I recall reading somewhere that prior to the destruction of Vichy French forces in Syria the Luftwaffe operated at least one Staffel of He-111 bombers from either Syria or Iraq.

Please can anyone provide further information and identify the unit please?

In a similar vein I understand other Luftwaffe units operated as far south as West Africa or Nigeria.

Please could anybody help with either issues?

  • "Staffel", plural "Staffeln", engl. Squadron, although I am not sure it actually means the same size of unit.
    – DevSolar
    May 11, 2016 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


Unit: Fliegerführer Irak (Flyer Command Iraq)

Luftwaffe was not stationed in Syria but they were close nearby in Greek islands. Also, Luftwaffe did not play a role in British invasion of Vichy Possessions in Syria and Lebanon, codenamed Operation Exporter. The force in question was located and operating in Iraq.

However it is true that Luftwaffe units and Italian airforce units did refuel at Vichy bases in Syria before they flew off to Iraq to support Iraqis in Anglo-Iraqi War.

Iraqi Arab nationalist leader Rashid Ali Gaylani rose up in a war of independence against colonial UK. German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop persuaded Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on 3 May that Dr. Fritz Grobba be secretly returned to Iraq to head up a diplomatic mission to channel support to the Rashid Ali regime.

Grobba was chosen because he was a Muslim by faith, could speak fluent Turkish and Arabic and was a noted orientalist with huge diplomatic experience and contacts in Middle East.

Grobba's mission was accompanied by a military force commanded by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or OKW (the High Command of the Armed Forces). The military mission had the cover name Sonderstab F (Special Staff F); it included components from the Abwehr-based Brandenburgers and from the Luftwaffe.

In Führer Directive No. 30 Hitler said:

The Arab Freedom Movement in the Middle East is our natural ally against England. In this connection special importance is attached to the liberation of Iraq . I have therefore decided to move forward in the Middle East by supporting Iraq.

The formation which took part in Iraqi conflict was named Fliegerführer Irak or Flyer Command Iraq. Some sources indicate that this unit was named "Special Force Junck" (Sonderkommando Junck) and flew in Iraq during May 1941.

Fliegerführer Irak (Flyer Command Iraq) was the Luftwaffe component of Sonderstab F. While Fliegerführer Irak was part of the Sonderstab F military mission, it was also somewhat separate from it. Its personnel reported to the Luftwaffe High Command and not to the Chief of the OKW.

FF-Irak was a force comprising 12 Messerschmitt 110s, 5 Heinkel 111s, a communications flight with light aircraft, a section of anti-aircraft guns, and 3 Junkers 52s. (According to wikipedia).

Purnell's History of Second World War puts the operation chain as following:

  1. 4./ZG 76 with 12 Bf110Cs led by Ober-lt. Hobein
  2. 1 kette from ZG 26 with 2 Bf110s led by Lt. Wörner
  3. 4./KG 4 with 7 He 111H-6s led by Hptm. Schwanhäuser
  4. 1./K.G. zbv. 1 with 20 Ju 52s led by Major Pinagel
  5. 1 kette of 3 Junkers Ju 90B (Lufthansa)
  6. 1 Flak Battery 20mm guns

Overall commander of Sonder Stab-F was General Hellmuth Felmy. The field commander of FF-Irak was General Werner Junck. The aircrafts were painted in Iraqi colors. Pictured, a British soldier is pointing out hastily repainted tail of a downed heinkel.

enter image description here

Notable Members

Luftwaffe pilots who served in Iraq included Martin Drewes (Night fighter ace with total 52 victories),Paul Zorner(Ace with total 59 victories) and Wilhelm Herget (Night fighter ace with total 73 victories).

Pictured Martin Drewes (Left) in Iraq.

enter image description here

Operations of FF-Irak

  1. 15 May: Bombing of Rutba Fort, British became aware of German assistance to Rashid
  2. 15 May: Friendly fire incident. A Heinkel shot down on its way to Baghdad by Iraqi AA batteries.
  3. 16 May: Bombing raid on RAF Habbaniya by Messerschmidts and Heinkels. Many RAF personnel killed on ground. In air, a heinkel lost for two British aircraft.
  4. 17 May: Bombing of a British column in desert.
  5. 17 May: British counter attack on Germans in Mosul after receiving Hawker Hurricanes from Egypt. Two German aircraft destroyed, four damaged. One British Hurricane lost.
  6. Just after 3 days of fighting, FF-Irak reduced to 70% of its original size. By the end of may situation became even more perilous.
  7. 27 May: Italian aircrafts arrived as reinforcements and to serve under command of FF-Irak. They played an important role in final air battle over Baghdad where they mauled the British 94 squadron.
  8. The German military mission to Iraq left under cover of darkness on 29 May with British swift advance closing in on Baghdad. At that time FF-Irak had no serviceable Messerschmidt and Heinkels had only four bombs. German high command was more concerned about the new theatre in East against Soviet Union and pleas of Werner Junck, who believed as little as 30 more aircrafts could turn the tide, for reinforcements were ignored.

Pictured British Soldiers in Baghdad after escape of FF-Irak and surrender of Iraqi National Defense Government. British Soldiers reach baghdad

As for German units in Africa, German operations were limited to North Africa as far as I know. Those too were due to Mussolini's interests, not because third reich had any interest in Africa. I don't know if Nigeria ever served as a target or a base for Luftwaffe.


I think I'd focus on German Uboat actions during WW2 as they had wide latitude to travel places and influence events. The Luftwaffe was engaged more fully than any Air Force in History pretty much everywhere so these "flights of fancy" are interesting anecdotally "they're not where the action was." that would be France, Great Britain and ultimately trying to save Germany itself...which it failed to do.

Interestingly the Flight Ministery Headquarters in Berlin survived untouched during the total destruction of "everything else Berlin." I've seen it personally and recommend a visit...


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