UPDATED: Not CRUSADER – Black Cross/Red Star: Air War over the Eastern Front

UPDATED: Not CRUSADER – Black Cross/Red Star: Air War over the Eastern Front

As noted in the title, this is not about Operation CRUSADER, but I thought it fair to circulate the announcement by Christer Bergström that a fully revised version of his seminal Black Cross Red Star Vol. 1 is going to come out soon. You can read the announcement at this link, and it is posted below. I have added an excerpt from the book, kindly provided by Christer for this purpose, below.

I was very pleased to be able to help Christer overcome pandemic challenges in accessing the National Archives for HW5 material, intercepted communications of the Wehrmacht, which provide riveting reading about the progress of the campaign in the east in 1941.

I also thought that the story, of wanting to retain editorial control and printing quality resonated quite highly with me. I hope he has a successful sales campaign for this work, which I expect to be of high quality. 


Cover of Vol. 1

Christer’s post below:


I have just (actually today) finished writing the appendices of the new and updated Black Cross Red Star Vol. 1. So the whole manuscript is completed (way over 200,000 words in the word count – more than twice that of the old 1999 edition).


All the profiles by Jim Laurier are finished, and the maps by Samiel Svärd (the same guy who made the maps for Vols 4 & 5) are almost finished.


All that remains to be done now is the selection of photos and to write photo captions. I am doing that one chapter after another, and when one chapter is finished, I send it to the graphic designer. You can rest assured that the new and updated Black Cross Red Star Vol. 1 will be published next month (August 2021).


There is so much new material in this edition that it more or less is a completely new book.


I don’t want to compromise on printing quality or the amount of information in the book, so I publish this myself. With only limited marketing possibilities, this of course means that each new book in the Black Cross Red Star series is a considerable financial risk, and each volume is dependent on the success of the previous volume. That is why I am asking people to crowdfund the book, or to preorder it directly from me at vaktelforlag@gmail.com


Any help to spread the word about this will be greatly appreciated!


Anyone interested in learning more about this book or to preorder or crowdfund it, is more than welcome to email me at vaktelforlag@gmail.com with the header “Want more info on Black Cross Red Star”.


Black Cross Red Star Vol. 1 Update


The very much updated edition of Volume 2 will be published early next year. See:


Black Cross Red Star Vol. 2 Update


About ten months later, the similarly updated edition of Volume 3 will follow.


Then, Volume 6 and so on will be published.


I have so much interesting material that has to come to public awareness!

Christer has also kindly made an excerpt from the book available.

The records for the fighter units of Fliegerkorps V on July 12 were far better than on the previous days: 157 sorties were flown, mainly to provide the ground troops with air cover. 44 aerial victories were claimed (most of which were against bombers), plus one aircraft destroyed on the ground, against only a single Bf 109 missing. The pilot of this Messerschmitt, 4./JG 3’s Staffelkapitän, Oberleutnant Karl Faust, belly-landed in no-man’s land north of Zhitomir and was shot dead from the Soviet side as he attempted to reach the German lines.

In spite of the numerical accomplishments of the Messerschmitt fighters, however, the Soviet air attacks against Panzergruppe 1 continued to take a heavy toll among the ground troops. For instance, 13th Panzer Division complained over heavy Soviet bomber attacks on July 12. The Army demanded “fighter cover from daybreak until the last of the daylight” on the 13th. Löhr also ordered the entire Luftflotte 4 to concentrate on attacks against Soviet airbases on July 13.

However, the adverse weather on July 13 put a brake on air operations by both sides. Only one Soviet airfield was raided, Kiev-Post-Volynskiy (today’s Kiev International), by seventeen He 111s of II./KG 55 which scored five bomb hits on the hangars. Otherwise, the few bomber sorties that could be flown on that day were made against Soviet rail traffic and the Dnepr bridges.

Another response to the increased demands from the Army for fighter protection was a further reinforcement of the fighter force of Fliegerkorps V. This had consisted entirely of JG 3 when the invasion of the Soviet Union commenced, but I./JG 53 had arrived from Luftflotte 2 in early July, and on the 13th, Stab/JG 53, commanded by Major Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn, followed.

Von Maltzahn was both a daredevil and a very popular unit commander. He had already been shot down twice by the Soviets, but was unhurt, and continued the same hectic air activity as any of his subordinates. He flew two free hunting missions in this new combat area on July 13, leading to one air combat whereby his companion, Oberleutnant Hans-Joachim Heinecke, shot down an SB. This was during an interception of a formation of SBs from 224 SBAP, escorted by I-16s and I-153s of 20 IAP and 91 IAP, during which the Germans claimed six SBs and four of the escorting fighters for no own losses. In total, the fighters of Fliegerkorps V claimed eight SBs on July 13, while 224 SBAP recorded twelve losses (although these were reported on the 14th, which was a day when bad weather restricted flight activity ).

Meanwhile, however, VVS Southwestern Front and 4 BAK continued to pounce on the German troops west of Kiev. In one of these attacks, six SBs from 52 SBAP caught a concentration of tanks in a gully and dropped bombs from 600 meters altitude, reportedly scoring direct hits on five tanks.


Defying the adverse weather on July 14, von Maltzahn and his wingman, Leutnant Franz Schiess, set out for a free hunting mission at 1050 hours and came across nine SBs from 224 SBAP, escorted by three I-16s. Schiess blew one of the bombers out of the skies—identified as the one with Leytenant Ivan Pogodin as pilot—and von Maltzahn shot an I-16 off his wingman’s tail, recorded as the Geschwaderkommodore’s 33rd victory.

However, that it could be dangerous to underestimate the enemy, even when he flew with obsolete Polikarpovs, was displayed to Hauptmann Walter Oesau that same day. His Bf 109 was badly shot up by an I-16 near Kiev, and the German ace barely managed to return to base. Back at the airfield the flight surgeon removed small splinters from his face, some a few inches from his left eye. Oesau later confessed that during the return flight, the thought of risking a force-landing in enemy-held territory scared him so much that he almost passed out.

Von Maltzahn would have the same experience the next day, July 15. In the morning he and his Stabsschwarm clashed with the same Soviet units as on the two previous days. Leutnant Franz Schiess, his wingman, recorded this in his diary: “We encountered two I-15s and an SB-3. The Kommodore shot down an I-15 and the bomber in a few minutes. I grappled with the second fighter. He flew very skillfully, and I never got a chance to open up. Whenever I approached to about 100 meters, he turned into me. I went through this with the fellow several times, by which time I had already strayed east of the Dnepr, leaving me with little option but to break off.” One of von Maltzahn’s pilots had his Bf 109 badly shot up during this combat and had to make a one-wheel landing back at the airfield.

Owing much to recent reinforcements, VVS Southwestern Front was able to perform 300 sorties on July 15. These were directed mainly against Panzergruppe 1 west of Kiev, where the Germans reported “repeated air raids, many wounded, numerous vehicles lost.”

Meanwhile, Fliegerkorps V carried out 316 sorties in the same sector—159 with bombers, 154 with fighters and three for reconnaissance—and claimed 20 Soviet aircraft shot down. With a DB-3, Hauptmann Walter Oesau, the commander of III./JG 3, attained his 80th victory. Oberfeldwebel Hans Stechmann, one of Oesau’s most promising young pilots, achieved three victories, which took JG 3 to the thousand-victory mark. His Geschwaderkommodore, Major Lützow, reached a total of 36 by bagging three.

Von Maltzahn was in the air again that afternoon and noted that the adversaries over Kiev were not to be underestimated. Here he encountered pilots from 36 IAD PVO who promptly shot down von Maltzahn. Once again, however, the German commander managed to save himself through a skillfully conducted belly-landing in friendly territory and could walk away unharmed. Apparently undeterred, von Maltzahn was the first fighter pilot in the air at 0640 hours the next morning, and when he landed on the last drops of fuel one hour and forty minutes later, he could report the shooting down of yet another SB. Again, it was a machine from 224 SBAP, with the crew of Leytenant Petr Yershov being killed. (Yershov was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. ) Before the day was over, von Maltzahn had flown three combat mission, the last one being a low-level attack against a village held by the Red Army.


62 Aufklärungs- und Lagemeldungen, Funksprüche und dienstliche Unterlagen der Führungsabteilung der Luftflotte 4. TsAMO, f. 500, op. 12452, d. 429, l. 96.
63 Aufklärungs- und Lagemeldungen, Funksprüche und dienstliche Unterlagen der Führungsabteilung der Luftflotte 4. TsAMO, f. 500, op. 12452, d. 429, l. 153.
64 Luftflottenkommando 4. Befehl für die Kampfführung am 13.7.41. TsAMO, f. 500 op. 12452, d. 427, l. 162.
65 V. Fliegerkorps. Einzelmeldungen 13.7.41. TsAMO, f. 500, op. 12452, d. 427, l. 157.
66 Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn, logbook.
67 TsAMO, f. 229, op. 0000181, d. 0048, l. 24.
68 TsAMO, f. 229, op. 0000181, d. 0048, l. 24.
69 Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn, logbook.
70 Prien, Jagdgeschwader 53: A History of the Pik As Geschwader March 1937 – May 1942, p. 278.
71 Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn, logbook.
72 TsAMO, f. 229, op. 0000181, d. 0048, ll. 29-36.
73 Aufklärungs- und Lagemeldungen, Funksprüche und dienstliche Unterlagen der Führungsabteilung der Luftflotte 4. TsAMO, f. 500, op. 12452, d. 428, l. 460.
74 Besondere Meldung der Luftflotte 4: Zusammenstellung der
Einzätze, Erfolge und Verluste am 17.7.1941. TsAMO, f. 500, op. 12452, d. 428.
75 TsAMO, f. 58, op. 818884, d. 10, l. 139.



BC2 coverHEM

Cover of Vol. 2