|At the end of 1944, the great member of Yugoslav pilots flew sorties over
their own country, some joining the 1st or 2nd squadrons (No. 352 and 351 RAF) and the
others fighting with the Russians in their group of Air Divisions. Despite this, there
were never enough aircraft to support the ground troops of the Yugoslav People’s
Liberation Army that fought heavy battles against strong German and Quisling forces.
Therefore every aircraft found, or captured, on enemy airfields was a welcome
reinforcement. These aircraft were repaired and immediately used by some of the pilots
that joined the partisan forces after the occupation of Yugoslavia.
It is known that in
October 1944, at least 10 Messersmith 109s (probably G –6 and G –10 variants) were
found on the Kovin airfield in Banat. Half of them were given to the Russians who had
taken part in operations with the Yugoslavian Liberation Army. The rest of the Gustavs
belonged to the Yugoslav army. These machines were repaired and served in so – called
“Eskadrila za vezu”, a squadron comprising only captured aircraft, and used for
liaison duties. Two Gustavs were flown over from the Croat Air Force to liberated
territory. On April 20, 1945, Major Helebrant and Warrant officer Tatarevic, with three
other pilots, took off from Zagreb airfield with others to attack the Yugoslav army
concentrations on the Srem front. During the mission the later pilots turned south and
landed on Mostar airfield in the mountains of Herzegovina. Already there was a mixed group
of captured aircraft in flying condition: JU-87B Stukas, Do-17s, Ca-313s, Fizir-FP3s and
Me-109 Gs. The Croat markings were hastily overpainted, red stars added and the newly –
formed independent headquarters escadrille of Mostar airfield, was thrown into battle.
Pilots were taken
from the Croat Air Force who wanted to flight with the Liberation Army. At the beginning
of May 1945, the escadrille bombed Quisling forces and fortifications in a corner between
the Sava and Bosna rivers. Gustavs escorted the bombers and joined in the ground strafing.
Helebrant and Tatarevic flew alone for a few more operations, diving through the canyons,
strafing the retreating enemy in hazardous low – level missions, through heavy flak.
Lucky they survived two days in this style before they both lost orientation and make
forced –landings far from their base. One machine ( Helebrant`s 2103) was later
repaired. It is interesting to note that the last air operation against the German army
was made on May 28, 1945, when a Stuka, escorted by Me–109 G–10s, bombed some troops
who had refused to surrender. Shortly after that, the war finally ended.
After the war, 17 Gustavs were concentrated at the Zagreb and Belgrade
airfields. They were not used until 1947, when Yugoslavia received 59 more Messersmiths
(mostly G–2, G–10 and G–12 variants) plus 15 spare engines in exchange for a large
number of metal tail surfaces for Bulgarian IL–2 Sturmoviks. All these aircraft were
transported to Zagreb where they were repaired, checked over and painted. Gustavs formed
the 83rd Fighter Wing based at Cerklje airfield. This Wing also gave a number of their
Gustavs to the newly –formed 172nd Fighter Wing, based on the same airfield.
As the dangerous
years went by, the Gustavs were not written off. Training of young pilots started on nine
aircraft, three of them two - seaters. On November 16, 1950, the 172nd, its training
completed, moved to the Adriatic coast at the Zemunik airfield near Zadar. The 83rd and
172nd both flew Gustavs on patrol sorties alongside the Italian frontier during
confrontation with Italy for the free zone of Trieste. Each wing flew 50 hours daily with
few accidents. In August 1952, the preparations were made for receiving new fighter types,
and so the Gustavs were gradually withdrawn from active service.
During their service
life with the JRV (Jugoslovensko Ratno Vazduhoplovstvo) all the Gustavs underwent some
changes. Radio sets were exchanged in favor of the ARS-10 type for compatibility with all
other Soviet – built aircraft. Photo versions received a new camera, the K –24. On a
number of training aircraft a gun camera G–45 was fitted to aid in combat training and
dummy dogfights while the first – aid kit was moved closer to the cockpit. It is
interesting to note that all G–12 two seaters had the so - called “Galland hood”
fitted over the second seat. This modification was probably carried out while the machines
served with the Bulgarians.
Today, two examples
of the Me-109 G exist in Yugoslavia. One restored by the Air and Space Museum, and the
other, a G–10, is awaiting restoration.