Mano Ziegler, as a pilot of the legendary Me 163 rocket interceptor is uniquely placed to give the reader an insight into how the Nazi regime failed to utilise the Me 262 at the end of World War 2. His position as a member of the Luftwaffe gives us a perspective far removed from that of allied bias. Ziegler is honest about Hitler’s decaying mental state and his obsession with the “wunderwaffe” as a means of saving his diminishing power. Hitler’s determination to make the Me 262 into a “blitzbomber” doomed the aircraft. Time and again, developers and pilots sought to change the Fuhrer’s mind about the aircraft and time after time they failed. In the fighter configuration, the Me 262 was faster than anything the allies had and far better suited to attacking bombers than being one. Whilst Ziegler tells the reader of the innumerable benefits of the Me 262 he doesn’t avoid some of its major faults. He makes it very clear that an Me 262 caught on the ground was little but a sitting duck to allied air power.
Whilst this is a book about the use of the Me 262 in World War 2 by Nazi Germany it is much better read as a narrative of disharmony between the leadership and industry. This book tells us far more about the desperate situation Germany found itself in as the allies pressed in. What makes this book really worth reading, beyond its political scope, are the accounts of surviving Me 262 pilots. These accounts bring the aircraft to life and really let the reader “sit in the cockpit.”