Though some 1400 of Germany’s remarkable Me262 jet aircraft were built, fewer than 300 ever saw action during its short 10 month combat career, the 550 mph fighter-bomber arriving in service too late to make any impression on the course of the war.
Most famous of all Me262 units was Jagdverband 44, commanded by General Adolf Galland. Instructed by Hitler to set up a small defensive fighter unit to make the most of the new Me262, Galland’s JV44 attracted other top-scoring pilots, including top aces Macky Steinhoff and Walter Krupinski, and the unit soon became dubbed Galland’s Squadron of Experts.
Though doing their best to repel daylight attacks on jet production plants in Southern Germany, JV44 were fighting a losing battle. During a raid on 9 April 1945 the unit lost nine aircraft – a pattern that was to continue. Also, American fighter pilots, unable to catch the 262 in the air, found success taking the jets out as they took off or landed, catching them while at their most vulnerable. With the Allies driving deeper and deeper into Germany, production of aircraft, spares, fuel, and ammunition, steadily dried up. The point came when JV44, Galland’s now legendary Squadron of Experts, finally ground to a halt.
Running the Gauntlet, a superb painting by Robert Taylor, shows Me262s of JV44 returning to base in southern Germany, having come under attack from P-51 Mustangs of the 353rd Fighter Group. Almost out of fuel and ammunition, the Me262s have little option but to complete their landing sequence, hoping fervently they are not “bounced” by American fighters loitering in the area. They are out of luck on this occasion, and although Galland has organised a unit flying Focke-Wulf Fw190D-9s to provide air cover in the area of the airfield, they too have been caught by the 353rd Fighter Group’s surprise attack. At the relatively slow speed required on final approach, the Me262’s handling is sluggish and the pilot is having enough trouble without the attentions of a bunch of P-51 pilots. At this point the JV44 Me262 remains unscathed, and with the arrival of the Fw190s, there is the possibility this particular jet pilot will survive the day.
THE ACES EDITION
Joining artist Robert Taylor, each print has been individually signed in pencil by FOUR outstanding WWII fighter pilots.
Major General Donald J. Strait
Don Strait received his pilots wings in January 1944. In August he was posted with the 356th Fighter Group to Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, as one of the original 361st Fighter Squadron pilots. Flying first the P47, in which he claimed three victories, he took part in long-range bomber escort and ground support missions, taking part in the D-Day operations. Later in P51s, he scored a further 10 ½ victories to make him the top scoring Ace of the 356th Fighter Group. Don finished his second tour in March 1945, and in his two combat tours he had flown 122 missions, and commanded the 361st Fighter Squadron. He later commanded the 108th Tactical Wing in Korea, and flew F-86, F-84, and F-105 jets.
Lieutenant Colonel Clyde B. East
As a volunteer, Clyde East joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1941, and flew combat operations from England. He transferred to the USAAF in January 1944, flying over 200 combat missions and finishing the war with 14 ½ victories. He later flew combat during the Korean War.
Leutnant Norbert Hannig
Joining the JG7 in 1944 at Königsberg, Norbert Hannig notched up an impressive 42 combat air victories in a short time flying the Me109G. In early 1945 he converted to fly the new jet, the Me262, flying in combat with III./JG7 from their airfield at Brandenberg-Briest.
Oberleutnant Walter Schuck
After a spell with JG3 in 1940 Walter Schuck was posted to 7./JG5, arriving at Petsamo on the Arctic Front in April 1942. By April 1943 he had collected 54 aerial victories. On 17 March 1944 he brought down 17 bombers and in April of that year was awarded the Knights Cross with his tally standing at 84. On 15 June 1944 he chalked up his 100th victory during a day when he shot down 6 aircraft. Two days later he had his most successful day, achieving 12 victories in twenty-four hours, a feat never surpassed in JG5. On 1 August he assumed command of 10./JG5. December 1944 was a black month for JG5 when the Tirpitz was sunk and their Kommodore, Heinrich Ehrler, was made a scapegoat for the disaster. He later transferred to fly the Me262 as Staffelkapitän of 3./JG7, and achieved 8 further victories flying the new jet. His final tally was 206 air victories and had been awarded the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves.
Overall Print Size: 33" wide x 25" high.
Image Size: 29 1/8" wide x 17" high.