(continued from page 2)
So when you were flying, how easy was it to spot an aircraft? Could you recognize it at 500, 1000 meters?
It depends, uh…I could, I had pretty good eyes…and I could see pretty far. Of course that’s what you needed, especially in Afrika, where you could see the enemy before he saw you.
What were the conditions like in Afrika…the weather…did it affect you at all as a pilot?
No, I was uh…I was used to it; I was two years there. We had people who they had to send them to Russia because they couldn’t stand the heat and sun…both sides was the same.
The Trop F model had these odd attachment points for a “Sun Umbrella”. Did you actually use those things?
(Franz laughs) Umbrella? No, no. See, we had also a rifle in there…inside...in the airplane...two shotguns and one rifle. Three barrels, you know…in a box. The only thing was we never used it. But uh, as soon as one airplane belly-landed, the rifles disappeared!
(I laughed) I can imagine…someone taking it for their collection! If you were flying against a Mustang or a spitfire, was it easy to lose sight of them?
That depends, you know…I mean I had a lot of experience…I flew a lot of different airplanes… and I flew the Spitfire XII, V, and IX. I flew. In Afrika the Five, and in Germany the Nine. And this one out there at Vancouver Airport is a Fourteen, the last model…2000 hp, 5 bladed prop.
Yeah, I’ve never seen the 5 bladed one…the 3 and a 4 bladed one for sure...
The last ones. Big Griffon engines. With the engine of 2000hp, they couldn’t build a prop so big, so they made 5 blades.
What plane of the American or British did you fear the most, or show the biggest challenge for you?
It was one of the fastest.
Yeah… It was one of the fastest and most manoeuvrable.
What was you favourite thing to do…in Afrika…or anywhere on the western front… when you weren’t flying? When you were on leave, what did you like to do as a hobby, what did you like to do for fun?
(Franz smiles quickly)…Play with the girls!
(I laugh)…well that’s a…that’s a good hobby! Actually, I heard a rumour that pilots used to fill their drop tanks with beer, is that true?
Oh yeah…sometimes we used to drink from it…sometimes for transport.
share a laugh.
…I had a Messerschmitt 108 here in Vancouver…
Yeah, I think I saw a picture of it here.
Yeah…this one here. I had this one for 16 years. I sold it to an Australian.
You had it painted in the Luftwaffe colours as well.
Yeah…exactly to the replica of the colours I had.
So, what was
the 108 used for mainly?
To bring…uh, generals from the rear back to the front also…only for transport.
You have some beautiful pictures here…. Did you ever operate from the same fields as JG 51, JG 53...did you ever meet any of the pilots?
I have…after the war, not uh…during the war…during the war when they were shot down. But after the war I was…I met survived American Fighter aces and a few times invited…you know…up there is Douglas…(points to a picture)…the left one…with 2 wooden legs…and the middle one, was uh…was one of his…Squadron Commanders…
around he room I see a panel from Galland's F-4)
Is this here an original?
is an original?
Do you mind. If I take a look at it.
Oh yeah, it was taken from uh…the manufacture of the last year of the F... You see that little tag...see that little tag, that’s the manufacture of it. On the bottom left is an original Werk number plate. That was General Galland’s.
Wow! I have to take a picture of it before I go. You had to bail out before and use your parachute…
Yeah, six times…I belong to the Caterpillar Club. Six survived by parachute…it’s an international club.
What was it like the first time you used your parachute? You were obviously trained to use them…
We were not trained, but, uh, when you use…when you HAVE to use them…then you use them - We didn’t give a shit about anything else.
(I start to laugh)
The first time my airplane was on fire…the motor, uh, flames were coming in, and had to get out fast. I still had my hands and my face burnt, you know…but uh…you get out fast.
You didn’t even think, you just pushed the canopy and jumped?
No, you just take…the canopy takes off. You just pull a lever and the canopy takes off…And you threw the…the belts from the airplane because you were tied down… and you just take ‘em off…take the stick… and fly and push it down… if you can still use it, because sometimes you cannot, uh…control the airplane anymore, no. Half a wing missing or both…I jumped six times I jumped...
Did you ever get used to it?
No…I never could get used to it.
When you did lose an airplane either due to a bad landing or enemy fire, how did you get a new one assigned to you when you got back to your airbase? Did you automatically get a new one?
There was always something there, some other airplane there. The Jagdgeschwader Squadron Commander always had 2 airplanes as well...
When new pilots came in…younger pilots….
They had to bring their own airplane with them.
Okay…so when a new models came out…because you had so many missions did you get priority over the newer pilots? Did you get the aircraft first then the younger pilots?
No, we didn’t do that. We didn’t get priority. We didn’t do it. Whoever came in last with the latest model, that’s his airplane, you see. Whoever it was a Corporal or, uh…it was a General it doesn’t matter who it was.
We had other pilots, Corporal, Private with us you know, like…uh… the squadron got bigger and in rough shape…with a bunch of youngsters you know, all kinds of ‘em…Lieutenants, and…Sergeants. (Franz points to another photo) These guys together shot down within about 15 minutes, uh…24 B-24’s.
Wow, in 15 minutes! Did you always have the same wingman?
Uh, usually, yes…I kept ‘em. We usually flew with 4 people…another 3. Schwarm we’d call it….”Swarm”…it was a…a wingman and then again a leader and this also a wingman.
usually kept the same wingman.
Yeah…as long as he was there...
If your aircraft was being repaired, would you borrow someone else’s? I know you said there was always an extra one...
Yeah, if you wanted you could borrow…but let them fly their own airplane. For repairs…change the whole motor was in-fact four-hour job. And, uh, if you had holes in it, you’d just put tape on it to cover the holes. As long as nothing was…destroyed inside, y’know controls and so on…there they had special tools…
Did you fly with Edu Neumann?
Edu Neumann…that was my Gruppe Commander in Afrika... I met him 3 years ago…and he’s in poor shape now...getting old…91 years old…
Do you guys meet when you can…other pilots?
Yeah…I meet some of them…we are not of many left for JG27. We had a…a meeting and they took 3 different units together because there wasn’t too many pilots left…. I am one of the oldest ones - If I’m not the oldest one...except Neumann.
What was he
I did not fly with him… he didn’t do much flying though.
What about Gunter Rödel…
Yeah that’s Rödel there. (Franz points to a picture of a black and white officer posing on a desk with a phone on his ear)
Oh here on the left, the one with the phone?
Yeah. He was my, uh…firsts Squadron Commander...and I made my first missions I flew with him.
Did you learn quite a bit from him?
Oh yeah…he was good…
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