When the German Bundeswehr and its air arm the Luftwaffe were reinstated in January of 1956, great steps were taken to distance the new Luftwaffe from its previous counterpart of the former regime. The lack of technical expertise in jet operations were a major drawback for the new air force as ten years had passed since the end of the war and a serious revamping phase was needed to bring the new air force up to par with modern counterparts the world over. West Germany’s Luftwaffe adopts the Republic F-84F Thunderstreak as its frontline fighter and equips several fighter units with the aircraft. Jagdbombergeschwader 34 ‘Fighter Bomber Wing 34’ is stood up on 1 October 1958 at Nörvenich and receives its first F-84F’s before being relocated and assigned to an airfield near Memmingen, West Germany in April 1959. She is declared operational in an official ceremony attended by the Defense Minister Franz Josef Strauss and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Joseph Kammhuber. Oberst Carl-Heinz Greve is appointed as the first commander of the squadron at this ceremony on 5 May 1959.
The Republic F-84F Thunderstreak with its single Wright J-65-W-3 turbojet engine can reach speeds of nearly 695mph and has a range of 810 miles with two drop tanks formidable stats for covering the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany in the dawn of the age of jet aircraft. It can fly to a height of 46,000ft with a 8,200ft per minute rate of climb and is armed with six .50in M3 Browning machine guns. Over 450 of the F-84F variants will see service with the West German Luftwaffe until the type is retired in 1967.
On 22 October 1959, two F-84Fs of JG34 (registration numbers DD106 & DD107) took off from the Airbase at Memmingen on a training flight over southern Bavaria. Initially, the two pilots Stabsunteroffizier Kraus and Unteroffizier Hoffman report problems with the oxygen supply systems of their aircraft and are ordered to descend to a safe altitude. When radio communications with the two fighters is lost by Air Traffic Controllers in the Fürstenfeldbruck area of operations a search party was launched comprised of members of the armed forces, local police and firefighters. When no trace of the missing aircraft are found by the initial search party, American forces are called in and following the analysis of radar reports from Memmingen, territories in Upper Franconia and Upper Palatinate are searched including a section of nearly 32 miles that encompasses the border areas with the German Democratic Republic and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.
At the time of the disappearance of the two aircraft, tensions between West and East were becoming extremely volatile and soon rumors began to be circulated from eastern sources of the presence of spy planes operating over Czechoslovak territory. Under the Hallstein Doctrine which was West Germany’s official policy of not recognizing the existence of East Germany or cooperating with nations that recognized East Germany as a legitimate state, West German officials contacted the United States for assistance in the investigation into the disappearance. On 2 November 1959, West German agencies officially ceased the search for the two missing aircraft.
On 16 November 1959, the government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic confirmed the crash of the Luftwaffe F-84 aircraft in its territory and notified the United States that both pilots as well as the Martin Baker MK.GT5 ejection seats were in Czechoslovak custody. This news was relayed to the West German government in Bonn whom made several statements of regret concerning accidental border incursions into Czechoslovak airspace and again approached the United States for assistance in obtaining the recovery of the captured pilots from incarceration in the CSSR.
Over the course of several weeks American officials engaged in negotiations with the Czechoslovak authorities to obtain the release of the pilots. A subsequent trial of the downed pilots by the CSSR government is not held and finally on 3 December 1959, the Czechoslovak government authorizes the turning over of the captured fliers to West German authorities and both men are handed over to West German officials at the Waidhaus border crossing point in the Upper Palatinate region of Bavaria. On the same day, the pilots are confirmed back in West German hands, they appear before the press at the defense ministry in Bonn alongside the Defense Minister Franz-Josef Strauss.