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D-Day: German

III Flakkorps in Normandy

By Todd Powell

General Wolfgang Pickert 

At the end of May 1944 Pickert was happy to be in France. His last two commands had ended in disaster. He commanded the 9. Flakdivision destroyed at Stalingrad. From there he took another FlaK command in the Crimea. Again the unit was destroyed in April of 1944. He was transferred to command III Flakkorps in Luftflotte 3 on 28 May 1944. He was lucky to survive the loss of two commands. This may have led to his reluctance to commit his forces to ground combat in Normandy, but he definitely was able to keep alive in tough tactical situations.

At the end of May 1944 the only III Flakkorps unit in Normandy was 1. Flaksturmregiment deployed between Isigny and Bayeaux. The other three Regiments were in the Somme estuary with Armeekorps’ headquarters near Amiens. 

Rommel wanted to concentrate all four of III Flakkorps’ regiments to protect Normandy and use its regiments to provide the field divisions with additional artillery, anti aircraft and antitank support. Pickert disagreed and was supported by his commander, Field Marshall Hugo Sperrle of Luftflotte 3. Since Sperrle reported directly to Göring, Pickert could ignore Rommel with Sperrle’s support.

Rommel wanted two panzer divisions and III Flakkorps moved to Normandy. On June 3 Rommel met with Rundstedt in Paris, but was unable to convince him. He then planned a trip for 5-8 June to ask Hitler.
Luftwaffe 8.8cm FlaK36

All four of III Flakkorps’ regiments were in very good shape. They were motorized and close to full compliment of equipment and personnel. There were three batteries of the new 8.8cm FlaK41 cannon with 60% more muzzle velocity then the 8.8cm FlaK36. The four regiments had twelve battalions of approximately 12,000 men with over fifty batteries deploying 100 plus heavy 8.8cm FlaK along with over 100 lighter FlaK guns including 3.7cm, 2cm and quad 2cm.

III Flakkorps also had three ‘Flakkamfgruppen’ ground combat units organized with eight 8.8cm guns in four Flakktruppen of two each. The Flakkamfgruppen also had smaller calibre FlaK units and Luftwaffe ground troops in support at the company level. The Flakkamfgruppen were purposefully designated to engage enemy ground forces, but they performed so poorly that Pickert was reluctant to commit them to combat and did not deploy them until July. 

8.8cm Flak36 6 JUNE 1944

On 6 June Pickert was at III Flakkorps HQ near Amiens conducting an inspection tour.

The 1. Flaksturmregiment deployed between Isigny and Bayeaux was in good order.

The other three regiments were in the Somme estuary. They quickly began moving to Normandy with the first units arriving on 8 June. Losses en route amounted to 20 guns, 110 heavy vehicles and over 100 small vehicles (motorcycles and fieldcars.)

Even with these losses the III Flakkorps recorded deploying between 100-130 8.8cm FlaKs on 23 June. With the 1. Flaksturmregiment near Bayeaux and the other three supporting forces between the Orne and Vire Rivers. They were able to maintain force levels and receive substantial ammunition and armament reinforcements. This resulted in claims of 462 Allied aircraft shot down while the III Flakkorps was in Normandy.

Pickert and his III Flakkorps had difficulties with their own allies. At Caen Sepp Dietrich, commanding 5. Panzerarmee, complained that he would place an 88 in one position only to have it move based on orders from Pickert.

Pickert had support for his actions. Major General Herman Plocher, Chief of Staff of 3 Luftflotte also felt that the Wehrmacht and SS did not understand how to deploy 88s. In his opinion, “The Wehrmacht is willing to fight to the last Luftwaffe soldier.”

The III Flakkorps deployment policy was NOT to deploy on the front line. They would deploy to defend the rear area, taking into consideration they may be used to defend the area where they were deployed in the event of an Allied breakthrough.

The most interesting occurrence is at the Liaison River on 8-9 August 1944 where up to 150 Allied tanks were supposedly destroyed with 88s playing a prominent role. But III Flakkorps’ tank kill claims for all of Normandy amount to 92 tanks, with 12 of those being destroyed by Panzerfausts. Some place the Flakkorps 88s as being instrumental in aiding the defence, though specific references are vague. However, the Panzer and PaK units may have been more decisive with the 88s in support against the Allied breakthrough. 

The III Flakkorps greatest moment may have come at the end. As the Falaise gap was closing III Flakkorps concentrated its units at its main supply depots and expended all the ammunition available to aid the withdrawing units. They then withdrew through northern France. Casualties amounted to 577, almost 1/ 2 the TOE. However, all regiments were still combat effective, which is more then can be said for many German units after Normandy.

8.8cm FlaK emplaced
The OOB for III Flakkorps in June 1944

Luftflotte 3 formed III Flakkorps on 22 February in Paris from 11. Flakdivision.

1., 2., 3. and 4. Stab/Flaksturmregiments (formerly 431., 653., 37. and 79.)
Luftnachrichten-Abteilung 103

1. Flaksturmregiment (motorized) Commanded by Oberst Werner von Kistowski until July 19, Then Oberst Bayer until 2 August then Oberst Werner von Ksotowski again.
Formed from 431. Flakregiment in April 1944. On 6 June it was deployed between Isigny and Bayeaux. It fought in the Bayeaux area until its withdrawal following the Falaise pocket.

Six batteries in gem. 266. Flakabteilung or I/1. Flaksturmregiment from 24 June 1944
Six batteries in gem. 497. Flakabteilung or II/1. Flaksturmregiment from 24 June 1944
Inspecting the guns 2. Flaksturmregiment (motorized) Oberst Josef Moser
gem. I/20. Flakabteilung
gem. II/52. Flakabteilung

3. Flaksturmregiment (motorized) Oberst Oskar Schoettle until August then Oberst-leutnant Johan Buettner
gem. II/22. Flakregiment
gem. II/64. Flakregiment
le. 85. Flakabteilung

4. Flaksturmregiment (motorized) Oberst Herbert Roehler possibly 5 batteries each
gem. I/141. Flakregiment
gem. 35. Flakregiment
gem. 53. Flakregiment
le. 98. Flakabteilung

gem = mixed armaments (light and medium anti-aircraft guns)
le = light armaments (light anti-aircraft guns)

III Flakkorps Casualties from June 6 to September withdrawal to Germany.
KIA 662
WIA 1,658
Missing 3,457
Total Casualties 5,777

III Flakkorps claimed kills from June 6 to withdrawal to Germany.
462 Aircraft, 92 tanks (12 by Flakkamfgruppen panzerfausts) and 14 armoured cars

III Flakkorps OOB on 23 June 1944
Heavy Batteries 27
Light Batteries 26
Flakkamfgruppen 3

III Flakkorps OOB on 9 August 1944
Heavy Batteries 29
Light Batteries 40
Flakkamfgruppen 3

A heavy battery had (4) 8.8cm FlaK36.

In Flames Of War

See D-Day: German for forces that can be supported by the III FlaKkorps.

Source material

Harrison, Gordon A. ‘Cross Channel Attack’ United States Army in World War II, The European Theatre of Operations Centre of Military History, Washington D.C., 2002.
Downloaded from http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/books/wwii/7-4/7-4_Contents.htm#toc on 7 August 2007.

Holm, Michael http://www.ww2.dk/ground/flak/sturm4.html, 2003, downloaded 7 August 2007

McCoy, Breaker editor ‘A German Army Waits In Normandy; The German Army in France, 1944’ 2007.

Mitcham, Samuel W. Jr., ‘Retreat to the Reich’ Praeger, Westport Conneticut, 2000.

Pickert, Wolfgang, ‘Vom Kuban-Bruckenkopf bis Sewastopol: Flakartillerie im Verband der 17 Armee’ Gebundene Ausgabe 1955.

Ruge, Friedrich translated by Ursula R. Moessner. ‘Rommel in Normandy; Reminiscences by Friedrich Ruge’ Presidio Press, San Rafael, California, 1979.

Shulman, Milton. ‘Defeat in the West’ EP Dulton NY 1948.

Wilt, Alan F., ‘The Atlantic Wall; Hitler’s Devenses in the West, 1941-1944’ The Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa 1975.

Zetterling, Niklas. www.web.telia.com/normandy/index.html on 7 August 2007. (This source extensively quotes W. Pickert, ‘Das III Flakkorps in der Normandie-Schlacht’ MS # B-597, p.4)

Last Updated On Wednesday, October 16, 2019 by Wayne at Battlefront