T H E P L A N E S
In most cases, there is a very clear connection between the present and the past when it comes to surviving Me 262s. There are so few survivors that tracing the histories of these machines has become a realistic pursuit for many prominent authors and researchers.
Today, only eight original Me 262s exist in the entire world, and half of this remnant is in the United States. All four came from the original Whizzers consignment, and can be linked to the individual pilot(s) that flew them on this mission. By some strange coincidence, Strobell, Holt and Brown's planes have all survived, as has the trainer, "Willie" which was among those flown by Anspach. Four men ... and four of the machines they flew.
Over the years, many have sought to trace the operational or combat histories of these jets in Luftwaffe service. In reality, this has proven easier said than done, and progress has been painfully slow. While a breakthrough may well be just around the corner, only two surviving aircraft have presently-defendable pedigrees.
The National Air & Space Museum's Me 262A-1a/R1 has a decidedly impressive record in German service, having scored multiple victories over USAAF aircraft with Jagdgeschwader 7. The victory markings found on this aircraft after it was captured account for one P-51, one P-47 and five B-17s.
The Willow Grove Naval Air Station's ultra rare Me 262 B-1a is an extremely rare variant -- one of only 15 trainers produced during the war. Although nearly 100 two-seat Me 262s were built (with most pressed into service as night fighters), only a handful were actually equipped with dual controls for training use.
The remaining planes generally have not yet been linked to any specific operational history. It has generally been held that they were an untraceable amalgamation of various parts and components from several different aircraft. At first glance, documentary photographs tended to support this position, and the work of the 54th Air Disarmament Squadron has generally been viewed as a grand scale cannibalization effort. The modular construction of the Me 262 made it a simple matter to exchange nose sections and engines among other things, and the reasoned assumption has always been that this was carried out extensively at Lechfeld prior to the arrival of the Whizzers.
Not so? As alluded to above, new research (based upon the study of various paint schemes and unit markings) suggests that the majority of these jets may have actually been captured intact. As such, many of these jets may ultimately be shown to have wartime histories in Luftwaffe service.
Wherever possible, the original German work numbers found on each machine have been listed. These have not, however, been used as the primary means of identification in this section, as additional research and validation is still in progress.
Even prior to the Air Technical Intelligence operation, all of these aircraft began to take on multiple "personalities." For instance, werknummer 500491 became Yellow 7 (in service with JG 7), then Dennis (54th ADS), Ginny H and # 888 (both via Watson's Whizzers), and finally H.M.S. Reaper inventory control #29 ... all before the plane even reached American shores. It later was assigned a U.S. Army Air Force Foreign Equipment number of FE-111, thence T2-111. Who can keep up?
For this reason, we have has identified the surviving aircraft by their type and administrative control number, as assigned by Watson's Whizzers in 1945.
For more information of surviving Me 262s around the world, visit Die Schwalbe 2000, or, to learn more about the recently completed restoration of # 555, you can follow this link to the CFII Me 262 Project pages.
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