Witha top speed of 540 mph, Germany's Messerschmitt Me 262 was by far the fastestfighter of World War II. It was powered by jet engines, a new technology thatwas not always reliable. Still, the streamlined Me 262 looked—andbehaved—unlike anything else in the skies over Europe, and Allied pilotsinitially feared it. Eventually, U.S. airmen discovered that in a dogfight,North American P-51s could often out-turn the heavier jet fighter.
Deployedlate in the war, more than 1,400 Me 262s were manufactured, but only some 300flew combat. After the war ended, Colonel Harold Watson of the U.S. Army AirForces (pictured standing beside an Me 262 in Melun, France) oversaw a programto bring captured German aircraft to the United States, where the advanced butflawed jet fighter could finally reveal its secrets.
OnJuly 19, 1942, a prototype, Me 262V3, made its first flight under jet power.(Before this, the aircraft was test flown with a piston engine.)
Aline of Me 262s bagged in Lechfeld, Germany, awaits shipment to the U.S.
Leftto right: General Carl Spaatz, Watson, and Brigadier General George McDonaldinspect a Junkers Jumo 004 jet engine, two of which powered the Me 262.
从左至右：Carl Spaatz上将， Watson上校，George McDonald准将正在检查一台容克 Jumo004型喷气式引擎，这种发动机位于ME262两侧提供动力。
Thesingle-seat cockpit of the Me 262 had a busy instrument panel.
TheMe 262 bore design elements still seen today, including a swept wing andunderslung engine nacelles.
TheAmerican airmen who got their hands on Me 262s would thoroughly plumb theaircraft’s turbine engines. To the dismay of Luftwaffe pilots, the jet enginesoften flamed out during combat missions.
TheNaval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, got its share of Me 262s,including this specimen (note the U.S. insignia on the fuselage).
Afterthis Me 262 was recovered by Colonel Watson’s team, it was nicknamed “Ginny H”and test flown by U.S. pilots. The aircraft is now on display at the NationalAir and Space Museum (in the Jet Aviation gallery).
TheNational Air and Space Museum completed a restoration of its Me 262 in 1979.The project required 6,077 man-hours, and the most daunting problem wasremoving corrosion.