Key Point: From Nazi Germany?
On July 28, 1943, Luftwaffe Oberleutnant Erwin Clausen shot down another two B-17 Flying Fortresses to add to the two he had shot down the previous day. There were 15 other Focke-Wulf FW-190 pilots that claimed downing a bomber in defense of the aircraft works at Kassel and Oschersleben. It is believed that this was the first time that the Luftwaffe’s single-engined fighters had been able to employ under-wing rockets against the American bombers.
The following day, as 15 groups of B-17s attacked targets on the Baltic coast, it was the weather that provided the best cover for the bombers. The Luftwaffe response was relatively weak with only four Jagdgruppen FW-190s sent up to oppose the bomber force. The Focke-Wulf group was credited with four of the 12 claimed to have been shot down, which agreed with what the Americans stated they had lost.
The next day the B-17s were headed for a second strike against the aircraft factories in Kassel. On this occasion, the Luftwaffe reacted stronger than before. Among the planes sent up, there were at least five Focke-Wulf FW-190 units. The Focke-Wulfs of Jagdgeschwader 1 did not engage the bombers until after they had left the target area and were about to recross into Dutch territory. At that point, they would be under the protection of Allied fighters that would escort them back to the United Kingdom. Despite this development, the pilots of JG1 were able to claim six B-17s and two enemy fighters destroyed. The successes came at a high price: the loss of seven aircraft. Among the pilots killed were two Staffelkapitane and the campaign’s then-leading FW-190 four-engine bomber ace, Oberfeldwebel Hans Laun of 1.JG 1, who was shot down near Arnhem, Netherlands.
The Focke-Wulf FW-190 was widely believed to be the best fighter aircraft of World War II. As the war went on the FW-190 was manufactured in no fewer than 40 different models. The appearance of the new aircraft over France in 1941 was a rude surprise to the Allied air forces. The FW-190 was in service for the entire war, replacing a number of other aircraft including the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber. Possibly the plane’s biggest influence on the Allies was that it served to spur on greater advances in technology and aircraft design to counter the threat of the FW-190.