Germany - Third Reich: An extremely rare 24th October 1944 Poland action near Jaskolowo application for the award of a Commendation Certificate for the Shooting Down of an Enemy Aircraft by an Infantry Weapon, to be awarded to Leutnant der Reserve Karl Volk, Adjutant, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, together with written witness statement. Volk, manned a machine gun during strafing and bombing attacks by enemy aircraft, and shot down a Russian Lavochkin LAGG-3 fighter aircraft with an infantry machine gun, whils

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Germany - Third Reich: An extremely rare 24th October 1944 Poland action near Jaskolowo application for the award of a Commendation Certificate for the Shooting Down of an Enemy Aircraft by an Infantry Weapon, to be awarded to Leutnant der Reserve Karl Volk, Adjutant, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, together with written witness statement. Volk, manned a machine gun during strafing and bombing attacks by enemy aircraft, and shot down a Russian Lavochkin LAGG-3 fighter aircraft with an infantry machine gun, whilst in action at some 1.2 kms to the south-east of Jaskotowo, he having fired some 120 rounds at the aircraft which was strafing the frontline. The aircraft was hit, when flying from east to west in front of his position at a range of 350 yards. Shots hit the fuselage. It flew on a very short distance, some 100-150 metres, wobbled, and then crashed vertically into the ground, the pilot, a Russian Captain who was killed, having most probably been hit by the bullets and lost control. The application and battle report written by Volk’s battalion commander, and was then approved by the divisional commander, and passed on higher up the chain, and was still under consideration in mid December. However nothing else was heard, and it would not appear, from evidence found, that Volk received the award, possibly this was due to the chaos in the closing months of the war, or else due to no entry in official records being made for an award, again due to the closeness to the end of war. Whether or not Volk received the award therefore remains a mystery. According to officials records there were only 591 individuals and 558 units who received a Commendation Certificate for the Shooting Down of an Enemy Aircraft by an Infantry Weapon, which in the case of an individual, would have led to the exceptionally rare award of the Special Badge for Shooting Down Low-Flying Aircraft.

1) Application for the Award of the Commendation Certificate for the Shooting Down of an Enemy Aircraft by an Infantry Weapon, to be awarded to Leutnant der Reserve Karl Volk, Adjutant, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, 35th Infantry Division.

2) Together with a Witness Statement by an Unteroffizier Latuske of the 4th Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, 35th Infantry Division, written to support the official Battalion report of the shooting down of a Russian Lavochkin LAGG-3 fighter aircraft by Leutnant der Reserve Karl Volk with an infantry machine-gun at 1330 hours on 24th October 1944.

Karl Volk was serving as a Leutnant der Reserve and Adjutant of the 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, when on 24th October 1944 at 1330 hours he shot down a Russian Lavochkin LAGG-3 fighter aircraft with an infantry machine gun, whilst in action at some 1.2 kms to the south-east of Jaskotowo, having fired some 120 rounds at the aircraft, which when hit, was flying from east to west in front of his position at a range of 350 yards. Shots hit the fuselage, and after about 100 metres the aircraft crashed vertically on the other side of the main battle line and smashed to pieces on impact. The point of impact of the aircraft hitting the ground was about 1500 metres to the south-east of Jaskotowo, with the pilot, a Russian Captain being killed. The only weapon to fire at the aircraft was the machine gun served with Volk, and no other units were involved. His actions were witnessed by Unteroffizier Mock of HQ Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, and Unteroffizier Latuske, of the 4th Company, 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment, as well as by the Battalion Commander.

On 7th November 1944 an Unteroffizier Latuske, one of the noted witnesses in the Battle Report, wrote a Witness Statement to support the official Battalion report: ‘On 24th October 1944 1/111 was in trenches about 1 km south of Jaskotowo. Lt Volk was with men in the trenches. We were in the trenches because of low flying Russian aircraft. They were bombing and shooting at us. The Russian aircraft were milling around and on their way back were strafing us. Lt Volk took the opportunity to return the fire. Suddenly a fighter aircraft came very low over our trenches. Lt Volk immediately returned fire with the machine-gun. I saw this act and can vouch for it. The aircraft then went on its way until after 150 metres it started to wobble and suddenly crashed vertically into the ground about 250 metres from out position.’

The fact that no smoke or flames was observed from the aircraft would suggest that the pilot was himself hit by the burst of fire, lost control and so caused the aircraft to suddenly dive into the ground. The Lavochkin LAGG-3 fighter aircraft saw operational flying from 1939 onwards, and though slow with poor manoeuvrability, was strong and robust in construction with the ability to absorb terrific punishment. The cockpit canopy was however a weak spot, with bullets easily able to penetrate the glass, and hence it would appear that Volk made a lucky hit. The town of Jaskotowo, is the German spelling, and in fact should read Jaskolowo, being about 8kms to the south-east of Nasielsk and 10 kms to the north-west of Serock at the Narew, which is about 34 kms north of Warsaw.

At the Headquarters of the 1st Battalion, 111th Grenadier Regiment on 28th November 1944, an application was made and sent to the Army High Command Personnel Office P5 Branch 1 Section via the 2nd Army. Translated it reads as follows: ‘The Battalion reports the shooting down of a Russian aircraft (LAGG 3) on 24.10.1944, 1330 hours near Jaskotowo (10 kms north-west of Serock) through Infantry Weapons. Battle report overloaf. Signed in pencil ‘Müller’ for Hans Müller, as Hauptmann and Battalion Commander. Muller was the recipient of the Knight’s Cross on 14th April 1945 when still serving with the same unit.

The Commanding Officer then added his statement at HQ on 30th November 1944 which translated reads as follows: ‘The shooting down of the enemy aircraft by Lt Volk has occurred as described in the battle report and in the witness statements. I myself was a witness of the shooting down and confirm that no other unit was involved in the engagement of the enemy aircraft.’

The Divisional Commander of the 35th Infantry Division then added his weight to the application at Headquarters on 3rd December 1944, his approval being signed by an Oberst on behalf of the Divisional Commander - translated it reads: ‘The application for the issuing of a Commendation Certificate for Lt.d.R. Volk, 111 Gen Regt, for shooting down of an enemy aircraft with Infantry Weapons, is approved.’

The report was received on 4th December 1944 by the Headquarters of the 4th SS Corps, and then circulated to the Corps Headquarters on 6th December 1944. On the bottom of the form, there is a notation in blue pencil dated ’21.12’ for 21st December 1944 and initialled - it is unclear whether this was at HQ 2nd Army or HQ Army Group Centre. It is thought perhaps the latter. It is unknown whether this ever reached Army High Command, and perhaps not, as there is no record of Volk ever receiving the Commendation Certificate. There is of course a possibility that due to the lateness of the submission, it was never properly addressed by the Army High Command.

According to officials records there were only 591 individuals and 558 units who received a Commendation Certificate for the Shooting Down of an Enemy Aircraft by an Infantry Weapon, which in the case of an individual, would have led to the exceptionally rare award of the Special Badge for Shooting Down Low-Flying Aircraft. An image of the badge appears in Forman’s book on Third Reich Award’s, however Detlev Niemann notes in his 2008 publication on German awards that ‘there is yet no evidence that the badge was ever officially produced or awarded’. Similar to the Special Badge for Tank Destruction, it came in two grades, one for the downing of a single aircraft, one for having downed 5 aircraft.