Rocket plane driver
June 21 2014

My dearest Old Bolds, family, and friends,

Once we got to Germany the fun with pilots began. No no no! Not THAT kind of fun. The sitting-down-and-talking kind of fun. Sheesh, you guys. We started in the Mannheim-Stuttgart-Karlsruhe area, which is working hard at developing LA-like traffic, and doing a damn fine job of it.

We were invited to breakfast at the home of a widow of a rocket plane pilot. You know, the ME 163 rocket plane. (For my non-Old Bold friends, a small primer follows) Although the Germans did operate a jet plane in combat late in the war, this was not a jet.

This little doozy of a plane mixed extremely volatile rocket fuels together and was launched up to try to take down Allied bombers. Once its very limited fuel supply ran out in a few minutes, the pilot was supposed to shoot down a bomber or two, and then glide back down for a belly landing somewhere.

Easy, right?

Except that the fuels often leaked and ignited, exploding the plane with the pilot before it could launch. Or it blew up sometimes when it landed. Or sometimes it just blew up. I guess you're getting the gist.

This may be one reason that although jet fighters became pretty popular, rocket fighters never really caught on after the war. I can't check any facts at the moment, but our widow said that 30 guys volunteered for this unit, and only 6 came out alive.

Her husband was one of them. And although he died 26 years ago, she was excited to have us visit her and a Luftwaffe reconnaisance pilot friend for breakfast. When we arrived there was enough breakfast for almost all of the Old Bolds.

Our pilot had already eaten, and his limited intake was causing our hostess to feel slighted, as eating is considered the highest form of flattery in Germany. So we had to pick up the slack. After refusing a fourth helping of everything, we got down to visiting with our pilot.

Once we had chatted a while, our widow brought out her husband's photo album, and the clouds parted and I heard a lute playing somewhere. No, really. Definitely a lute. 

Graciously, this beautiful lady allowed me to scan in his photos, which became more and more fantastic as his career progressed. While flying the FW190, he had used the 21 cm rockets, and taken pictures of them bristling under the wings of his plane. This, of course, was very interesting for me, since I have been researching them in connection with January 7, 1944. Then of course there were some pictures from his time as a rocket driver.

(Intermission while angels sing)

Ok, back now. As a historian, it was a pretty considerable find, and thanks only to two amazing historians who set me on the path (many considerable thanks Andrew and Morten). Time ran out, and we promised to return to meet more of the local aviators in the fall.

We met the next day with a nightfighter whose memory isn't as good as it once was. It's a shame, really, as he and his wife were a really lovely couple. We enjoyed our time with them immensely.

And in the last days we've met with a JG54 fighter pilot who experienced the Courland pocket, a KG55 bomber pilot who served in Russia, and a flight technician who was posted in Finland with JG5 before he volunteered for the paratroopers and fought in Normandy (all thanks again to Andrew and Morten).

We also took a diversion from the autobahn traffic north of Munich and saw signs for Moosburg. Moosburg was the home of Stalag VIIa, a prisoner of war camp built for 10,000, but which housed up to 90,000 Allied servicemen in brutally primitive conditions by the end of the war. It's the same story in Germany as in America - not much of the wooden barracks have survived 70 years on. Using a helpful website set up by volunteers in the town, however, we did manage to find a fountain that memorializes the camp.

Now back in central Germany, we have a pilot planned every day until July 1, starting with a Stuka (dive bomber) pilot who had more than 500 missions tomorrow.

I haven't told you about the tankers and infantry guys we have also seen in the last week, but I'm feeling sleepy now, very sleepy...

Guess I'll catch some shut eye while I can.

With all my love,




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