I’ve just returned from one of the batteries – having been there most of the afternoon. I was busy all morning and couldn’t find a moment to write. Among other things we’re having a whole mess of visiting firemen and they’ve been in and out looking our place over all day. It reminds me of the good old days in the States and in England when we had inspection after inspection. They don’t mean quite so much, now, though, as far as I can figure it out.
We’ve had no mail now for a few days running although packages have been coming in. Hope you’re hearing more regularly from me, darling. At any rate – spotty or not, I love you always, dear, and remember that on the days you don’t hear. That’s what I do. Must go now, sweetheart; excuse the brevity, but I can’t help it. Love to all and
By the end of April, 1944, the backbone of the German Jagdwaffe (fighter force) had been broken, with many of its leading aces killed in combat. Replacements were slow to arrive, leaving the Luftwaffe unable to put up much of a fight through the summer of 1944. With few planes coming up to fight, the U.S. fighters were let loose on the German airbases, railways and truck traffic. Logistics soon became a serious problem for the Luftwaffe, maintaining aircraft in fighting condition almost impossible, and having enough fuel for a complete mission profile was even more difficult.
The Volksjäger was designed in an all-out effort to prevent the defeat of Germany near the end of World War II. Heinkel designed the small jet plane, with a sleek, streamlined fuselage. The BMW 003 axial-flow turbojet was mounted atop the fuselage directly aft of the cockpit. Twin vertical tailfins were mounted at the ends of highly dihedralled horizontal tailplanes to clear the jet exhaust. It had a high-mounted straight wing with a forward-swept trailing edge and shallow dihedral, an ejection seat for the pilot, and tricycle landing gear that retracted into the fuselage. It was the world's first operational single jet engine, interceptor fighter and the fastest of the first generation of Axis and Allied jets.
"Volksjäger" was the Reich Air Ministry's official name for the government design competition that the He 162 design had won. Other names given to the plane include Salamander, which was the codename of its construction program, and Spatz ("Sparrow"), which was the name given to the plane by Heinkel. The prototype flew within an astoundingly short period of time: the design was chosen on 25 September and first one flew on 6 December 1944, less than 90 days later. This was despite the fact that the factory in Wuppertal making Tego film plywood glue — used in a substantial number of late-war German aviation designs whose airframes were meant to be constructed mostly from wood — had been bombed by the Royal Air Force and a replacement had to be quickly substituted.
|Rear side view of an He 162|
Though it was a technical marvel for its time, the aircraft was designed to be among the less expensive and could be built by semi-skilled labor from non-strategic materials like wood. The first flight of the He 162, by Flugkapitän Gotthard Peter, was fairly successful, but during a high-speed run at 840 km/hr (520 mph), the highly acidic replacement glue attaching the nose gear failed and the pilot was forced to land. Other problems were noted as well, notably a pitch instability and problems with slideslip due to the rudder design. Neither was considered important enough to hold up the production schedule for even a day. On a second flight on 10 December, again with Peter at the controls, in front of various Nazi officials, the glue again caused a structural failure. This allowed the aileron to separate from the wing, causing the plane to roll over and crash, killing Peter.
|He 162 coming in for a landing|
Once the prototype's structural and aerodynamical problems were fixed, the first operational He 162s were delivered to the Luftwaffe in 1945. When the production stopped, approximately 250 units had been built and 800 were at different stages on the assembly lines. The full capacity rate of production had been planned to be of 4,000 units per month.
|He 162's were produced underground at|
Salzburg, the Hinterbrühl and the Mittlewerk.
While the records are not 100% authoritative, it appears that three individual Luftwaffe pilots did score "credible" kills while flying the He 162 A-1 in combat against the RAF and the USAAF. The first "kill" of is credited to Oberst (CPT) Herbert Ihlefeld's wingman, Sill, near Kirchheim-Treck in early February of 1945. On 21 April 1945, a number of He 162's conducted operational missions against Allied ground forces in northern Germany, operating out of Leck near the Danish-German border. On 26 April 1945, Unteroffizier Rechenbach witnessed to have downed an Allied aircraft flying his He 162. On 04 May 1945, Leutnant Rudolf Schmitt allegedly shot down an RAF Typhoon near Rostock. (Of important note is that official British RAF records do not substantiate this claim.) After the war, the remaining units were taken to the countries of the winning forces and used for jet engine aircraft pilot training. There are eight survivors today, in museums around the world.