Thursday, March 12, 2015

Messerschmitt Me 323 Gigant – Air Bridge to Tunisia

The Air Bridge to Tunisia: Nov 1942-May 1943
Luftwaffe’s Gruppen zur besondere Verfeugungen
250 Ju 52/3m Transports initially.
On the day of the Torch landings, the Luftwaffe immediately ferried parachute troops to seize the airfields around Tunis and Bizerte cities, valuable air bridgeheads that allowed 15,000 troops to be brought in by air during November.
Total aircraft: maybe 600+ transports
250 Ju 52/3m
150 Ju 52/3m shifted from the Russian Front
170 Ju 52/3m stripped from training and other fronts in December 

40-50 Me 323D/E
Probably Italian transport aircraft as well.

The lumbering Gigants were among the biggest aircraft used in World War II. They carried useful payloads but were highly vulnerable when confronted by Allied fighters.

It was decided that a powered model of the Me 321 Glider, the Me 323, would be safer and offer more strategic flexibility. Accordingly, an Me 321 was fitted with six French Gnome-Rhone radial engines and fuel tanks. The added weight almost reduced the payload by half, and the giant craft still needed to be towed or employ rockets to assist takeoff. Nonetheless, the Me 323 entered production in 1943 and saw widespread service in Russia, North Africa, and the Mediterranean. The slow-moving transports proved easy prey for Allied fighters, and on one occasion British Spitfires annihilated 14 of 16 Gigants at sea. Given the hazards of interception, the lumbering behemoths were restricted to rear-area supply missions.

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