Wreck Dive: Sunken Messerschmitt Bf 109G

Hans Fahrenberger's crashed Messerschmitt Bf 109 off Planier Island in the Mediterranean sea (Image: Vincent Pommeyrol; Hans Fahrenbergers wrecked Messerschmitt Bf 109G)

Resting inverted on the seabed near the tiny Mediterranean island of Planier, southwest of Marseilles, its narrow, splayed undercarriage legs clearly reveal this wrecked World War Two aircraft to be a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The crashed Luftwaffe fighter’s location immediately west of Île du Planier make it one of the region’s most accessible wreck sites, and in 1988 divers invited the 109’s pilot to return to the site for the first time in over four decades.

Hans Fahrenberger's crashed Messerschmitt Bf 109 off Planier Island in the Mediterranean sea-2 (Image: Vincent Pommeyrol)

On March 7, 1944 pilot Hans Fahrenberger took off on patrol from a grass airstrip at Avignon in his G-series Messerschmitt Bf 109. His mission was to defend the Axis-occupied port of Marseilles against raids by US Air Force bombers. As Luftwaffe fighters swooped in off the Mediterranean to intercept US aircraft in the skies above the city, a dogfight broke out, and Fahrenberger’s Bf 109 was badly damaged by an American P-38 Lightning, which had been tasked to escort the bombers.

Hans Fahrenberger's crashed Messerschmitt Bf 109 off Planier Island in the Mediterranean sea-3 (Image: Vincent Pommeyrol)

The German pilot was able to make an emergency landing in the sea west of Planier Island. According to Getty Images, he “managed to survive by using his parachute as an air bubble that helped him resurface.” Despite the misty conditions, Fahrenberger was rescued by a German Seenotdienst, a Luftwaffe air-sea rescue service (believed to be the first organised service of its kind).

Hans Fahrenberger's crashed Messerschmitt Bf 109 off Planier Island in the Mediterranean sea-4 (Image: Vincent Pommeyrol)

Since that day, his Messerschmitt Bf 109G has rested upside-down on the sea floor at a depth of 45 meters. For years it lay anonymous in the clear Mediterranean water. But once rediscovered, it quickly became a popular wreck site for recreational divers who enjoy some 20 meters visibility. In 1988, Mr Fahrenberger returned to the site of his emergency water landing, and set foot on Île du Planier for the first time in 44 years.

Hans Fahrenberger served with the German Luftwaffe’s Jagdgeschwader 27 (JG 27) during World War Two, in a variety of arenas from France and Greece to Russia’s Eastern Front. He died in Munich on October 10, 2009.

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