Jagdgeschwader 301/302 “Wilde Sau,” In Defense of the Reich with the Bf 109, Fw 190 and Ta 152
by Willi Reschke; Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pa., 2005, $39.95.
Jagdgeschwader 301/302 “Wilde Sau” is a unit history with a difference, because its author, Willi Reschke, did more than just chronicle the history of those two interceptor wings—he lived it. Born in 1922, he entered service with the I Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader (fighter wing) 302 at Götzendorf, near Vienna, on June 20, 1944—and began his scoring by shooting down two Consolidated B-24 Liberators over Budapest on July 2. Wilde Sau (wild boar) wings such as JG.300, 301 and 302 were single-seat fighter units that were intended to intercept British bombers at night in spite of their lack of integral radar, and to engage American bombers by day at point-blank range— with an admonishment by Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring to ram if their cannons failed to down the enemy. Reschke carried out that order on July 7, when he rammed a B-24 after his guns malfunctioned, then bailed out. By the end of the war, he had shot down 27 Allied aircraft in 48 combat missions.
Reschke’s account of the two wings in which he served represents an invaluable compilation of unit documents and combat reports, providing a day-by-day account of defending the Third Reich against the growing—and ultimately overwhelming—might of the Allied bombing offensive. As such, it is a valuable research tool for obtaining a comparative glimpse of the German side of given Allied missions, especially those by the U.S. Eighth and Fifteenth air forces. Even while covering the “big picture,” however, Reschke’s narrative occasionally gets personal, as close comrades fall victim to the constant crossfires of .50- caliber machine guns from the bombers, or to escorting North American P-51 Mustang fighters, or to operational accidents—regardless of the cause, dead is dead. Understandably, Reschke occasionally goes into greater detail whenever he is involved, giving insights into one man’s perspective of these desperate air battles. For example, as he came at his quarry on July 7 and his weapons failed for the second time, Reschke writes:
“As I was still slightly higher with plenty of speed, my first thought was just to strike the starboard fin of the Liberator and then pull away to the right. I closed to within a few meters of the Liberator, but I had not taken into account the airflow caused by its propellers, which seized my [Messerschmitt] Bf 109. I struck the starboard fin and rudder somewhat lower than I had planned.”
The resulting damage to his propeller and left wing soon forced Reschke to take to his parachute. He would do so three more times in the course of being shot down eight times and being wounded once.
Originally published in Germany in 1999, Jagdgeschwader 301/302 “Wilde Sau” is now available in English from Schiffer, and aside from that and a cover painting by S.W. Ferguson, it is identical to the original, complete with a wealth of photographs that range from aircraft and pilots to ground activities. The many portraits of unit personnel include ground crewmen, women auxiliaries and mascots such as the “Staffelhund” of 1st Staffel, JG.302, a puppy named “Mustang.” The fact that the ranks of JG.302 and JG.301 were mainly filled with late-war pilots with relatively little training compared to the earlier generation is illustrated by the multitude of faces behind the statistics— photos whose captions note the dates on which the pilots were killed. Reschke was one of the lucky survivors, and his book offers both a superb reference to scholars of the Luftwaffe’s downfall and a memorial to his many comrades who dutifully gave all they had—including their lives— in defense of their cities and a doomed Reich.
Originally published in the March 2006 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.