Figuring out Luftwaffe fighter codes and unit designations.
(or, what's all that stuff on the fuselage of my 109???)

If you are relatively new to the wonderful world of trying to figure out all these different Luftwaffe unit names or the various odd markings on the sides of fighters, then this is the page that will help you.

First of all, how the units are arranged, and I'll start from the top.
For purpose of this info sheet, we'll assume that the unit is Jagdgeschwader  (fighter wing) 99. As with everything Luftwaffe, there will be differences in markings from one unit to the next.

The main unit is the wing or geschwader
Each geschwader has a Kommodor, Adjutant, Operations Officer, Technical Officer and Chief of Staff.

Their aircraft are marked as such: <-+-, <I+, <-+, <I0+, and  <II+ (the + is the fuselage insignia).

Not all staff personnel were pilots though often they had planes assigned that were flown by others.

These are the aircraft of the  wing staff or geschwaderstab. Seeing this written it would be "geschwaderstab(or just stab)./JG 99"

Each geschwader has three or four gruppen, or groups.
For this example we'll assume four gruppen.
Each gruppe has a staff consisting of a

If we are talking about the second gruppe of JG 99, it would be written as II./JG 99. Note that we use Roman numerals when referring to the gruppe. Aircraft from the staff or stab of II gruppe would be listed as "gruppenstab (or just stab) II./JG 99". Sometimes the 'stab' is left off and when written as II./JG 99 it is assumed you are referring to the gruppenstab. \

Each gruppe can consist of up to five staffeln or squadrons. However, three is more the norm.
These would be listed from 1 to 12.
I gruppe would include staffeln 1,2 and 3
II gruppe would include staffeln 4,5 and 6
III gruppe would include staffeln 7, 8, and 9
IV gruppe would include staffeln 10, 11, and 12

Referring to individual staffeln, you'd write it as 4./JG 99 or 10./JG 99

Regardless of the number of staffeln in a gruppe, ideally, they would be evenly spread out with each gruppe getting an equal number.

Each gruppe can have an identifying marking aft of the fuselage national insignia.

Here are examples:

Gruppe I - no markings

Gruppe II - horizontal bar

Gruppe III - double wavy line or vertical bar

Gruppe IV - single wavy line, dot, or small cross

With in each gruppe, the individual staffeln would be color coded. The first staffel being white, second red or black, and third yellow. If a fourth was used it would be blue though there were exceptions. Same for the fifth staffel, which could be brown, though brown was sometimes used to replace the red in some staffeln. You can see why deciphering Luftwaffe colors and markings can be tricky.  Using the examples of 12 staffeln  in a 4 gruppe gescshwader, the 3rd staffel would be yellow as would the 6th and 9th and 12th, the 8th would be red and so forth. These colors were often in the aircraft number and perhaps spinner color as well. There were MANY instances of these colors not being slavishly adhered to.

Each staffel could be further broken down into smaller units,  such as rotte or schwarm but there was no specific markings for these sub-units so they will not be discussed.

Well, this is really about as good as it gets. Just to help a bit in case you are a bit confused, gruppe is singular, gruppen is plural; staffel is singular, staffeln is plural.

As a final note, night fighter units generally did not use these markings as they were considered 'heavy' units such as the bomber, recce and transport units. These units used four letter/number code combinations. Of course, sometimes you would find that they used the day fighter markings in addition to the normal codes. Aren't Luftwaffe markings fun!?