Messerschmitt Me 163B - (scan - donated)

The Me 163 was a very dangerous plane to fly. I recommend Mano Ziegler's book "Rocket Fighter", the novel-like account of his experiences as part of Erprobungskommando 16, the unit that was charged with the operational testing of the Me 163. This book is not to be confused with the softbound, 8-1/2" X 11" picture book that bears the same title and author. The book of Zieglers memoirs that I have is a pocket-sized paperback:

Bantam Books
ISBN 0-553-27348-5
First published in German in 1961 as Raketenj\144ger Me 163
by Motor-Presse-Verlag, Gmbh, Stuttgart

This is probably the most interesting military aviation book I have ever read. I couldn't put it down until I finished it. Here is a And here is the publication data page. Find it!

The two-part liquid fuel used by the Me 163 was extremely volatile and corrosive. The slightest contact between the two fuels resulted in a huge explosion. The fuel would also quickly dissolve human flesh, making contact with it usually fatal. Pilots could rarely survive a flameout, because landing with a full fuel load almost always resulted in an explosion. Even if the fuel didn't explode, such landings often resulted in one of the fuel tanks rupturing, spilling fuel on the pilot. Mano Ziegler describes one such incidentwhere they found little more than a skeleton remaining of a pilot.

Ziegler also describes one incident where he and one of his comerades were preparing for a flight. His friend was boarding the aircraft when there was a huge explosion. Almost nothing remained except for a smoldering patch of ground. This plane wasn't for wimps!

In combat the plane met with limited success. It was so fast that the closing speeds made aiming and shooting difficult. Time under power was extremelely limited (10-15 minutes) which made finding and approaching a target difficult. With the fuel consumed, the plane was forced to glide in for a landing, at which time it was very vulnerable to attack.

The 163 was equipped initially with 2 20 mm cannon and later by 2 30 mm cannon. Me 163s have been credited with destroying 9 enemy aircraft, but at least that number of 163s were destroyed in landing and fuel- handling mishaps. Although inexpensive to build, it had minimal effect on Allied war effort. Nevertheless, represented significant advance in technology and caused USAAF to divert substantial fighter resources to address threat.

Click on the picture to get a full-screen, high-res photo!