Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a

Yellow 3, W.Nr. 500491, flown by Oberfeldwebel Heinz Arnold, 11./JG 7, Brandenburg-Briest/Germany, 24 March 1945

On this date, the 8th USAAF and 15th USAAF committed all available aircraft in their offensive against the German jet bases and to support the Allied ground forces as they crossed the lower Rhine and entered the Reichswald forest. About 400 B-17s and B-24s from the US 15th Air Force attacked jet bases at München-Riem, Neuburg, Platting, and Erding.

However, over the Alpine foothills the largest element of this force, around 250 four-engine bombers, set course for the Reich capital. And at 11:00 hours, the 11. Staffel and the Stabsschwarm took off and was vectored onto the bomber formation approaching from the south. Over Wittenberg the 16 Me 262s attack the US bombers with Ofw. Arnold and Major Ehrler each claiming a B-17 shot down, while Lt. Lehner and Lt. Rademacher each claimed a probable.

At about 12:00 the 9. and 10. Staffeln joined the battle south of Berlin with 15 Me 262s, most of them armed with R4M rockets and another five four-engine bombers were claimed. During this clash the US escorts claimed eight jet-fighters shot down, however only four were in fact lost. The total US losses during this battle amounted to nine B-17s, one B-24 and a P-51 Mustang.

The B-17 claimed by Oberfeldwebel Heinz Arnold this day was to be his final and 49th Abschuss. He joined the Luftwaffe as a technician five days after the war broke out, on 5 September 1939. Thereafter he undertook flight training in late January 1940 and was eventually posted to JG 5 fighting the VVS in the far north. Here he would claim his last Soviet aircraft on 27 September 1944, a P-39 Airacobra for his 42nd victory.

Ofw. Arnold was later posted to the turbin-jägers and then JG 7 ending up in the 11. Stafflen and within three weeks added another seven USAAF aircraft, including five B-17s, a P-47 and an P-51. Heinz Arnold would fly his last combat mission on 17 April 1945, and since his Me 262 "Yellow 7" was unserviceable at Alt Lönnewitz, he took off in a replacement machine. After a ground-attack mission near Grossebersdorf he was reported MIA, probably a victim of P-51 Mustangs.

However, unlike Arnold, his Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a would survive the war. After being repaired, Lt. Fritz Müller, a 16 kills ace, took over the machine on 18 April and flew it until the end of the war. On 8 May 1945 he flew to Lechfeld and surrendered the machine to the Americans whose pilots were eager to learn to fly jet-fighters. The aircraft made its way to the USA via France and in 1981 was completely restored and today is on public display at the US National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Note below the killmarkings of Arnold´s machine.

This profile and caption was included in my Profile Book No 10 as profile No 119.

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