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Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) was a Luftwaffe fighter-wing of World War II. It operated in Western Europe and in the Mediterranean. Jagdgeschwader 53 - or as it was better known, the "Pik As" (Ace of Spades) Geschwader - was one of the oldest German fighter units of World War II with its origins going back to 1937. JG 53 flew the various models of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 throughout World War II.

Jagdgeschwader 53
Country Nazi Germany
Branch Luftwaffe
TypeFighter Aircraft
RoleAir superiority
SizeAir Force Wing
Nickname(s)Pik As ("Ace of Spades")

World War II

Invasion of France; Battle of Britain

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1's of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) Pik As c. 1939/1940
Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1's of Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53) "Pik As" c. 1939/1940

The Geschwader commenced its wartime operations with a high proportion of its personnel experienced ex-Condor Legion pilots including Werner Mölders. On 14 May 1940, JG 53 claimed some 43 victories in one day. The Battle of France thus saw the Geschwader score heavily during May and June 1940, with some 275 claims against Armee de l'Air and Royal Air Force forces. While JG 53 was making a reputation for itself during the Battle of Britain, according to RAF Air Ministry intelligence summary no. 60, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring was informed that Major Hans-Jürgen von Cramon-Taubadel's wife was Jewish. Göring then ordered the whole of Stabschwarm/JG 53[Note 1] to remove the "Pik As" emblem from their planes, and replace it with a red stripe around the engine cowling as punishment. All of Stab./JG 53's planes immediately were stripped of their "Pik As" insignia, and soon after the whole of the Stab./JG 53 had also stripped the swastikas off the tails of their planes in protest.[1]

Invasion of the Soviet Union

In April 1941 the Geschwader then transferred to the Eastern Front for Operation Barbarossa. Under the control of Luftflotte 2 commanded by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the Geschwader, now equipped with the Messerschmitt Bf 109F, flew operations from Warsaw-Bielany. On 31 July 1941 JG 53 shot down its 1,000th aircraft. In the period 22 June 1941 5 December 1941 JG 53 claimed to destroy 762 Soviet aircraft, losing 35 in aerial combat, and two on the ground.[2]

Mediterranean theatre

Later in the year JG 53 moved to bases in Sicily for operations against Malta (though elements also served in the Netherlands from July to November 1941). The III. Gruppe was transferred to North Africa for a short time in December 1941 while the rest of JG 53 was eventually moved to Comiso in Sicily for operations against Malta, which ended in May 1942. In the summer of 1942, II./JG 53 operated from the island of Pantelleria for operations over Malta and as escort missions for attacks on British supply convoys.

In May 1942 after the termination of the German air offensive against the British island fortress of Malta in the face of a strong defence bolstered by Supermarine Spitfires the "Pik As" Geschwader was split up, with its three Gruppen scattered over three theatres of operation. III./JG 53 again saw service in North Africa supporting Rommel's planned advance on Cairo. Stab and II./JG 53 which were left behind on Sicily after the end of the "Malta Blitz" in May for service over the central Mediterranean, and I./JG 53 was moved to the Eastern front, where it was to take part in the German summer offensive in the southern sector aimed at Stalingrad and the Caucasus.

Battle of Stalingrad

Together with the JG 3 and JG 52, plus Stab and II./JG 77, I./JG 53 was deployed in Luftflotte 4's 8th Air Corps to support Operation Blau. During the period May–September 1942 in the Eastern Front, I./JG 53 claimed 918 victories. It suffered the loss of 34 Bf 109s, 18 pilots killed in action and nine wounded.[3]

During the Battle of Stalingrad, the I./JG 53 faced stiff resistance of the Soviet VVS and PVO both in the air and the ground, and several of the unit's aces were shot down, wounded, captured or killed.

North Africa

Messerschmitt Bf 109G's of JG 53 in southern Italy
Messerschmitt Bf 109G's of JG 53 in southern Italy

On 1 November 1942, Hauptmann "Tutti" Müller was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 53 and led the unit back to the Mediterranean theater. By November 1942 the entire wing was again concentrated on Sicily for an offensive against Malta, an abortive and short-lived blitz foiled by the defenders. During its 1942 operations over North Africa, Sicily and Malta JG 53 had claimed a total of 388 aircraft shot down. Hauptmann Gerhard Michalski claimed 25 over Malta. With the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November, the Geschwader again found its components separated.

"Defense of the Reich"

II./JG 53 was withdrawn from Italy in October 1943, and was the first squadron of the unit to be employed in the Defense of the Reich operations, stationed near Vienna from October 1943 to March 1944, before moving to south Western Germany. The winter of 1943/44 saw bitter fighting over Italy.[citation needed]

II./JG 53 was the sole squadron employed against the Allied Operation Overlord on 6 June 1944. The Luftwaffe fighter units in France suffered catastrophic losses, and II./JG 53 was no exception. In just one month of operations, the squadron reported 42 aircraft lost through enemy action, 18 in accidents, 20 abandoned and a further 20 through other causes; approximately 200% of its operational strength.

III./JG 53 also returned from Italy in June 1944 and after a short period refitting was active in operations against the Allied forces. When the Allies launched Operation Market Garden, both II. and III./JG53 took part. A new IV. Gruppe was added in the autumn of 1944.

I./JG53 was later moved to Romania to protect the oilfields of Ploiești and also saw further action in Hungary in late 1944 and early 1945 against the Red Army. It retreated into Czechoslovakia and Austria and was disbanded in April 1945. The rest of the unit was disbanded days before VE Day.

Commanding officers


  Oberst Bruno Löerzer15 March 193731 March 1938[12]
  Oberstleutnant Werner Junck1 April 193830 September 1939[12]
  Major Hans Klein1 October 193931 December 1939[12]
  Major Hans-Jürgen von Cramon-Taubadel1 January 194030 September 1940[12]
  Oberst Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn9 October 19404 October 1943[12]
  Major Friedrich-Karl Müller (acting)October 1943[12]
  Major Kurt Ubben (acting)October 1943November 1943[12]
  Oberstleutnant Helmut Bennemann9 November 194327 April 1945[12]


I./JG 53

  Hauptmann Lothar von Janson1 May 193930 June 1940[12]
  Hauptmann Albert Blumensaat1 July 194025 August 1940[12]
  Hauptmann Hans-Karl Mayer1 September 194017 October 1940 [12]
  Hauptmann Hans-Heinrich BrustellinOctober 19401 May 1941[12]
  Oberleutnant Wilfried Balfanz1 June 194124 June 1941 [12]
  Hauptmann Franz von WerraJuly 194125 October 1941 [12]
  Hauptmann Ignaz Prestele (acting)August 1941September 1941[12]
  Major Herbert Kaminski1 November 194124 July 1942[12]
  Hauptmann Walter SpiesAugust 1942October 1942[12]
  Hauptmann Friedrich-Karl MüllerNovember 194214 February 1944[12]
  Major Jürgen Harder15 February 1944January 1945[12]
  Hauptmann Wolfgang Ernst (acting)January 1945February 1945[12]
  Hauptmann Erich Hartmann (acting)February 194515 February 1945[12]
  Hauptmann Helmut Lipfert15 February 194517 April 1945[12]

II./JG 53

  Major Hubert Merhart von Bernegg1 May 193919 August 1939
  Major Günther Freiherr von Maltzahn19 August 19398 October 1940[13]
  Hauptmann Heinz Bretnütz9 October 194027 June 1941 [13]
  Hauptmann Walter SpiesJune 1941July 1942[13]
  Hauptmann Gerhard MichalskiJuly 194223 April 1944[13]
  Hauptmann Hans-Jürgen Westphal (acting)19 June 1943July 1943[13]
  Major Karl-Heinz Schnell (acting)July 194328 September 1943[13]
  Major Julius Meimberg24 April 194430 April 1945[13]

III./JG 53

  Hauptmann Werner Mölders3 October 19395 June 1940[14]
  Hauptmann Rolf Pingel (acting)June 194020 June 1940[14]
  Hauptmann Harro HarderJuly 194012 August 1940 [14]
  Hauptmann Wolf-Dietrich Wilcke13 August 194018 May 1942[14]
  Major Erich GerlitzMay 1942October 1942[14]
  Hauptmann Franz GötzOctober 194217 January 1945[14]
  Hauptmann Siegfried Luckenbach18 January 19452 May 1945[14]
  Hauptmann Wolfgang Ernst (acting)April 19452 May 1945[14]

IV./JG 53

  Hauptmann Hans Morr25 October 194429 October 1944 [15]
  Hauptmann Friedrich MüerOctober 19442 January 1945 [15]
  Hauptmann Alfred Hammer9 January 194530 April 1945[15]



  1. See Organization of the Luftwaffe during World War II
  2. IAP—Istrebitelny Aviatsionny Polk (Fighter Aviation Regiment—Истребительный Авиационный Полк)



  1. "Jagdwaffe The Battle of Britain Phase One" by E Mombeek, D Wadman & EJ Creek.
  2. Bergström 2007, p. 116.
  3. Bergström et al. 2006, p. 163.
  4. Prien, Stemmer, Rodeike, Bock (2006)
  5. Bergström et al. 2006, pp. 61–62.
  6. Bykov 2008, p. 211.
  7. Bergström et al. 2006, p. 143.
  8. Bergström et al. 2006, pp. 143–144.
  9. Bergström et al. 2006, p. 146.
  10. Bergström et al. 2006, p. 147.
  11. Goodpaster-Strebe 2007, p. 27.
  12. Prien 1991, p. 1653.
  13. Prien 1991, p. 1654.
  14. Prien 1991, p. 1655.
  15. Prien 1991, p. 1656.
  16. Prien 1991, p. 1657.


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Il Jagdgeschwader 53 (JG 53 - 53º stormo caccia), soprannominato Pik-As (Asso di picche), fu un reparto aereo della Luftwaffe, l'aeronautica militare tedesca, attivo dal 1939 al 1945. L'unico tipo di velivolo impiegato dallo stormo fu il Messerschmitt Bf 109.

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