Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2

Blue 10, flown by Oberfeldwebel Kurt Stöber, 7./JG 54, Isotscha/USSR, January 1943

In January of 1943, the number of missions flown by III./JG 54 was hampered by very bad weather. There was an extremely intense combat situation in the area however, where a German Army relief force was trying to reach the surrounded German garrison at Welikije Luki.

III./JG 54 was therefore forced to fly from the bases at Smolensk and Isotscha from 4 January onwards, to assist in this effort regardless of the weather conditions. During the initial phase of the battle, the Gruppe filed 38 Abschüsse during four days of fighting. Another spell of bad weather ensued, such that the next missions were not flown until 12 January.

After the hard-fought rescue attack failed, the German garrison at Welikije Luki was forced to surrender on 16 January. During the Gruppe's participation in the final phase of the struggle, they claimed five VVS machines on the 12th and another eleven on the 15th. By the time they withdrew on 18 January, they had claimed a total of 24 Abschüsse over the battlefield.

During the fighting, Ofw. Stöber personally accounted for eight Luftsiege. His best day was on 6 January, with five downed VVS machines accomplished in three separate missions, three LaGG-3s, one Pe-2 and an Il-2. On 15 January, he experienced engine problems while dogfighting LaGG-3s, and was forced down and promptly taken prisoner.

Eleven days later, III./JG 54 arrived at Stalino for the transport of the Gruppe to the west, ending up at Vendeville (near Lille) in northern France in March of 1943.

Ofw. Kurt Stöber would receive the German Cross in Gold in absentia on 16 February for his 36 confirmed victories and would endure a five-year long imprisonment in the Soviet Union before being released in 1948.

This profile and caption was included in my Profile Book No 10 as profile number 65.

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