Profile no 115. Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-10

Yellow 24, W.Nr. 490655, flown by Leutnant Antonius Wöffen, 6./JG 27, Rheine-Hopsten/Germany, 11 March 1945

On this day, Lt Wöffen, the Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 27, shot down an Auster at Xanten for his fifth Abschuss, but was then hit by the fire of the US 387th AA Bn. The American anti-aircraft position hit his engine, knocking out the oil-pressure, damage that forced him to belly land his machine near Rheinberg and he was taken prisoner. According to a US Army witness, Wöffen either "had guts or was really crazy", as instead of continuing on his course when hit and crossing the Rhine River to safety, the German pilot made a 180 degree turn and put down his machine in the middle of the 5th´s armored artillery position with all guns blazing. The US unit was at the same time blasting away with everything they had, without hitting the German. As one member of the 5th put it: "The good Lord had something else in mind for this pilot". In his memoir "I was not a fighter pilot ace" ('Ich war kein Jagdflieger As') Anton Wöffen describe his last mission as follows: "March 11, 1945. That clear sunny Sunday morning I was tasked as Staffelführer with leading a Schwarm of four 6./JG 27 Bf 109s up from Hopsten near Rheine on a recce sortie in the sector Wesel-Rheinberg-Duisberg where German troops still held a bridgehead on the western bank of the Rhine. There were signs that the Americans were preparing an all-out assault and I had to ascertain more, a somewhat hopeless task Moments after arriving over Wesel I spotted an "Auster" climbing at about 100 meters altitude directly ahead of me. What then followed, happened very quickly... I flicked up the armament safety catch on the control column for the 2 cm cannon and the two cowl MG 131s and pulling up under the enemy machine and gave the Auster a burst from all three guns. Suddenly I felt a blow in the engine... Smoke started to seep into the cockpit. I continued to climb hoping to reach a safe altitude to bail-out but my speed was decreasing far too quickly. I could see tracers from all sides rising towards me and immediately pushed the nose down. I had arrived directly over the American lines. I could see fire coming from an anti-aircraft battery and, taking aim in so far as I could, gave the Amis on the ground a burst of fire. By now I was approaching the ground and, although the smoke was hampering my efforts, prepared for a crash-landing... I saw high tension wires flitting past the cockpit... above my head. I pulled back hard on the stick. The machine hit the ground with an almighty crash and bumping and jolting slid along for some distance. Suddenly everything went quiet. I opened the hood and climbed out. I had made a perfect belly landing and had escaped completely unscathed. I had been lucky. Just thirty meters in front of me was a railway embankment which I could just as easily have plowed into. Running towards me from all directions were American soldiers. Standing on the port wing I leaned back into the cockpit and as I started to tear up my map, I heard loud shouting behind me..." Hands up!".

Note that this profile and caption is from my new book Luftwaffe Fighters, Profile book No 10

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