Sunday 2 September 2018

"Me 109 - Produktion und Einsatz", "Regensburg - Die Katastrophe vom 17.August 1943" (MZ Verlag) - Peter Schmoll

If you are spending £15 on the new MMP Bf 109 Gustav (150 pages, A-4 softback) then the recent 310-page German-language A-4 hardback from Peter Schmoll 'Me 109 - Produktion und Einsatz' is well worth considering  (especially as it is available at virtually the same price via amazon re-sellers).
Taking my cue from MMP I've filmed a quick 40 second video presentation - a single click to view here.

The legendary 109 was the 'standard fighter' of the German Air Force during the early years of WWII. According to the author the type " ensured air supremacy on all fronts with its superior flight performance".  The first half of Schmoll's book provides a detailed variant overview with rather more extensive handbook reproductions than those published in the MMP volume. As the war continued, demands on the both aircraft and production increased steadily. In order to compensate for losses, the RLM decided to concentrate series production of the Me 109 at three main plants - Erla-Maschinenwerke in Leipzig, Wiener Neustädter Flugzeugwerke and Messerschmitt GmbH Regensburg. By July 1943 twenty five Me 109s were coming off the Messerschmitt Regensburg production lines daily - up from just one aircraft per day just two years earlier. Regensburg was the most efficient and productive aircraft production centre in Germany..(below; view of the Endmontagehalle  - final assembly hall  - Messerschmitt Regensburg)

 The history of Me 109 'production' and 'operations' is illustrated through a selection of rare and previously unpublished reports from the factories and the field entitled 'Streng Geheim' - among the themes covered are; the Me 109 as night fighter with JG 300, the development of power boost systems ('Sondernotleistung mit MW 50 und GM-1'), production of the wooden tail assembly and associated problems ('Die Me 109 bekommt ein Holzleitwerk und die damit verbundenen Probleme') , development of the Erla Haube canopy, deployment of the twin-seat G- 12 as recce machine ('Einsatz des Doppelsitzers Me 109 G-12 als Aufklärer bei der Nahaufklärungsgruppe 3'), shortcomings in the G-10 variant ('Technische Mängel an der Me 109 G-10'), technical problems encountered with the DB 605 D in the K-4 in service with JG 3  ('Technische Probleme am DB 605 D der Me 109 K-4 beim JG 3 Udet ') etc etc

The biggest cuts in production resulted from the devastating air raids by the USAAF on the three main production centres during 1943/44. Regensburg's role in the production of the Me 109 had been no secret to the Allies - for example a large number of 109s had been captured in North Africa - somewhat 'unbelievably' all these machines carried data plates with production/manufacturer details  -  " unglaublich es klingt, auf den Typenschildern war das Herstellerwerk abzulesen. So rückte Messerschmitt-Regensburg bei der USAAF in der Zielliste immer weiter nach oben, bis es schließlich mit an der Spitze stand.." The USAAF raid of 17 August 1943 on Regensburg resulted in a production standstill that lasted some four weeks although the factory still managed 241 machines for the month.

Below; three brand-new G-6/trop leaving the Endmontagehalle at Regensburg-Prüfening during June 1943, a scene that was repeated every three hours..according to Schmoll the USAF raid on Regensburg of 17 August 1943 (75th anniversary last month) resulted in a loss of production of just 450 Me 109s..

To make up production shortfalls foreign and forced labour, prisoners of war and women were deployed in production during the course of the war. Production quality was necessarily affected. Factory engineers report on sabotage and the problems associated with it. Schmoll also looks at production by concentration camp prisoners and details how production of the Me 109 was 'farmed out' to the concentration camp Flossenbürg - the SS hiring out its 'labour force' for large fees. More than 3000 concentration camp prisoners worked there in armaments production. ('Der Einsatz von Kriegsgefangenen, Zwangsarbeitern und KZ-Insassen in der Flugzeugproduktion')

In the second 'Einsatz' half of the book - "Operation of the Me 109" - former Me 109 pilots have their say. They belonged to a young elite at that time and suffered enormous and bloody losses. Given the material superiority of the Allies on all fronts, every mission was a potential rendezvous with death. Their fascinating accounts of success, injuries, deprivation and death " will get under the skin of every reader and testify to the senselessness of wars to this day " according to the publisher's blurb..headings in this section include Einflieger (factory test pilot) Karl Elsner's recollections 'Vom Fronteinsatz zum Einflugbetrieb bei den Erla-Werken und den WNF', Eberhard Burath's account of flying with JG 51 on the Eastern Front and the 'end' in East Prussia (' Einsatz beim Jagdgeschwader 51 „Mölders“ an der Ostfront 1944 und dem bitteren Ende 1945 in Ostpreußen') etc etc.

The final section of the book looks at how restored Me 109s are operated today at the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt in Manching with a long account by Walter Eichhorn describing a typical flight  -

" once the wheels are off the ground then and only then is the experience a pleasure...(...)..unlike other airshow pilots there is no chance of waving to the crowd on flying a landing approach - I'd need three hands in the cockpit ! "

The 300+ pages are illustrated with 250 rare and partly unpublished reports, photos and documents and provide the reader with " an intensive impression of what was happening at that time ". Luftwaffe blog verdict - Peter Schmoll's book is a much more interesting and satisfying work than the other recent Me 109 title considered here.

Below; Jet and Prop review published January 2018

Peter Schmoll talks about his latest work compiled for the 75th anniversary of the Regensburg-Schweinfurt raid . "Regensburg - die Katastrophe vom 17 August 1943" - a single click to view