The Arcs Of Fire Gallery
Stormbirds Rising by Robert Taylor
by Robert Taylor
A POWERFUL EDITION FEATURING THE WORLD’S FIRST COMBAT JET FIGHTER – THE Me262
The Me262 was sleek, beautifully proportioned and deadly, and with a top speed of around 540mph was a 100mph faster than anything in the Allied arsenal. It could have changed the course of the war.
April 1945: and the end of the war was growing closer. By now the weather
was improving and, as the days began to lengthen, the American Eighth
Air Force was able to dispatch well over a thousand bombers, with a fighter
escort to match, on some of the largest raids of the war.
The Allies’ overwhelming strength meant the contest was all but one-sided; yet the expert pilots of the Luftwaffe were still a force to be reckoned with – especially when armed with their revolutionary Me262 jets.
Had Hitler recognized the jets’ full potential as a fighter, as Adolf Galland
had pushed for, then the course of the war might have been very different.
But he didn’t, and by the time this radical new jet was put into mass production
as a fighter, it was too late to save Hitler’s Reich.
Although some 1,400 Me262s were built, rarely more than a couple of
hundred were fully operational at any one time, continually hampered by
shortages of fuel, spare parts and trained pilots. American factories, in
contrast, could build that number of combat aircraft in a day.
Even so, Allied bombers had frequent contacts with Me262s, especially
those of JG7, and had run into serious trouble from the large jet formations
that the Gruppe had managed to assemble. Eight B-17s had been lost in one
such encounter and the Fortress crews were more than wary of what they
might expect as they battled through the skies above what remained of
the Nazi heartland.
Robert Taylor, the master of aviation art, portrays the Me262s of III./JG7 in
his powerful painting as a tribute to this revolutionary aircraft. He captures a scene during the final weeks of the war as Leutnant Hermann Buchner, by
now one of the most famous jet Aces and recipient of the coveted
Knight’s Cross, joins his fellow pilots of III./JG7 as they climb to intercept
a large formation of American bombers having just left their base at
Parchim. Below them the tranquillity of the meandering River Havel, flowing gracefully through the countryside west of Berlin, is in stark contrast to the
deadly encounters that will soon take place overhead.