Operation Mosul

(Iraqi city)

'Mosul' was a German air drop of agents and supplies near Mosul in northern Iraq (27/30 November 1944).

During the night of 27/28 November two pilots of the Kampfgeschwader 200 special-purpose unit flew a Junkers Ju 290 long-range transport aeroplane from Vienna to a position just to the south of Mosul in British-held Iraq, where they successfully air-dropped five Iraqi insurgents before flying back to the German-occupied island of Rhodes, still under German occupation. The aeroplane then embarked some 30 casualties and returned to Vienna two nights later.

The operation was undertaken by an element of Oberst Heinz Heigl’s (from 15 November 1244 Oberstleutnant Warner Baumbach’s and from 6 March 1945 Major Adolf von Hernier’s) Kampfgeschwader 200, the primary Luftwaffe special operations unit of World War II. The KG 200 carried out especially difficult bombing and transport operations, undertook long-distance reconnaissance flights, tested new aircraft designs, and evaluated captured aircraft.

The KG 200's history can be traced back to 1934, when the Luftwaffe, impressed by Oberst Theodor Rowehl’s aerial reconnaissance missions over Poland, formed a special squadron under Rowehl’s command for attachment to the Abwehr, Germany’s military intelligence organisation. As the Abwehr started to lose the confidence of Adolf Hitler during the war, a new reconnaissance unit (2nd Test Unit) was established in 1942 under the command Oberstleutnant Werner Baumbach, and this was combined with the 1st Test Unit in March 1944 to form Heigl’s KG 200 on 20 February 1944. On 11 November 1944 Heigl was replaced by Baumbach replaced Heigl as the Geschwaderkommodore, and all aerial special operations were carried out by KG 200 under Baumbach’s command.[5]

Unusually for a Luftwaffe Geschwader, the KG 200 had two rather than three operational Gruppen, and while others were planned these did not become operational before the end of the war.

Major Adolf Koch’s I/KG 200 operated three or four Heinkel He 115 floatplanes and was responsible for dropping Abwehr agents behind enemy lines. The largest number of agents dropped was in July 1944, when 260 men and women were dropped. This Gruppe operated under direct control of the Sicherheitsdienst, and was divided into three Staffeln: the 1.Staffel was used for long-range missions, the 2.Staffel flew short-range missions, and the 3.Staffel had naval pilots and operated its sole He 115 from Rissala in Finland.

Hauptmann Horst Rudat’s II/KG 200 was responsible for all other missions, including electronic warfare, long-range reconnaissance, delivery flights and alleged special cargo missions to Japanese-held northern China. The Gruppe had the 3.Staffel, based at Dedelstorf in Germany, and was used for operations by the parachute-trained Luftwaffe special forces, an element of the Fallschirmjäger airborne arm. In September 1944 this Staffel was detached from the KG 200 to become the army’s Bataillon 'Schäfer'.

Major Helmut Viedebantt’s III/KG 200 was to have flown Focke-Wulf Fw 190A fighters armed with torpedoes, but was not established. The IV/KG 200 was used for pilot training and for flights of long-range units using the Junkers Ju 90 and Ju 290 (with the Ju 390 and Messerschmitt Me 264 planned). Had it become operational, this Staffel would have been responsible for reconnaissance flights and delivery of agents and bombs to the USA. The V/KG 200 (also known as the 'Leonidas' Staffel was recruited for planned test flights and missions using suicide and near-suicide missions using the piloted version of the V-1 flying bomb and various semi-expendable rocket interceptor designs.)

The KG 200 performed many types of missions. Before the start of World War II in September 1939, aerial reconnaissance was usually carried out by civilian aircraft of the Lufthansa airline fitted with clandestine camera installations, a practice which was continued in the war for as long as German civilian airline services were flown. Reconnaissance missions were later flown by Junkers Ju 86 aircraft flying at very high altitude, or by flying boats. For lack of indigenous aircraft with the range capability for long missions, the Germans used captured aircraft, most notably the US Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator, and the Soviet Tupolev Tu-2. These aircraft were used mostly for the resupply role (such as the delivery of supplies to German forces operating behind the Soviet lines), or for the transport of important personnel.

From 1942, when it belatedly came to the full appreciation of the limitations imposed on it by lack of genuinely heavy bombers, the Luftwaffe embarked on the 'Beethoven' programme to pack war-weary Junkers Ju 88 bombers with their cockpits replaced by large shaped-charge warheads and guidance to their targets by a manned fighter strut-mounted above the now-unmanned bomber. Although not as effective as had been hoped, these 'Mistel' aircraft remained in development and limited use into 1945, though only a few effective operations were flown.

The unit was originally planned for attack of the British Home Fleet at its northern base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney islands, the Soviet Baltic Fleet at its base outsode Leningrad, and the British base at Gibraltar controlling the western approach and exit of the Mediterranean Sea.

The 'Overlord' invasion of Normandy by the Allies in June 1944, however, led to a switch in target emphasis. On the night of 24 June 1944, 'Mistel' composite aircraft of Generalmajor Dipl-Ing. Robert Krauss’s Kampfgeschwader 101 were dispatched against targets in the English Channel. Although one of the Ju 88 converted bombers had to be jettisoned prematurely, the remaining four pilots achieved successful launches and sank several block ships.

The feasibility of the Scapa Flow attack remained, and in August 1944 the 'Mistel' force was concentrated at Grove in Schleswig-Holstein. On 11/12 November 1944, however, Avro Lancaster heavy bombers of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris’s RAF Bomber Command attacked the German battleship Tirpitz and caused her to capsize at her anchorage in the northern part of German-occupied Norway. With Germany’s last battleship now removed from the equation of naval operations in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, the British had no further requirement for capital ships to be held in the Atlantic theatre, and those with the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow were soon on their way to the Pacific theatre, leaving the 'Mistel' composite attack aircraft with no worthwhile targets in Scapa Flow.

All the 'Mistel' machines were placed under the command of the KG 200 and Oberst Joachim Helbig. By a time late in 1944 the emphasis of the composite attack machines' operations had been switched to an all-out attack on Soviet armaments and power plants, but by March 1945 the bases from which such operations could have been launched had all been overrun by the Soviet advance.

The KG 200 was therefore ordered to concentrate 'Mistel' operations against the bridges over the Oder and Neisse rivers as these were vital but vulnerable targets on the Soviet lines of communication. On 27 April seven 'Mistel' machines, under the command of Leutnant Dittmann of the II/KG 200 and escorted by Fw 190 fighters, were launched against the river crossings at Küstrin, but only two 'Mistel' machines got close enough to the target area to launch, but the results were inconclusive and the bridges remained intact.

By April all available 'Mistel' composite machines had been expended, and the relevant aircrew were thereupon dispersed to nearby fighter units.

In the last few months of the war a few high-ranking German officers pressed for a suicide fighter programme as a last-ditch effort to stop Allied bombing of Germany. This Selbstopfer (self-sacrifice) effort was conceived on the basis of the Fieseler Fi 103R Reichenberg, a manned version of the V-1 pulsejet-powered cruise missile, for attacks on bombers and ground targets. Several test flights were carried out by the 'Leonidas' Staffel of the KG 200, and production of the adapted missiles was ordered, but the programme was soon terminated after Baumbach had intervened to say that such operations would be nothiung more than a waste of valuable pilots.

As part of 'Aktion 24', Dornier Do 24 flying boats were modified and loaded with explosives, and in this form be landed on the Vistula river and taxi into river bridges and there detonated, depriving the Soviet forces of their use. Experienced pilots were to be used to fly the aircraft to a point upstream of their targets, where control would be left to a 'suicide pilot' to ensure a collision with the bridge and the detonation of the explosives. The assumption that Soviet forces would not react and the unlikelihood of the aircrew managing to return to German-held territory after delivery made the concept highly problematical, and the modified aircraft were in fact destroyed on the ground in air raids.

The unit also undertook a number of special missions, such as the parachuting of agents behind Allied lines, operating radar-jamming aircraft, carrying out long-range transport flights to Japan, clandestine bombing missions and infiltrating US bomber formations with captured aircraft in an attempt to spread confusion. However, most of the information concerning these missions comes from a single prisoner and its veracity is disputed.

During one such mission, on 27 June 1944, a B-17 of the KG 200, in Luftwaffe markings, landed at Manises airport outside Valencia and was interned by the Spanish government.

Beginning in early 1943, and perhaps as early as November 1942, the short-lived 'Dora' and 'Etappenhase' operations were undertaken in the Gulf of Sirte area of Libya to establish secret bases inland at Al Mukaram and Wadi Tamet, as well as at Shott el Djerid behind the Mareth Line. These efforts used a long-range Messerschmitt Bf 108 liaison aeroplane, two Heinkel He 111 adapted bombers and a captured B-17, the last accorded the fictional designation Dornier Do 288. Despite despite being badly damaged during a raid on Al Mukaram by a Sudan Defence Force detachment, this last aeroplane managed to return to Athens for repair. As well as the gathering of local intelligence and meteorological work, the missions also delivered agents via French West Africa for onward movement to Cairo in Egypt, Freetown in Sierra Leone and Durban in South Africa.