Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 trop

GP-IZ, W.Nr. 18046, flown by Oberleutnant Günther Hannak, 7./JG 27, San Pietro/Sicily/Italy, 5 May 1943

It was on Sicily that Wehrmacht awaited the Allied invasion of Europe. The Germans undertook frequent aerial reconnaissance in the surrounding region and during one of these missions Hptm. Gunther Hannak, the Stafelkapitän of 7./JG 27, had to make an emergency landing on Malta after engine trouble. This Experte with 47 victories and holder of the Ritterkreuz was taken prisoner.

According to the British, Hannak was thereby the only German pilot successfully belly-land his aircraft on this island. After putting down his G-6 he was promptly taken prisoner and Hannak´s interrogator subsequently recorded: "The pilot took-off from Biscay at about 12:15 hours with his Staffel of a total of 10 aircraft. Their mission was to make a reconnaissance mission over Malta. This day he was flying the aircraft of another member in his Staffel as his aircraft was unserviceable. The Bf 109 G-6 trop flown by him was new and had arrived to their base earlier that day. The formation flew more or less due south and made landfall approximately over Comino at about 6800 meters height. It was at this point the pilot noticed that the cockpit was filling with smoke and oil was splashing on his windscreen. He estimated that his speed at that time was 500 km/h. The aircraft continued crossing the island and when over the sea Hannak realized it was hopeless to continue. He jettisoned his cockpit, which also carried away his oxygen mask, and he had a temporary black-out. When he came-to he had lost height to about 5000 meters. He then cut out the engine and circled over the sea. Finding that the engine would no longer work when he tried to cut it in again. He then picked the largest airbase he could see and glided down with wheels up.

" An official British caption to a photograph that was provided six days later on 11 May read: "Malta´s ack-ack destroyed German fighter". The rest of the text read: "A Messerschmitt 109 G, hit by ack-ack fire over Malta and forced to crash-land, lies almost intact in a field on the island. The pilot, who was held the Iron Cross, First Class was uninjured and was taken prisoner".

Günther Hannak was a long serving member of the Jagdwaffe who scored his first victory ­ a Blenheim ­ over Larissa, Greece, during the Balkan Campaign. At that time he was a member of I.(J)/LG 2 and as a Oberfeldwebel he would shot down another two RAF aircraft over Greece, a Spitfire and another Blenheim. Later posted to the East he would increase his score with four VVS aircraft during 1941. After his Gruppe was incorporated into I./JG 77, now as a Leutnant Hannak would add another 38 confirmed victories in the East, and on several days scoring multiple kills. On 1 July 1942 he received the Ritterkruz and promoted to Oberleutnant.

He was then posted to III./JG 27 as the new Staffelkapitaän of the 7. Staffel. Flying from Sicily he would claim his last two Abschüsse of the war on 12 April 1943, both Spitfires shot down south of Cape Passero. With a total of 47 confirmed victories in around 300 missions Hptm. Gunther Hannak would spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of war. His new Bf 109, G-6 trop is devoid of any unit markings, with just its barely perceptible four-letter Stammkennzeichen (factory radio code) "GP-IZ" on the fuselage sides. These were applied with a water-based black paint that was easily removed prior to the application of unit markings.

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