A fascinating Mustangs vs Messerschmitts explainer

Originally published at: A fascinating Mustangs vs Messerschmitts explainer | Boing Boing

  1. “But these fokkers were flying Messerschmitts!”

  2. Ekranoplanes are cool. I will not stand for disparaging them. :).

  3. It’s a good thing for the world that the ME262 appeared as late as it did and Hitler was obsessed with making it a bomber. And that the Ho229 never appeared at all.


I’ve got 2 family connections to the P51. My grandfather was on the team of 6 that designed it. And my grandmother on the other side of the family built them.

Grandma’s story might be why there is some great fighter footage from WWII. She was responsible for wiring. One day one of the inspectors found she she’d swapped the cameras and the guns.

So sorry to the pilots that couldn’t down their targets. And a “you’re welcome” to the History Channel.


The Nazis had severe supply problems when it came to high temperature metals for jet engines. Engine design was so poor the ME262 had to be overhauled after 5 hours of flight.

The Americans didn’t have a decent jet fighter until 1949 with the F-86 Sabre


About ten years back Aeroplane magazine did a series of articles on the restoration of a Me 262. As the aircraft was dismantled to its component parts, prayers and curses in various languages including Hebrew and deliberate sabotage were found, left there by the slave labour that built the aircraft. It seemed that the people building the aeroplanes were contributing to the war effort in their own way where they could.

The articles in Aeroplane prompted a letter from either one of the former slaves or by someone who knew one of the former slaves - I’m sorry I don’t have a clearer memory of this detail.

In any case, this individual had been a trained engineer of some sort before the war and found himself building the turbine engines that powered the Me 262. The turbine blades were supposedly held in place with a dovetail joint at the root of each blade.

It was claimed that the engineer would file a tiny chamfer on the the blade dovetail. This detail was so subtle that the blades still passed inspection but had the practical effect of allowing super hot gas to erode the root of the blade causing the blade to disintegrate prematurely.

If true, it shines an interesting light on those famously unreliable jet engines.


Germany had so many supply problems that they never would have gained much advantage from their jets.

WWII was a war of production, not technology. American and British everything was worse than German everything. Worse guns, worse tanks, worse or no submarines, etc. None of that mattered against the unthreatened and untouchable industrial base of the US. The Liberty Ship program is emblematic of this. U-boats sunk supply ships at will and we had no way to stop them. The Allies’ solution was literally to build them them faster than they could be sunk. At peak the US was building one every two days. An entire giant steel cargo ship in two days. The Germans couldn’t even build torpedos fast enough to sink them.

That’s how the war was won in a nutshell. Production attrition.


Sure but we needed ramp-up time and a much quicker war in the west along with a deadlier enemy in the skies before the P-51D came along (and before fighter escorts had the ability to follow bombers far into the continent) would have made things worse. Changed the outcome? No. (Another factor in the air is that Germany didn’t have that many skilled pilots at the beginning of the war and they were unable to train enough to replace the ones they lost during the fighting.)

Totally agree that the US’s strengths in manufacturing, supply, and resources, together with the manpower (cannon fodder) the USSR was willing to throw in the meat grinder of the eastern front would have won the war eventually either way. But the cost could have been worse for the Allies.

BTW, my father was a belly gunner in a B17 during WWII so for personal reasons I’m pretty glad the Germans didn’t get this any righter than they did.


“If it’s ugly, it’s British. If it’s weird, it’s French. If it’s ugly and weird, it’s Russian.”

J/K. I love them all.


Lately I’ve been fascinated by some of the declassified training films from the war. For example I didn’t realize that the Germans had such high-tech systems for targeting their flak barrages, or that the allies had sophisticated ways to avoid it:

Also, the gunner training for the B17s is interesting:


This is fascinating - thanks! I wish dad was still around so I could ask if he ever saw it.


That was fascinating. Hard enough to do from a fixed side gunner position, it seems. It’s a miracle ball gunners ever hit anything.


Slightly off topic but I’ll bet he probably saw some of the Private Snafu films. Mostly directed by Chuck Jones, with some of the writing done by Theodor Geisel. There’s hours of them. So weird to hear Mel Blanc’s bugs bunny voice coming out of this character that was never intended for children to watch.

(Warning: like most propaganda films of the era the depictions of the Japanese in these shorts are extremely racist)


I enjoy a good-natured joke on nationalities, but the British have built some beautiful aircraft: The Spitfire, de Havilland’s Mosquito and Vampire, the Avro Vulcan, etc.


Right? The “uglier” it gets, I just see more sci-fi fantasy greatness!

Ekranoplane ugly? That’s just being hurtful.
And who needs to turn when you can simply skip over another ship?


The P-38 Lightning is one of my favorites. And it’s the only American plane that was in production before, during, and after WWII, so they must have done something right.


Speaking of Mosquitos (and Lancasters) - if you haven’t enjoyed the tale of the bouncing bomb and the dambuster raids -



Oh yeah, that enjoyable tale about British pluck and ingenuity that is known as the Möhnecatastrophe in the region and that is still remembered for the more them 1500 dead civilians caught in their homes, more than 1000 of whom were (mostly female) forced labourers and POWs.



Yup, war sucks.


Amen to that!