Me 262: Volume 2
J. Richard Smith & Eddie J. Creek

Technical drawings by Arthur L. Bentley, additional line drawings by Eddie J. Creek and Günther Sengfelder. Colour artwork by Tom Tullis and Eddie J. Creek. (The illustrations are well worth crediting; they are truly excellent.)

This is the second volume in series of four, where Smith & Creek describe the history of the Messerschmitt Me 262 "Schwalbe" (swallow). Vol. 1 describes the original concept and development (a process that began well before the war), vol. 2 the participation in the war (roughly), vol. 3 concentrates on the night fighter variants and the operations in January-March 1945, and vol. 4 details the last surreal weeks of the war. This is a review of vol. 2, which is of course only a part of the whole work; this is emphasized by the numbering of chapters, appendices, and even pages.

The book opens with the August 1943 bombing of the Regensburg plant, which struck an early blow at the production of Me 262. It then describes the first planes that were brought to operational units, the reactions of the pilots, the many different versions that were developed, their armament, problems and how they were dealt with, and so on. The final chapters briefly describes the last days of the war (which are more thoroughly described in vol. 3), the last factories (in particular the incredible "Bunkerwerke" facilities, which in effect were bunkers designed to house entire factories) and the advancement of the allied forces.

But the main problem that the Me 262 faced had nothing to do with the advanced technology, the lack of essential raw materials like chrome, the allied bombings of the construction plants or the pilots figuring out how to use the first operational jet for best effect. The main problem was Hitler. Somehow, he had got the idea that the Me 262, one of the greatest fighters at the time, would be best used as a bomber. Which, of course, it wasn't. It could only carry a small load, could only spend so much time in the air (the 262 had small fuel tanks and thirsty engines; several planes were lost due to fuel shortages) and in addition, a minimum altitude of 4000 feet was imposed on all German planes. These problems, and more, are well detailed. As for hypothetical what-if-discussions, which could of course easily fill volumes, only a couple of the more interesting ones are put forth, e.g. the fact that the plane could not have been brought into service much earlier than was the case since the engines were yet not fit for mass production.

The text follows the groups and pilots who got to use the Me 262, in combat as well as in development. The latter is particularly interesting, since the engineers kept fiddling with most aspects of the planes until the very last days of the war. We also get some (with necessity not very verbose) descriptions of the various armaments and engines the 262 was flown with.

Though obviously focused on the German side, it does mention Frank Whittle's work on a British jet, and of course the reactions of the Allied pilots who got to face the Me 262.

The part where the book really shines is the illustrations. The colour artwork and period photographs are all outstanding, and taken from numerous sources; period documentaries and manuals ("how to change flares"), reconaissance and combat photography, allied documentation... Worth mentioning in particular are some period colour photographs, and a complete (untranslated) facsimile of a 14-page test report from 2 January 1945.

This book, as well as the entire series, is highly recommended to anyone with the slightest interest in the advanced aircrafts of the war. The colour artwork would be very useful for model painters.

(Reviewed by Peter O.)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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