My Favourite WW2 Fighter is… What’s yours?

The fighter, fast and powerful, has always dominated the skies as the “glamorous” aircraft in aviation history. For me the most interesting period of aviation history was World War Two. This war saw the introduction of high-speed all metal monoplanes and eventually jet fighters. All the major nations in the conflict introduced an amazing array of combat aircraft but many of the fighters still remain some of the most recognizable aircraft in aviation history. The men who flew them became heroes to their respective nations and sadly while many of their names may have been relegated to the history books, the names of the aircraft and manufacturers like the SpitfireMustang, Hellcat, Corsair, Messerschmitt, Focke-Wulf, Zero etc. always spring to mind.

So what is my favourite fighter from World War Two? For me it is the Messerschmitt Me-262 Schwalbe (Swallow) from Germany.

Messerschmitt Me-262A Schwalbe
Messerschmitt Me-262A Schwalbe (Photo taken at RAF Museum, Hendon UK 2012)

The Me-262 was the first operational jet fighter (1944) and with its high-speed of 869 kmh / 540 mph (160 kmh / 100 mph faster than the P-51 Mustang) and a heavy punch of 4 x 30 mm cannons and up to 24 x 55mm underwing rockets it sent shock waves through Allied ranks! To see these fast jets screaming through bomber formations must have been terrifying for the Allied aircrews. Their mission was to strike hard and get away fast!

Me-262 vs the USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress
Me-262 vs the USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress

Although not the best fighter of that era, to me the shape and form of the Me-262 (like a shark), the innovative design and the impact of the fighter on history has always captured my imagination. Plus to add to the mystique of the Me-262, it was flown in combat by many of the top Luftwaffe air aces. General Adolf Galland (104 air to air victories with 7 in the Me-262) described flying the Me-262 “as if angels were pushing”.

Me-262 at the Deutsches Techniks Museum in Munich, Germany 2010
Me-262 at the Deutsches Techniks Museum in Munich, Germany 2010

The very elite Jagdverband 44 (JV-44) squadron made up mostly of air aces led by Galland flew the Me-262 in the latter stages of the war. Galland selected experienced pilots whom he knew would be able to quickly convert from piston engine aircraft to a jet and make an immediate impact – men such as Gerhard Barkhorn (301 victories), Heinz Bär (220 victories) and Johannes Steinhoff (176 victories). The top 5 aces in this squadron had over 1000 aerial combat victories between them (through the duration of the war) making it the most experienced combat squadron ever formed! This was like the old Flying Circus days of World War One (“Der Galland-Zirkus” – The Galland Circus)! Eric “Bubi” Hartmann the top air ace of all time (352 victories) was brought back to Germany from the Eastern Front to conduct some trial flights in the Me-262 with the plan for him to join JV-44 but after a few flights he opted to go back to the front and fight it out with his comrades in JG-52 (52nd Fighter Wing – the most successful of all Luftwaffe squadrons with over 9,000 air to air victories in World War Two). Hartmann didn’t want to leave them in the lurch and given he had some clout being a national hero, his wish was granted. Unfortunately for Hartmann he would end the war as a POW and spend the next 10 years in a Soviet prison. He was not released to Germany until 1955 (he rejoined the post war Luftwaffe)!

Gallands Aces
No other fighter like it

Despite all of that experience in JV-44 their impact was minimal though due to the squadron not becoming fully operational until just before the end of war in 1945 (they shot down approximately 50 enemy aircraft – in credit to the pilots this is said to have been a 4:1 victory ratio). Fuel shortages and airfields being shot up all the time did not help either (the jet was an easy target during landing). Despite this the Me-262 helped shaped the future of combat aviation and started the dawn of the jet age.

I am interested to hear from you about what your favourite fighter from World War Two is? I am sure this will provide some interesting discussion!

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6 thoughts on “My Favourite WW2 Fighter is… What’s yours?

  1. I have so many favorites, it’s often hard to narrow it down. The 262, Mustang, Spitfire, Zero are all beautiful machines.

    But the type that most excites me, largely on the merits of what it accomplished, is the F4F Wildcat. Names like Butch O’Hare, John Thach, Joe Foss; did great deeds against long odds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s hard to choose just one, but the Hawker Hurricane is certainly high on my list of favorites.

    It acquitted itself quite well throughout the conflict in spite of the fact it contained largely pre-war design features such as fabric on frame fuselage sections and the heavily framed cockpit canopy.

    As things went, the Hurricane was very adaptable and one of the best single engine all-rounders the RAF had.

    Like

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