me262s

Aviation authors have long wondered about the small “S” painted on the fuselages of some Me 262s of III./EJG 2. On “white 1”, found at Innsbruck (possibly W.Nr. 170047), this appeared on the port fuselage side roughly in line with the leading edge of the tailplane; on “white 17” (W.Nr. 110956) it was in the centre of the port Balkenkreuz and repeated on the fin just above the Werk Nummer and forward of the Hakenkreuz; “outline white 26” (a reconnaissance model found at Lechfeld) had a red “S” on both sides of the fuselage, just under the tailplanes.

The consensus has been that “S” denoted a »Schulmaschine« (training aircraft) not to be flown in combat. Kennneth Merrick elaborates, saying that training units used aircraft which, when tested, had been found unequal to the stresses of combat flying and were marked with the “S” as a warning. A deciphered German strength return, while still ambiguous, seems finally to define what the “S” meant: that the aircraft was unreliable beyond a particular speed.

On the afternoon of 6 April 1945, Major Kröchel of “Branch Station [Außenstelle] Lechfeld” sent a strength return to the General Plenipotentiary for Jet Aircraft in Berlin, in which the total strength of III./EJG 2 was given as 25 Me 262 of which 16 were serviceable; then the figure was broken down as follows:

16

Me 262 A-1 S

(over 800 kms.)

3

Me 262 B-1

[here a short piece of text is missing: possibly "two-seater"]

7

Me 262 A-4

(reconnaissance aircraft)

NOTE: Since this comes to 26, not 25, one or other of the figures must be in error. Also the print quality of the original on file is poor, so the “B-1” designation is a best guess — the letter is not an “A” and appears to include curved lines.

The report also gave the numbers of aircraft in the Chief Quartermaster’s Reserve at Lechfeld, 11 Me 262, of which (as deciphered):

over800

NOTE: “(++)” is the ULTRA substitute for a double asterisk and the corresponding footnote reads:
“(++) meaning not known.” It is surprising that the analysts, usually so perceptive, did not think of kilometres per hour here.

 

Conclusions

The report offers two apparently contradictory uses of the “S” designation: “over 800 km” and “over 800 km/h not reliable” but I suspect that the first is just shorthand for the second. There would be no point in having a category with two diametrically opposite meanings, no point in painting a “warning” on an aircraft that could mean it either was or was not safe. The logical conclusion seems to be that Me 262s marked with an “S” were not rated safe to fly at over 800 km/h.

Another communication of 6 April from Lechfeld to the General Plenipotentiary concerns the »Sichtungsstelle« [Inspection/Selection Station] of the General der Jagdflieger. The unnamed author was enquiring whether further inspections/selections were to be carried out or whether III./EJG 2 would be supplied via some other channel. The implication seems to be that that Gen.d.J. was categorising Me 262s arriving at Lechfeld as either combat-worthy or for allocation to III./EJG 2. If this is correct then it was probably the »Sichtungsstelle« which determined which would receive the “S” marking.

NOTE: Bletchley Park translated »Sichtung« as “interview”, which makes little more sense in the context than would the word’s primary meaning, “sighting.” When it comes to a technical facility dealing with aircraft then further definitions of inspection, "selection" and "triage" are more illuminating.

This translation as “interview” is however explained by another message of the same date, deciphered a couple of hours earlier. It came from Gen. der Flieger Karl Koller, referring to the Sichtungsstelle and volunteers from the ranks of “fighter pilots (single-engined) who have already seen action at the front.” These were to report to (as translated) the “Interview Office A.O. for Fighters at present at Lechfeld near Augsburg.” This message was deciphered first and spoke of people, who can be interviewed, rather than aircraft, which generally cannot. Confronted with a second message about the same establishment, the translators opted, it seems, for consistency.

 

Sources

ULTRA CX/MSS/T514/61, CX/MSST519/5 and CX/MSS/T524/11

David E. Brown, Tomáš Poruba, Jan Vladař: Messerschmitt Me 262 production and Arado Ar 234 Final Operations (Japo Publishing, 2012)

Kenneth A. Merrick: Luftwaffe Camouflage and Markings 1933–1945 Volume Two (Classic 2005) ISBN 1 903223 39 3

Dan O’Connell: Messerschmitt Me 262, The Production Log 1941–45 (Classic, 2005) ISBN 1 903223 59 8

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