Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Various Publications: REIMAHG Me 262 Underground Manufacturing Plant At Kahla, 1944/1945
Deckname Lachs - Die Geschichte der unterirdischen Fertigung der Me 262 im Walpersberg bei Kahla 1944/45
Klaus W. Müller & Willy Schilling, Heinrich-Jung-Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Zella-Mehlis/Meiningen, Germany, 1995, ISBN 3-930-588-30-7. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German.
One of the most extraordinary and in equal parts intriguing and drastic German armament industry projects of World War II was the conversion of the Walpersberg mountain in Thuringia, Germany, into an underground jet fighter manufacturing plant with a full mountaintop runway. The plant was to be operated by the REIMAHG works (Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring Werke). Although still vastly uncompleted by war's end, construction work inside and around the mountain was at an advanced state, and the plant became partially operational. Originally intended for the production of Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, Focke-Wulf Ta 152s, and Messerschmitt Me 262s, plans changed in early 1945, and the plant was subsequently intended to focus on manufacturing the jet-powered Me 262 and Horten Ho XVIII.
The runway on top of the Walpersberg mountain, originally 900 meters long but later extended to 1,200 meters, was completed in February 1945 and actually used for RATO-assisted take-offs of freshly assembled Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters. The aircraft reached the top of the mountain by means of an inclined and open elevator which ran along the mountainside for 200 meters, at an angle of 27 degrees, thus bridging a vertical height of approximately 85 meters.
Klaus W. Müller and Willy Schilling's Deckname Lachs was likely the first specialized study of this massive project to be published for the general Luftwaffe historian. A small hardback book of 88 pages, it is still a very detailed look at the entire history of REIMAHG's Walpersberg undertaking. Deckname Lachs investigates the early discussions about the possible protection of the German military aircraft production from Allied bombing, the actual construction of the tunnels and bunkers of the REIMAHG plant, the slave labor used during the construction work, the facilities of the plant, the plant's runway, and the arrival of the American military at the plant at the end of the war.
The book contains a number of back & white photos and drawings of the REIMAHG plant, the most interesting ones, in my opinion, being those of the runway and the inclined elevator.
REIMAHG - From Sandpit To Armament Factory (History of Hitler's Secret Underground Factory)
Claus Reuter, Publications of the German-Canadian Museum of Applied History, Brunswick, Germany/S. R. Research and Publishing, Ontario, Canada, ISBN 0-96961-7-X. Illustrated, softcover/ring binding, published in English.
Very little information is available about this publication. It has a definite underground feel about it, consisting of 134 small-format pages held together by plastic ring binding. The text is very comprehensive, however, including not only information on the REIMAHG plant project itself but also on the camps which held the labor force used to build the plant, the Me 262 and other aircraft intended to be produced at the plant, the occupation of the plant, and so on.
It is perhaps of significance to point out that the author at times takes a rather critical stance against certain aspects of the Allied bombing campaign. Also, the photo section at the end of this publication is a somewhat mixed blessing. Not only are the photos printed in an inferior quality and at a very small size, many of them are not directly related to the REIMAHG project at all (such as various images of Focke-Wulf Fw 190 prototypes or drawings and photos of technical details of the Me 262).
All in all, a publication which has left me unconvinced. It is rendered valuable primarily due to the fact that the text is in English.
Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg (Die Geschichte des unterirdischen Flugzeugwerkes "REIMAHG" bei Kahla/Thüringen)
Markus Gleichmann & Karl-Heinz Bock, Heinrich-Jung-Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Zella-Mehlis/Meiningen, Germany, 2009, ISBN 978-3-930588-82-4. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German.
As I am writing this review, Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg is the newest and most exhaustive of the studies published on the REIMAHG underground aircraft plant. The book is enormously absorbing and complete, both in its text and photo content. The result of years of research by authors Markus Gleichmann and Karl-Heinz Bock, Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg presents a clearly structured and very detailed history of the plant. Beginning with an overview of the Allied bombing campaign against the German armament production and the subsequent German efforts to move much of such production underground, Gleichmann and Bock then chronicle the various phases of the massive construction project.
The examination of these phases is not limited to technical or logistical aspects. The authors include a detailed chapter on the forced labor workforce utilized to create the pant as well as the camps used to house this workforce and the German guards used to enforce the extreme work regimen. Owing to the chronic lack of manpower due to the war situation, these guard detachments included members of the Hitler Youth, many of whom frequently found themselves emotionally overwhelmed by the task. Needless to say, the conditions under which the workforce had to function were harrowing.
Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg then looks at the planned aircraft assembly operation as well as at the construction of the tunnels and auxiliary bunkers and buildings of the plant. The book concludes with the discovery of the REIMAHG plant by the Allies, the subsequent Soviet disassembly of the facilities, and the fate of the site in the decades after the war. Due to the inclusion of numerous eyewitness accounts (not least in the section on forced labor and working conditions), the text often conveys far more immediacy than usually found in such studies.
A large amount of photos and drawings further serves to illustrate the various aspects of the REIMAHG project. Pages 110, 117, and 125, for example, provide views of the remarkable mountaintop runway. Unless hampered by the inferior quality of the original source photos, the photo reproduction quality is generally good. The final part of the book is dedicated to series of stunning color photos of the remnants of REIMAHG plant as they appear today. This does not just include images of the ruins of bunkers, buildings, and the inclined elevator, but it also shows the area of the runway (completely overgrown by forest), the uncompleted train lines once intended for the transport of aircraft components, and - most strikingly - various tunnels and assembly halls inside of the mountain.
A very complete, utterly intriguing, and highly recommended book.
Flugplätze der Luftwaffe 1934-1945 - und was davon übrig blieb (Band 3: Thüringen)
Jürgen Zapf, VDM Heinz Nickel, Zweibrücken, Germany, 2003, ISBN 3-925480-80-3. Illustrated, softcover, published in German.
While not strictly a publication solely dedicated to the REIMAHG project, part 3 of Jürgen Zapf's profusely researched and illustrated Flugplätze der Luftwaffe 1934-1945 - und was davon übrig blieb [Airfields Of The Luftwaffe 1934-1945 - And What Remains Of Them Today] series contains a major section (72 pages) on the REIMAHG plant and its mountaintop runway. While the text is to Zapf's usual professional and very detailed standard, it's really the photographic content which makes this publication indispensable for anyone interested in this topic (although the printing quality of the photos could perhaps be a tad better).
Numerous large color and back & white photos show the interior and exterior of the Walpersberg mountain, both as it appeared during the war and as it looks today. As can be seen, the tunnels of the plant still contain lorries (evidence that construction was never completed), electrical aircraft systems parts, and corroded cockpit instruments. The outside is dotted with crumbled bunkers, foundations, and buildings. Of particular interest are the photos which show the area of where the inclined elevator once stood as well as the overgrown runway.