Thursday, 2 August 2007
Secret Aircraft Designs Of The Third Reich
David Myhra, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., U.S.A., 1998, ISBN 0-7643-0564-6. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.
Cover image © by Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1998.
When it was announced in 1998, I was looking forward to this book. Due to its sheer size and the inclusion of hundreds of illustrations, it could have become a standard work of reference.
And yet I feel that the publication of incorrect reference material is detrimental to historical accuracy, to truth, to our interests, and to our hobby. I am afraid that this book's effect is simply to petrify previous misinformation and to amplify the prejudice against what is actually a highly interesting and influential part of Germany's aviation industry during Word War II. It is disappointing to find that this book contains numerous misinterpretations and inaccuracies, some trivial, many grave, which the detailed research that one expects to go into a publication of this size should have avoided. To randomly pick a few:
- In spite of the fact that correct information finally found it's way into the public in the course of the 1990s, the book fossilizes the ancient misconception of what the Heinkel He 176 looked like. Myhra uses the often-printed, outdated, and fictitious artist's impression originally based on Hans Regner's incorrect interpretation of the aircraft's shape (p. 162). In view of the importance the He 176 assumes in aviation history, it would have been appropriate for Myhra to refer instead to photos and three-view drawing published by Dr. Volker Koos in Germany's Jet & Prop (issue 1/1994) and Flieger Revue (issue 5/1995) magazines. Even more so as the author in fact avoided the comparable and equally popular ancient artist's impression of the Henschel Hs 132 and instead featured photos of the actual unfinished prototype.
- The picture of the "warhead" of Heinz Sombold's So 344 (p. 328) is obviously really the forward fuselage of the C 2 Wasserfall ground-to-air missile.
- The artist's impression of a "collection of anti aircraft missiles" (p. 24) shows, in reality, a variety of pulse-jet and rocket-powered manned aircraft and unmanned missiles, among them ground-to-ground weapons.
- The postage stamp "showing ground-to-air missiles" (p. 25, top) actually portrays the launch of ground-to-ground Nebelwerfer rockets (an artillery weapon used by German infantry).
- Countless three-view drawings are rendered unusable by pixel distortion beyond recognition.
- The picture on page 299 does not show the "Messerschmitt Me 262 C-1a" (V 186, Werknummer 130186) as stated in the caption. It is instead the Me 262 C-1b (V 074, Werknummer 170074) which featured a completely different dual rocket motor installation.
- The Bachem Ba 349 Natter did not carry "Henschel Hs 217 Föhn" air-to-air rockets (p. 49) but RZ 73 Föhn or R4M Orkan air-to-air rockets (as later correctly stated on p. 51 and p. 54).
- The Consolidated Vultee (Convair) XF-92 was not named "Cutlass" (p. 277, top). The name "Cutlass" was assigned to Chance Vought's F7U fighter. The XF-92 bore the unofficial name "Seven-Balls-Two" (as in model 7002).
- Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the Lippisch P 15 is not even mentioned (p. 289). According to Lippisch himself (in Ein Dreieck fliegt, Stuttgart, 1976, by Lippisch and Trenkle), the P 15 was to be a combination of existing parts from other contemporary aircraft: He 162 forward fuselage and cockpit, Me 163 wings and vertical tail, Ju 248 landing gear. Lippisch also states that the P 15 was to be powered by the HeS 011 A turbojet (as opposed to David Myhra's Jumo 004 D).
- Also according to Lippisch himself, the air raid on the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Wien (LFW), which killed 45 members of his staff, took place in June 1944, not in April 1945 (p. 281). It is also hardly possible that the "coal fuelled P 13" was destroyed in this raid (also p. 281), as the aircraft actually had not yet been built. What existed was a large-scale free-flight model of the P 13, which might have been destroyed in the raid (as later correctly stated on p. 288).
- The rocket-powered Hatry Flugzeug was not the important Lippisch-Opel collaboration (p. 271). According to Lippisch, the partnership between Sander, Opel and Lippisch resulted in the installation of rockets in the Lippisch-typical Ente [duck] trial design in 1928, with which Fritz Stamer subsequently made a number of powered flights. A further aircraft, which Lippisch designed specifically for Opel's rocket experiments, was never completed due to disagreements between Opel and Lippisch. This aircraft, the Raketen-Versuchsflugzeug [Rocket Trial Aircraft], was a very advanced concept for its time (1929) - it was to be a swept-back flying wing.
- The translation of the German-language inscription on the air war memorial in Dresden is entirely incorrect (p. 337). The actual translation would read: "How many died? Who knows the number? In your wounds, one can see the agony of the nameless who burned in the man-made hell fire. - To the memory of the victims of the air attack on Dresden on February 13 - 14, 1945."
- The Fieseler Fi 103 shown on page 136 (centre) is not a Reichenberg version, but a regular Fi 103 as air-launched by KG 53. Also, the manned Fi 103 was named Reichenberg, not "Reichenburg", as mistakenly stated in several places.
- The picture on page 142 (top right) does not show a "Vampire".
- The "Russian flying test bed for the Soviet-redesigned Jumo 022-K turboprop" is, in fact, a heavily modified Junkers Ju 252, used for flight tests of the Junkers Jumo 222 24-cylinder liquid-cooled radial engine.
- The aircraft on page 156, top left, is not a "Heinkel He 70", but a He 64.
- The "Messerschmitt Bf 108" on page 290 (bottom right) is, in fact, a Bücker Bü 181.
- The "Messerschmitt Me 209 V1 in flight" (p. 291) is, in fact, a retouched picture of the Me 209 V4.
- The Henschel Hs 295 was not a "high-tech air-to-air anti aircraft missile" (p. 183, bottom), but an air-to-ground missile.
- The model on page 229 (bottom) does not represent the "Ho 9 V2", but rather what the V3 perhaps would have looked like with armament.
This list could be continued almost indefinitely.
There are many positive points about this book. The obvious use of computer-generated images was overdue at the time of its publication, and the author is to be commended for his openness towards this tool. There are also some astonishing b/w pictures, such as the one on page 266, top. But this also serves to expose a (presumed) negligence and simplistic approach that characterizes Secret Aircraft Designs of the Third Reich, especially if one considers the book's retail price: the mere accumulation of uncounted illustrations fails to make up for a lack of research and accuracy.