Messerschmitt Bf 109 K-4

Profile number 109. Flown by Leutnant Heinrich "Hein" Hackler, 11./JG 77, Neuruppin/Germany, November 1944.

For JG 77 Herzas, Operation Bodenplatte-the Luftwaffe's massive strafing operation against Allied airbases in France and Belgium early on New Year's Day 1945-resulted in a tragedy. The task was to attack Deurne Airdrome near Antwerp. The Jagdgeschwader took off with about sixty Bf 109s, who were guided by a Ju 88 to the target. The mishappening started when the formation reached Rotterdam, where the German antiaircraft batteries opened an intense fire against the fighter-bombers. The formation continued, and went down to the deck as it crossed the frontline, where it again became subject to ground fire. Because of the mist and the low flight altitude, the JG 77 pilots were unable to locate their target immediately. A total chaos broke out when some of the pilots started climbing in order to try and find the target, while others remained circling at low altitude. While they continued circling aimlessly north-east of Antwerp, the Messerschmitts were being fired at by Allied AAA. Scattered groups of Bf 109s managed to locate Deurne Airdrome and carried out strafing attacks that damaged fourteen and destroyed one RAF 266 Squadron Typhoon-the oldest and most worn out Typhoon in the unit's inventory. Other JG 77 pilots found and raided Woensdrecht Airdrome, which was practically deserted. Finally, those Bf 109s who had not been shot down turned homeward, individually or in small groups, still subjected to antiaircraft fire over histile territory. The January 1, 1945 operation cost JG 77 a total of eleven Bf 109s and eleven pilots. Among the casualties was 11. Staffel's Kapitän, Leutnant Heinrich Hackler. Hackler was a veteran who had served with JG 77 since 1941. Although Hackler never achieved any particularly conspicuous victory rows, the experience that he amassed turned him into one of the backbones of III./JG 77. Hackler had achieved his first aerial victory on the Eastern Front on June 26, 1941, and in May 1942 he scored his thirtieth. When he was awarded with the Knight's Cross on August 19, 1944, his score stood at sixty-seven. Heinrich Hackler's final score is unknown, at least sixty-seven confirmed victories.

© Claes Sundin 2009 text: Christer Bergström 2002

Published by Schiffer Military History Book 2002 ISBN: 0-7643-1559-5