The Blue Squadrons
Spanish Volunteers with the Luftwaffe on the Eastern
By Richard Baber with additional information from Phil Gray
An earlier version of this article appeared in the Society of Twentieth Century Wargamers (SOTCW) magazine The Journal
Franco despatched his volunteers for the “Crusade against Bolshevism”, who
formed the 250 Infantry (or Blue) Division of the Wehrmacht, he also authorised
a volunteer air force to take part in the Crusade. This force, of squadron
strength, would fight with the Luftwaffe as the 15th (Spanische)
Staffel of JagdGeschwaders 27 and 51, leaving Spain on June 25th 1941
and finally returning in April 1944. To the Spanish it was known as the Azul
Escadrilla, the Blue Squadron. It should be noted that whilst the Spanish
Volunteer Blue Division was just one of 135 German Divisions at the time in Russia, their
volunteer squadron was one of just fifty fighter squadrons!
Squadron's emblem - the motto is "Vista suerte
y al toro".
First Blue Squadron
First Squadron, 130 men including 17 pilots, commanded by Commandante Angel
Salas Larrazabal left Spain
on June 25th 1941. These
pilots had shot down a total of 79 Republican aircraft between them and were
familiar with Me109 fighters. Even so
they were made to go through Luftwaffe instruction on the type in Germany, which
took until September 1941.
September 26th the Squadron was operational, flying their Me109E-7s
from Mozhna airfield near Minsk, on the Central
Front, as the 15th Staffel of Jagd Geschwader (JG) 27 in Luftflotte
VIII, under Wolfram von Richthofen, himself a veteran of Germany’s
Condor Legion. The Squadron commander, Comandante Larrazabal was awarded the Iron
Cross 2nd Class for his action in shooting down an I-16 fighter and
Pe-2 reconnaissance bomber in October 1941.
“I saw coming 6 Pe-2 and I went after them, cutting the distance between us I found myself below I opened fire from 150 meters with my small machine [guns?] and much closer with my canons, I saw pieces jump from the aircraft after the second burst, it occupant taking to his parachute. Later I continue towards Cholm to join up with the group and see a ‘Rata’ I attack him in a turn while trying to flee in a fast dive that rips his left wing and he crashes near the confluence between Dnieper and Wjasna. Later I attack twice another ‘Rata’ with no effects.”
Larrazabal’s own account of the action.
squadron was, for the most part, denied the “free hunt” missions that would
have offered the best opportunities to engage the Soviet VVS, and was instead
ordered to fly low level attack missions in support of German forces in Army
Army Group Centre advanced so the Squadron moved further East to support its
operations, moving as far as Klin, and then, in the face of the Soviet Winter
offensive, falling back to Vitebsk. The
squadron was relieved on January 6th 1942 and returned to Spain in
February, having flown 460 missions and claimed 10 enemy aircraft in air to air
combat, and four destroyed on the ground in exchange for five of their own
pilots, including Commandante Jose Munoz Jimenez, Deputy Squadron Commander. Six of the 10 aircraft shot down, and two of
those destroyed on the ground, were scored by the Squadron Commander, making
him an ace in both the Spanish Civil War (where he shot down 17 republican
aircraft) and the Second World War.
Second Blue Squadron
Second Squadron commanded by Capt. Noriega, was formed in Spain on February 6th
1942, and underwent similar training in Germany to the First Squadron did not
become operational till June 8th and was assigned to JG 51 as its
15th Staffel, flying the Me109F-4 - better armoured and with faster firing
cannon than the Me109F-2 that their German counterparts in the rest of the
Geschwader were still flying at this time. The Squadron was not directly
involved in Fall Blau but was used around Orel,
the boundary with Army Group Weichs. By November 30th 1942, when
they were relieved, they had flown 403 sorties, shooting down 13 Soviet
aircraft for only two losses.
Third Blue Squadron
Third Squadron, commanded by Comandante Carlos Ferrandis Arjonilla, began its
tour on December 1st 1942. It
was short of pilots so six of those from the Second Squadron remained with it
temporarily. It was an inauspicious
start, as Capt Andres Asensi Alvares-Arenas was shot down and taken prisoner on
the first day of its operations.
weather conditions provided limited flying opportunities, and the Spaniards
scored only two victories until January 27th 1943, when they
successfully shot down seven Soviet aircraft.
Operations were still sporadic, with 11 victories claimed between 22-24
February and seven more between 7 and 10 March, flying Me109G‑2s and G‑4s as
the 15th Staffel, JG 51 – it was only in March that the remaining
Third Squadron pilots joined the unit, allowing those six that had stayed on
from Second Squadron to finally return to Spain.
Luftwaffe decided to re-equip the Spaniards with the new FW190A-3 fighter in
March and they became operational on the type by April 25th 1943,
and so were able to take part in the aerial battles that preceded the battle
for Kursk. The Third Squadron was officially relieved on
July 8th 1943, having scored 62 aerial victories (29 of them with
their new FW190s) and without losing a single Ju87 from the formations they had
Fourth Blue Squadron
Fourth Squadron began to replace the Third in July 1943, again the pilot
complement was incomplete and some of the Third Squadrons ‘old hands’ stayed
with them, under Comandante Mariano Cuadra Medina. The squadron was based at Seschstsniskaya, to
the South‑East of Roslav
squadron had arrived just in time for the last great German offensive in the
East, and, with the rest of the staffeln in JG51 and JG54, bore the
responsibility providing fighter cover for Generaloberst Walther Model’s 9th
Army attacking the North of the Kursk
salient. The intense fighting is reflected in the Squadron’s operational
record: although only officially operational for three weeks in July they flew
391 sorties, and shot down 12 Soviet aircraft, in August they shot down 21 and
in September another 15. These victories
were scored over the latest Soviet types, the Il2m3 tank busting Sturmovik
introduced for Kursk,
and the Lavochkin 5 and 7 fighters.
at least two occasions the pilots of the Blue Squadron had the opportunity to
renew old acquaintances in the air as they fought against Spanish fighter
pilots flying in the VVS.
the Blue Division was withdrawn from the Eastern Front, to be replaced by the
Blue Legion brigade sized formation, at Franco’s command in October 1943, the
Blue Squadron was allowed to remain with JG51, staying until January 1944. By the time they were withdrawn they had
scored some 52 aerial victories, and 22 destroyed on the ground, but at
significantly higher cost to Spain
– seven of its 20 pilots had been killed in action (including 8 victory
ace Sen Lt Sanchez‑Arjona) and three of the remaining 13 were badly wounded.
Fifth Blue Squadron
Fifth Squadron, under Major Murcia Rubio completed its training on FW190s in
early February 1944, and within a couple of weeks, was active on the Eastern
front, albeit flying Me109G-6s!
Political pressure from the Allies forced Spain to recall its forces from the
Eastern Front, the Blue Legion being ordered back on March 6th and
the Blue Squadron in April - the Fifth Squadron still managed to fly 86
sorties, fight six aerial engagements and lose one pilot though.
The Blue Squadron’s Record
them the five Blue Squadrons had brought 89 Spanish pilots into action with the
Luftwaffe, flown over 3000 operational sorties, including 606 aerial
engagements, resulting in the shooting down of 159 Soviet aircraft the loss of
23 of the 89 pilots - 18 killed in action, 2 missing in action and 1 POW, a
loss rate over 25% of the 89 pilots committed. The Spanish airmen never did get to fly in
support of their Spanish compatriots in the Wehrmacht.
Gaming the Blue Squadron In Action
the Blue Squadron in action is relatively straight forward given its use of
German aircraft types. Aside from the
unit emblem shown in Figure 1 these aircraft are marked identically to those of
the German staffeln in the same Geschwader.
from the battles around Kursk and its aftermath – the time of the First, Second
and Fifth squadrons, the Spanish were most often tasked with either low level
ground attack or escort missions in support of German ground and air
units. The Third Squadron was faced by
a resurgent VVS keen to disrupt German preparations for the Kursk battle, and the Fourth by a further reinforced
VVS contingent – the 1st and 16th Air Armies – over the
Game Engineering’s “Scramble” rule set covers all these mission types in some
detail, and will allow you to distinguish between ace and novice pilots on both
sides, while fielding the whole of the Azul Escuadrilla in action if you wish.
covers the distinctions between fighter types and air to air combat in great
detail, The Blue Skies rule set module “Red Star Blue Sky” concentrates on low
level battlefield interdiction and has the stats for the aircraft involved.
While the contribution of Franco's Nationalists was made as a contingent the former Republican pilots who flew with the VVS were scattered across the VVS fighter regiments. However at least four aces, Vicente Beltran, Antonio Aras, Antonio García Cano and José Pascual Santamaria (killed 1942), flew together in 283 Fighter Regiment (IAP) when the war broke out. 283 IAP was initially equipped with MiG 3 fighters. Both Arias and Santamaria were aces in both the SCW and Great Patriotic War.
- In the Skies of Europe,
Hans Werner Neulen
Axis Europa magazine issue
17, spring 1999 has a good article of the Blue Squadrons