Me 262: Northwest Europe 1944–45 (Dogfight)
“a neat little introduction to Germany’s excellent, but ultimately ineffective jet fighter.”
In many ways, World War II was a transitional conflict, introducing many new weapons that would become ubiquitous in the later 20th century and change how conflicts were waged. One of these new weapons was jet-propelled aircraft, and one of the most famous of these aircraft was the German Me-262. This new volume, part of Osprey Publishing’s Dogfight series, tells the story about how this promising aircraft never quite met its expectations, yet helped change air warfare.
Written by aviation enthusiast Robert Forsyth, the book covers both the technical aspects of the aircraft, its somewhat tortuous introduction into combat, and the combat experiences of both the Luftwaffe flyers who attempted to stem the tide of the Allied aerial armadas and the Allied fighter pilots faced with a challenging new adversary, many of whom were personally interviewed by the author.
For its day, the Me-262 was truly a technical marvel, and the book has some excellent and rarely seen pictures showing a lot of technical detail of the jet engines, armament, and other details of the aircraft that will no doubt delight airplane and technology enthusiasts. Not only was it the first jet aircraft used in combat, it employed the first air-to-air missiles from a jet fighter, although they were unguided rockets with limited tactical success. However, like all new weapons, the aircraft had a lot of teething troubles, and Hitler’s misguided notion to try and turn the aircraft into a fighter-bomber wasted precious months that kept it from entering combat until 1944. Combined with the challenges of mass production of the aircraft, fuel shortages, and a lack of pilots and the aircraft did not become the potentially strategic game changer its proponents hoped.
In spite of these delays, when the Me-262 was introduced into combat, even in fairly small numbers, it was very successful, having a combination of speed and firepower that proved challenging even for the Allies’ best fighter, the P-51 Mustang. While the Luftwaffe pilots had to develop new tactics to maximize the aircraft’s speed advantage while overcoming the nearly impenetrable wall of allied fighters protecting the bomber streams over Germany daily, the Allies had to determine how to overcome the jet aircraft’s speed and heavy armament without any operational jet aircraft of their own. The author provides a few wonderfully illustrated case studies in how the Me-262 was actually employed against both strategic and tactical bombers and achieved aerial victories against both in spite of being significantly outnumbered.
The author provides a number of pilot perspectives from both the German and American veterans of these final air battles, and it is remarkable that the Luftwaffe, in spite of the overwhelming odds and the encroachment of Allied ground forces into Germany, overrunning many of the initial bases where the Me-262 was stationed, that they were able to get any of these aircraft into the air as late as April 1945.
The story doesn’t end with Germany’s surrender. Even before the surrender was made, both the Western Allies and Soviets scoured Germany seeking advanced weapons and technology, especially jet aircraft like the Me-262. Several of these aircraft were brought back to the United States for testing and evaluation against the early American jet fighters.
This little volume packs a big punch of aviation history. Very heavily illustrated and with an excellent blend of technical detail and personal history, it’s a neat little introduction to Germany’s excellent, but ultimately ineffective jet fighter.