Father of nazi fighters
Wilhelm Emil Messerschmitt, or simply Willy Messerschmitt, was born on June 26, 1898 in the small town of Bamberg in Upper Franconia, which is part of Bavaria. His father, Ferdinand Messerschmitt, was a wealthy and famous wine merchant who maintained a large store with a wine bar. When Ferdinand Messerschmitt died, his widow and mother Willy Anna Maria Schaller married a second time - to the famous artist Professor Karl von Marr. Willy Messerschmitt's teenage and youthful years fell on the first fifteen years of the twentieth century. It was a time of growing interest in aviation. Man only began to conquer the sky, so the profession of a pilot was considered akin to magic and few of the guys dreamed of flying. Willy Messerschmitt was no exception.
The first model of the aircraft, he collected already in 10-year-olds. In 13 years, Willie met the legendary Friedrich Hart, one of the founders of gliding. Subsequently, Hart became a senior friend and teacher Willy. In the 16 years, Messerschmitt tested its first aircraft. School Willy finished at the height of the First World War. In 1917, he was called up for military service, but the war was soon over and Willy returned to a peaceful life. He entered the Technical University of Munich, while not forgetting to do his favorite thing, aeromodelling, in parallel with his studies.
In 1921, 23-year-old Willie built the S8 glider, setting a record for flight duration. By the way, Friedrich Hart himself climbed on a glider. After Willy Messerschmitt completed his studies at the University of Munich in 1923 and was qualified as an engineer, he returned to his native Bamberg, where he founded his own aircraft manufacturer, Messerschmitt Flugzeugbau. In the same year, Messerschmitt's paths diverged with a friend and mentor, Hart, and Willy worked independently in the field of aviation. In 1925, he decided to personally take to the air, but this experience turned out to be unsuccessful for a talented engineer - Willy went to the hospital after an emergency landing. Indeed, by no means in all cases a good aircraft manufacturer can become an excellent pilot.
In the second half of the 1920's. Messerschmitt continued design activities. So, he developed a light transport plane M18, designed for a pilot and three passengers. 25 March 1926 was founded by Messerschmitt Flugzeugbau GmbH, which soon received a financial subsidy from the government of Bavaria. After this business Messerschmitt went up the hill. Already 30 July 1926, the government of Bavaria supported Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) with the support of Merck, Fink and Co., the banker company, which will later become Germany’s most important aviation company and will launch 43% German combat aircraft during World War II. It is known that almost all models of Messerschmitt had an abbreviation Bf on the fuselage. This was due to the fact that under the pressure of the Bavarian government, Messerschmitt soon had to incorporate his company into Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. In this case, the engineer remained the chief designer and designer of the aircraft, he was recognized as the copyright on the aircraft, while the company took up mass production.
The company launched a stormy activity for the production of aircraft. In a fairly short time, various versions of the M18 and M20b aircraft, the twin-engine 22 M bomber, the M21 training biplane, the M23 two-seater sports monoplane, the M24 8-passenger passenger airplanes, the M-28 and M-35 aerobatics, the lightweight M-12 and M-108 aerobatics, and the lightweight M-1920 and M-XNUMX sports monoplanes were completed; aircraft. The most famous project of Willy Messerschmitt at this time was the four-seater Me-XNUMX "Typhoon" sports aircraft, which was later recognized as a classic and became a model for the development of aircraft of this class. However, at the very end of XNUMX's. the company began hard times that were associated with financial difficulties.
The situation was aggravated by the fact that in 1933, the Nazis came to power and the former managing director of Lufthansa, Erhard Milch, who had very difficult relations with Willy Messerschmitt, became the Secretary of State for Aviation. In Hitler's Germany, Erhard Milch had a special influence - he had a very serious patron in the person of Hermann Goering, who even managed to “cover up” the Jewish origin of Milch and the general, who had a Jewish father, remained at the very top of the German military hierarchy. In such a situation, Willy Messerschmitt had no choice but to establish contacts with other high-ranking Nazis who could defend his interests before the Milch-Goering bloc. So patron for Messerschmitt was Rudolf Hess - a man who was very close to Adolf Hitler at that time and was considered the second number in the Nazi party. With the help of Hess, Messerschmitt managed to maintain his position, but the German leadership continued to doubt him as an aircraft designer. The leaders of the Third Reich believed that Willy Messerschmitt was a good administrator of an aviation company, but it was better not to allow him to design aircraft.
Meanwhile, in 1934, the German Ministry of Aviation announced a competition to develop a new fighter for the country's air force. Companies Arado, Focke-Wulf and Heinkel ran into competition. Thanks to his connections, Wilhelm Messerschmitt was among the contestants. However, the chances of his victory were very slim. However, soon Messerschmitt brought the Bf109 plane to the attention of the state commission.
This machine made the strongest impression on the future inspector of the Third Reich fighter and bomber aviation, General Ernst Udet. For German aviation, Udet was a landmark figure, one of the most famous pilots of the country's air forces. After finishing World War I with an 22-year-old fighter pilot, Ernst Udet by number of victories in air battles, and there were their 62, second only to Manfred von Richthofen himself. Udet's authority in German aviation was unshakable, which made the German authorities listen carefully to the position of the general. After observing the tests of the Bf109 fighter, Udet realized that this was the best machine that had been in Germany at that time. So Messerschmitt came to success again. The company he led began receiving orders for the production of aircraft, and soon the construction of a new plant in Regensburg was begun.
11 July 1938 g BFW changed its name to Messerschmitt AG. Engineer Wilhelm himself assumed the position of chairman of the board and managing director at the company. Thanks to General Udeta, Messerschmitt quickly became one of the most respected figures in the German aviation industry. Already in 1936, the aircraft he created were tested in Spain, where they had to face the Soviet fighters I-16. Air battles in the sky over Spain showed what the fighters created by Willy Messerschmitt are really capable of. 26 April 1939 on the Me-209 was set a world speed record for screw machines - 755,1 kilometers per hour. The pilot Fritz Wendel set it up, and the record lasted as long as thirty years - a huge time for aviation, especially during its rapid development.
During the Second World War, the Messers became the most common German fighter. The Wilhelm Messerschmitt company produced 35 thousand Bf109 fighter jets. They fought on all fronts where German aircraft fought - in the battle for Britain, in the battles in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean, on the Eastern Front. At first, Soviet aviation suffered very heavy losses precisely because of the Messerschmitts. At the beginning of World War II, every seventh Soviet pilot was killed during the first combat sortie. The Messerschmitts ensured the superiority of the Luftwaffe in the air in 1941-1942. Only then the situation began to change, which was associated with the development of the Soviet aircraft industry and the emergence of new Soviet aircraft that could already fight on an equal footing with the "Messerschmitt". However, until the end of the war, Soviet pilots considered the Bf-109 fighters to be their most dangerous opponents.
A serious blow to the German aircraft was the emergence and new models of aircraft from the allies. The American P-51 "Mustang" and the British Spitfires Mark V and Mark IX were not inferior to the "Messerschmitt", which contributed to the turning point in air battles. The territory of Germany began to be subjected to raids by Allied aviation, and the Luftwaffe rapidly weakened and could no longer protect the German sky from American, British, and then Soviet aviation. The decline in the level of training of German pilots also played its role, since many experienced pilots died in battles on the Eastern Front and the Luftwaffe were staffed by “fresh” graduates of schools, who did not have enough experience and were losing strong pilots of the Soviet and Allied aviation. The capitulation of Nazi Germany was a crushing blow to the German military industry, including the aircraft industry. Wilhelm Messerschmitt, who had recently headed the aviation company, was on the dock. This is not to say that the engineer was attracted unfairly. He was charged with using the labor of slaves who were forcibly removed from the occupied countries to Germany at their enterprises.
However, in prison, Wilhelm Messerschmitt spent only two years. Like many other prominent German businessmen and politicians who were not directly involved in the most outspoken atrocities of the Hitler regime, Messerschmitt was released. He went to Spain, where he continued to rule Francisco Franco, one of two European dictators who did not lose power in the wake of the Second World War. Then Messerschmitt returned to the management of his company, which by this time was in a depressing position. As a result of the Second World War, it was not supposed to have its own armed forces and the military industry of Germany. Engineer Messerschmitt, who devoted his entire life to aircraft manufacturing, retrained his company to the production of sewing machines and cars - "small car". Over the course of three years, from 1958 to 1961, the Messerschmitt TG-950 500 was produced.
It is possible that during this period of his life, Wilhelm Messerschmitt could be sure that he would never again be able to engage in aircraft building for German needs. But after a few years, the world and European political situation radically changed. There was a Cold War and the United States needed "junior partners" to confront the Soviet Union and the communist influence in Europe.
After the proclamation of the Federal Republic of Germany, the formation of its armed forces, the Bundeswehr, soon began. Not only American military advisers, but also former Hitler generals and officers took the most direct part in the creation of the Bundeswehr. Not left aside and the military industrialists. Messerschmitt AG is back. She received production licenses for the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter for the Bundeswehr Air Force. Then, Wilhelm Messerschmitt, who had not yet thought of retirement, developed a lightweight supersonic Helwan HA-300 interceptor for the needs of Egyptian military aviation for Egypt. It was the last design development, the authorship of which belonged personally to Willy Messerschmitt.
Messerschmitt AG merged with Bölkow in 1968, with Hamburger Flugzeugbau in 1969, and then received the name Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB). Wilhelm Messerschmitt retained the post of chairman of the company until 1970. At the age of 72, he nevertheless decided to resign. 15 September 1978, eight years after retirement, 80-year-old Wilhelm Messerschmitt died quietly in a hospital in Munich.
Subscribe and stay up to date with the latest news and the most important events of the day.