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In January 15, 1958, Willard S. Irle, a member of the New York Stock Exchange sent President Dwight Eisenhower a letter with ideas about the preservation of world peace.  Irle suggested a “three-pronged program” consisting of the establishment of (1) a universal language, (2) a universal monetary system, and (3) a universal system of weights and measures.

President Eisenhower sent Irle’s letter to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, indicating that Irle appeared to be “a very serious fellow” and requesting that the Department of State “give him a thoughtful answer.”  The President specifically asked that Dulles’ deputy, Undersecretary of State Christian Herter “or somebody like that,” answer the letter.

Secretary Dulles forwarded the President’s note and Irle’s letter to Under Secretary Herter under cover of the following note:

John Dulles Mocks Himself

 

For those of you who cannot decipher the Secretary’s scrawl, it reads:

To C.A.H.

I could almost answer this myself – but perhaps my answer would not be consider[ed] by Mr. Irle to be “thoughtful”

JFD

Herter, signing as “Acting Secretary” in Dulles’s absence, responded on February 1, with a two-and-a-half page letter prepared in the Department’s Public Services DivisionThe letter thanked Irle for his “thoughtful comments and suggestions” and made the following points:

● the U.S. Government did not support a world-wide language program because of differences in educational systems and the problem of illiteracy around the world.  The letter did note, however, that the UN and private organizations were interested in the idea.

●the creation of a universal monetary system was problematic as evidenced by problems encountered by the International Monetary Fund in its work.  Nevertheless, the U.S. Government planned to continue working through the IMF to achieve that organization’s goals.

●noted that the U.S. had been participating in the activities of the International Bureau of Weights and Measures since 1878, and that organization’s primary objective was to promote standardization of the basic units of weights and measures.

Source: President Eisenhower to Secretary of State Dulles, January 20, 1958; Secretary Dulles to Under Secretary Herter, January 20, 1958; Acting Secretary Herter to Willard Irle, February 1, 1958 all in File 600.001/1-2058, 1955-59 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.  Irle’s letter was returned to President Eisenhower and is now on file in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Papers as President, Administration Series, Christian Herter (3).

I thank my colleagues Karl Weissenbach and Mary Burtzloff at the Library for their assistance.

 



Noted broadcast journalist Richard C. Hottelet died on December 17, 2014.  He was a great journalist and notable presence on television.  I am old enough to remember reports ending with “Richard C. Hottelet, CBS News.”  The obituaries published in the wake of his death have focused on his journalistic career, and rightfully so.  It is worth noting, however, that Hottelet served his country as an employee of the Office of War Information (OWI) between stints as a practicing journalist.  OWI was responsible for formulating and implementing information programs to promote, in the United States and abroad, understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.

After working for OWI stateside, Hottelet moved to the OWI office in London where he served as an Assistant Representative of the Overseas Operations Branch.  Among the files of the Department of State are a few documents relating to Hottelet’s posting to London.  Included with the initial communication from OWI to the Department, is a brief biographical statement.  Oddly, that document does not mention Hottelet’s imprisonment by Nazi Germany from March to July 1941 on suspicion of spying.  Hottelet left OWI and joined CBS News in time to cover the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.  He became known as one of the “Murrow Boys,” a group of journalists hired by Edward R. Murrow.

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Source: File 103.916602/387, July 31, 1942 and subsequent, 1940-44 Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.



Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park. 

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

During August and September Galland lobbied unsuccessfully against the plane being used as a bomber. During September, 72 were produced as bombers and only 19 as fighters. Galland was, however, able to organize a small fighter test group with a few Me-262s. In  September an American daylight raid on the Messerschmitt works at Augsburg and the neighboring airfield of Lechfeld, resulted in the I/KG 51—which was being refitted with Me-262s—and Galland’s test group being subject to the attack. Six Me-262 fighters were all that they could send up to meet the attackers. They were unable to prevent the 60 Me-262s, which were to be used as “Blitz bombers,” from being destroyed on the ground.

At the beginning of October, apparently on orders from Hitler, Major Walter Nowotny, one of Germany’s most successful fighter pilots on the eastern front, and his Me-262 fighter unit—now a Gruppe—were posted to the airfields of Achmer and Hesepe, near Osnabrück, athwart the main American bomber approach route. Nowotny, who had replaced Thierfelder after his death, soon recognized that much training would be necessary before he could expect to lead his team with any prospect of success. Luftwaffe Command, however, demanded operations forthwith. The daily sorties they could put up against the enemy formations and their fighter escort numbered a mere three or four. Yet, in the course of a month, these few jets knocked out between 22 and 50 aircraft. By the end of October, they themselves had been reduced from 30 to three serviceable planes—less as a result of enemy action, nearly all owing to technical problems and pilot errors.

During October, 65 Me-262s were produced as bombers and because of the growing necessity to have more fighters attacking the ever increasing Allied bomber formations, 52 were produced as fighters.It was this necessity that prompted, in October, aircraft production concentrating almost solely on fighters, with seven new types coming into production (Me-262, Ar-234, Ta-154, Me-163, Do-335, Ju- 388, and He-162).

Also, because of their relative success, Hitler was convinced that the Me-262 was really an excellent fighter plane, and in November he permitted the formation of the first jet-fighter wing.

On November 8, five Me-262s of Nowotny’s unit took off from their bases near Osnabrück to battle the American bombers, which day after day had been subjecting the jet airfield to fight-bomber attacks. So much so that the Me-262s had only been able to take off and land under the protection of a whole Gruppe of Fw-190s and concentrated flak. Nowotny shot one American plane and then reported one engine failing, and shortly thereafter he was attack by a flock of P-51s, and either was shot down or crashed. In either case he died.

Around the middle of November there was to be a two-day discussion under the chairmanship of Goering at Gatow airfield in the western outskirts of Berlin. All highly decorated unit commanders, including the heads of bomber, fighter, and reconnaissance commands, were to be present. Goering told them he wanted their help to give the Luftwaffe back its reputation. He said:

“The German people expects that because we have failed – failed disgracefully. This is the Luftwaffe’s darkest hour. The nation cannot understand why it is that the Allied bombers can come waltzing over the Reich as they did on the very day of our party congress and the fighters do not take off – because of fog, or because they are not ready, or because they are indisposed….”

He forbade any repetition of “fruitless wrangling” regarding the question of whether the Me-262 should be used as a fighter or as a bomber since his decision to give the plane to his vastly more experienced bomber pilots was already of long standing.

Goering said they were on the threshold of the battle that will win us the war [undoubtedly a reference to the Ardennes counteroffensive]. Then saying that commitments prevented him from leading the discussion, he was having the General of Bomber Pilots take his place. And as he was leaving he said he would like to break the news that the General of Fighter Pilots had been promoted to the rank of Generalleutnant. “My dead Galland, I share your delight.” Then he left.

The heads of the fighter, reconnaissance, and bomber commands reported in a few words on the situation in their respective departments. They were largely devoted to the weaknesses, the stoppages, the things that were no longer functioning. The night fighters were doing more than their sting, but they were short of aircraft and their organization was in a bad way. According to Steinhoff, the daytime fighter defenses against the mass attacks of the four-engine bombers was so hopeless a prospect as to be hardly worth taking about. “The ban on discussion of the Me-262,” according to Steinhoff, “made things even more futile.”

Next the General of Bomber Pilots talked about the notion of mass bombing England. “We knew, every one of us, that nothing could be done that would make any difference, nothing that might have diverted the ineluctable course of events.”Even if a tentative effort had been made to build a proper aircraft—a long-range four-engine strategic bomber—it would have been too late. As for the fighters capable of escorting a German bomber formation to the island and back, they simply did not exist. “The Jagdwaffe [the Luftwaffe Fighter Force] was not even capable of providing effective air defense over the Reich.” Still, according to Steinhoff, they talked of a bomber offensive against England, as if there was really a commander somewhere who had the air power to strike blows and who was just waiting for the order to let loose.

The fighter pilots, a tiny minority among the participants, followed the discussion in a mood of “baffled amazement.” Then they were told that there would be a fresh discussion on political commitment, faith in the Fuhrer and victory. A so-called National-Socialist Guidance Officerattached to bomber command gave a political pep talk. During the discussion Galland sent Steinhoff a note that read “Under pressure from the Fuhrer the Reichsmarschall has given permission for the first jet-fighter group to be set up. Do you want to command it?” Steinhoff sent the note back with two words “Many thanks!”

Steinhoff rushed back to his Fighter Group to hand over the unit to his successor. The ground and operations staff of the new group, Fighter Group 7, were already in Brandenburg, waiting for him. The ground staff were from a bomber group that had been disbanded; the pilots came from flying schools or from other fighter or bomber units. The three wings of Fighter Group 7 were based at Brandenburg, Parchim, and Kaltenkirchen, just north of Hamburg. The group subsequently came to include the experimental fighter unit that had been commanded by the late Nowotny – the man, Steinhoff believed, who had done so much to prove that the Me-262 was a first-class fighter aircraft.

The first machines began to arrive. They came in sections on long railway trucks from the south of the Reich. The mechanics, assisted by a team from the Messerschmitt works, started assembling them. The wing commanders who took the young pilots in hand and trained them were all successful fighter pilots with front experience but even they did not really have enough experienceagainst four-engine bombers. Only Nowotny’s old experimental unit—now the third wing of the group—had been in numerous aerial engagements to work out combat tactics for jet fighters.By the end of November they were in the air, training in flights of three and in small formations. It took six weeks before Steinhoff felt that a unit was taking shape; that is, before they were able to start proper formation training, and he could report that, within limits, they were ready for action.

Colonel Günther Lützow, at that time commander of the 4th Air Division, came to see how they were getting on. He was, according to Steinhoff, impressed by the technical breakthrough represented by the 7 Fighter Group having gotten the Me-262 ready for combat duty, and said they were on the threshold of a new era in the battle against the four-engine bombers. Lützow said that Galland had not seen Goering for weeks. His attempts to have the Jagdwaffe made the sole focus of their air-armament effort had evoked no reaction. The intrigues about his person appeared finally to have undermined Goering’s and Hitler’s confidence in his continued fitness for the post of General of Fighter Pilots, and it looked as if his dismissal was only a matter of time.

Towards the end of November Steinhoff received a message asking him to meet Galland the next day in Parchim, where one of the wings of 7 Fighter Group was organizing. When they met, Galland, after listening to Steinhoff’s report on the unit, abruptly vented his ill humor by accusing Steinhoff of not getting the unit on its feet fast enough and not acting rigorously enough, and told Steinhoff to get his group flight fitted out first and show what the aircraft could do in action. Steinhoff said he would. Galland calmed down and said, forget it. Then he complained about Goering. And before leaving he told Steinhoff to be careful of criticizing his superiors, because he was on the black list and that if it was any consolation, Galland went on, that he was on the list was well.

Meanwhile, it was only at the beginning of November that Speer and Saur succeeded in persuading Hitler to allow the Me-262 to be produced and used as a fighter.During November, 101 Me-262s were built as fighters and during December the number increased to either 124 or 125. During those two months none were produced as bombers.

But of the Me-262s produced as fighter during the last quarter of 1944, the number that actually went into combat was small – probably only 40 actually saw combat. Even those that were flown were relatively ineffective because of poorly trained pilots. The others were non-operational for lack of proper maintenance and failure to provide an adequate pilot training program. Because the fuel quota for the Luftwaffe was cut back drastically, Steinhoff hardly had enough fuel even to allow the minimum number of flying hours needed to train halfway competent pilots. Many of the aircraft were lost through forced landings or damaged during landings, as some rolled off runways because of brake problems. Others were taken out of operation awaiting replacement engines.

The Allies were meanwhile still flying day and night in December. Galland’s Fighter Reserve had by now reached respectable proportions and he intended to decimate a major formation of four-engine bombers by a properly coordinated attack using prop fighters in conjunction with their jets. A difficulty facing him, however, was the Me-262’s limited range and flying time. On the other hand its climbing capacity meant that it could take off very late and, the bombers flying relatively slowly, could contact the enemy with great precision.

Steinhoff reckoned to fly their first big operation in early January, since the winter high that usually sets in around that time promised the ideal kind of weather for their plan. To enable Galland to make the best possible use of his fighter power while the bomber formation in the Reich’s air space, he decided to move Steinhoff group to the west of the country. The idea was that the jets should have first go at the enemy in order to scatter the fighter escort and shake up the bomber formation, thus making thing easier for the prop fighter groups of the Fighter Reserve, which would attack further east. With the object of finding two or three airfields suitable for jet fighters, Steinhoff drove west a few days before Christmas to have a look at fields around Soest, north of the Ruhr district, and on the Lower Rhine.

Just as Steinhoff finished his tour, around Christmas, he was informed that a new commander had been appointed in his place, and that further duties would be determined in due course. Steinhoff, knowing it probably would not do much good because Galland himself was on the way out, went to see Galland about his situation. After listening to Steinhoff said “You know yourself I can’t do anything for you. No one up there listens to me any more anyway.”  Galland ended the conversation by stating “’We lost this war long ago,’ he said somberly.”

In all, before the end of the war a grand total of 1,308 Me-262s were said to have been built, although thanks to Hitler’s order that this type should be used as a fighter-bomber, only a small percentage of them became operational owing to the delays caused by the execution of the necessary modifications.And Hitler’s insistence upon the use of the Me-262 as a bomber delayed its production and operational use as a fighter by six months, thereby depriving Germany’s air defense of a new and effective weapon.

The full-citation version of this post can be found here.

Archival Sources:

European Survey Published Reports and Supporting Records, 1937-1945 (Entry I-10 6, NAID 560340), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Interrogation Reports and Transcripts of Interrogations of German Industrial, Military, and Political Leaders, April-July 1945, “USSBS Interrogations,” (Entry I-10 31, NAID 561363), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Published Sources:

Bekker, Cajur. The Luftwaffe War Diaries (New York: Ballantine Books, 1973).

Galland, Adolf. The First and The Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1957).

Messerschmitt, Dr. Willi. “The ME-262: Development, Experience, Success, and Prospects,” in David C. Isby, ed., Fighting The Bombers: The Luftwaffe’s Struggle Against the Allied Bomber Offensive (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2003).

 

 



It might surprise some to learn that government bureaucrats have a sense of humor and that it occasionally appears among the records preserved in the National Archives.  One such instance was recently located in the files of the World War II-era Office of War Information (OWI).  That agency was responsible for formulating and implementing information programs to promote, in the United States and abroad, understanding of the status and progress of the war effort and of war policies, activities, and aims of the U.S. government.

In December 1942, even as the U.S. and its allies made slight progress towards victory in World War II, one official in OWI’s News Bureau prepared a report with the subject “SANTA CLAUS.”  The memorandum dealt with rumors “concerning the alleged appearance of a man in whiskers who . . . come down many chimneys bringing gifts to hundreds of American homes” and provided an analysis of the known “facts.”  Those facts touch on wartime shortages, the Allied alliance, and morale, among other things.  Only reading the original can do justice to the imagination of the writer.

santa.claus.rg.208.1 santa.claus.rg.208.2

Source: Memorandum, December 24, 1942, file Santa Claus, Correspondence of the Chief, News Bureau, Entry NC-148-175, (NAID 895707), RG 208: Records of the Office of War Information, National Archives.  (This document was brought to my attention by my colleague Andreea Vlaicu, who suggested that I prepare this blog post.)

 

The staff of the Textual Records Division sends best wishes for all the Holidays and a Happy New Year!

 

 



Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher, Senior Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

As early as 1937, the German Messerschmitt Company developed the jet plane, the Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow).  It was flown experimentally in 1941 with a piston engine and then successfully in 1942 with jet engines, but was rejected by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) authorities — perhaps out of the belief that the plane was too complex for practical use and that it would require extensive retraining of pilots.  Additionally, the jet engines of the first experimental Me-262 had a lifetime of only about 4 or 5 hours.  It must be also remembered that in 1942, and even later, the Luftwaffe emphasis in aircraft production was on bombers, with less attention given to fighter development.

A prototype of the Me-262 was flown by Adolf Galland, General of Fighter Pilots, in May 1943 and he expressed himself as highly satisfied with its performance. Erhard Milch, who was then Air Inspector General, agreed to putting the aircraft into large-scale production as a fighter plane. This required additional materials and manpower.  Neither the materials nor the manpower, however, were received in sufficient quantities to be able to mass produce the Me-262 until 1944.

With the beginning of intensive Allied bombing late in 1943 and early 1944, the necessity of developing a fast fighter plane became urgent. The Me-262 was exceedingly fast, with greatest efficiency achieved at maximum speed, and did not need high octane gasoline as fuel, a factor which was very welcome at a time of a growing gasoline shortage. For Galland and other Luftwaffe commanders, the Me-262 seemed just the right aircraft to take on Allied bomber formations without having to worry about their fighter escorts.

Production of the Me-262 began in March 1944, and during April either 13 or 16 were manufactured and delivered to the Luftwaffe. The Me-262 that the Luftwaffe accepted was a single-seat, low-wing monoplane, with sharply swept back wings, a single tail, and powered by two Jumbo turbo-jet units.  It had maximum speeds of 515 mph at 1,640 feet; 530 mph at 10,000 feet; 540 mph at 20,000 feet; and, 550 mph at 30,000 feet. It was about 100 mph faster than the American P-51. It had an endurance of 50-90 minutes depending on speed and altitude.  It had four 30mm cannon fitted in the nose and had a maximum bomb load capacity of 2,200 pounds.  The heavy armament was deadly to bomber formations and the speed made evasion of escorting fighters fairly easy.

In April 1944 at an armament conference, Galland stated that with respect to fighters, the Americans had gained air superiority, and that development was almost to the point of air supremacy. He said something had to be done.  Daylight fighting in the last four months, he said, the Germans had loss more than 1,000 flying personnel.  Among them were many of the best flight captains, squadron leaders, and wing commanders. He said they were having problems, not with numbers, but with experienced pilots.  The first thing to be changed, according to Galland, was that the aircraft industry must guarantee delivery of enough aircraft to build up the fighter arm. Second, they must have technically superior planes, such as the Me-262 or the Me-163 (a rocket-powered fighter aircraft); with them they could achieve a great deal. He stated “We need quality of performance, if only to restore in our own force the sense of superiority, even if our numbers are smaller.”  “At the moment,” he added, “I would rather have one Me-262 than five Me-109’s.”

However, Adolf Hitler, at this point, was still obsessed with the production of bombers over fighters.  Reichsmarshal Hermann Goering knew this very well.  At an April meeting Milch, Galland and Karl-Otto Saur, the head of the newly-formed Jägerstab (whose principal task was the expediting of fighter production and of restoring output of damaged factories), presented Goering a plan calling for an increase in the production of fighters of all types to a total of over 5,000 aircraft per month, a figure which was to be attained by a reduction in the output of bombers and other types.  When Saur finished laying out the plan, Goering replied immediately with many and definite objections.  The radical curtailment of the bomber program, especially that of the He-177 and the Ju-88 and their further development, was regarded by him as impossible and he rejected it abruptly.  On the contrary he demanded an increase and a guarantee of a minimum production of 400 He-177 (with an eventual production of 500-600 per month) and 500 Junkers bombers (Ju 88’s and Ju 188’s) per month.  Additionally Goering wanted the manufacture of the Ju 287 and the Ar 234.  At this meeting Goering may or may not have told them that Hitler wanted the Me-262 used as a bomber.  In any event, “The heavy bomber remains the kernel of the armament in the air,” was his final decision. Reich Minister for Armaments and War Production Albert Speer’s aircraft program was changed according to Goering’s directives.  Speer, however, cautioned Galland not to take the decisions as final, and promised to do everything in his power to increase the fighter production.

Hitler, in late April or early May, during a discussion about the emergency aircraft program, asked how many Me-262s were able to carry bombs. Milch answered “None, my Fuhrer; the Me-262 is being built exclusively as a fighter aircraft.”  Hitler foamed with rage. According to Galland officers who were close to Hitler told him later that they had rarely witnessed such a fit of temper.  Hitler raged against Milch, Goering, and the Luftwaffe at length, accusing them of unreliability, disobedience, and unfaithfulness.  Hitler ordered Goering to have the Me-262 be made as a bomber.

A few hours after the discussion, Milch, Karl-Heinrich Bodenschatz (liaison between Goering and Hitler), Wilhelm Messerschmitt (the commander of the testing stations), and Galland were called to Goering.  He communicated to them Hitler’s orders regarding the readjustment and rearming of the whole series of Me-262 as bombers.  To avoid all misunderstanding, Goering said, no one in the future was allowed to refer to the Me-262 as a fighter or even as a fighter-bomber, but only as the “Blitz bomber.” Messerschmitt and Galland tried desperately to argue against the decision, maintaining that the German fighter pilots had a right to demand this superior fighter aircraft for themselves. Galland had the impression that at the bottom of his heart Goering himself was convinced of the correctness of their argument. Goering concluded “So that we may understand each other clearly, I must repeat that a debate or a discussion of the fundamental question cannot be thought of anymore.”

With Hitler’s mandate, during May, while Germany was being increasingly attacked from the air, the Luftwaffe tried to make a bomber out of the Me-262.  Numerous changes had to be made on the aircraft, such as adding auxiliary tanks to increase its range for bombing missions. Pilots had to be trained, tactical methods had to be found, and, bombing had to be practiced. The Germans had to also deal with the fact that for regular dive-bombing the Me-262 was too fast to safely be held on target and be able to make dives upon targets effectively at low altitudes. To address this problem, Hitler expressly forbade shallow angle dives — or indeed any speed exceeding 470 mph.

Meanwhile, in mid-April, a training unit for the first Me-262s produced as fighters was established at Lechfeld just south of Augsburg.  It was commanded by Captain Werner Thierfelder.  There, fighter pilots were trained to be able to handle the Me-262 in combat assignments.  At some point in the late spring the test unit flew one or more missions to help protect the chemical plant at Leuna.

During May Hitler believed that Luftwaffe bombers, including the Me-262 fighter-bomber, could throw back the inevitable Allied invasion and directly support German ground forces should the Allies get a foothold on the Continent. At some point in the early summer Luftwaffe General Karl Koller explained to Hitler that the Me-262 was too fast to be used effectively for bombing.  Koller pointed out that if it were used against Allied advancing columns in France, most of the bombs would fall at some distance from the roads and would be wasted.  Hitler’s reply was “’there are so many Allied vehicles on the roads that if you drop a bomb it is sure to hit something.’”

The Allied invasion came on June 6, and the Me-262 as a “Blitz Bomber” was still not ready for action.  And the few Luftwaffe aircraft available to meet the Allied onslaught were quickly destroyed, so by June 21 the Luftwaffe had been swept off the sky in the West.

While the Allied forces moved inland during June and July, Allied air power pounded targets in France, the Low Countries, and in Germany.  Hitler still insisted that the Me-262 be constructed and used as a bomber, thus depriving the Luftwaffe of a significant resource to fight the Allied bombers.  During June, 28 Me- 262s were produced as bombers and during July 59 Me-262s were produced as bombers; none during those two months produced as fighters. Also hampering the Luftwaffe Fighter Command was the continued insistence by Hitler and Goering during the early summer to maintain bomber output.

Late in July Johannes Steinhoff came from Italy, where he served as commander of the 77 fighter wing, to Wolfsschanze to receive the Swords pendant to the Knight’s Cross Oak Leaf Cluster.  There were two other officers also present to receive their decorations.  Hitler said he wanted to know from them how things really were. He asked if the Messerschmitts and Folke-Wulfs were inferior to the American planes.  One of the Lieutenants answered affirmatively, stating they were between fifty and seventy kilometers an hour faster. They could fly higher and they were more maneuverable.  Hitler said he thought the German planes had methanol-injection engines making them extremely powerful. The Lieutenant said even so, the Americans were faster. Steinhoff jumped in stating they need a new and better aircraft, adding he was thinking of the jet fighter. “He turned to face me, fixing those dead eyes on me. I had evidently broken a taboo because a flush came to his cheeks. The fingers of his left hand began to drum nervously on the table ‘When will people stop trying to go behind my back and use my tried and tested front-line commanders to put pressure on me….” Steinhoff quickly said that he had flown the Me-262 a few days previously and thought it was a magnificent aircraft. Steinhoff wrote:

His voice suddenly had a metallic, threatening edge to it: ‘I don’t wish to hear any more of this nonsense! I’ve had enough of it! Fate hands me this one chance of wreaking a terrible vengeance-and here are you people trying to deprive me of it with short-sighted squabbles between bomber and fighter pilots. My decision is made. This aircraft is a bomber, a Blitz bomber-my instrument of revenge! It is not a fighter and it never can be a fighter.’

Steinhoff wanted to put in another protest but Hitler cut him short. After talking about how the Me-262 was really not suitable as a fighter, Hitler launched into another lecture about how the German people showed greatness in adversity; he expected a historical turning-point laying just ahead, and expressed his confidence in victory in the end as long as the brave fighting men did their duty. He ended with “’The German people is capable when its back is to the wall, of incredible, magnificent achievements. I shall astonish the world by mobilizing the entire nation in a way the world has never seen before. I shall repay terror with terror.’”

Hitler, in the meantime, in early July at the insistence of the Luftwaffe and the aircraft industry, agreed to cut down bomber output in favor of the manufacture of fighters.  The Jägerstab issued an industrial program on July 15, which reduced bomber production to less than 200 per month (excluding Me- 262s still carried as bombers), deleted the He-177 bomber from production, and effected a decrease in the number of aircraft types.  This reduction of types permitted the industry to concentrate on mass production of fighter aircraft.

At some point, probably in July, Captain Thierfelder’s Me-262 fighter training unit received formal permission to commence operations.  It did so, attacking Allied planes intent on bombing the airfields at Lechfeld and Leipheim.  Claims were made that the Me-262s successfully dispersed bomber formations and Royal Air Force Mosquitoes.  During one of the first operational sorties Thierfelder was killed when his aircraft crashed in flames.

During August, 15 Me-262s were produced as bombers, while only five were produced as fighter planes.  And it was not until August that the first Me-262 fighter-bombers (the so-called “blitz-bomber”) were ready for action.During the summer crews of I/KG 51 (Luftwaffe bomber wing) were chosen to fly the Me-262 fighter-bomber operationally. In horizontal trials they failed to hit a thing; their bombs often landing a mile from the target.  Only after the airframe has been strengthened, and they could attack on a shallow dive, did results improve.

In August an operational team of Me-262 fighter-bombers was posted to Juvincourt, near Rheims, and assigned to participate in the battle. At the outset they had just nine aircraft.  Of these, two broke up leaving Germany owing to faulty servicing.  A third aircraft was lost in the course of the intermediate landing at Schwabisch-Hall.  The pilot of the fourth failed to find Juvincourt, had to force land, and was likewise lost to the strength.  Now five planes were left. By the end of October they had been reinforced by another twenty-five, though II/KG 51 joined them with the fighter-bomber version of the Me-262. When the aircraft did go into action, the chances of a success at that point were minimal because the Allied advance was quite spread out. During these actions a few bombs were dropped daily somewhere on enemy territory. Very rarely was one able to say what, if anything, they had hit, or with what result.

The full-citation version of this post can be found here.

Archival Sources:

European Survey Published Reports and Supporting Records, 1937-1945 (Entry I-10 6, NAID 560340), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Interrogation Reports and Transcripts of Interrogations of German Industrial, Military, and Political Leaders, April-July 1945, “USSBS Interrogations,” (Entry I-10 31, NAID 561363), RG 243: Records of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey.

Published Sources:

Bekker, Cajur. The Luftwaffe War Diaries (New York: Ballantine Books, 1973).

Galland, Adolf. The First and The Last: The Rise and Fall of the German Fighter Forces, 1938-1945, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1957).

Messerschmitt, Dr. Willi. “The ME-262: Development, Experience, Success, and Prospects,” in David C. Isby, ed., Fighting The Bombers: The Luftwaffe’s Struggle Against the Allied Bomber Offensive (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2003).

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