The Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a/U4 was a standard Me 262 modified to carry a Mk 214 50 mm cannon in the nose. The intention was to provide a weapon capable of destroying an American heavy bomber while remaining outside the range of the bomber formation’s defensive armament. Two prototypes were built. The aircraft was assigned to JV 44 and was flown operationally twice against American bomber streams on 16APR45; the cannon jammed on both flights.
Major Wilhelm “Willi” Herget began the war as a Bf 110 Zerstörer pilot and fought in the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. He then transitioned to nightfighters. He scored a total of 57 night victories, his best night was on 20DEC44 when he was credited with downing eight RAF bombers. He trained to fly the Messerschmitt Me 262 and was assigned to JV 44. He finished the war with the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and was credited with a total of 73 victories and over 700 operational sorties. He died in Stuttgart in 1974.
Hauptmann Ludwig-Wilhelm “Lutz” Burkhardt flew this Messerschmitt while in command of 7. / JG 1, at Paderborn Germany, April 1944. Burkhardt opened his account on 09MAY42 against the Soviets, downing an I-153 fighter. He managed to score a total of 53 victories against the Soviets with II./JG 77, but was forced down himself on several occasions, each time making it back to his own lines without serious injury. He was transferred to the West where he continued to score, downing 16 American and British aircraft, all fighters. He suffered from recurring bouts of malaria which sidelined him for much of the last year of the war. He survived with a total of 69 victories.
The Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet remains to this day the only operational rocket-powered aircraft to ever have seen combat. Its intended use was as a point-defense interceptor, using its eight-minute powered endurance to climb to the altitude of an Allied bomber stream and then attacking the bombers while descending in a glide. It was a successful design as an aircraft, but did not achieve sufficient results to be worthy of the effort which went into its considerable operational and logistical expenditures. Only eighteen Allied aircraft were claimed by Komet pilots.
Messerschmitts Over Sicily: Diary of a Luftwaffe Fighter Commander
By Johannes Steinhoff
Softcover, 271 pages, bibliography, and index
Published by Stackpole Books August 2004
Dimensions: 6.0 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the legends of the Luftwaffe, having flown throughout the entire war from beginning to end on every major front and surviving. He flew a total of 993 sorties and was credited with 176 victories. He was shot down himself on twelve occasions but only bailed out once, preferring to crash land his aircraft due to a mis-trust of parachutes. He achieved most of his successes flying with JG 52 against the Soviets in the East but in March 1943 he was transferred to North Africa to lead JG 77 as Geschwaderkommodore. He arrived just in time to move what remained of the Geschwader (Wing) from North Africa to Sicily.
Messerschmitts Over Sicily is Steinhoff’s autobiographical account of JG 77’s fight against the Allies during the summer of 1943. The Luftwaffe faced over 5,000 American and British aircraft with only 350 of their own. The German airfields were well within range of Allied fighters and were subjected to almost daily bombings by medium bombers. This kept the German fliers on the move and resulted in material shortages, the Germans were often forced to utilize improvised landing fields to escape the attentions of prowling Allied aircraft.
A problem which the Luftwaffe never solved in the Italian Theater was how to deal with the American heavy bomber formations. While Jagdwaffe units defending the Reich enjoyed some notable successes, American Flying Fortresses operated over Italy with relative impunity. The proximity of Allied bases greatly reduced warning times which frustrated German attempts to mass and direct intercepting fighters, and the bomber boxes were able to be escorted by defending fighters all the way to their targets. These obstacles, exasperated by the generally poor logistical situation, were not appreciated by the Luftwaffe high command. Reichsmarschall Göring attributed the lack of success to cowardice on the part of his pilots which only served to reduce morale further.
This is an interesting study of command and leadership under adversity. It reveals the complexities of managing the daily administrative responsibilities of managing a military unit while dealing with unrealistic expectations from superiors and also leading men in combat. An interesting book and well worth a read, recommended.
Bf 110G-4 of Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, NJG4, Eggebek Germany, April 1945. Eduard kit, ExtraTech decals, scratchbuilt FuG 218 Neptune radar.
Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer is the highest-scoring night fighter pilot with 121 victories, including 114 Royal Air Force four-engine bombers. He was never shot down, although he was wounded once in the leg by defensive fire from an RAF Halifax. His best night came on 21FEB45 when he claimed nine RAF bombers over two sorties, post-war analysis indicates he may have actually downed ten. By the age of 22 Schnaufer was the Kommodore of NJG 4 and had been awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He survived the war but was killed in an automobile accident in France in 1950. The tail fin of his last aircraft with his 121 victories is currently on display at the Imperial War Museum.
Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a of Hans Waldmann, 3. / JG 7, Kaltenkirchen, Germany, March 1945. Revell of Germany kit.
Hans Peter Waldmann scored the majority of his 134 victories flying the Bf 109 with JG 52 on the Eastern Front. In early July 1944 Waldmann and the rest of 4./JG 52 had been transferred to the West in Defence of the Reich, flying with II./JG 3 over the Invasion front. He flew Jabo missions along with fighter sweeps, adding seven American and RAF aircraft to his score. In November II./JG 3 was retrained to fly the Me 262 and became I./JG 7. Waldmann claimed two Mustangs on the Me 262. On 18MAR45 JG 7 was ordered to intercept American bombers raiding Germany despite heavy cloud cover. Waldmann collided with one of his wingmen in the clouds and was killed.
Walter Nowotny scored his first two victories on 19JUL41 against Soviet Polikarpov I-153s but was shot down by a third. He subsequently spent three days in a raft in the Gulf of Riga until he washed ashore in Latvia. Most of his subsequent victories came while flying the Fw 190 with JG 54. He became the first Luftwaffe pilot to be credited with 250 victories, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Nowotny was given command of a unit tasked with developing tactics for the new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. The type had been rushed into service and suffered from several “bugs”. On 08NOV44 Nowotny claimed an American P-51 and B-24, but crashed in his Me 262, possibly due to an engine fire. He was 23 at the time.
Nowotny had a superstition and insisted on wearing his lucky “victory pants” whenever he flew, the same pants he had worn after his first victories and three days afloat in the raft in the Gulf of Riga. The only time he failed to wear them was on his last sortie when he was killed.
Bf 110G-4 of Oberst Helmut Lent, IV /NJG1, Leeuwarden Netherlands, Spring 1943. Eduard kit, Aimes decals. FuG 220 Lichtenstein SN-2 array replaced with the turned brass aftermarket version from Master Model, the small FuG 218C antenna is scratchbuilt. Helmut Lent began the war flying the Messerschmitt Bf 110 with Zerstörergeschwader 76 in the heavy fighter role. He participated in both the Polish and Norwegian Campaigns, during the latter he landed his damaged Bf 110 at Fornebu and negotiated the surrender of the Norwegian forces there. He participated in the Battle of Britain and had achieved eight day victories before being trained as a night fighter pilot. As a Nachtjagder he scored steadily, eventually reaching the total of 110 victories and being awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. He was killed on 05OCT44 when his Junkers Ju 88 crashed while attempting to land at Paterborn after the runway was damaged by USAAF B-17s.
Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff was one of the legends of the Luftwaffe, having flown throughout the entire war on every major front. He flew a total of 993 sorties and was credited with 176 victories. He was shot down himself on twelve occasions but only bailed out once, preferring to crash land his aircraft due to a mis-trust of parachutes. He scored six of his victories while flying the Me 262 with JV 44, but two weeks before the end of the war his jet crashed during take-off, leaving Steinhoff with severe burns. After the war he became a General in the West German Air Force. He died in February 1994 at the age of 80.
Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a of Rudolf Rademacher, 9. / JG 7.
Revell of Germany kit. Rudolf “Rudi” Rademacher opened his account flying with 3./JG 54 “Green Hearts” on the Eastern Front. He flew as a wingman to Walter Nowotny with 1./JG 54. His best day was 05JUL43 when he was credited with seven victories. He was transferred to 1./Jagdgruppe Nord as an instructor where he continued to score and was wounded while attacking a B-17 in September. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross and after recovering from his injuries he joined 11./JG 7 and learned to fly the Me 262. He scored at least sixteen victories with the Me 262, Toliver places his final tally at 126.