I was watching a program called Dogfights where they were talking about the Sonderkommando Elbe and their tactic of ramming Messerschmitt Bf 109's into American bombers is a sort of suicide attack. This reminded me of the kamikaze attacks of the Japanese air force, but this didn't seem like a long living tactic for the Germans - I can only find one reference to a mission flown on April 7, 1945; and the show only noted this one in the program but I forgot many of the details. I was hoping there might be a book on this that someone can recommend on what this unit was, how it came to be and the small success it seemed to have.

1 Answer 1


Arno Rose and Adrian Weir are two recommended[1] author's who have written on the subject of Sonderkommando Elbe. Arno Rose's Book Radikaler Luftkampf (Translation: Radical Dogfight) evidently does a great job providing descriptions and explanation. However, I have not found an English translation or a digital copy that could be translated. Adrian Weir's Book(s) are more of an entire outline of Germany's situation in 1945. The 1997 publishing includes 38 pages of illustrations as well as minute-by-minute detail of the suicide mission.

  • 1. Recommendation found midway through the forum discussion.

The Last Flight of the Luftwaffe: The Fate of Schulungslehrgang Elbe, 7 April 1945 published 1997 208 pages, 38 b/w illustrations

By April 1945, Germany was well on its way to losing the war, suffering an onslaught from the Soviets on the East and ceaseless bombardment by British and U.S. planes on the West. The German command chose to fight back with a small-scale operation requiring only limited resources: they sent relatively inexperienced pilots from the famed Luftwaffe on a suicide mission flying directly into a formation of U.S. bombers. Follow this death-defying and little-known story in minute-by-minute detail.

The Last Flight of the Luftwaffe: The Fate of Schulungslehrgang Elbe published 2000 192 pages

By April 7, 1945, Germany had to struggle to stop the invading enemy forces, relying on small-scale operations that required limited quantities of fuel and weapons, and calling upon relatively inexperienced air crews. How did one of the world's most victorious airforces come to such a crisis? The answer lies in this amazing story, told in minute-by-minute detail, of the Luftwaffe's final flight, and the suicide mission directly into a raiding formation of US bombers.

Additional Information:

  • 3
    Interesting. This almost exactly parallels the Japanese Kamikazes, in that they were pretty much all inexperienced pilots quickly trained to use this tactic late in the war after most of the more experienced pilots had already been killed. It's an interesting counterpoint to the argument that Japanese were somehow socially or geneticly special in their willingness to do this.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 21:31
  • @TED Except in this case it was mid air collisions :–)
    – E1Suave
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 21:33
  • True. But B17's had a crew of 10, so it still was a pretty good trade for the Germans.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 22:42
  • @TED Good point, but still seems that it was pretty desperate.
    – E1Suave
    Commented May 25, 2012 at 22:54
  • 1
    Very nice, thank you! I will have to check more on this. Like TED I thought this seemed very similar to the kamikaze rationale, and the way it was presented was similar.
    – MichaelF
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 16:01

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.