Oskar Bösch was born on 18 May 1924 at Höchst in Austria. He was a qualified glider pilot when he joined the Luftwaffe in 1943. Bösch underwent his flying training at Flugzeugführerschule A/B 118 at Stettin-Altdamm. After completing his advanced fighter pilots training with Jagdgeschwader 101 at Nancy (France), he was posted to the Ergänzungs-Jagdgruppe West, based at Avignon, in February 1944 to await a posting to a front-line unit. Oskar Bösch was soon posted to Jagdgeschwader 3 “Udet”. On Saturday, 22 April 1944, he had just arrived back in Germany after receiving fighter pilot training in France and was in Hamm when a 653 B-17 air raid ruined the city.
The raid lasted about three hours, and he said being in the center of the bombing “almost made him crazy.” After the raid, he went out to help find survivors, and it wasn’t long before the RAF came and dropped even more bombs in the burning city. After each raid he went out to look for survivors and then would have to go back into the bomb shelter with women and children when the next raid came. He said it was terrifying and the air would be sucked out of their lungs by the explosions. He became so angry and at that point – including due the death of his parents which occurred when Köln was bombed -, he swore he would do everything he could to down the Allied bombers. He resolved to become a bomber destroyer and volunteered for Sturmstaffel 1, a dedicated anti-bomber unit, flying heavily armed and armoured Focke-Wulfs 190’s, then based at Salzwedel to the west of Berlin.
He joined the unit a few days before its dissolution in late April. He made his first flights in a Focke-Wulf 190 on 28 April: four flights lasting a total of 60 minutes! Unteroffizier Bösch claimed his first victories on 29 April, when he claimed two USAAF B-17 four-engine bomber shot down which were targeting Berlin.
When they attacked bombers, they would come in about 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) behind the bombers and about 1,000 feet above them, at this point drawing fire from the bomber gunners, using up ammo from the bomber crew. Bösch recalled: “If fighter escorts were present, they would interfere with our tactics to our disadvantage, causing losses. We were committed to the bombers as “flying tanks” and were often forced to make head on passes through the formations with little success,” he said. If they were flying up to meet the bomber formations, they would attack the low squadron if fighter escorts were in sight. “Normally, we would attack the highest, more spread out, high squadron and work our way down through the other, lower squadrons in the group. We always tried to “knock out” the tail gun first while closing in on the bombers. We would then come in somewhat higher than the bomber and at a slight angle to the tail and fuselage to maximize the “deflection angle,” so the gunner’s aim couldn’t shoot directly at us. But we had a bigger target at which to aim and would aim at a one-meter section of the bomber through our gun site. We would aim at the wing root, that is, where the wing joins at the fuselage – where the center fuel tank was located.”
He saw no fighter escorts on 16 Aug. 44 when he attacked.
He is positive that on 16 Aug. 44 his aircraft was shot up very badly. His Staffel was alerted before 10 a.m. and they were airborne before 10 a.m. He thought they had flown down the 91st BG(H) formation at an altitude higher than the high squadron, while making a sweeping turn from behind to close in on the high squadron. It is difficult for him to remember the exact details of the attack. He could see the flicker of the American .50s and knew at any second they would hit. Oskar’s FW-190 armament included two, .151 mm machine guns firing through the propeller, and two 30 mm cannons firing from the outer wings.
He said after the attack and B-17 victory, his own aircraft was badly shot up and almost out of control. He had to maintain 220 km/h (140 mph) to keep his plane stable for a belly landing. Normal landing air speed was 180 km/h. He landed at the airport at Köthen near Leipzig, wheels up in the grass. He said at 220 km/h, the speed he had to maintain to keep his fighter stable, the plane would have skidded on a hard surfaced runway, the resulting friction would have caused his aircraft to catch fire and blow up. After he successfully belly landed in the grass and the dust had settled, the crew lifted up his plane. The landing gear and brakes in one wheel were shot up, and bullets had come through the ammunition depot (magazine) of his MK108, 30 mm cannon. Oskar was again very lucky to be alive.
In May 1944 the Sturmstaffel 1 was redesignated as 11. / Jagdgeschwader 3 “Udet”. He continued his success against USAAF four-engine bombers. In August 1944 11.(Sturm) became the 14. Staffel. By November 1944, he had added a further five four-engine bombers to his tally to raise his victory total to seven. Little later he added further 11 victories with this unit, including his 10th victory on 1 January 1945 when he shot down a RAF Spitfire fighter and killing its pilot: F/Lt. James “Joe” Basil Doak.
In the last days of the Reich over Berlin Oskar Bösch also survived a mid-air collision with a Russian Yak fighter on 24 April 1945, was captured by the Russians, escaped three days later, and walked over 1,000 km home to Austria with severe injury to his knee. After the war he continued to make a name in gliding circles. Oskar Bösch sadly passed away on 4 June 2012 at Toronto in Canada.
In total Oskar Bösch was credited with eighteen victories. He recorded eight victories over the Eastern front, including one Il-2 Sturmovik. Of his 10 victories recorded over the Western front, eight were four-engine bombers such as the B-17 and B-24. He was shot down eight times, had four bail outs, and four crash-landings.
Robert Bailey, a well-known and respected aviation artist, has painted an exceptional picture of Oskar’s FW 190, titled War Wolf. War Wolf puts us a few hundred feet above the treetops of the German/ Belgium border at 11:15 a.m. on 27th December 1944. Eleven FW 190s of IV. Gruppe, Jaggeschwader 3 “Udet,” led by Lt. Glaubig, were flying over the Eifel at low level to avoid radar. Patton’s Third Army had broken through The Bulge and Oskar’s Staffel was assigned to attack them. His Staffel was jumped by 50+ P-51s, probably from the 352nd FG. Six Luftwaffe pilots were shot down, while Oskar got away and was credited with one Mustang victory. With many bullet holes in his FW-190, he returned to base.
If anyone could identify the planes or give more information to his victories, all help is appreciated.
On 29.4.1944 around 11:07 a B-17 HSS near NE Gifhorn
On 29.4.1944 around 11:10 a B-17 near 5km NW Helmstedt
On 8.5.1944 around 10:12 a B-24 near Peine-Wolfsburg
On 8.5.1944 a B-17 HSS
On 18.7.1944 around 10:50 a B-17 near SE Kempten
On 3.8.1944 around 11:43 a B-24 near Lechtaler Alpen
On 16.8.1944 around 10:02 a B-17 near Münden (1)
On 2.11.1944 around 12:47 a B-17 near NW Halle
On 25.12.1944 a P-51
On 1.1.1945 a Spitfire
On 19.2.1945 a P-39
On 3.3.1945 around 17:00 a P-39
(1) The B-17 that was shot down on 16.8.44 is most likely the “Lassie Come Home” (42-31673, 91st BG, 322nd BS) which was on a mission to attack the aircraft factories at Halle, Germany. Attacked by approximately 5 enemy aircraft, setting the radio room in fire and exploding in mid-air. Crashed Deiderode, SW of Gottingen, Germany. Result: 4 KIA 5 POW.
P 2Lt Leonard F. Figie (POW)
CP 2Lt Dale W. Whitson (KIA)
N 2Lt Frederick Seibel (KIA)
NG/Toggelier SSgt Harlan B. Williams (POW)
E/TTG TSgt Walter L. Carpenter (POW)
RO Sgt Edmund J. Mikolatis (KIA)
BTG Sgt Frederick D. Baldwin (KIA)
WG Walter Salo (POW)
TG Sgt John F. Wallaszek (POW)
I want to thank Sir Kevin Pearson for his support and help with additional information and photographs to write this article. Also thanks to Rick Brown for further corrections.
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