FiefleutoTwPolancl 1939

The experience gained by German pilots in Spain was to prove invaluable when the Second World War broke out. For the fighter units, perhaps the most important operational lesson learned was the improvement of tactics. Like most other air forces they began the war in Spain by flying in tight parade ground groups of three, but by the end they had adopted a looser more manoeuvrable formation of four, known as the Schv/arm. In addition to gaining operational experience, many pilots brought back with them their unit or personal emblems, applying these to their Luftwaffe Bf 109s.

The next major operation in which the Jagdwaffe became involved was the invasion of Bohemia and Moravia on 15 March 1939. A total of 500 Luftwaffe aircraft took part in the action, with paratroops landing in Prague. This event, and the ceding of the Lithuanian port of Memel to Germany, increased the likelihood of war developing against Germany by Britain and France. The Luftwaffe was thus placed on a war footing with a full scale reorganisation of its operational units. This rearrangement is discussed in detail in "BLITZKRIEG ON POLAND".

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-l

Flown by Ofw. Heinz Bär of l./JG 51, summer 1939. Many of the unit emblems adopted In Spain were transferred to German units as pilots returned to the mother country. The "Mickey Mouse" badge, which was first painted on Obit. Douglas Pitcaim's He 51, was later adopted by l./JG 233 (which later became l./JG 51). Pitcairn was the unit's Staffelkapitän.

Photo History Douglas Pitcairn

iju-t: When Douglas Pitcairn look over commanc of l./JG 51 (formerly 1./JG 233) he retained the Mickey Mouse badge which one of his mechanics had introduced on his aircraft in Spain to indentifj his unit.This Bf 109 F. was flown by Fw. Heinz Bär who was eventually to command JG 3 and, finally, JV 44. Like most of his subsequent aircraft, includii his Me 262,Bars Bf 109 carried the number-13*

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