Sunday, February 26, 2012

Science Fiction Becomes Science Fact

In 2003, while finishing up research for my book, Strange Company - Military Encounters With UFOs In WWII,  at the National Archives, College Park, Maryland, I came across the above drawing. Corporal Carmichael, attached to 9th Air Force Intelligence drew this picture, as based on interviews with U.S. pilots. The artists were a very important element of air intelligence. Not sure how many became famous.

The drawing shows a U.S. P-51 Mustang fighter encountering several German ME-262, jet-propelled, and ME-163, rocket-propelled fighters. These new aircraft did not come on the scene until late summer 1944. At the time of this drawing, the allied pilots had not captured these new German aircraft on their gun cameras, so artist renderings were needed to help formulate an accurate picture of what was being seen. For those of you who know German aircraft, the drawing of the aircraft were not quite accurate, revealing accurate intelligence was still incomplete.

What a scary time. It's the summer of 1944. Allied air intelligence knew these new German aircraft would soon make their appearance in combat. All that could be done at that moment was wait and see. Worse scenario was being a crew in a bomber. They were about to face a new enemy weapon. Making it worse, the allied air forces had nothing in their arsenal to even match the enemy's new developments and technology. The first allied airmen to encounter the new German jet and rocket-propelled aircraft must have lost a couple heartbeats (if they saw them coming at all), as the strange looking aircraft made their approach for the kill.

Interestingly, many of the U.S. flyers were followers of science-fiction during those times. And as they flew in over enemy-occupied territory, they were about to see science-fiction become science fact. One can imagine their initial horror. Must have been very unnerving, especially since the P-51 Mustang could only fly at 427 mph, whereas the ME-262 could max out just over 540 mph, and the ME-163 could hit speeds up to 596 mph.