Which artillery piece is the most versatile

The location of the Luftwaffe in Kochstedt and the Flak Regiment 43

The 8.8 cm anti-aircraft guns were arguably the most versatile and most feared guns of the Second World War. They were part of the equipment of the German anti-aircraft defenses, which Adolf Hitler had to work on with increased strength as part of the general rearmament measures after January 30, 1933. Hitler was able to fall back on construction plans camouflaged by the Reichswehr from 1930 onwards. The National Socialist leadership expanded the powers to strengthen national defense and made the necessary funds available. It all boiled down to the creation of a powerful offensive army. The National Socialists' military concept also included the creation of a modern air defense. Numerous flak batteries were gradually installed in the important industrial centers. The first detachments of the flak cartillery came to Dessau in autumn 1936. The fate of these flak units stationed in Dessau is to be traced in this article.

The establishment of anti-aircraft units in Germany and the stationing of anti-aircraft regiments in Dessau

By autumn 1935, apart from the staff batteries, in which the staff of the department staff and the departmental communication trains were combined, only 32 anti-aircraft batteries, one headlight battery and 12 headlight trains had been built in the territory of the German Reich. There were no light anti-aircraft batteries. The departments were not always equally strong. In the following period, however, the realignments were carried out in such a way that the departments were evenly composed. There were now heavy and light flak divisions.
The heavy compartments comprised three batteries with 8.8 cm guns, one battery with 3.7 cm guns, a searchlight battery with 150 cm searchlights, and a stick battery. For this purpose, each department had a supplementary battery in which the training of soldiers who had only been called up for short military exercises was carried out. The light flak divisions were divided into three batteries with 2 cm guns, a headlight battery with 60 cm headlights, a message train and also a supplementary battery. The heavy departments were each referred to as the 1st department, the light departments as the 2nd department of an anti-aircraft regiment.
Flak regimental staffs had existed since autumn 1936, and by autumn 1937 ten had been set up. In the course of 1936, the first plans began for the construction of an air defense zone west, which should form the focus of effective air defense. The supply of weapons and equipment from industry increased. Difficulties caused by raw materials occasionally occurred in the production of headlights.
In the autumn of 1936 the first detachments of the flak cartillery came to Kochstedt, where a new barracks for the flak regiment 26 was built. The II. Division of Flak Regiment 43 also received Kochstedt as a field post location. The flak cartillery officially moved into Dessau and Kochstedt in February 1937. It was staged as a large march past of the troops in Kavalierstrasse and ended with a large tattoo in the evening, during which the large flak headlights illuminated the night sky over Dessau. The first regimental commander of Flak Regiment 26 was Lieutenant Colonel Spieß. Four weeks later, Colonel Braun took over command of the regiment. He was followed in November 1938 by Lieutenant Colonel Heino v. Rantzau as regimental commander. From the Bitterfeld main battery, donations were made to the new Dessau unit. The rest of the soldiers in the department were called up.
The general topping-out ceremony for the new barracks in Kochstedt took place on March 4, 1937. The further construction work proceeded quickly. A little later, a reporter for the Anhalter Anhalter Anhalter Anhalter Anhalter reporter reported the following about a visit to the almost completed barracks: “All rooms had been appropriately designed. There was coming and going in the office, a sign that the work had begun to the full. We continued through the classroom of a battery, then took a look at the washrooms. At the sight of the beautiful bedrooms, we made comparisons with the state of equipment of former barracks.
The "multi-story beds" had disappeared, as was the narrow locker. In clean kitchens, preparations for the next day were in full swing. The dining and entertainment rooms were inviting with their modern furnishings, stylish lighting, beautiful tables and chairs attracted attention.
The way through the barracks area led us past a towering building, the district heating and power plant. A waterworks of its own had also been built here, which supplied good water. We inspected the half-track vehicles for the 8.8 cm flak and the vehicles for the batteries in front of the large halls. There the tractors had been driven up, aligned in a row, in front of the guns and other vehicles of the batteries ... ”.
The topping-out ceremony of the Zoberberg settlement, located on the road between Kochstedt and Mosigkau, whose houses were intended for the accommodation of workers and employees of the flak, also took place in this period of the regimental history. Each of these twenty semi-detached houses received two rooms and a kitchen-cum-living-room, plus a laundry room with bath and toilet and a stable. Ten of these houses were equipped with a floor room, this small extension of these houses served as a children's room. There was also a large garden for the residents.
The Dessau Flak Regiment 26 belonged to Luftkreis-Kommando 7, which was set up in October 1936 from the reinforced Luftgau-Kommando Braunschweig. The command area of ​​Luftgau Command 7 included Braunschweig, among others, the province of Saxony, the states of Anhalt, Oldenburg and Hamburg. In October 1937, the area of ​​command corresponded to military districts X and XI. In February 1938 the order came to dissolve or reintegrate into Luftwaffe Group Command 2. This order was carried out until the end of March 1938. The commanding general and commander in Luftkreis 7 was Flieger-General Walter Felmy from October 1936 to March 1938. The Luftkreiskommandos included several areas of responsibility, including the organization of the anti-aircraft artillery.
On August 1, 1938, another reorganization and reorganization of the anti-aircraft cartillery began. Barracks were built at record speed, and existing accommodations no longer met the higher requirements. There were not only relocations of complete batteries and flak units, but also many new installations. The Austrian "Flaka Division Steyer" was increased by a light fourth battery from the 2nd Division of Regiment 26 Dessau. The department had to take part in the “autumn exercise” in 1938 at the old location before it was relocated to Austria. The I. Department of Flak Regiment 26 was relocated to Bremen-Nord in November 1938 as a result of the changes and reorganizations.
According to the provisions of the Munich Agreement of 29./30. On September 1st, 1938, the Sudetenland had to be ceded by Czechoslovakia to the German Reich on October 1st, 1938. On the same day, German troops occupied this area. Flak soldiers of the 2nd Division of Regiment 26 from Dessau were also involved in the occupation of the Sudetenland as part of an "autumn exercise".
The following marching calendar emerged from an experience report by Erich Stoffregen, who took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland in October 1938, published in Anhalter Anzeiger soon after these events: On September 20, the train was loaded from Dessau to Bunzlau (Silesia). September in the quarter, then on to the Schönau an der Katzbach area. The batteries were in Schönau, the column on an estate in Röversdorf northwest of Hirschberg. The move to the Waldenburger Bergland took place on September 26th. From October 2nd: several days in citizen quarters in Zedlitz, weather: cloudy sky. Then it went on to the Schweidnitz and Reichenbach area, the column landed in Leutmannsdorf. Continued watchkeeping determined the days. 8/9 October: the area around Braunau was occupied, the column set out from Leutmannsdorf. The border was approaching, through the Silesian villages of Dittmannsdorf, Neussendorf and Liebau. The border crossing took place at the village of Königshau. The column stayed here, the batteries advanced into the villages as far as Trautenau. On October 10th there was a practice march on the Spitzberg. Quarters were in Waldenburg until October 12th. The light column was then in Niedersalzbrunn until October 19. On October 20th the march back took place via Hirschberg, Geißenberg, Görlitz, Löbau, Bautzen; the last quarters were in Wittichenau. On October 21st we continued via Senftenberg, Torgau, Wittenberg, Coswig to Dessau. Then the vehicles rolled through a line of cheering Dessau people back to the barracks in Kochstedt.
The extensive personnel levies for Austria and the West Air Defense Zone prevented the increase in the number of Flak main batteries into departments with full staff. The occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939 also prevented these constellations. Flak supplementary units were created that were used at their locations for property protection, e.g. the heavy I. Department of Regiment 43 Wittenberg, Luftgau 4, as an anti-aircraft replacement and training department. The remaining detachments of Flak Regiment 43 were now stationed in the Kochstedt barracks.
On June 16, 1939, the Anhalter Anzeiger reported on the service in the flak garrison, e.g. with a staff battery which every flak division had and which served to train the flak soldiers: “We step into the three-wing building. The two side wings contain the teams' accommodations in squeaky clean, cozy rooms, as well as wash and shower rooms and whatever else goes with them. [...] Now we are interested in the signs on the doors. We read: telephone classroom, radio classroom, motor vehicle classroom. Our concept of being in a, one might say technical, higher education institution is reinforced when we enter. The whole classroom is full. The subordinate officers, NCOs and sergeants are in class. Every soldier has his work table, on him are various devices. Electricity plays the main role in these halls. The message rings out loudly. This is followed by a brief explanation of what is being done. [...] Day in, day out, teaching and practice go hand in hand until everything is right. [...]
What are the other batteries doing in the meantime? In a word: training in anti-aircraft guns, ballistics, aircraft recognition, these are some special expressions. A battery's service slip shows a whole hodgepodge. In addition to the usual tasks from cleaning the area to daily roll-calls to eating, cleaning and mending lessons and weekly sports, you can read: anti-aircraft training, gun squadrons including radio operators and telephones, measuring troops I and II, electric knives, inhibition exercises at the 2 cm guns, plus practical service on the device. "
According to lists of war strengths, the following belonged to a motorized anti-aircraft regiment like Regiment No. 43:
- Staff with message train: 6 officers, 2 officials, 20 NCOs and 67 men
- I. heavy division (4 batteries): up to 24 8.8 cm guns, 27 vehicles, 43 trailers, 12 motorcycles; a total of 8 officers, 84 NCOs and 391 men (with full personnel in peacetime: 16 officers, 608 NCOs and men)
- II. Easy section: 1.-3. Battery with 36 2 cm guns and three 2 cm quadruple guns, 19 cars, 67 trailers, 11 motorcycles; 18 officers, 645 NCOs and men; 4th battery: 12 3.7 cm guns, 4 60 cm headlights, 2 cars, 16 trailers, 2 motorcycles; 3 officers 134 NCOs and men, 2 officials
- III. Department (flak searchlights with staff and news squadron): 16 officers, 120 NCOs, 810 men.

In 1943, Anhalt was part of Luftgau-Kommando IV, which stationed four heavy and five light anti-aircraft batteries in Dessau. In July 1943, the struggle to strengthen protection in Anhalt was particularly directed at the plants in Dessau, Köthen, Staßfurt and Schönebeck. Anti-aircraft protection for the Elbe power plant was also applied for. This protection was to be ensured by setting up a home flak battery at the eastern exit of Waldersee. It was not until September 1943 that the anti-aircraft protection of Dessau was strengthened by installing new anti-aircraft batteries. As the seat of the 2nd Flak Brigade, the city was to be protected in May 1944 by thirteen heavy batteries with a total of 81 tubes (three of which were home flak batteries).
Four light 71-tube batteries were readily available. Five headlight batteries with 80 turrets and a fog department were added to this anti-aircraft group. There was an anti-aircraft weapon office in Oranienbaum. The procurement of materials for the flaka departments in the home area was one of its tasks.
Big changes took place in the summer of 1944. The independent flak groups were expanded into brigades. Dessau became the seat of the 2nd Flak Brigade, with the Flak Group Magdeburg and Dessau (Heavy Regiment 108), also Regiment 143 Dessau, Flak Group Dessau with the departments 174 heavy (staff), 434, 464, 727 light and heavy flak headlight group 108 Magdeburg. After reclassifications in the flak cartillery, the designation was 1944 Flak Regiment 143 Dessau-Kochstedt.
In a list of invitations from the city of Dessau dated June 17, 1944, the names of officers are noted who did not appear when the flak was being set up: a Lieutenant General Piecke, Kochstedt, Luftwaffe personnel office, and the commander of the Flak Group Dessau, Flak Regiment 143, Lieutenant Colonel Janik, barracks Kochstedt.

Commanders of the Dessau anti-aircraft regiments:

Luftkreis VII. Staff, Flak Regiment 26 - Lieutenant Colonel Spieß, regimental commander
Luftkreis VII. Staff, Flak Regiment 26 - Colonel Braun, regiment commander
I. Battery Flak Regiment 26 - Major Pregler, department commander
II. Battery Flak Regiment 26 - Major Freytag, department commander
Air Defense Command 3rd Staff, Flak - Regiment 43 - Lieutenant Colonel von Rantzau, regimental commander until 1940
II. Flak Regiment 43 - Major Löhr, department commander
III. Flak Regiment 43 - Major Freytag. Department Commander

Other regimental commanders of Flak Regiment 43 were:

Colonel Walter Hippe July 6, 1940 to September 8, 1940
Colonel Wolfgang Freytag 09.1940 to 27.06.1941
Lieutenant Colonel Erwin Giebner 06.1941 to 01.1944
Lieutenant colonel. Richard Kolb 01/24/1944 to 05/1944
Colonel Hermann Souchon 06.1944 to 07.1944
Colonel Alfred Krempe August 2, 1944 to May 8, 1945.

The armament of the Kochstedt anti-aircraft units

The armament of Regiment 43 consisted of 8.8 cm guns and 2 cm Flak 30 and the further development of the 2 cm Flak 38 that was made in 1939 and showed significant improvements. Apart from its lower weight - which was not always advantageous in use - and a more ideal aiming mechanism, the weapon also had a higher rate of fire of theoretically 480 rounds per minute (in practice about 220). Installed stationary and later also mounted on various chassis or tank chassis as quadruplets, this type of light flak became one of the most feared weapons by the enemy. Their operations led to many decisions in the ground operation, and countless low-flying planes were shot down by them. The 2 cm anti-aircraft quadruplet, with the four tubes mounted on a mount, could fire around 800 rounds per minute. The firing range was 4.8 km and the height of the fire about 3.7 km.
While only relatively small numbers of this flak were produced in the first years of the war, the successes of the quadruple flak in particular led to an increase in production to 400 pieces of this weapon per month.

The technical data of this weapon (as a single weapon) were:

20 mm caliber
Length with muzzle brake: 2.25 m
Weight (mount with weapon and sight): 412 kg
Length of the pipe: 1.30 m
Bullet weight: 143 g
Initial speed of the projectile: 830 m / sec
Elevation range: -20 ° to + 90 °
Side straightening range: 360 °

The Luftwaffe alone owned around 3,800 2 cm quadruplets from August 1944 to February 1945. In the course of the Second World War, these weapons were used in all theaters of war or for property protection.
The 8.8 cm guns could fire high-explosive shells with time fuses for air targeting, tank shells with impact fuses for bunkers and anti-tank attacks, as well as HE shells with impact fuses against unprotected ground targets. For ground target use, all guns were equipped with the 3 x 8 telescopic sight. The accuracy and penetration performance of the 8.8 cm guns were feared by all enemy main battle tank crews. When deployed on the ground, the heavy flak units were often the backbone of anti-tank defense.

Technical data of the 8.8 cm guns:

Rate of fire: 15 to 20 rounds per minute
Range: 14,860 m at 45 ° elevation of the pipe with tank shell
Projectile speed: 795 m / s Panzer grenade cartridge 15.3 kg
840 m / s explosive cartridge 14.7 kg
Detonator range: 10,600 m at 85 ° elevation
E-distance with anti-tank defense up to 2,000 m
Penetration performance of the Panzer Grenade 40
at 1,000 m = 137 mm
with an upstroke angle of 60 ° 1,500 m = 123 mm.

Every heavy flak battery had a command device 36. It was always a few hundred meters to the side of the firing position. Thirteen gunners operated the device with which the guide values ​​for the anti-aircraft guns were determined. While the terrestrial artillery fired at ground targets at which distance and side had to be measured, with the anti-aircraft artillery the height was added, so that the distance, side and height had to be set up. In addition, there was the particular difficulty that the targets to be grasped were fast over 400 kilometers per hour. The approach altitude for daytime attacks was 10-12 km, which significantly reduced the times of fire from heavy flak.
The most important man on the command unit was the range finder, or E-Messmann for short. He was standing in the middle of the room image altimeter and had to keep looking into this four-meter-long tube with both eyes. Four gunners worked together with the spatial altimeter. E 1 was the range finder, E 2 was on his right and tracking the target sideways, E 3 was on the left and tracking the altitude of the aircraft while the fourth gunner read the values. Spatial vision was absolutely required from the E-Messmann. The other gunners fulfilled the other tasks, because before the input values ​​were reported as intermediate values ​​as final values ​​via cables to the guns, they had to go through a whole series of transformations. If the command device gave the three final values ​​of the side, altitude and detonator run time, then lamps on the gun lit up. Many hands turned the gun so that the barrel went up and down or swung sideways according to the values ​​conveyed by light signals. The fire control devices on the heavy flak continuously calculated the shot values ​​from the course of the flight target and its speed. These values ​​were continuously passed on electromechanically or by telephone. All four guns of a heavy battery received the same values ​​at the same time and fired at the same time. Close fire was only released by the battery chief in the case of direct deep attacks against his own position. Only then did the gun commanders have free choice of destination and fight the attacker independently via the telescopic sight.
The command device of the light battery was carried by the E-Messmann. The E-knife set up close to the 2 cm gun. He determined the values ​​and then immediately passed them on to the gun crew.
The gun barrels of the anti-aircraft batteries were under constant care and control. In order to maintain its precision, the V-zero values ​​had to be measured at regular time intervals, that is the speed of the bullet when leaving the barrel. While stationary stations were set up in the home for this purpose, a motorized troop moved from one anti-aircraft regiment to the other in the area of ​​the front to take on each gun.
Magnetized projectiles were shot through two coils, which were set up at a precisely measured distance in front of the gun barrel. The time it took for the bullet to get from the first coil to the second was determined by the so-called Boulanger apparatus, two of which - in order to increase the accuracy of the measurement - were housed in a special trailer. When the bullet flew through the coils, the magnetic field of the bullet generated a current surge that triggered two drop weights in the Boulanger apparatus one after the other via a relay, the second smaller of which operated a sash knife that made a notch in the first. The height of fall was measured with a gauge, from which the new V-zero value resulted for each gun. So it was possible that when the battery fired, the explosive points of the grenades came into the precisely intended position.
The headlights did more than just illuminate at night. The large headlights with a diameter of 150 centimeters were connected to a listening device, the so-called ring funnel direction receiver. With this extremely fine mechanical ear, which was much more sensitive than the human, the approach of enemy planes was to be detected in time.
When enemy aircraft approached, the following chain of actions began to develop: In the command posts of the aircraft detection service, the soldiers worked on a large glass wall. The group officer stood in front of this wall, all reported B-identifications were drawn on the back. If the machines changed their course, the e-services reported this change. The old position was removed and the current B identifier was entered with colored chalk. These reports enabled the respective battery chiefs to precisely calculate and track the flight path of the incoming enemy aircraft. When bomber formations flew into the IDA-EMIL area (the Reich area had been divided into areas with different letter identifications for the anti-aircraft cartillery; Dessau was listed with the letter identification "IDA-EMIL" on the maps of the command posts), level A2 ( Pre-alarm) triggered. The battery chief took tactical measures.
Preparatory activities became effective. In the firing positions, guns were freed from camouflage tarpaulins, and all the necessary gun and device functions went through the test run. A short time later, the A1 level (70 km away) meant the battle alarm for the battery. Now the flak batteries had to report readiness to fire to the subgroup in the shortest possible time.
The official attitude was that a city like Dessau with the highest air sensitivity, as the technical expression read it, could be reassured with all these measures, because the German air force and air defense should make any attack on Dessau ineffective.
These claims turned out to be propaganda as early as August 20, 1940. That day the city was bombed for the first time. From 00.21 to 02.30 the flak group Groß-Dessau, which belonged to Air Defense Command 2 based in Leipzig, was ordered to be ready to fire. Despite the massive use of anti-aircraft guns, a British bomber was able to drop its load along the Askanische Strasse and carry death and destruction into the city.

The war operations of the Dessau anti-aircraft artillery 1939-1945

During the 18 days of the Polish campaign, the flak units involved from Dessau had hardly any combat missions. The German air fleet had already devastated most of the Polish air force in wave attacks. They did not come into real combat missions until May 10, 1940 on the Western Front. The anti-aircraft group "Aldinger" was deployed to provide artillery support for the combined attack by parachute troops and storm pioneers (Lieutenant Colonel Mikosch) against Fort Eben-Emael near Liège, which was used to secure the important Maas crossings, and was integrated into the departments of Flak Regiment 201 with units from Dessau were.
After that, anti-aircraft divisions of the 43 anti-aircraft regiment stationed in Dessau and Wittenberg were deployed on many sections of the front. Flak soldiers from Dessau fought as part of the air or anti-tank defense, for example in July 1940 as anti-aircraft protection for the deployment and preparation for the company "Seelöwe"
on the Channel coast, in December 1940 as anti-aircraft protection for the Navy on the Atlantic coast, in March 1941 when defending Berlin against enemy air raids, in June 1941 together with Panzer Group 1 in the southern section of the Eastern Front, in 1943 in Voronezh, but also in the Africa campaign in November 1943 to March 1944 in Sevastopol, among others.

"Back then we didn't really understand the seriousness of the time" - deployment of flak helpers

On February 15, 1943, the time of air force helpers began in the German Reich, usually students. The first drafts took place on April 15, 1943. In Dessau, around 200 pupils received their presentation orders from the police authorities, which obliged them to be at the anti-aircraft barracks in Kochstedt on the day mentioned. The presentation order was made out in the name of the father, since most of the students were still minors. In the Kochstedt barracks, the flak helpers were dressed and quartered in wooden barracks. After their training of 4-6 weeks they came to work. In the various positions, the pupils of the boys' middle school were supposed to defend the city against enemy aircraft, e.g. in the fire position on Kreuzbergstrasse. Other students were assigned to the positions of the flak batteries in Kochstedt, Kühnau and at the Kornhaus.
But these children were by no means just helpers. They should be active soldiers, trained to replace those who came to the front. The fact that those who had not yet finished school continued to be educated did not change that much. Their teachers came to the flak positions. Classes continued at the A-2 alert. But if a battle alarm was given, the students jumped up and ran to the guns. The teachers had to leave the position immediately. The lessons - in 1944 according to the “Reichslehrplan” for air force helpers on three days of the week, took place increasingly sporadically and ceased completely from late autumn on. Most recently, the flak helpers of the Waldersee battery were instructed in the “Schweizergarten” restaurant in Waldersee. The battery 213 / IV Heimatflak was brought into position with six guns on the still snow-covered Försteracker in Waldersee in March 1944, where it formed a double battery with the battery 208 / IV immediately next to it. Together with the heavy batteries in Klieken, Kleutsch and Möst, the 208 / IV and the 213 / IV marked the eastern periphery of the flak ring around the industrial and urban area of ​​Dessau.
Six guns per battery had to be manned around the clock. There were two stages in aircraft detection. Level I was the so-called rough approach, level II was the detailed approach (visual). But if the reporting service could not catch the incoming enemy aircraft early enough or the warning command received the report too late, the A1 combat alarm had to be triggered immediately. The batteries were shot either optically with a command aid device or a radio measuring device 40 and "Malsi auxiliary device". By constantly recording the current approach courses, all battery bosses gained the necessary overview of the air situation and thus the basis for the approach of their batteries. If the auxiliary command device of a battery failed, the shooting values ​​of another battery could be converted with the help of the Malsi device. The directional gunners now had to set all incoming values ​​on the gun. If the bombers changed course, if the enemy machines were at the turning point, they had to be turned 180 degrees at lightning speed in order to hit anything at all. All incoming shooting values ​​could change constantly. Accordingly, there was constant practice, day and night, over and over again.
Air force helpers were given priority training in the functions for which intelligent and reliable soldiers were required: E2, E3, B4 and B5 on command unit 41, controls for the Malsi device, replacement radio measuring device controls, electronic measuring staff, deputy gun leader K1 , K2, K3, and K6 on the heavy, medium and light flak, K10 on the 8.8 cm flak as well as radio operators and telephones. In the assigned headlight departments and at the listening devices, women often did their job as flak helpers in the Dessau firing positions.
The air defense ring in the Dessau area extended to Koethen - Roßlau - Rodleben - Calbe. The Flakgruppe Groß-Dessau and the subgroups Dessau-Ost, Dessau-West, Dessau-Mitte, Dessau-Roßlau existed. The flak sub-group Dessau-Mitte, for example, was subordinate to the light flak division 990, the flak sub-group Dessau-Ost the reserve flak division 434 with the sub-group Kühnau. The firing position of this department was in the Klieken - Kleutsch area. The heavy division 464 with its firing position in the Neeken area was subordinate to the Flak subgroup Dessau-West. The light flak department 464 belonged to the flak department Rodleben. There was also an anti-aircraft sub-group Koethen with fire positions in the area of ​​Quellendorf.

Summary table of batteries and departments in 1944

Designation of the fire positions departments
IV / 213 (1944/1945) Dessau-Waldersee
IV / 251 (1944/1945) Dessau-Roßlau
Light Flak - Department 990 Rodleben
Res. Flak - Department 434 Room Klieken and Kleutsch
Subgroup Köthen in the Quellendorf area
Sw. Flak - Department 464 area Neeken to Kühnau
Subgroup Kühnau Großkühnau
Le. Flak - Department 727 Rodleben room to Bernburg
Res. Flakscheinw.- Section 438 North of the Elbe
Sw. Flak - Department 434 Kornhaus, Waldersee, Törten

The flak helpers had their first major mission in the attack on May 28, 1944, Whitsunday, the first day of American bomber raids on the city of Dessau. The Dessau heavy flak - at that time consisting of 13 batteries with 81 guns - shot from all barrels. The balance of the first day's attack in the position of the battery 213 / IV on the Försteracker emerges from the memories of Wolfgang Muth, who was stationed there: cold roulades from A2 midday), initially passable group fire, later fire discipline declining due to overloading of the guns and operators, several technical failures, uncertainty about kills or participation in kills. If 20 points were reached, the soldiers of the battery were given the anti-aircraft combat badge.
After the Whitsun attacks in 1944, there was initially a further strengthening of the anti-aircraft defense around Dessau. The heavy units, concentrated around the protected objects, were modernized or enlarged and, as a rule, pipes were coupled to form large batteries. The 2nd Flak Brigade, which emerged from the original Flak Group Dessau, now had 16 to 48 tubes per battery, e.g. in Klieken, Kleutsch and Waldersee. Battery 213 / IV in Waldersee now received eight new 8.8 cm cannons, 5 of which were placed in the old walls. Two guns were advanced in the direction of Schwedenwall. As a fire control device, the battery received a brand-new command device 40. To train as operators for this complicated device, a few flak helpers were commanded to Möst. The new cannons shot 10,600 meters high. Thus, one hoped for so far missing kills.
The British and American planes had become more bulletproof, their altitude and airspeed had increased considerably, the radio measuring devices of the flak were disrupted as planned, and there was no appropriate defense against the tactics of the stream of bombers. In addition, the attacking aircraft no longer offered the flak a fixed target due to constant change of course. As a result of these developments, the ammunition consumption of the anti-aircraft cartillery increased enormously. The chances of the anti-aircraft defense to hit a bomber remained slim despite the technical modifications and improvements.

The following example from the practice of the Flakbatterie 213 / IV illustrates this:

- Approach from 8/9 on Dessau-Alten (destination)
- Attack height 7,000 m (constant)
- Vh 100m / sec ___ Z _________ 213 / IV ___
- direct approach to departure via battery
- in the detonator setting range at 10,000 m = 7,000 m map level
- Measurement of the guide machine with opt. Shooting with a command device
- Approach from 2/3 to Dessau-Alten (mirror image of a)

- Firing range: 2 x 66 sec when the barrel is raised between 45 ° and 85 °, maximum rate of fire at 3.3 sec
- Loading delay time and change point:
a) 2 x 20 rounds after the bomb was dropped
b) 2 x 20 rounds before, during and shortly after the bomb was dropped.

At the same time, the anti-aircraft positions were threatened by fire and bombing from attacking aircraft. During the air raid on Dessau on August 16, 1944, the flak units in the vicinity of the city had the impression that the hail of bombs was so strong that not much would be left of Dessau. A flak position between Mosigkau and Elsnigk was bombed. A lieutenant fell and an anti-aircraft helper was missing. On September 28, 1944, the bombs fell in the north quarter and in the water town. As the members of the flak position 213 / IV on the Försteracker in Waldersee noticed, the attacking machines flew in at a much lower altitude than usual and had already disappeared from their area of ​​fire again after a short time, but not without bombs falling in a row in threatening proximity let who just missed the position.
In 1944/1945, German air defense largely collapsed. The force of the British and American bombings increased more and more. Nonetheless, anti-aircraft batteries were constantly being removed from the city protection system in order to be relocated to the eastern and western fronts as ground combat batteries. The cities and towns they were set up to protect were left without effective air defense. Many of them, like Dessau on March 7, 1945, sank to rubble and ashes.

Reinhard Gassong

Sources cited and further literature:

Handbook on German Military History 1648-1939, Frankfurt am Main 1979-1981, Volume VII, Part I, p. 540
Horst Adelbert Koch: Flak: The history of the German flak cartillery 1935-1945, Bad Nauheim 1954
Olaf Groehler: Anhalt in the air war 1940-1945. Approach to Ida-Emil, Dessau 1993
Ders .: Operation number 1027. The air raid on Dessau on March 7, 1945, Dessau 1986
Georg Tessin: German associations and troops 1918-1939: Old Army, volunteer associations, Reichswehr, Army, Air Force, State Police, Osnabrück 1974
Field gray. Journal for modern military history, organization, uniforms, armament and equipment, Berlin, issue 1/1954, 14/1966
City Archives Dessau: NZ 7, NZ 156
Anhalter Anzeiger 1937, 1938, 1939
Anh. Landeszeitung 1943
State Main Archive Saxony-Anhalt, Department Dessau, Army Site Administration Roßlau, KDV Dessau-Köthen Rg. No. 105/106/109 (1940-1945)
Wolfgang Muth: Heavy home flak battery 213 / IV Dessau-Waldersee 1944 (manuscript)
Heinz Austermann: From Eben Emael to Edewechter Damm, paratroopers: paratroopers, parachute pioneers. Reports and documents on the deployment of the parachute pioneers, Holzminden 1971