Luftwaffe Over Ohio!
By Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi
A Messerschmitt Me-163B rocket fighter on public display after the end of the Second World War. [NASM]
During the war, the ATSC maintained a loose inventory system over the trickle of enemy aircraft that had come to them. Some aircraft had been assigned an "EB" (Evaluation Branch) prefix number (i.e., Me-109G 'EB-102, FW-190 EB-104). Others received no known designation (i.e., Me-109G-2/Trop Irmgard, Black "14" of 2(H)/14, used for static tests at Wright Field and tested to destruction) . Now, with the sudden deluge of German aircraft, a new inventory system was instituted, whereby all enemy aircraft were issued an aircraft number, preceded by the letters "FE," standing for Foreign Equipment, or possibly Foreign Evaluation. There exists some disagreement on the exact term, and we can find no reliable authority to explain this specifically. Aircraft already in the ATSC inventory were included in this new inventory system.
After the war ended, both Wright and Freeman Field held a public exposition. Here an Ar-234 and Me-262 share a hanger with a Flettner Fl-282 helicopter, and a number of aircraft engines. [NASM]
With the sudden end of the war in the Pacific, the rush to evaluate the ex-Luftwaffe aircraft eased. The test program proceeded at a more leisurely pace as the ATSC's focus turned more and more toward displaying their prizes. Wright Field and Freeman Field each held at least one open house. A large aircraft display was arranged in Columbus, Ohio, in 1946. Many aircraft that have survived took part, including the National Air and Space Museum's (NASM) Me-109G and Fw-19OF. It is possible that in 1946 a display was arranged at Bolling Airfield, Washington DC, which hosted at least one Me-262.
By December 1945, the Air Technical Intelligence collection and evaluation process for Luftwaffe technology officially transferred from London to Wright Field . In March 1946, Air Technical Service Command became Air Material Command. It was around this time the "FE" numbers assigned to captured Luftwaffe' and Japanese aircraft became "T2" numbers, T-2 being the organization designator for Air Technical Intelligence. The prefix "FE" changed to "T2" or "T-2," but the inventory numbers did not change. This probably reflected the organizational changes taking place.
In January 1946, Middletown Depot was designated as the new collection point for Japanese aircraft. The aircraft remaining at Freeman Field were limited to German and American operational and experimental types. ATI continued its evaluation of Luftwaffe aircraft at Wright Field. Freeman Field served as storage and maintenance and provided many flying and non-flying exhibits from its collection of aircraft for various tours.
By 1946, America, tired of war, turned to peace with a vengeance. Demilitarization began in earnest and the war booty in Indiana and Ohio was soon forgotten. Freeman Field closed in the summer of 1946, and its unique collection dispersed. At least 25 ex-Luftwaffe aircraft from Freeman Field were put into storage at a Douglas Aircraft Plant at Orchard Place Airport in Park Ridge, Illinois, along with examples of American aircraft from Freeman Field. The aircraft at Orchard Place were now referred to as the National Aeronautical Collection. The remainder of the aircraft at Freeman Field were split up between Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona, and Wright Field. In September 1947, the National Aeronautical Collection became part of the Smithsonian as the National Air Museum.
When the National Air Museum aircraft were moved from Park Ridge to Silver Hill in 1950, most of the aircraft were partially disassembled and loaded onto pallettes for ease of handling. [NASM]
Paul F. Straney and Robert Sacchi © 1990