On April 1945, the Luftwaffe, desperate to resupply trapped German forces in Berlin, created operations using gliders to fly supplies. These were one-way missions for unfortunate pilots.
At this point, Berlin’s resupply situation was dire, and the defenders needed regular resupply of ammunition and other supplies to maintain their defense until help arrived in the form of an attack to relieve the city by a German Army outside the army defenses.
However, this help would never come as the Army’s Hitler ordered to do such miracles were themselves badly worn out and desperate for supplies. However, days before Hitler’s death, determined efforts were made to keep Berlin supplied and fighting.
In Desperate Need
On March 17, 1945, it had been calculated that the Berlin Garrison would require 500 tons of supplies daily to continue to function at full potential.
500 tons would require 450 Junkers Ju-52 transport flights into Berlin airports every day. This was completely impossible since the Germans didn’t have the required number of transport planes at this stage of the war. There was also a fuel shortage situation all over Germany.
Towards the end of the battle, the Luftwaffe resorted to a suicidal plan to employ gliders, making one-way missions into the ruined city delivering a few tons of ammunition and shells.
The glider pilots have to go into Berlin by air, braving multiple dangers and then being trapped in the devastated city with little hope of getting out.
Germany’s Military Gliders
The Germans have been using military gliders since the start of the war. They have used gliders to move around supplies on numerous occasions, building some of the biggest gliders ever built for such missions. However, by the time of the Battle of Berlin, just like the Luftwaffe’s Junkers transports, the glider force of the Luftwaffe has been much reduced.
The mainstay of the famous glider raids was the DFS-230 with over 1,600 being built. However, by April 1945, the Luftwaffe had only 13 still operational.
One Way Missions
One of the final significant German glider operations of World War II happened on the night of the 28th and 29th of April 1945. At this point, the Soviets have captured most of Berlin except the government quarter where fanatical German resistance continued with the Red Army just a kilometer or so from Hitler’s bunker.
Five DFS-230 gliders will hold into the air by Heinkel 111s, with each glider loaded to its maximum capacity of ammunition and desperately needed military supplies. Glider pilots received letters from the Luftwaffe headquarters giving them a priority seat on any remaining flights out of the city center so that they can return to base making further glider missions into Berlin.
In reality, however, the chances of leaving safely the devastated capital were slim, and finding a flight outward is extremely rare. The pilots knew that they were asked to do one-way missions. Out of the 5 glider pilots, only one managed to return to base, somehow managing to find his way onto one of the very last Junkers 52 transport flights that left from the emergency landing strip on the East-West axis in Central Berlin.