Operation Irak

Iraq

This was a German operation to bolster the strength of the anti-British insurgent forces in Iraq by the transfer of small but high-grade air units (May 1941).

Under the overall supervision of General Hans Jeschonnek, the Luftwaffe’s chief-of-staff, the Fliegerführer ‘Irak’ command was created under Oberst (later Generalmajor) Werner Junck. This command flew 15 Heinkel He 111 medium bombers and 14 Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighters into Mosul via Vichy French air bases in Syria, arriving on 10/12 May, then began regular attacks on the British base at Habbaniyah.

Plans were drawn up to supply ground warfare equipment and also troops, but the German high command was hesitant and required the permission of Turkey for passage. In the end the Luftwaffe found conditions in Iraq intolerable, as spare parts were not available and even the quality of aircraft fuel was far below the Luftwaffe’s requirements.

There was therefore a steady reduction in aircraft serviceability and, ultimately, all Luftwaffe personnel were evacuated on the last remaining Heinkel He 111. Only one German aeroplane was lost in action.

In addition to Fliegerführer ‘Irak’ command, the Germans were able to provide the Iraqis with matériel support through the German/Vichy French ‘Paris Protocols’, which made possible the delivery of French war stores. On 13 May, the first trainload from Syria arrived in Mosul via Turkey. The Iraqis took delivery of 15,500 rifles with six million rounds of ammunition, 200 machine guns with 900 belts of ammunition, and four 75-mm (2.95-in) field guns together with 10,000 shells. Two additional deliveries were made on 26 and 28 May. The additional stores included eight 155-mm (6.1-in) guns with 6,000 shells, 354 sub-machine guns, 30,000 grenades and 32 trucks.