaffe‘s 5th Branch (Air Intelligence). The new unit flew high-altitude photo-recon missions over all of Europe, Africa and the Soviet Union in a wide variety of military and civilian aircraft. He flew in the Junkers W-34 that had set the world altitude record at 12,739 meters on May 26 1929. From this one-man restart of German strategic aerial recon, by 1934, Rowehl’s operation had expanded to five aircraft and a small group of hand-picked pilots based at Kiel, and he had re-enlisted in the military as an officer. After the signing, in 1934, of the German – Polish Non-Aggression Pact, the unit went underground as the Experimental Post for High-Altitude Flights, purportedly investigating weather, and moved to Berlin, flying out of the Staaken Airfield.

In 1936, at Göring’s invitation, Rowehl’s unit was transferred to the Luftwaffe, where it became the Squadron for Special Purposes, under the General Staff of the 5th Branch (Intelligence). The greater financial resources of the Luftwaffe enabled Rowehl to recruit more pilots – he sought out men with experience with aerial photography companies, international airlines and aircraft manufacturers, and two had been aviation adventurers in the 1920s and earlier in the 1930s, Count Hoensbroech and Count Soerma. He also advised on the development of specialized aircraft. The unit used converted bombers, beginning with the Heinkel 111, the Dornier 215 and 217, the Junkers 86, 88, the Henschel 130, and the Messerschmitt 410. These were equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks and with an oxygen-nitrogen fuel mix that would supercharge the engine for 20–25 minutes to facilitate escape. Some airplanes had even pressurized cabins. They were disguised as civilian planes or had minimal markings. Rowehl also advised Zeiss on the development of special automatic cameras which used infra-red film. The unit, often called the Rowehl Group, provided strategic reconnaissance for both the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. The Group moved to Oranienburg, near the Luftwaffe General Staff, and Rowehl became even, for a while, the head of the Luftwaffe’s Main Photo Centre.

Civilian Aircraft Photo Recon

When the German military began to prepare for the Second World War, it needed air photos of the countries it intended to invade. Since flights by the standard Luftwaffe Photo Recon Aircraft were not just violation of those countries airspace but also a clear warning sign of German intentions, the German military intelligence used aerial cameras carefully hidden in German passenger and commercial aircraft which flew over those countries. The rise in landing delays by the formerly precise German pilots made the Polish intelligence suspect that the innocent civilian German aircraft are used for photo reconnaissance, but they could not find the hidden cameras, when they checked those aircraft when they landed in Polish airports. The Luftwaffe operated civilian aircraft for Photo Recon missions all over Europe and North Africa before and during World War Two. Initially the aircraft belonged to the Abwehr., but during the war they were assigned to the Luftwaffe. When World War 2 started, German spies and saboteurs had to be inserted to or extracted from allied countries. Some were inserted or extracted by German submarines, some traveled via neutral countries, and some, like many allied secret agents, parachuted from Luftwaffe aircraft. During the late war period, when the Abwehr fell under a cloud of mistrust due to anti-Hitler activities, the prestige of the squadron suffered through its association with the intelligence arm. Capt Karl E. Gartenfeld, a specialist in long-range reconnaissance and navigation and in inserting agents behind enemy lines, formed his own new unit in the summer of 1942. By 1944 his squadron, the 2nd Test Formation, had grown to a group of four squadrons.

KG200 was officially formed by order of the air force high command on February 20 1944. In March 1944, the 2nd Test Formation was united with the 1st Test Formation, a research squadron. This combined unit came under the command of then Lt Col Werner Baumbach and was renamed KG 200. The 2nd Test Formation became the first group of the new KG200, and Gartenfeld was replaced by Maj Adolf Koch. Within days, 32 types of aircraft were ready for use, complete with 17 fully trained crews. Heavy training began at once, and by the end of July 1944, five new crews were ready, and refresher classes had been provided for 75 additional crews. Even at this early stage special missions were already being flown. KG 200 was divided into several sections, each of which had subsidiaries across the German empire.

The first group :
– I/KG200 : handled agent work
The first squadron :
– 1/KG200) : handled long-distance operations
– 2/KG200 : covered short-range operations from various ‘outstations’
– 3/KG200 : was concerned with transport and training duties and was based at the Baltic island of Ruegen, later Flensburg
– 4/KG200 : handled technical matters

The second group :
– II/KG200 : provided pathfinders, radar-jamming aircraft, bombers and Mistel composite aircraft
– 7/KG200 handled replacement and training for II/KG200

The first two groups of KG200 were the only ones ever fully developed, although several other projects were planned. III/KG200 was to have fitted Focke Wulf Fw-190 fighters with torpedoes but was never inaugurated. IV/KG200 was the training and replacement group for KG200 and trained the nearly 100’self-sacrifice’ pilots who flew the Reichenberg modified V-1 suicide weapons. KG100, which handled Fritz X and Hs 293 guided missiles, was also associated with KG200. The fifth long-range reconnaissance group flew Ju-90s and Ju-290s on their missions. The test unit of the Luftwaffe commander flew high-altitude reconnaissance and testing aircraft and also conducted evaluation flights of captured Allied aircraft.

(above) Reichenberg V-1 Modified (Suicide), the Fritz X Missile and the HS-293 Missile

2/KG200 covered different combat fronts from various outstations. The headquarters of each outstation was located in a wooded area, and the airfield had to appear abandoned during the day in order to avoid unwanted Allied scrutiny. Outstation Carmen, in northern Italy, covered the western Mediterranean, the southern Mediterranean, and North and West Africa. Outstations Klara and Toska handled the Eastern Front, and Detachment Olga covered Western Europe, England, Ireland and Iceland (and later took over Carmen’s areas as well).

By 1944, because of the increasing action on the Western Front, Detachment Olga at Frankfurt a. Main was very busy. Olga was commanded by P.W. Stahl, an experienced pilot who had flown supply missions in the fall of 1942 to Finnish long-range reconnaissance units operating deep in Soviet territory. His book, KG200 – The True Story (*), is one of the few accurate accounts of the unit. Despite its importance, Outstation Olga was little more than a rough runway beside a forest. The command post consisted of two huts hidden in the woods. The operational aircraft included six Junkers Ju-188s and a pair of captured and renovated Boeing B-17s, re-designated Dornier Do-288s. Enemy ‘Jabos,’ as the Germans called Allied ground-attack aircraft, were overhead so often that personnel took the precaution of dodging from tree to tree, never appearing in the open during daylight. Detachment Olga was responsible for landing agents in France, which was under Allied control. The KG 200 pilots usually dropped agents by parachute, but on some flights they would drop a personnel drop device–a metal and plywood container holding three agents and their equipment that would parachute to earth. The KG 200 pilots made supply runs to keep their covert activities in operation.

(*) – [KG200-The True Story – Amazon]

Agents were trained at the Reich Main Security Office’s well-fortified luxury hotel, on a mountain in southwestern Poland. The hotel was ringed by guards and could be reached only by cable-car. Upon graduation, the new agents were sent to KG 200 for transport to their areas of operation. These secret missions were only flown at night, and the runway lights were turned off as soon as the aircraft had taken off or landed. Under cover of darkness, as they dropped their passengers or acted as airborne listening posts, the KG 200 pilots and planes were relatively safe from attack. Landing was another matter; the airfields often came under attack and were extensively damaged while the KG 200 pilots were in the air, making landing impossible and leading to the loss of airplanes and crews. Pressed by a shortage of long-range aircraft, KG 200 used captured Allied aircraft–given German markings–to fly their missions. Phyllis Marie, a Boeing B-17F, was one example. Phyllis Marie went down with battle damage on March 8 1944, at Werben, Germany. The plane was captured and repaired from the large stock of B-17 spare parts that the Germans had amassed during the years of heavy daylight bombing attacks by US planes. Maltese crosses were painted on the wings and a raked swastika on the rudder, but otherwise Phyllis Marie remained unchanged. US forces recaptured the plane on a runway at Altenburg on May 4 1945.

By July 1944, the war was turning against the German Reich on all fronts. Ernst Kaltenbrunner, commander (under commander in chief of the SS, Heinrich Himmler) of all SS intelligence operations and head of the Reich Main Security Office, informed the KG 200 operations officer that he needed to provide a plane that could fly almost to Moscow, land and unload cargo and people, all unnoticed. The purpose of that mission, code-named Operation Zeppelin was to kill Josef Stalin. The aircraft chosen for the job was the Arado Ar-232B, a four-engine version of the Ar-232A Tatzelwurm (Winged Dragon) known as the Tausendfüssler (Millipede) because of the 11 pairs of small idler wheels under the fuselage that were used to land on unprepared fields. On the night of September 5, two agents, their baggage and their transport were loaded aboard, and the Ar-232B took off. The agents intended to reach Moscow, where they had a place to stay. They carried 428,000 rubles, 116 real and forged rubber stamps and a number of blank documents that were meant to gain them entry to the Kremlin so that they could get close to Stalin.

There was no word from the plane until long past its maximum projected flying time, and it was assumed lost. Then a radio message came from one of the agents : Aircraft crashed upon landing – all crew members uninjured – crew has split up into two groups and will attempt to break through to the west – we are on the way to Moscow with our motorcycle, so far without hindrances. The two would-be assassins were later captured at a checkpoint when a guard became suspicious of their dry uniforms on a rainy day. Some of the German crew did manage to make it back to friendly lines, but others had to wait until the end of the war to return. Bizarre schemes and deceptions such as the Stalin assassination plot came from both sides. In October 1944, an agent who had been dropped behind Russian lines suddenly resumed contact with his controller in Germany with an astonishing story to tell. He was in contact with a large German combat group (2000 men strong) that was hiding in the forested and swampy region of Berezino, roughly 60 kilometers east of Minsk. The Germans, under the command of a Col Scherhorn, had been caught behind Russian lines during the Wehrmacht retreat that summer. German intelligence accepted the report as true. KG 200 was dispatched to provide the German troops with supplies that the German high command hoped would allow Kampfgruppe Scherhorn to break out and return to German lines. Not until April 1945 did the Germans learn that ‘Colonel Scherhorn’ was in fact a Soviet operative using the name in an elaborate ruse.

KG 200 was also in charge of the German suicide pilots. The Germans mirrored the Japanese kamikaze efforts with the Reichenberg IV suicide bomb. The concept was developed by a glider pilot who was a veteran of the famous 1940 assault on the Belgian Fortress of Eben Emael. As the war turned against Germany and his fellow pilots were slaughtered, he thought that if glider pilots were to be sent to perish, they should be armed with a suitable weapon to bloody the enemy. The Reichenbergs were to be piloted by self-sacrifice men. Thousands of men volunteered for vaguely defined special operations, and 70 of them were sent to KG 200. Although these men were trained on gliders, they were to fly a manned variant of the V-1 buzz bomb. The V-1, also known as the Fiesler Fi-103, was already in mass-production for its primary purpose as a flying bomb. The German Research Institute for Gliding Flight at Ainring modified the V-1 to carry a pilot. By 1945, however, the attitude toward using the flying bomb had changed so much that only criminals or pilots who were in a depressed state or were ill would be allowed to fly Reichenbergs.

As early as in 1942, researchers also began to develop Mistel (mistletoe), a piggyback aircraft, a smaller aircraft mounted above a larger, unmanned aircraft such as a medium-sized bomber. After a series of false starts, the combination settled upon was a Messerschmitt Me-109 or Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighter atop a Junkers Ju-88 bomber. The machines were joined by a three-point strut apparatus, which was fitted with explosive bolts that would sever the connection when the carrier aircraft–armed with an 8,377-pound hollow-charge warhead in the nose–had been aimed at its target. The warhead would detonate on impact in an explosion that could penetrate 8 meters of steel or 20 meters deep into a bunker. By May 1944, the first operational Mistels were delivered to 2/KG 101, a unit closely affiliated with KG 200. The unit was originally slated to attack Scapa Flow in northern Scotland, but the Allied invasion of Normandy changed that plan. On the night of June 24 1944, Mistels were dispatched against targets in the Bay of the Seine, in the English Channel. Although one of the Ju-88s had to be jettisoned prematurely, the remaining four pilots had successful launches and sank several block ships.

Luftwaffe planners placed all Mistels under the aegis of KG 200 and Col Joachim Helbig, an expert Ju-88 pilot. Kampfgruppe Helbig was handed a daunting and audacious plan. It had been decided that the Mistels would be used to single-handedly cripple the Soviet war industry. The operation, known as Plan Iron Hammer, was the 1943 brainchild of Professor Steinmann of the German Aviation Ministry, who had pointed out the benefit of raiding selected points in the Soviet infrastructure in order to damage the whole. Iron Hammer was meant to attack the Soviets Achilles heel, their electrical generation turbines. The Soviets relied on a haphazard system of electrical supply with no integrated grid, which revolved around a center near Moscow that supplied 75 percent of the power to the armament industry. The Germans sought to destroy an entire factory system in one quick blow. The mission called for KG 200 to launch strikes against power plants at Rybinsk, Uglich and the Volkhovstroi plant on Lake Ladoga. The planes were to drop Sommerballon (summer balloon) floating mines. In theory, a Sommerballon would ride the water currents until it was pulled straight into the hydroelectric turbines of a dam, but the weapon never performed as designed. In addition, the unit soon became short on fuel, and the operation was halted.

Iron Hammer was resurrected in February 1945, with several new twists. The Soviets had overrun all the advance bases included in earlier planning, so the attack would have to be launched from bases near Berlin and on the Baltic. Mistels would now be the primary weapon. Furthermore, Iron Hammer had become a part of a master strategy to regain the initiative in the East. After the strike rendered the Soviet production centers impotent, the Wehrmacht would wait until the Soviets had exhausted their front line materiel. Freshly rearmed Waffen SS divisions would swarm northward from western Hungary, attempting to drive straight to the Baltic Sea and catch the advance elements of the Red Army in a huge pincer movement. After the Soviets had been eliminated and Central Europe was safe, the Germans would negotiate a separate peace with the Western Allies, and the struggle against Bolshevism could be continued. Iron Hammer was never launched, however. American daylight raiders destroyed 18 Mistels at the Rechlin-Laerz Airfield. With this main strike force gone, the entire mission was rendered moot even before Iron Hammer was officially canceled.

On March 1 1945, Hitler appointed Col Baumbach to the post of plenipotentiary for preventing Allied crossings of the Oder and Neisse rivers. At his disposal were Mistels and Hs-293 guided bombs. On March 6 an Hs-293 hit the Oder bridge at Goeritz. The same bridge was attacked two days later by five Mistels escorted by Ju-188 bombers. The Ju-188s scattered air defenses, and the Mistels destroyed two bridges. These victories and those in following days did little to change the inevitable outcome of the war. KG 200’s remaining pilots and machines were shuffled to various air bases in futile attempts to destroy the Oder bridges. In Berlin, Baumbach was replaced by another officer, who released the KG 200 headquarters group on April 25 1945. Some men changed into civilian clothes and attempted to reach the Western Allies, while others proceeded to Outstation Olga to continue the fight. The American advance into Germany forced the relocation of Outstation Olga from Frankfurt a. Main to Stuttgart, and then again to the Munich area, where the unit settled inside a Dornier aircraft factory. Stahl and company continued their duty until the situation became untenable. He issued discharge papers and a final service pay and said goodbye to his men. After the war, the Allies sought out members of the ominous secret group, sure that they had been involved in spiriting Nazi officials out of Europe. The continuing mysteries and half-truths about KG 200 prompted Stahl to write KG 200 : The True Story to clear up this business of Hitler’s spy Geschwader. He also attempts to justify his unit’s record : The fact that not a single former member of KG 200 has ever been accused of any specific misdeed, never mind prosecuted, speaks for itself.

(Source : Andrew J. Swanger for the September 1997 issue of World War II magazine)

Open Datas – Datas collected so far
Should you have any information on the subject KG-200 (email)

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress in the Luftwaffe

B-17F-27-BO – Wulf Hound – (#41-24585)
First Fortress captured by Germans was B-17F-27-BO – Wulf Hound (41-24585) from the 360th Bomber Squadron, 303rd Bomber Group – Hell’s Angels. Damaged by German fighters during the bombing run of December 12 1942, and heavily damaged during return flight by Bf 110 from NJG 1, the pilot (Lt Flickinger) was forced to go down on the German held Leeuwarden Airfield in Holland. 41-24585 was repaired and nazified. Two days later, escorted by 2 Bf 110, she flew to Rechlin where she was thoroughly tested and released for service with different units in Germany and France and allow pilots of the Luftwaffe to identify strong and weak points of the B-17. In September 1943, she was coded A3+AE and transferred to KG 200.

B-17F-85-BO – Flak Dancer – (#42-30048)
Second B-17 to fall into German hands was B-17F-85-BO – Flak Dancer (42-30048) from the 544th Bomber Suqadron, 384th Bomber Group. Flak Dance under command of (Lt Dalton Wheatà was forced to land at the German held Laon Airfield in France. After repairs and traditional period of trials in Rechlin, she was coded A3+CE and then transfered to KG 200 in Spring 1944.

B-17F-90-BO – Down and Go! – (#42-30146)
Down and Go! was, for sure, one cursed plane. Problems with ship, piloted by Lt Ned Palmer, began soon after take off. Both inner engines failed and pilot was forced to disable them. Crew wanted to drop some bombs on Germany and flew forward. Shortly before target engine number four overheated and pilot had to disable it too. With only one engine running, Palmer asked for an escape route and the navigator targeted Sweden. Unfortunately, after having lost to much altitude, Down and Go! was forced to land or crash. She landed in Avedore Holme, Denmark, on Wehrmacht exercise field. On the ground, the plane taxied as long as possible to allow the crew to destroy the secret Norden gunsight, the halted while encircled by annoyed German soldiers. 42-30146 was set to parts and transported to the city of Kastrup, Denmark, where the plane was repaired by the Heinkel plants’ engineers. After repairs and the traditional period of trials in Rechlin 42-30146 was transfered to KG 200 in Spring 1944, coded A3+EE and a little later A3+BB.

B-17F-100-BO – Miss Nonalee II – (#42-30336)
Captured in 1943, B-17F-100-BO – Miss Nonalee II – (42-30336) was from the 548th Bomber Squadron, 385th Bomber Group. With Lt Glyndon G. Bell commanding, she was damaged on October 9 during a bombing run on the Arado Plant in Anklam (Eastern Prussia). Again, the crew decided to go to Sweden but they made a mistake and, instead, flew to Denmark. All the crew members, excluding the pilot, jumped and were caught by the Danish police collaborating with Germans. Lt Bell made a forced landing near Varde, and after the failed try to set the bomber afire, evaded the Danish policeman and was transported by the Danish Resistance to Sweden. The Luftwaffe ordered a Ar 232 cargo plane from Flensburg to pick up all the unnecessary part to allow this lightened B-17 to took off to Rechlin. As usual, repairs and traditional period of trials in Rechlin then this airplane disappeared from the listing, probably crashed somewhere in Germany.

B-17G-25-DL – Bloody Hundredth – (#42-38017)
First B-17 bomber to be captured in 1944, this B-17G-25-DL (42-38017) was affected to the 349th Bomber Squadron, 100th Bomber Group. 42-38017, under the command of Lt John G. Grossage, was damaged on March 3 1944. After having lost one of the engines and having a crew member badly wounded (Flight Engineer), the pilot decided to flew to Sweden. Unfortunately, the navigator made a mistake and the plane landed at Schlezwig-Jagel Airfield in Northern Germany. After repairs and period of trials in Rechlin 42-38017 was transfered to KG 200 under the code A3+GE.

B-17F-115-BO – Phyllis Marie – (#42-30713)
Last B-17F captured by the Germans was the B-17F-115-BO – Phyllis Marie – (42-30713), affected to the 568th Bomber Squadron, 390th Bomber Group. 42-30713 under Lt Max Quakenbus the engine #3 was destroyed by a German fighter during his return trip, and force landed in Werben (Cottbus) Germany on March 8 1944. After the stage in Rechlin, the plane was transfered to KG 200 (code unknown). This B-17 was ‘liberated’ in perfect condition in 1945 in Bavaria.

B-17G-10-VE – Last airworthy B-17 captured in 9th of April 1944 by Germans was B-17G-10-VE from 731BS 452BG.

Codification for KG 200 was A3+..
Equipment added for use with the Luftwaffe : barometrical altimeter (ASI) and radioaltimeter (FuG 101)

– B-17s served 1.Staffel (combat) and 4.Staffel (training)
– Planes based on Finsterwalde airfield.
– German pilots were happy, because Fortress was formidable plane.
– They flew everywhere : Soviet Union, Poland, Greece, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherland, Ireland and even Palestine and Africa.
– First US/Luftwaffe plane lost May 15 and June 27 1944
– Next one was heavily damaged November 19 1944
– B-17 (Down and Go) was destroyed during mission in Spanish-French border area. Plane piloted by pilots Knappenscheider and von Pechmann with 10 French collaborators took of in February 9 1945. Shortly after took off plane exploded (about one hundred meters above airstrip) and all aboard were killed
– Last plane lost during war took place March 2 1945. Plane took off 2308 from airfield Stuttgart-Euchterdingen with 8 members of crew, 9 agents and 3 containers with equipment. When plane come back to home base was shot down by British night fighting Mosquito. Part crew jumped with parachute.

– Since September 1944 B-17 of KG 200 started from Finnow airfield. During following months planes made several dozen sorties over Soviet Union and Poland area. One of most dangerous flights was on December 20 1944 when plane which took off from airfield in Cracow (Poland) with 6 agents on board had to flew in Odessa area. Just before jump one of Soviet agents trowed hand grenade. One of gunners had incredible reflex and jettisoned primed grenade. When next time crews had to carry Soviet agents, they boxed Russians and jettisoned them over target unconscious. To the end of the war planes started from Hildesheim, Wackersleben and Fürstenfelsbruck airfields. Last combat mission took place in May 2 1945. All survived planes were probably destroyed by their crews or captured by Soviets.

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