- Second World War (1939-1945)
- Beobachter, 2. Staffel, Nahaufklärungsgruppe 6, Luftwaffe
- Awarded on:
- December 6th, 1944
Luchtenberg’s Knight’s Cross recommendation reads as follows…
“Stabsfeldwebel Luchtenberg is the most experienced observer in the 2./Nahaufklärungsgruppe 6 (formerly the Nahaufklärungsstaffel 12./12). He has operated against the Soviet Union without pause, and has flown a total of 388 sorties (see Appendix 1) in this capacity.
After being awarded the German Cross in Gold Luchtenberg flew in the area of the 9. Armee and later the 4. Armee. Particularly notable amongst his missions flown were numerous recon flights carried out in the sector between Dorogobusch and Starina to a depth up to 10 km behind enemy lines. The recon missions he executed in the 4. Armee sector between Star. Bychoff and the Autobahn as well as over the hostile penetration area in the sector of the VI. Armee-Korps SE of Vitebsk were also particularly commendable.
These successful reconnaissance flights (which resulted in photographs showing many valuable details) and artillery guidance missions that he carried out never failed to satisfy all the Luftwaffe and Heer higher commands involved despite the ever-present threats of both Flak and fighters that he was up against. Enemy defenses were particularly strong in the penetration area NE of Jarzewo and near Duchowschtschina (in August and September 1943), during the winter battles along the Smolensk—Orsha highway and near Lenino, in early 1944 between the Dnieper and Tschaussy, in the area west of Smolensk along both sides of the highway and in the penetration area SE of Vitebsk. Luchtenberg carried out further successful sorties in July 1944 in the Ssluzk—Baranowitsche—Luniniez area and in the Vilnius—Olita area after the Staffel had been relocated to Kamen.
Stabsfeldwebel Luchtenberg’s qualities of courage, endurance and a high level of bravery have enabled him to succeed on even the most difficult of missions. His readiness for duty in all circumstances have been an inspiration for the younger crews in his unit.
His talents and experience as an observer provided him with the means to frequently extend his reconnaissance missions deep into opposing territory in order to pursue important hostile troop movements. By skillfully utilizing the weather conditions and deceiving the enemy defenses he was able to successfully carry out such acts of initiative, and these feats generated reconnaissance results of far-reaching importance. Such achievements were made possible thanks to his thorough and careful flight preparations.
In all instances his diligent flying abilities brought results of major value to the higher commands of the Luftwaffe and Heer. The messages that he transmitted also guided friendly artillery and bomber formations onto targets of opportunity, and these often led to significant diminishment of the enemy fighting power.
Luchtenberg has flown all his missions in the Hs 126, an aircraft that demands high bodily resilience of its crews (especially in winter) due to its relatively exposed cockpit. The aircraft’s minimal armament (1 MG 15) and speed (220 km/h) combined with the fact that recon sorties are usually flown alone and without fighter cover demands that its crew has to constantly monitor the surrounding airspace in order to avoid being taken by surprise. These contextual factors make the recon results he has brought about all the more praiseworthy.
The most notable achievements that led him to being awarded the German Cross in Gold are as follows:
Luchtenberg was especially successful in taking large aerial photos. He would often fly 8 or more runs over terrain with high concentrations of AA guns in order to ensure all terrain was photographed. By doing so he provided the Heer higher commands with photos of the enemy’s main battle area that gave valuable intelligence for the conduct of defensive fighting and the engaging of enemy artillery.
Luchtenberg was likewise very good in conducting artillery reconnaissance missions. In this capacity he fulfilled his role as an observer despite strong enemy AA and fighter defenses. Whilst conducting artillery guidance missions on the 24., 27. & 28.01.1943 Luchtenberg repeatedly directed friendly artillery fire onto the enemy’s main points of effort. In this role he managed to complete his spotting missions before being forced away by hostile AA guns. During most of his missions Luchtenberg frequently was in the air for over 2 hours. In multiple instances Luchtenberg decided to direct artillery fire onto important targets despite only being assigned the task of battle reconnaissance. In this way he inflicted highly disruptive damage onto opposing vehicle columns and troop assemblies long before they actually entered the fight.
Since being awarded this medal Luchtenberg has rendered the following additional feats-of-arms:
1.) On the 02.08.1943 (and against heavy AA opposition) Luchtenberg observed a hostile column about 30 km from German lines that possessed about 300 motorized vehicles and 46 tanks. This column was moving in a westerly direction along the Vyazma—Smolensk highway towards the area of the XXXIX. Pz.K.
Acting on his own initiative, he [Luchtenberg] went beyond the demands of his mission and braved an airspace full of AA guns and regular fighter patrols in order to observe the entirety of the column. This fearless act alerted our troop leadership to the presence of an important enemy movement. Such an achievement is exceptionally noteworthy when one considers the relatively poor capabilities of his Hs 126, which had an effective range of only 5 km behind opposing lines due to the strong defense that was present.
2.) On the 14.08.1943 Luchtenberg reported the presence of 44 enemy tanks moving out to attack shortly before combat operations resumed in the area south of Starina. This observation (carried out against a heavy defense by medium and light AA guns) meant that our troops in this area were not surprised by an overwhelming attacking force. Instead they were able to take the necessary defensive measures against a powerful Soviet armoured thrust. Thus the execution of such a difficult task by Luchtenberg can be considered battle-deciding.
3.) During the combat north of Jarzewo Luchtenberg repeatedly delivered valuable intelligence that significantly contributed to the successful defense against Soviet attacks in this area. Examples of these included his reporting of 14 tanks moving out for an attack on the 07.09.1943, the reintroduction of 16 tanks into battle on the 11.09.1943, a column of 14 tanks on the 13.09.1943 and the arrival of 35 enemy tanks into the combat zone on the 19.09.1943. Every one of these reports was of great importance. They enabled our leadership to take appropriate defensive measures, and these prevented at least some enemy armoured breakthroughs from occurring. These results were products of extraordinary courage, as they were only delivered after braving areas defended by hostile fighters and AA guns.
4.) On the 11. & 12.10.1943 Luchtenberg gathered a great deal of information concerning the enemy-occupied area in front of the IX. And XXVII. Armee-Korps. Throughout this time he gathered ever larger and thus more challenging composite aerial-photo depictions. On both occasions he made 8-10 runs through heavily guarded territories in order to achieve a composite depiction that was 22 km long. These were photographed about 10 km behind enemy lines.
Unsurprisingly, Luchtenberg’s machine was attacked by hostile fighters shortly after arriving in the combat zone on both occasions. After battling with 6-8 fighters each time he flew back into the enemy zone in a great display of duty in order to complete his mission and return back to base after more than 1.5 hours in the air. The commander of N.A.G. 4 (Hauptmann Kahler) commended Luchtenberg before the assembled Gruppe for his outstanding achievements and the great bravery that they implied. Both composite depictions provided valuable intelligence that would become especially valuable in the subsequent defensive combat in the area west of Smolensk along both sides of the highway.
5.) On the 28.10.1943 Luchtenberg reported the presence of an assembly area containing 55 tanks and hundreds of armoured vehicles in the area in front of the XXVII. Armee-Korps, specifically just north of the Smolensk—Orsha. This report resulted in a high level of appreciation for Luchtenberg by the XXVII. Armee-Korps. It provided the details for the imminent commencement of the large-scale Soviet offensive from the area west of Smolensk, which gave our troop leadership the chance to organize its defenses in good order. The result was that 36 attacking tanks were destroyed in the early morning hours of the following day.
The report by Luchtenberg was battle-deciding, as on the very same day the onset of bad weather made any further observation of hostile assembly areas impossible. Luchtenberg was thus praised by the commander of N.A.G. 4 (Hauptmann Kahler) in front of the assembled Gruppe on the 29.10.1943.
6.) On the 27.02.1944 Luchtenberg identified 2 previously unknown enemy airfields in the area in front of the XXXIX. Panzer-Korps (NE of Tschaussy). His ability to spot these well-camouflaged airfields (both present in an area that had been flown over by other crews multiple times) is a testament to Luchtenberg’s skill as an observer. During this sortie Luchtenberg was attacked by 2 fighters. However Luchtenberg later returned to the area and managed to complete his mission without being deterred by the large amounts of medium AA guns that protected the airfields. This information was of great importance for the higher commands of the Luftwaffe and the Heer.
7.) On the 08.03.1944 Luchtenberg directed artillery fire against a newly built enemy bridge over the Pronja that had been constructed as part of their offensive preparations in front of the XXXIX. Panzer-Korps. Luchtenberg carried this out without being deterred by either the constant presence of light-medium AA guns or the bad weather. Even two attacks by two enemy fighters did not succeed in driving off Luchtenberg. The destruction of this large bridge (which spanned a river that ran parallel to the frontline in no-man’s land) heavily disrupted the hostile offensive preparations and thereby was of great value to our troops and leadership.
8.) The sorties that Luchtenberg carried out in March and April 1944 over the penetration area southeast of Vitebsk (in the sector of the VI. Armee-Korps) amply demonstrated his decisiveness, diligence and skill as an observer. Luchtenberg’s wealth of experience and courage enabled him to repeatedly spot hostile detraining events, motorized traffic, assembly areas and (above all) major hostile armoured attacks.
On the 22.03.1944 he reported on a hostile assembly area with 15 tanks, on the 10.03.1944 another one with 10 tanks, on the 26.03.1944 he observed another 16 tanks in the same area, and on the following day the arrival of 24 tanks onto the battlefield. On the 19.04.1944 he confirmed and immediately reported on a newly developing attack by 13 tanks, with the result that most of these were destroyed.
In multiple cases it was Luchtenberg who was the first to spot the aforementioned assemblies. His timely reports on the arrival of enemy forces were of great importance for our troop leadership, and they significantly contributed to the overall defensive victory in the area SE of Vitebsk.
9.) Whilst conducing a recon mission in the area before the VI. and XXVII. Armee-Korps on the 20.04.1944 Luchtenberg observed the arrival and resupply/regrouping of a total of 1000 motorized vehicles. On the next day he observed almost 1000 additional vehicles being in the same area. By meticulously reporting on the orientation and composition of individual columns Luchtenberg delivered valuable intelligence to our leadership concerning the strength and intent of the enemy. Aside from the columns, Luchtenberg also reported on numerous motorized jump-off positions. Luchtenberg demonstrated considerable skill as an observer whilst reconnoitring the latter.
Luchtenberg especially distinguished himself by delivering numerous reports on these well-camouflaged jump-off positions to our artillery. Above all however, the information he gathered gave our Heer higher commands a precise depiction of the local enemy dispositions. The messages he issued on the 20. & 21.04.1944 were given the highest level of recognition by the Heer higher commands.
10.) On the 27.04.1944 Luchtenberg confirmed the presence of 750 motorized vehicles as well as the layout of the railroad station at Krassnoje (located along the line Smolensk—Orsha). Luchtenberg brought about this valuable intelligence for the XXVII. Armee-Korps to a depth of 20 km in hostile territory and while up against strong AA defenses. His achievement of flying to the railway station with the slow and cumbersome Hs 126 in an area that was regularly patrolled by fighters is a most commendable one. His precise report on the layout of this railway gave our leadership valuable information concerning the supply situation of those enemy forces opposite the XXVII. Armee-Korps.
11.) The controlled mosaic that he delivered from his reconnaissance on the 14.05.1944 was of especially high importance. During this mission Luchtenberg’s machine was attacked twice by 2 fighters. Showing exemplary bravery, he did not deviate from his task but instead returned to the same zone after a brief period on each occasion in order to fully complete his mission. The inferiority of his machine compelled him to temporarily pull back from the hostile fighters in order to achieve his mission in the end. The controlled mosaic that he delivered covered all the area that he was ordered to look over, and it gave the Heer valuable information concerning enemy forces that were opposing the XXXIX. Armee-Korps.
12.) On the 25.06.1944 Luchtenberg flew at an altitude of only 600 metres in the face of strong light AA defenses (that included quadruple guns on trucks) in order to identify the hostile attacking spearheads of enemy forces that had broken through the VI. Armee-Korps’ lines NE of Tolotschin. These amounted to 16 tanks, 200 motorized vehicles and 2 batteries.
By orders of the commander of the 4. Fliegerdivision, Luchtenberg flew a mission following the employment of Major Leicht’s Schlachtgruppe that was to report on the results the Gruppe had achieved. The messages that he delivered concerning this led to the Schlachtgruppe being employed against the targets he identified. The commander of N.A.G. 10 (Hauptmann Perignon) commended Luchtenberg after he had successfully carried out this task.
13.) On the 03.07.1944 Luchtenberg flew an extensive tactical reconnaissance mission to a depth of 30-35 km behind enemy lines in order to report on the Soviet march columns and tank spearheads in the area Ssluzk—Baranowicze—Luninies. This was carried out at an altitude of just 800 metres and in the face of a strong defense. Luchtenberg observed a pursuing enemy force that had at least 700 motorized vehicles, 30 guns and numerous tanks. This sortie was particularly valuable for providing insight on the new hostile axis of advance towards the southwest.
The information he gathered definitively confirmed that the enemy intention was to swing south and bypass our forces that had established a defensive line on both sides of the Ssluzk—Kobryn highway. His successful completion of this mission (despite the presence of bad weather and a strong defense) gave our leadership time to take appropriate defensive measures in response to this new opposing maneuver. Luchtenberg’s report was thus of battle-deciding importance.
14.) Details concerning the numerous composite images that Luchtenberg gathered on all fronts under the most difficult of conditions are available in the attachment with this recommendation (see Appendix 2). A number of these covered a distance of 20-24 kilometres, and therefore necessitated the completion of 6-12 runs at an altitude of just 4000-4500 metres. They had to be flown without deviations in height or course, and over heavily guarded territory at that. The fact that he did this with the slow Hs 126 is a testament to the tenacity of him and his crew.
Luchtenberg has carried out his missions without major pause, and in the process he covered over 200 km of enemy territory on almost every one of his sorties. This wouldn’t have been possible without his firm will and his determination to fulfill his duties. His outstanding achievements are reflected in numerous letters of commendation addressed to both him and the Staffel by the Heer and the intermediate command links of the Luftwaffe.
Stabsfeldwebel Luchtenberg therefore stands as a particularly worthy candidate for the award of the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross.”
According to Fellgiebel the unit was 2.(H)./Aufklärungsgruppe 6.