Emblem of JG 50
|Active||July 1943–October 1943|
|Size||Air Force Wing|
Jagdgeschwader 50 (JG 50), sometimes erroneously referred to as Jagdgruppe 50, was a special high-altitude fighter unit that specialized in intercepting the Royal Air Force's de Havilland Mosquito light bombers during World War II.
On 21 July 1943, Jagdgruppe Süd der ObdL was formed as a high-altitude fighter unit to combat the RAF's Mosquito twin-engine bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. On 15 August 1943 the unit was redesignated Jagdgeschwader 50 and was commanded by Major Hermann Graf, the first pilot in history to achieve 200 aerial victories. Both JG 50 (and its sister unit Jagdgeschwader 25) were ultimately unsuccessful in effectively countering the Mosquito and were more profitably used for interception of the US heavy bomber formations during the daylight offensive over Europe in 1943-44.
JG 50 were initially equipped with eight Messerschmitt Bf 109G-5s and Bf 109G-6s polished to increase speed, and equipped with a special tank for liquefied nitrous oxide as part of the GM-1 engine power boosting system, which was injected directly into the supercharger intake. This allowed the pilot to boost the rated horsepower of the DB 605 engine. Graf set a world record for high altitude flight of 46,885 ft (14,291 m) feet in one of the modified 109s. The unit was later also equipped with specially supercharged FW-190A-5.
Graf was allowed to pick any pilots he wished for the new unit, and he chose a further three aces ObLt. Alfred Grislawski, Obfw. Ernst Süß, and Fw. Heinrich Füllgrabe from his old Staffel - the 9. Staffel of JG 52, also known as Karaya-Staffel, after their emblem, a heart hit by an arrow underlined with the word Karaya (which was the title of their favourite song). Collectively they were known as the "Karaya Quartet".
The unit was notorious for their indiscipline and lack of respect for authority. In his biography Alfred Grislawski wrote "In 1941 - 1943, the Karayastaffel was probably the most non-militaristic unit in the entire Wehrmacht."
On one occasion Grislawski was threatened with a court-martial, but the accusation was dropped when a force of U.S. bombers approached and it was realized that Grislawski was the only capable fighter leader available to co-ordinate the interception.
As a talented goalkeeper, Graf had a passion for football. Using his influence, Graf was able to arrange transfers of several serving former professional football players to JG 50. He thus formed his own soccer team, 'The Red Fighters', to play exhibition matches.
Graf was charged with assessing new methods of attacking American bomber formations. He developed the "company front" attack, and was to assess weapons the fighters could use against the bombers. JG 50 was the first formation to use the WfGr.21 rocket mortar, with one carried under each wing. While these rockets could bring down a bomber with one hit, they were designed to disperse the tightly packed bomber formations rather than as a direct fire weapon.
On 31 July 1943 the unit was declared operational, with a total of 19 aircraft. On 17 August 1943 the unit was one of those who intercepted American bomber forces attacking the Messerschmitt factory in Regensburg and the ball bearing plants in Schweinfurt. Grislawski claimed two Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses downed on this raid. On 6 September the unit's pilots shot down four Flying Fortresses over Stuttgart, one to Grislawski, and two claimed by Graf with the WfGr.21, who was then shot down but survived a forced landing. Grislawski claimed one other kill with the unit, a B-17 on 14 October.
In around four months of operations Graf was the sole pilot of JG 50 to down a Mosquito, which he caught after loitering at 30,000 feet over Groningen.
By October, JG 50 had been disbanded and merged with I Gruppe, JG 301. Graf was appointed commander of JG 11 in November 1943. On 6 November 1943 Grislawski was appointed Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 1 based at Deelen, Holland.
By the end of the war only two of the Karaya Quartet had survived. Ernst Süß was shot dead by U.S. fighters while parachuting, and Heinrich Füllgrabe was killed in action on the Eastern Front during the last days of the war.
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