HISTORY OF LANDSBERG AIR BASE, GERMANY

(1936-1958)

With the beginning of compulsory military training in 1935, Germany began construction of air bases throughout the country. The Penzing area near Landsberg in southern Bavaria was selected for one of these bases because of the suitable geographical, navigational, and other technical aspects.

Land was procured in 1935 and construction began in early 1936. An advance detachment of troops moved in on 10 February 1937 and a full complement had arrived when the base was activated 1 March 1937 as Penzing Fliegerhorst.

The new base was completed concurrently with those at Memmingen and Leipheim, and the three became home of Kampfgeschwader (literally, a combat squadron) 255, nicknamed “Alpengeschwader” because of its proximity to the Alps. Although “geschwader” translates into “squadron,” a Luftwaffe geschwader was equivalent to an Army Air Force group. Penzing Fliegerhorst, at that time the most modern air base, was first occupied by the 3rd Group (equivalent to an AAF squadron) and the headquarters of the Alpengeschwader. Commanding KG 255 was Col. Willibald Spang; Major Volk was the first Base Commander.

The first assigned aircraft were twin-engined Dornier 17E and 17M “Flying Pencil” light bombers. By the end of 1937 KG 255 had demonstrated its efficiency by winning several Luftwaffe awards, including the Enzian Plaque and the Edelweiss Plaque.

On mobilization day, 1 August 1939, the Alpengeschwader turned in its Do 17s and reequipped with the twin-engined Heinkel 111 medium bomber. The wing was redesignated KG 51 and because the edelweiss was its unit symbol, it became known as the “Edelweissgeschwader.” As World War II began, that unit left and saw combat on all the war fronts. It was replaced by pre-flying and fighter and bomber general training units.

Both the base and the memories of the days in the Edelweissgesschwader lingered in the recollections of the former members of the wing. The first veterans reunion of the KG 51 took place in the fall of 1956. A highlight of the reunion was the dedication of a memorial chapel to the unit's 1500 dead and missing.

Northwest and just outside of the town of Landsberg, the Germans began construction of a huge ammunition depot in 1940. Known as the Dynamit Aktien Gesellschaft (DAG), the project was abandoned as unnecessary after two years.

In 1944 a desperate Germany began construction on the first of three secret underground bomb-proof aircraft factories/hangars in the DAG area. Slave laborers and French prisoners-of-war at nearby Kaufering were put to work on the first massive factory/hangar, code-named Weingut II.

DAG was to have two specific missions: ammunition manufacture and assembly of Messerschmitt 262 “Sturmvogel” jet airplanes. Weingut II was still under construction at the end of the war, but it was an impressive structure nonetheless. DAG, or “Area B” as the Americans called it, had been so cleverly camouflaged that the Allies never detected it from the air. “Area A” was Lechfeld airfield, located about halfway between Landsberg and Augsburg. Me 262 jets operated from Lechfeld during the waning days of the Third Reich.

Michael Hoffman copyright 2012. No animals were harmed in the making of this webpage.

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