Messerschmitt Me 262 Historical Overview - Page 3

Pilots of JV44 walk from their planes
JV 44 "The Squadron of Experts" was established on February 5th, 1945. Probably one of the more famous of the Me 262 units, JV 44 was commanded by the legendary Generalleutnant Adolf Galland. Hitler himself had given the orders that Galland was to set up a small staffel strength unit to demonstrate the superiority of the Me 262 as a fighter. Galland had been a long time supporter of the Me 262 since he first flew a prototype in 1943.

At the time, Galland and many other top fighter pilots were in direct conflict with the upper level commanders of the Luftwaffe. Most of their anger was directed towards the incompetence of Reichsmarschall Göring. Göring had begun to view the Jagdwaffe as the source of all his problems and relieved Galland of his duties as General der Jagdflieger. This in turn brought a minor revolt from high-ranking Kommodoren who confronted Göring with a list of grievances which included a demand for Galland's reinstatement. It was at this point that Hitler stepped in and in a face-saving move allowed Galland to form JV 44.

Me 262 in flightJV 44 did not become fully operational until very late in the war. Much of March was spent training and working up the new unit. A single kill, a Il-2 Sturmovik was scored by Steinhoff during this period. The unit then relocated to Munich-Riem to better protect the jet production plants in southern Germany. More pilots were recruited by Galland. Many were fellow "co-conspirators". New aircraft were available from nearby Messerschmitt factories. JV 44 went on to achieve a final tally of 56 kills before the war ended.

Heinz Bär took command of the unit after Galland had become injured in combat on April 26th in which he brought down two B-26 bombers. Three days later the remnants of JV 44 made a hurried move to Salzburg-Maxglan to avoid the rapidly approaching US Seventh Army. Only one sortie was flown from Salzburg. Heinz Bär was able to capture a P-47 in the sights of his specially armed six-cannon Me 262 over Bad Aibling on April 29th. Within a week the Seventh Army again caught up with them and JV 44's remaining two-dozen Me 262s were destroyed before the advancing enemy troops could take possession of them.

Me 262 inext to autobahnIn the final analysis, the Me 262 was a remarkable achievement. The design and performance of the aircraft were advanced for the time. Design features first seen on the Me 262 would later be incorporated in many aircraft. But the Me 262 was far from perfect. As the operational record shows, it was not quite a fully developed weapon of war. It suffered from a number of teething problems the most critical of which were it's engines. It was also deployed in a very harsh environment where constant enemy attacks and disruption of critical supplies were the norm.

If the Luftwaffe had been able to field 300 Me 262 on a given day to attack the heavy bomber formations it is possible that daylight bombing would have stopped for a time. However, as General Galland remarked "As a negative consequence, the war would most probably have been prolonged, and the Russians allowed more time to conquer further German territory. So let us now be satisfied with Hitler's mistakes towards the legendary Me 262."

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