Luftwaffe Over Ohio!
By Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi
A Messerschmitt Me-262 on final approach to Freeman Field. The American "star and bar" on the wing would suggest this was a new arrival, as most of these aircraft had Luftwaffe markings re-applied after arriving at Freeman. [NASM]
In August, 1945, an ominous shadow chased an unfamiliar aircraft over the fields of Indiana as it headed straight for Freeman Field. The shadow was cast by a Messerschmitt Me-262, the pride of Hitler's Luftwaffe in last year of the war. It was only one aircraft of a fleet of German aircraft descending on Freeman Field.
Far from being an invasion force, it was part of the war booty the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) reaped from the remains of the Third Reich. In the summer of 1945, the Second World War was considered far from over. The atomic bomb was still a top-secret, untested weapon. The Allies feared Germany had shared its technology with Japan, and that this technology would be encountered in the Pacific. With the invasion of the Japanese mainland scheduled for 1946, the USAAF was wasting no time gathering the cream of German aircraft technology for examination. When the USAAF met this new technology over Germany it caused considerable disquiet in the Allied high command. The USAAF was determined to be ready to deal with this technology in the skies over Japan.
After the HMS Reaper offloaded its war booty at Newark, NJ, some of these aircraft were re-assembled prior to flying to Freeman Field in Indianna. Crudely applied roundels were applied at time of capture by British troops. This aircraft would later receive the "FE" inventory number of 121 at Freeman Field. [NASM]
The German aircraft descending on Freeman Field were joining an inventory of captured enemy aircraft under test by the USAAF. Throughout the war years, the USAAF had an active air technical intelligence program, headquartered at Wright Field, Ohio. This organization had several name changes, finally becoming Air Technical Service Command (ATSC) in August 1944. Headquartered at Wright Field, ATSC ran a large test program which included both Allied and enemy aircraft. The main test facility was at Wright Field in Ohio. Eglin Field in Florida served as a satellite facility.
Enemy aircraft evaluation by the ATSC included flight and structural integrity testing on enemy aircraft, and analysis of manufacturing techniques for airframes and power plants. From time to time, ATSC also provided whole enemy aircraft, or sometimes just parts, for War Bond Tours and propaganda displays, which toured under such names as "Shot from the Sky." ATSC also provided the American aircraft industry with both flying and non-flying examples of enemy aircraft for analysis.
Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1990