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German Jets versus the U.S. Army Air Force

William N. Hess

Without a doubt, the Messerschmitt 262 was the most revolutionary and extraordinary fighter plane to appear in World War II. It continues to be a controversial aircraft in that there are those who believe it could have changed the complexion of the war over Europe and it appeared in significant numbers earlier and had it been made available strictly as a fighter plane.

The legendary edict issued by Adolph Hitler that the Messerscmitt enter the conflict as a bomber is still open to argument, in that its production as a fighter was not as restricted as it has been usually pictured. The main delays in putting the Me 262 into action were in supplying the new turbojet engines for the waiting airframes and then keeping the aircraft operating once they were in combat units. Other delays were due to Allied bombing of plants that built the aircraft and the engines, fuel shortages, political interference and the inexperience of many of the young pilots who were checked out in the new fighter.

However, when the Me 262 finally flew into action with veteran pilots at its controls, the aircraft struck fear into the hearts of the men in the Allied bombers. The Allied fighter pilots were intensely aware of the fighter’s superiority: the jet could outdistance them with ease and burst of fire striking their aircraft spelt certain destruction. Yet, they accepted the challenge, for they had their ability and superiority in numbers, and they had discovered a key vulnerability of the Me 262 in dog fighting…

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