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The Command Review at Melun, France


At Melun, the pilots all selected new names for their aircraft to replace those applied by the 54th ADS.  Administrative control numbers (000, 111, 222, etc.) were also assigned to each machine, and the group latched onto Anspach's half-joking idea that they call themselves "Watson's Whizzers." 

Lieutenant William V. Haynes joined the Whizzers at Melun, and went for a quick checkout ride with "Willie" Hofmann in another recently obtained trainer.  He was the last addition to the team, raising the total to nine men, including Watson.

In addition to checking various locations for other aircraft and parts, the men readied themselves for a command review with AAF General Carl Spaatz while at Melun.  This had been postponed several times, but eventually took place on the 27th of June.  The plan called for lining the aircraft up on the ramp with a pilot and crew chief posted at each.  This was to be followed by a brief aerial demonstration.

Spaatz and his delegation arrived at mid-morning and trooped the line, asking various questions of the men.  He was visibly impressed by what they had accomplished, and spent considerable time examining the airplanes.


Following the static review on the ramp, Strobell, Holt and Hillis moved their jets into position for the flight demonstration and took off.  Anspach and Brown were standing by, ready to launch their planes if needed.

The runway was damp from a light misting that had come and gone for most of the morning.  This made for an impressive display as the jet blast kicked up long rooster tails in their wake.  Hillis' jet experienced a problem while retracting the landing gear, but Strobell and Holt commenced a series of high speed, low-level passes over the runway. Strobell then initiated a series of rolls over the field.  

It was the first time that anyone on the team had occasion to put the machine's true capabilities to the test, and Strobell found the 262 refreshingly up to the task:

I guess it was just boyish enthusiasm ... we hadn't even attempted any sort of aerobatics with the airplane until then.

With the formalities finally behind them, the team entered the next and final phase of their mission overseas:  ferrying the jets to the port city of Cherbourg.

While at Melun, the team also continued to investigate reports of other flight-worthy examples in the area.  Roy Brown recalls one of these missions:

We had a P-47 assigned to our group, and I remember flying in it to Schleswig, Germany and then on to Grove, Denmark, checking on German planes.  The airfields at both places were under British control, and the British were very helpful.  At Schleswig we found a second two-seater trainer Me 262 and a night-fighter version.  At Grove there were two Arado Ar 234s which had come from Norway.  The four planes were flown to Melun to add to the collection.  Later, two more Ar 234s were flown from Norway by way of Grove.

The aircraft lined up on the ramp in Melun, France, just prior to the Spaatz visit.

A reconnaissance-modified Me 262 on the ramp at Melun.

General Spaatz examines the Jumo 004 jet engine with Colonel Watson and General MacDonald

The Spaatz party with Captain Dahlstrom during the command review at Melun.

A rare in-flight photo of the three ship demonstration at Melun.


In Cherbourg, arrangements had been made with the military port authorities to load the planes onto a ship for the trip home.  With the war still raging in the Pacific, the only suitable vessel available was the British escort carrier H.M.S. Reaper.   The Royal Navy agreed to support the project, and the pilots made plans for the final leg of their journey. 


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