The First and the Last: Junkers G.38 & Arado E.555
This article is part of a series:
It might have been another very cold January 1945 night, but for Hauptman Ziegel and his crew, the situation could not have been hotter: there they were, flying at 30,000ft with their Amerikabomber fully loaded. Took off from Bordeaux at 17:00 local time. Destination? New York City!
Haupt Ziegel’s war diaries were really interesting: from the start, he was assigned as captain of the sole remaining Junkers G.38, the beloved, slow, lumbering giant that was used to transport men and goods, stirring clear from allied fighters, to whom would be the easiest of prey. A beautiful machine of “past times”, with those unique wing root seats, the G.38 went up in smoke, when it was destroyed during a bombing in Ellinikon Airport in Athens, upon its preparation for the Crete invasion in May 1941.
Having left without a plane, Ziegel and his crew were more than happy to be assigned to a secret “Geheimprojekt” of a very long range bomber development! Yes, they could not avoid thinking that giving the enemy a such punch would be kind of score-settling for destroying their beloved Junkers!
By no means a “militarist”, but definitely a man who loved his country, Ziegel was kind of sceptic on the necessity of all this war mess a big part of the planet was dragged into. But, again, apart from being a loyal soldier, what else could he do by then?
Despite the Allied Intelligence perceptions, the Amerikabomber project did indeed proceed, with a prototype being ready by the fall of 1944. War situation in the motherland was not favorable, the required raw materials were hard to obtain, let alone the fact that the Amerikabomber “factory” would continuously relocate for obvious reasons. That the “Dreifach Fünf '' made it to the air was a total “tour de force”!
Nevertheless, the fact that the RLM had envisaged the need for a long range advanced bomber, resulted in this prototype, a one off plane that somehow achieved to make it from the drawing board to the airfield.
As expected, numerous bugs (some more serious than others) arose upon the first flights of this well ahead of its time machine. With only a few of them remedied and more emerging, the bowed down RLM ordered a “bombing” flight to New York that cold January 1945 night, aiming to create (well, nothing more than) a psychological effect on the Allies.
It was clear that things were not so favorable for Germany, regarding the war outcome. By strict facts, with lesser and lesser results at the war fronts and its main cities and general infrastructure under constant attrition by the Allied bombers, it was a matter of (not too long) time before the war would end, or, to put it more pragmatically, when this madness would end...
So there he was, Siegel and his crew, cruising above the Atlantic at radio silence, with feelings that could not have been more mixed...At least they had little time to deal with their emotions, being too busy navigating the six engine bomber above the ocean in total darkness.
According to his trusty navigator/copilot/bomber Leutnant Meyerhoff , who used astro-navigation principles in order to precisely navigate the Arado, they should see NY at any minute. The clear night should make spotting not too difficult, and yes, there was NY in the distant background, no blackout measures whatsoever!
Ziegel had no time to waste: the harbor area would be his target. He immediately passed the bomber to Meyerhoff, who throttled down the engines and put the bomber in a shallow dive. At 20000ft he levelled and stabilized his speed at 300 knots, patiently waiting for the target to appear in his bombsight cross... moment of truth, he pressed the release button and….nothing happened! Damn! The release mechanism did not seem to have been activated! One more press! Nothing!
Oberstabsfeldwebel Hermann, the flight engineer, went on fire, trying to solve the problem: despite all efforts, nothing seemed to work, with Ziegel quickly aborting the mission, flying away towards the ocean, as their presence above NY might be noticed…
This was a story inspired by The First and the Last “project’, an idea of fellow modeler Paul Barber @yellow10. You may read the individual articles regarding the builds of The G.38 and the Ar E-555 at the links above.
1 additional image. Click to enlarge.