Osprey's Messerschmitt Me-264

Author:

Peter Davies

Publisher/Distributor

Osprey Publishing

Price

$20.00 MSRP

Reviewer:

Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-1464-7

One area in which the Luftwaffe was sorely lacking was in a strategic bomber. Though two prototypes; a Do-19 and Ju-90 were built and tested, the death of the strategic bomber proponent General Wever in 1937, resulted in the cancellation of testing and any hope of a true long range bomber. It was also felt by much of the RLM at the time that any war would not require such an aircraft and all efforts were put into aircraft that were used to support the army. It was also felt that four engine bombers would be a drain on resources. Hitler also felt that numbers were best and one could build two or three Ju-88s with the materials needed for one strategic bomber.

This sort of short-sighted planning was one of the major faults with the German military of the time. It also did not help that they thought the war would be short and did not count on the resolve of their enemies. No need for a long range bomber if there was no need for strategic bombing. The Battle of Britian showed that indeed, there was need for a long range bomber as the Ju-88s, He-111s, and Do-17s were not only unable to carry large bomb loads, but were unable to reach far into the UK, even from bases in Northern France. Their answer to this was the trouble-plagued He-177.

Meanwhile, Willy Messerschmitt, a man who had a propensity to make enemies in high places, decided that he should spend the time and effort to build a four engine bomber that would (in theory) be able to reach the United States. The entry of the US in the war brought the realization that other than U-boats, there was no way to cause any damage to American industry. A multitude of plans were put forward from both Heinkel, Junkers, and Messerschmitt, many of these being six engine aircraft.

Messerschmitt had been working the longest on his aircraft as he had managed to convince some that it would make not only a good bomber but a great reconnaissance aircraft. As such, his would be ready for flight before the others. After the usual political wrangling that the military is prone to, the Me-264 was built and ready for flight.

Of course, this was not the end of things. For one thing, there was no place with enough space to build it. The number of prototypes/preproduction planes was lowered from 40 to 3. Finally, the war situation changed to such a level that building the plane became a moot point. Test flying showed the usual problems, though it was considered easy to fly. There were issues with engines as the promised power plants were not going to be available. further putting a damper on getting the plane into production. In the end only one plane was ever completed though two others were in production. As usual, the prototype was destroyed in an air raid near the end of the war.

There is a lot more to the story, but the purpose of a review is the whet the reader's appetite and not repeat the story. The author has obviously done a great deal of research into this most interesting aircraft. The political machinations alone are worth the read. There are great photos of the aircraft, most of which were new to me. Some superb art work of what might have been are also a bonus. It makes for an engrossing read and one that you really should have on your book shelf.

November 2016

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