Authors: Mano Ziegler
Tags: #Engineering & Transportation, #Engineering, #History, #Military, #Aviation, #World War II, #Military Science
A Greenhill Book
Published in Great Britain in 2004 by
Greenhill Books, Lionel Leventhal Limited
Reprinted in this format in 2012 by
an imprint of
Pen & Sword Books Ltd
47 Church Street
South Yorkshire, S70 2AS
Me 262: Hitler’s Jet Plane
is a translation of
Turbinenjäger Me 262
, which was first published by Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart, in 1978.
Copyright © by Motorbuch Verlag, Postfach 103743, 70032 Stuttgart
English language translation © Lionel Leventhal Limited, 2004
The right of Mano Ziegler to be identified as the author of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical
including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission from the Publisher in writing.
Printed and bound in England by CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Table of Contents
About the Author
1 - Fritz Wendel – A Test Pilot Possessed
2 - Messerschmitt AG Developments 1926 – 41
3 - Shortages, Technical Difficulties and the First Me 262 Crash
4 - A Fatal Crash and Hitler’s Fatal Decision
5 - The Me 262 as Bomber The Crucial Lost Year
6 - ‘Mein Führer, every child can see that that is a fighter and not a bomber!’
7 - Kommando Nowotny – The Sop to Galland
8 - Clashes over the Western Front Late 1944
9 - The Loss of Nowotny
10 - Rudi Sinner and III/JG7 – Best of All German Jet-fifghter Units
11 - III/JG7 – The Last Great Air-battle over the Reich
12 - Last Gestures of Defiance
13 - Kurt Welter – The Most Successful of the Me 262 Aces?
14 - A Last Flight to Cherbourg
15 - Fritz Wendel’s Closing Report, 1945
About the Author
Manfred Ziegler was born 7 June 1908. He had a lifetime fascination with flight. At the age of eight, he wrote to Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen, the famous ‘Red Baron’, asking to be allowed to fly with him. Richthofen even replied, saying, ‘Yes, we’ll fly together!’
At 21, he took up glider flying and he also pursued his diving, becoming a core member of Germany’s Olympic high-diving team. In 1932 and 1934 he was the student world high-diving champion at the world championships in Darmstadt and Turin.
When war broke out in 1939 he became a pilot in the Luftwaffe, and from 1943 until the war’s end he was a flying instructor and flew the Me 163 with Erprobungskommando 16 (Operational Test Unit 16) and Jagdgeschwader 400 (Fighter Group 400).
Many of his experiences are related in his popular account published in Germany under the title
Raketenjäger Me 163
. Following early release from Soviet captivity after the war he re-established contact immediately with many former Me 262 pilots and his notes of these conversations made when memories were still fresh are the basis for the current volume.
Having returned to Berlin he continued to fly and write newspaper articles. In Berlin he guested as a high-wire walker with the Camilla Mayer circus troupe, walking the 24-metre high wire – without any prior training – for a newspaper article. He eventually became editor-in-chief of the
aviation monthly in Stuttgart and, as such, made his first supersonic flight in an English fighter aircraft in the spring of 1960.
Dear Friends and Comrades!
This foreword is for all of you who flew the Me 262, whether as fighter pilot or bomber crew. I have been motivated to write this book for three reasons:
Many young people have the idea that German fighter pilots – ‘the collar-and-tie brigade’ – were more given to boasting of their early victories instead of getting into the air to shoot down the Allied bomber formations. This is a misconception which needs to be corrected. Accordingly I have depicted what it was like to be on fighter operations, and for the benefit of the younger generation have thought it worthwhile to describe the experience of fighter action, something beyond their imagining.
During the lifetime of the frontline Me 262 I was an Me 163 test pilot and instructor, and so do not write as a jet-fighter pilot from my own immediate experience. The foundation for this book has therefore been a thorough research of the existing literature. To my comrades-in-arms of that epoch who placed themselves at my disposal for hours, and all night if need be, I offer my heartfelt thanks. I record their names in the Acknowledgements. No less are thanks due to the named firms of the German aviation industry.
In this volume I have paid no heed to rank or position and have tried to set aside old unresolved grudges, although here and there some subjectivity is bound to have crept in. Unavoidable too are the many gaps in the story which still remain. Therefore I shall be grateful to every comrade-in-arms – and every historian – who puts me right.
None of the praiseworthy efforts to compile the Me 262 story in the immediate postwar period succeeded. Despite there being many more relevant documents extant in the UK and US national archives than in the German Federal Republic, English language works are not free of error. American military aviation historians – and their British counterparts – have the advantage of easier access to sources for research. Seized by the victors were plans, drawings, reports, photographs, films, memoranda, diaries and they have much other additional useful material including PoW interrogation statements. These huge files have probably still not been fully evaluated to the present day. Much of the material has been returned to the German Federal Republic by the United States, to a much lesser extent by the British authorities. Precisely why the British want to keep secret what they have – not even allowing it to be worked from under supervision – is not known. All the documentation respecting the highly interesting organisation of the German night-fighter network under Generalleutnant Kammhuber remains in British hands. All attempts to date to obtain at least copies for the German military archives have been unsuccessful. It is all the more incomprehensible because the return of the material would not be against the interests of any nation but rather of inestimable value for historical research.
It will be a great success of this book if it inspires the Old Guard to criticise and correct me, or supply some missing pieces. I encourage it with a hearty ‘Horrido!’ – Into battle!
MANO ZIEGLER, GERMANY, 1978
The author is indebted to the following personalities for their assistance in compiling this book:
Dr Ludwig Bölkow
Hans J. Ebert
Dr Anselm Franz
Gordon M. Gollob
Rakan Peter Kokothaki
Karl W. Lüttgau
Friedrich Karl Müller
Dr Viktor Emanuel Preusker
Fritz Wendel – A Test Pilot Possessed
he parachute hanging loosely from his shoulders slapped the back of his knees and looked a couple of sizes too big for him. His ground technician suggested he ought to shorten the straps. Fritz Wendel waved him aside; it was too much bother. When he had dressed for the first flight before dawn that morning it had been bitterly cold, and he had worn his thick fur-lined combinations. The ridge of high pressure brought a cloudless April day. The sun had risen and beneath the azure sky it had grown pleasantly warm. Some cumulus began to form during the afternoon by when it was decidedly too hot for furry combinations and he had discarded them in favour of his lightweight flying overall. Hence the loose parachute. Four o’clock was late in the day for a test pilot who still had a couple more flights scheduled. So he had to get a move on.
The aircraft climbed. He had time to rehearse the drill mentally during the ascent to 18,000 feet. From there at full throttle he would put the fighter into a ‘steep incline’ as the manual called it. A works pilot ferrying in the first series of this particular machine had reported that at high speeds unpleasantly strong wing vibrations developed. The aircraft was a Bf 109T. The T stood for
(carrier), for this was one of the fighters designed to fly from the flight deck of Germany’s aircraft carrier
-class heavy cruiser hull being converted into a flat-top at a Baltic shipyard.
Compared with her sister aircraft, the Bf 109T had broader wings and that was suspected to be somehow the cause of the unusual vibrations. Exactly how that caused the problem remained to be established. Possibly it would need no more than a couple of flights to identify the fault, as was often the case, or even only one. In five or six minutes he would know.
Yet it was with the new aircraft, the Me 262, that he had allowed himself to become preoccupied. The airplane which would become the world’s first jet fighter once the turbines were delivered stood in the experimental hangar below, due to make her maiden flight in a few days – and he, Fritz Wendel, would be at the controls. She might have only a piston engine and spinner for the time being, but nothing would keep him away from her. In anticipation he savoured this step into a new epoch of aviation history.