American Raiders

American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets

WOLFGANG W. E. SAMUEL
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 493
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tv8vq
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    American Raiders
    Book Description:

    At the close of World War II, Allied forces faced frightening new German secret weapons--buzz bombs, V-2s, and the first jet fighters. When Hitler's war machine began to collapse, the race was on to snatch these secrets before the Soviet Red Army found them.

    The last battle of World War II, then, was not for military victory but for the technology of the Third Reich. InAmerican Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's SecretsWolfgang Samuel assembles from official Air Force records and survivors' interviews the largely untold stories of the disarmament of the once mighty Luftwaffe and of Operation Lusty--the hunt for Nazi technologies.

    In April 1945 American armies were on the brink of winning their greatest military victory, yet America's technological backwardness was shocking when measured against that of the retreating enemy. Senior officers, including the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, knew all too well the seemingly overwhelming victory was less than it appeared. There was just too much luck involved in its outcome.

    Two intrepid American Army Air Forces colonels set out to regain America's technological edge. One, Harold E. Watson, went after the German jets; the other, Donald L. Putt, went after the Nazis' intellectual capital--their world-class scientists.

    With the help of German and American pilots, Watson brought the jets to America; Putt persevered as well and succeeded in bringing the German scientists to the Army Air Forces' aircraft test and evaluation center at Wright Field. A young P-38 fighter pilot, Lloyd Wenzel, a Texan of German descent, then turned these enemy aliens into productive American citizens--men who built the rockets that took America to the moon, conquered the sound barrier, and laid the foundation for America's civil and military aviation of the future.

    American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secretsdetails the contest won, a triumph that shaped America's victories in the Cold War.

    Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, is the author ofGerman Boy: A Refugee's Story,I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen, andThe War of Our Childhood: Memories of World War II, all published by University Press of Mississippi. He lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-136-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Wolfgang W. E. Samuel
  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. 1 THE WAY THINGS WERE—1945
    (pp. 3-12)

    A West Pointer who first saw aerial combat in World War I, Lieutenant General Carl A.“Tooey” Spaatz commanded the largest fleet of combat airplanes ever assembled to wage war. The United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, USSTAF, with its eleven thousand first-line combat aircraft, had, by 1945, for all practical purposes destroyed the Luftwaffe and with that Germany’s ability to wage war effectively. In late April, with the strategic bombing campaign terminated and within days of Germany’s unconditional surrender, General Spaatz kicked off the final military operation against the Third Reich—Operation Lusty. To ensure Lusty’s success, Spaatz gave...

  6. 2 THE GERMAN JETS
    (pp. 13-28)

    The Luftwaffe entered war in 1939 equipped with first-line fighter aircraft as good as any flying anywhere else in the world. Hitler, however, subscribed to a short war scenario in which each attack against a newly chosen enemy would be overwhelming and brief. In such a scenario there seemed to be little reason to pursue technological innovation—no need for jet fighters, proximity fuzes, or radar. The groundbreaking advances in aviation and related technologies by Germany’s engineers and scientists were largely ignored by its political leadership during the heady days of victory in the early forties. Critical research was suspended,...

  7. 3 JET ENCOUNTERS
    (pp. 29-39)

    Although over a thousand Me-262 jet fighters were built by the Germans, fewer than half were ever delivered to combat units, and fewer still were committed to actual combat. Although American airmen heard of these German jets, actual encounters were infrequent considering the thousands of American aircraft that roamed across German skies on a daily basis. Yet when they occurred, they were very different experiences for fighter pilots and bomber crews.

    Captain Frederic B. McIntosh, a gung-ho fighter pilot if there ever was one, flew P-47s. Like many other Americans, his heritage was German. “My stepfather’s name was Heinrich Warnholz,”...

  8. 4 THE DEFIANT FEW
    (pp. 40-49)

    The fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe held their own against the western Allies for years, nearly always outnumbered and flying aircraft of increasingly vintage design. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 first flew in 1935, the Focke-Wulf 190 in 1939. By 1944, Allied air superiority had become intimidating to even the most hardened Luftwaffe veterans. Allied air forces swept before them anything the Luftwaffe managed to put up. TheJagdfliegercouldn’t remember anymore when they had had enough fuel, spare parts, or well-trained replacements to make up for the steady attrition that sapped the morale of all but the most steely nerved....

  9. 5 COLONEL HAROLD E. WATSON
    (pp. 50-71)

    While war raged in Europe, Colonel Harold E. Watson served his country on the home front. Hal became less and less enchanted with his position and applied to his bosses several times for a European assignment. On June 6, 1944, he was still at the Wright-Aero Factory in Cincinnati, an aircraft engine assembly plant, assuring a steady flow of engines to aircraft assembly plants throughout the country. Watson tried to tell himself that his job was just as important as flying a B-17 bomber over Germany, but he didn’t really believe it. Most of his flying school classmates were in...

  10. 6 THE 1st TACTICAL AIR FORCE (PROVISIONAL)
    (pp. 72-85)

    Within days of his arrival at St.-Germain, Hal Watson was issued a blue Eisenhower pass. The pass gave its bearer the authority to go anywhere and request assistance from any U.S. or British military command in the execution of his duties. Bearing General Eisenhower’s signature element, the pass stated in English, French, and German that “Harold E. Watson, the bearer of this card, will not be interfered with in the performance of his duty by the military police or any other military organization: By Command of General Eisenhower.” It was an extraordinary door opener, and Watson was to use it...

  11. 7 ORGANIZING TO DISARM THE LUFTWAFFE
    (pp. 86-94)

    “During the summer of 1944, with the invasion of Europe well under way and the end of war in Europe a reasonable possibility, considerable attention was being given to plans for the post-hostilities period,” states the History of the Directorate of Intelligence for the United States Strategic Air Forces.¹ While planning and organizing isn’t a terribly exciting aspect of military operations, it is fundamental to success. Nazi Germany did little of either. When success on the battlefield came, it was frequently as great a surprise to the victors as it was to the vanquished. For those with such a cavalier...

  12. 8 OPERATION LUSTY
    (pp. 95-106)

    In addition to planning for disarmament of the Luftwaffe, there was an obvious need to develop a companion plan for the exploitation of Germany’s advanced technology. Disarmament was simply a security measure, while finding the Nazi technological treasure had huge implications for the nation’s future and was therefore accorded the highest priority. A first and important step along those lines was the establishment of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS) on August 21, 1944, by the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington. The committee consisted of representatives from British and United States diplomatic, naval, air, and scientific intelligence organizations, and...

  13. 9 SOLVING THE JAPANESE RIDDLE
    (pp. 107-122)

    The implementation of Operation Eclipse, which provided for the occupation of the whole of Germany, the dissolution and disarmament of the German armed forces, and the establishment of a military government, wrapped up the war in Europe as far as the western Allies were concerned. Eclipse was the final operation of a long war that had changed the world in ways yet to be fully understood. Beyond Eclipse loomed an indefinite period of occupation for Germany and a future which at this point in time was as much an enigma to the victors as it was to the vanquished. Operation...

  14. 10 A MOTHER LODE OF AVIATION TECHNOLOGY
    (pp. 123-142)

    The Air Technical Intelligence teams and the disarmament squadrons received their direction as to where to look for critical materials from detailed target folders prepared by the targeting sections of the 8th and 9th Air Forces. The folders were derived from target dossiers initially prepared for bombing purposes. With minor additions and changes, the target folders were adapted to provide all the information an ATI team would need to locate a particular GAF installation or research facility. Without such specific guidance, the teams undoubtedly would have been running around blind. By March 1, 1945, fifteen hundred targets were identified for...

  15. 11 THE SECRETS OF VÖLKENRODE AND KOCHEL
    (pp. 143-160)

    When Colonel Donald Putt reported for duty at Headquarters USSTAF in January 1945 he was appointed director of technical services. He expected to go to work for General Knerr, his mentor, but, on his arrival at St.-Germain, Putt learned the headquarters had reorganized and technical services had been moved over to intelligence under General McDonald. Putt recalled that “my outfit turned into more of a technical intelligence operation than it did technical services.” As fate would have it, he wouldn’t be there long enough to put down roots. In April, “the ground armies traveling east uncovered this secret research and...

  16. 12 THE FEUDIN’ 54th
    (pp. 161-177)

    While the Air Technical Intelligence and CIOS/CAFT teams garnered most of the glory in their search and discovery of Nazi technological treasure, they would not have succeeded without the support provided by the disarmament squadrons. The disarmament squadrons provided everything the ATI teams didn’t have or couldn’t do for themselves—trucks, jeeps, food, tents, skilled and unskilled labor, any number of items and services required for large and small projects. Both teams and squadrons worked hand in glove to strip Nazi Germany of its technological treasure.

    The 54th Air Disarmament Squadron, one of ten such squadrons formed under the umbrella...

  17. 13 WATSON PICKS HIS TEAM
    (pp. 178-187)

    Colonel Watson had been busily planning for the recovery of the German jets since his reassignment in late March from the 1st Tactical Air Force Service Command at Vittel back to Headquarters USSTAF in St.-Germain. Watson was attached to McDonald’s Intelligence Directorate, making his home in the Exploitation Division when it was formed in late April. Watson had about as free a hand to do as he saw fit as any man could want. No one required him to give an accounting of his day-to-day activities, nor did anyone specifically ask how he was going to go about finding and...

  18. 14 LAGER LECHFELD
    (pp. 188-197)

    On VE Day, May 8, 1945, an Me-262A jet fighter approached Lager Lechfeld, wagging its wings, a sign of surrender. The aircraft circled the field, recalled Sergeant Freiburger, then put on a stunning acrobatic display and finally came in low and slow, touching down tentatively. The Me-262A day fighter, painted in the green color scheme of JG 7, was flown by Leutnant Fritz Müller, who had found refuge in the last days of war at Königgrätz airfield near Prague. On the eighth of May, Müller decided to make one last flight, not to intercept enemy aircraft, but for himself. He,...

  19. 15 P-47 JUG PILOTS
    (pp. 198-211)

    On April 19, 1945, Brigadier General John G. Williams assumed command of the 1st Tactical Air Force Service Command (Provisional), headquartered at Vittel, France. Just five days later, on the twenty-fourth of April, Williams moved his headquarters from Vittel to Schwetzingen, across from the storied university town of Heidelberg. Schwetzingen was known near and far as a producer of high-quality asparagus. Most recently, however, the town had been much less interested inSpargelthan in the manufacture of tanks. The senior officers of the 1st TAF headquarters staff, led by General Williams, flew to Schwetzingen the morning of April 24....

  20. 16 WATSON’S WHIZZERS
    (pp. 212-231)

    Watson visited Lechfeld before anyone else, right after Patton’s troops came through and left their mark. It wasn’t a pretty place to look at. Fortunately, the enthusiastic GIs hadn’t destroyed every Me-262 they had come across, but they hadn’t missed many. What the bombers didn’t get, Patton’s troops took care of, as Bob Strobell discovered on his first night there. Watson wrote that, after looking at a Messerschmitt jet for the first time, he knew he “needed some above average qualified pilots” to fly that plane. “This Me-262 was not a toy to be played with. German pilot reports indicated...

  21. 17 THE MERSEBURG FAN CLUB
    (pp. 232-247)

    In late April of 1945 Captain Fred McIntosh was called by the personnel section of the 65th Fighter Wing and asked if he would mind doing nine days of temporary duty, TDY, on the Continent. “Sure, why not,” McIntosh replied.“The war was all but over and I didn’t have a job anyway. When I picked up my orders they didn’t read nine days, but ninety days. Maybe I had misunderstood, but it was too late to do anything about it. I left RAF Boxted for Paris on the fifth of May on one of our B-26 Marauders. I had no...

  22. 18 PROJECT SEAHORSE
    (pp. 248-261)

    No plan turns into action in an organization as large and hierarchical as the military without numerous “players” at ever-loftier organizational levels first having the opportunity to cross a “t” or dot an “i,” to say yea or nay before that plan becomes someone’s road map for implementation. Although cumbersome at times, the military coordination process largely ensures that the organization’s goals are adhered to and that individuals don’t work for their own accounts and turn into loose cannons. Operation Lusty was no exception to the rule. Watson never forgot how he fit into the larger picture and what his...

  23. 19 MELUN-VILLAROCHE
    (pp. 262-278)

    Watson flew into Lager Lechfeld on May 29 to take a look at how things were going. He discovered to his surprise that Sergeant Freiburger and Herr Caroli had nearly finished putting ten airplanes into flying condition. Bob Strobell, who had arrived at Lechfeld only two days earlier, cautioned Watson that he personally didn’t feel very comfortable with the situation. Caroli had no records to show how many flying hours each engine had accumulated since its last major overhaul. “Every engine has to be pulled and thoroughly gone over,” he told Watson, “before we want to move any airplanes out...

  24. 20 ROAST DUCK AT AALBORG
    (pp. 279-290)

    By the seventeenth of June, Fred McIntosh was back at Villacoublay to pick up a Ju 388, the same airplane which he and Watson had flown in May from Merseburg to Kassel. He flew the 388 to Cherbourg-Querqueville. His arrival at Querqueville was timed to coincide with the arrival of Germany’s strangest-looking aircraft—two Dornier Do 335s from Nürnberg-Roth. The Do 335, calledPfeil(arrow), was a heavy push-pull fighter with one engine in the front and another in the rear. It was still in the development stage when the war ended and never saw combat. Wrote Watson, “It looked...

  25. 21 THE ARADO 234 CAPER
    (pp. 291-298)

    Although Watson was pleased to obtain one of the few TA 152Hs for his growing collection of German aircraft, what he really wanted from the British were several Arado 234 jets, the German twin-jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. None were found in flyable condition on the many GAF airfields occupied by American forces. The British, however, came across seven flyable Arados at Grove and one at Schleswig. While usually forthcoming and ready to share their booty with their American ally, on this occasion the British appeared reluctant. In later years Watson expressed understanding for their behavior, saying, “The British were...

  26. 22 SO FAR, SO GOOD
    (pp. 299-309)

    Within a period of two weeks, Watson had pulled together more than fifty Americans and Germans to do his bidding. On May 2, 1945, when he showed up at the doorstep of Karl Baur’s apartment house in Augsburg, he was pretty much a one-man operation. With Karl Baur came twenty-six former Messerschmitt company employees. Then Watson acquired Freiburger’s group from the Feudin’ 54th, the P-47 Thunderbolt pilots who volunteered to fly German Me-262 jets, and Colonel Schilling’s fledgling ATI group at Merseburg. Captain Fred McIntosh soon joined the Merseburg operation, and later became Watson’s key man at Nürnberg-Roth, while Lieutenant...

  27. 23 THE CONQUERING HERO
    (pp. 310-327)

    Just a day after Bob Strobell bailed out of his P-47 fighter over Mannheim, Colonel Harold Watson and Flugkapitän Karl Baur ferried the last two Arado 234s from Melun-Villaroche to Cherbourg. The last Me-262 was delivered on July 6 by Bob Anspach. Although damaged on landing because of a nose-gear malfunction, the jet was quickly restored with parts flown in from Lechfeld. After that, Karl Baur and the Messerschmitt mechanics who had accompanied Watson from Lechfeld to Melun and then to Cherbourg were released and returned to Augsburg in Watson’s C-47. Versuchspilot Willie Hoffmann was recuperating from his injuries in...

  28. 24 THE FOCKE-WULF 190 TRAGEDY
    (pp. 328-343)

    Wright Field had been testing captured German fighters and bombers since 1943 to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Whatever the Wright Field test pilots learned about those aircraft was passed on to the men fighting the Luftwaffe. One of many test pilots at Wright Field was Kenneth O. Chilstrom. Ken was assigned to the Fighter Section of the Flight Test Division of the Army Air Forces Technical Service Command. His assignment was a fighter pilot’s dream. Flight test was what every hotshot pilot aspired to, and Ken thought of himself as a hotshot pilot. Dick Johnson, a Wright Field test...

  29. 25 AIR SHOWS AND AIR RACES
    (pp. 344-352)

    In the 1940s airmen died all too frequently exploring the frontiers of flight. There was still much to learn, and the equipment they were flying had a diversity of problems. As for the aircraft Colonel Watson retrieved from Germany, they were beset by their own unique problems, some the result of the early state of technology, such as the turbines powering the Me-262 and the Arado 234, and others due to the lack of natural resources available to the Third Reich. There were the low-quality synthetic tires—the Arado 234s suffered from frequent tire failures and as a result were...

  30. 26 THE BIRTH OF PROJECT OVERCAST
    (pp. 353-370)

    A former Heinkel 177 pilot, Franz Hausmann, recalled, “In late April 1945 I found myself at Parchim airfield in Mecklenburg, flying the Ju 88 twin-engined medium bomber. We were sitting in the officers’ mess, talking about what we should do, where we should go to surrender, when someone said, ‘I am just going to walk out of here.’ Several of the officers got up from the table, went to their quarters, changed into civilian clothes and walked off the airfield. I pulled my crew chief aside. He and I had been together for a long time in both Ju 88s...

  31. 27 PROJECT OVERCAST AND ONE MAN’S EXPERIENCE
    (pp. 371-381)

    Karl Baur was one of two mainstays of Watson’s Me-262 recovery program; Ludwig Hoffmann was the other. From the day Watson arrived in Augsburg on May 2, 1945, until the last Me-262 was delivered to Querqueville airfield, Karl had been there to provide assistance and advice. Not only that, but Karl was the only other pilot besides Watson to have flown the Arado 234. Watson knew that he needed expert support at Wright Field to keep his fleet of German jets in flying condition, and Baur was his choice. He had intended to take Willie Hoffmann as well, but Willie...

  32. 28 FROM OVERCAST TO PAPERCLIP
    (pp. 382-399)

    By October 1945, after the last air show for the year at Wright Field, Watson relocated all of his German aircraft to either Wright Field or Freeman Field. Ninety-six freight cars loaded with everything from air-to-ground guided antiship missiles, such as the Hs 293 and the Fritz X, to V-2 ballistic missiles, and a plethora of parts, pieces, documentation—what Lieutenant Strobell liked to refer to as “stuff”—began to accumulate at Wright Field, much of it never to be looked at again. Watson went to work as the chief of the Collection Division of Technical Intelligence, T-2, commanded by...

  33. 29 HOW CAPTAIN WENZEL MADE AMERICAN CITIZENS OUT OF ENEMY ALIENS
    (pp. 400-421)

    The first four German scientists destined for Wright Field—Doctors Braun, Edse, Zobel, and Nöggerath—had accompanied Karl Baur in September 1945 on his flight via the Azores to the United States. Dr. Rister and Mr. Bock, assistants to Dr. Zobel, joined them two days later. The six men were promised that their families would soon follow and that their short-term contracts would be changed to a long-term basis. But things dragged on. Their morale hit rock bottom. First, there were no quarters at Wright Field for the families; then a hassle developed over the term “dependent”—who was and...

  34. 30 THE WAY THINGS CHANGED
    (pp. 422-442)

    “It was in the Battle of the Bulge. We were cowering in our foxholes when my sergeant called out, ‘Here come the Krauts.’ And I was looking up for airplanes, but I couldn’t hear the sound of motors. And then I thought, What on God’s earth is that? One of the new German jets passed right above me, didn’t have a propeller in front. Didn’t fire on us. He was going to bomb somewhere behind us. The Germans are so far ahead of us, I thought, and still they are losing the war. Later that morning I saw some B-17s...

  35. AFTERWORD: What Became of All These Good Men?
    (pp. 443-451)

    Colonel Harold E. Watson (later Major General Watson) continued his pursuit of building a lasting technical intelligence organization for the United States Air Force. Wright Field, renamed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1947, remained Watson’s focus for the remainder of his career. Watson headed the Collection Division of Air Technical Service Command’s Technical Intelligence Directorate, T-2, in 1945. He then attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., served a tour of duty in the Pentagon, and returned in 1949 for three more years as the T-2 director, this time assuming the position previously held...

  36. NOTES
    (pp. 452-478)
  37. SOURCES
    (pp. 479-484)
  38. INDEX
    (pp. 485-493)