Operation Sonderkommando Elbe

special command Elbe (German river)

The 'Sonderkommando 'Elbe'' was the German air task force trained for the task of bringing down heavy bombers by ramming fighters into them in the air (spring 1945).

The tactic was intended to cause losses sufficient to halt or at least reduce the western Allies' bombing of Germany. The pilots were expected to bale out of their aircraft just before or just after they had collided with their target. Even so, the chances of a pilot surviving in such an attack were very low, but it was nonetheless deemed an acceptable and even cost-effective tactic at a time when the Germans lacked sufficient numbers of well-trained pilots.

Most of the aircraft allocated to the 'Sonderkommando Elbe' force were Messerschmitt Bf 109G fighters stripped of their armour and all of their armament but one 0.51-in (13-mm) MG 131 machine gun with 60 rounds in the upper part of the engine cowling. The 'Sonderkommando Elbe' pilots were trained to aim their aircraft at one of three sensitive areas on the bombers: the tail unit with its relatively flimsy control surfaces, the engine nacelles connected to the highly explosive fuel system, and the cockpit.

The only operational mission flown by the 'Sonderkommando Elbe' was 'Werwolf' (iii), which took place on 7 April 1945 and involved a force of 183 Bf 109 fighters. Only about 15 Allied bombers were attacked, of which eight were destroyed, but the Germans themselves lost 77 aircraft and pilots.