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American Raiders

The Race to Capture the Luftwaffeâ??s Secrets

Wolfgang W. E. Samuel

Publication Year: 2004

World War II ¨ Cold War--> At the close of World War II, Allied forces faced frightening new German secret weapons--buzz bombs, V-2s, and the first jet fighters. When Hitler's war machine began to collapse, the race was on to snatch these secrets before the Soviet Red Army found them. The last battle of World War II, then, was not for military victory but for the technology of the Third Reich. In American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets Wolfgang Samuel assembles from official Air Force records and survivors' interviews the largely untold stories of the disarmament of the once mighty Luftwaffe and of Operation Lusty--the hunt for Nazi technologies. In April 1945 American armies were on the brink of winning their greatest military victory, yet America's technological backwardness was shocking when measured against that of the retreating enemy. Senior officers, including the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces Henry Harley "Hap" Arnold, knew all too well the seemingly overwhelming victory was less than it appeared. There was just too much luck involved in its outcome. Two intrepid American Army Air Forces colonels set out to regain America's technological edge. One, Harold E. Watson, went after the German jets; the other, Donald L. Putt, went after the Nazis' intellectual capital--their world-class scientists. With the help of German and American pilots, Watson brought the jets to America; Putt persevered as well and succeeded in bringing the German scientists to the Army Air Forces' aircraft test and evaluation center at Wright Field. A young P-38 fighter pilot, Lloyd Wenzel, a Texan of German descent, then turned these enemy aliens into productive American citizens--men who built the rockets that took America to the moon, conquered the sound barrier, and laid the foundation for America's civil and military aviation of the future. American Raiders: The Race to Capture the Luftwaffe's Secrets details the contest won, a triumph that shaped America's victories in the Cold War. Wolfgang W. E. Samuel, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, is the author of German Boy: A Refugee's Story, I Always Wanted to Fly: America's Cold War Airmen, and The War of Our Childhood: Memories of World War II, all published by University Press of Mississippi. He lives in Fairfax Station, Virginia.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xiii

American Raiders provides a glimpse of the complex story of the disarmament of the Luftwaffe after its defeat in the spring of 1945 and the exploitation of its aeronautical secrets. Disarmament and exploitation were two distinctly separate acts executed by unique organizational entities created for those specific purposes. The umbrella plan under which...


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pp. xv-xvii

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1. The Way Things Were—1945

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pp. 3-12

A West Pointer who first saw aerial combat in World War I, Lieutenant General Carl A.“Tooey” Spaatz commanded the largest fleet of combat airplanes ever assembled to wage war. The United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe, USSTAF, with its eleven thousand first-line combat aircraft, had, by 1945, for all practical purposes destroyed the Luftwaffe...

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2. The German Jets

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pp. 13-28

The Luftwaffe entered war in 1939 equipped with first-line fighter aircraft as good as any flying anywhere else in the world. Hitler, however, subscribed to a short war scenario in which each attack against a newly chosen enemy would be overwhelming and brief. In such a scenario there seemed to be little reason to pursue technological innovation...

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3. Jet Encounters

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pp. 29-39

Germans, fewer than half were ever delivered to combat units, and fewer still were committed to actual combat. Although American airmen heard of these German jets, actual encounters were infrequent considering the thousands of American aircraft that roamed across German skies on a daily basis. Yet when they occurred, they were very...

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4. The Defiant Few

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pp. 40-49

The fighter pilots of the Luftwaffe held their own against the western Allies for years, nearly always outnumbered and flying aircraft of increasingly vintage design. The Messerschmitt Bf 109 first flew in 1935, the Focke-Wulf 190 in 1939. By 1944, Allied air superiority had become intimidating to even the most hardened Luftwaffe veterans. Allied air...

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5. Colonel Harold E. Watson

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pp. 50-71

While war raged in Europe, Colonel Harold E. Watson served his country on the home front. Hal became less and less enchanted with his position and applied to his bosses several times for a European assignment. On June 6, 1944, he was still at the Wright-Aero Factory in Cincinnati, an aircraft engine assembly plant, assuring a steady flow of...

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6. The 1st Tactical Air Force (Provisional)

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pp. 72-85

Within days of his arrival at St.-Germain, Hal Watson was issued a blue Eisenhower pass. The pass gave its bearer the authority to go anywhere and request assistance from any U.S. or British military command in the execution of his duties. Bearing General Eisenhower’s signature element, the pass stated in English, French, and German that...

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7. Organizing to Disarm the Luftwaffe

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pp. 86-94

“During the summer of 1944, with the invasion of Europe well under way and the end of war in Europe a reasonable possibility, considerable attention was being given to plans for the post-hostilities period, ”states the History of the Directorate of Intelligence for the United States Strategic Air Forces.1 While planning and organizing isn’t a...

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8. Operation Lusty

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pp. 95-106

In addition to planning for disarmament of the Luftwaffe, there was an obvious need to develop a companion plan for the exploitation of Germany’s advanced technology. Disarmament was simply a security implications for the nation’s future and was therefore accorded the highest priority. A first and important step along those lines was the...

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9. Solving the Japanese Riddle

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pp. 107-122

The implementation of Operation Eclipse, which provided for the occupation of the whole of Germany, the dissolution and disarmament of the German armed forces, and the establishment of a military government, wrapped up the war in Europe as far as the western Allies were concerned. Eclipse was the final operation of a long war that had...

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10. A Mother Lode of Aviation Technology

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pp. 123-142

The Air Technical Intelligence teams and the disarmament squadrons received their direction as to where to look for critical materials from detailed target folders prepared by the targeting sections of the 8th and 9th Air Forces. The folders were derived from target dossiers initially prepared for bombing purposes. With minor additions and changes...

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11. The Secrets of V

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pp. 143-160

When Colonel Donald Putt reported for duty at Headquarters USSTAF in January 1945 he was appointed director of technical services. He expected to go to work for General Knerr, his mentor, but, on his arrival at St.-Germain, Putt learned the headquarters had reorganized and technical services had been moved over to intelligence under...

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12. The Feudin’ 54th

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pp. 161-177

While the Air Technical Intelligence and CIOS/CAFT teams garnered most of the glory in their search and discovery of Nazi technological treasure, they would not have succeeded without the support provided by the disarmament squadrons. The disarmament squadrons provided everything the ATI teams didn’t have or couldn’t do for themselves—...

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13. Watson Picks His Team

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pp. 178-187

Colonel Watson had been busily planning for the recovery of the German jets since his reassignment in late March from the 1st Tactical Air Force Service Command at Vittel back to Headquarters USSTAF in St.-Germain. Watson was attached to McDonald’s Intelligence Directorate, making his home in the Exploitation...

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14. Lager Lechfeld

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pp. 188-197

On VE Day, May 8, 1945, an Me-262A jet fighter approached Lager Lechfeld, wagging its wings, a sign of surrender. The aircraft circled the field, recalled Sergeant Freiburger, then put on a stunning acrobatic display and finally came in low and slow, touching down tentatively. The Me-262A day fighter, painted...

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15. P-47 Jug Pilots

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pp. 198-211

On April 19, 1945, Brigadier General John G.Williams assumed command of the 1st Tactical Air Force Service Command (Provisional), headquartered at Vittel, France. Just five days later, on the twenty-fourth of April, Williams moved his headquarters from Vittel to Schwetzingen, across from the storied university town of Heidelberg. Schwetzingen...

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16. Watson’s Whizzers

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pp. 212-231

Watson visited Lechfeld before anyone else, right after Patton’s troops came through and left their mark. It wasn’t a pretty place to look at. Fortunately, the enthusiastic GIs hadn’t destroyed every Me-262 they had come across, but they hadn’t missed many. What the bombers didn’t get, Patton’s troops took care of, as Bob Strobell...

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17. The Merseburg Fan Club

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pp. 232-247

In late April of 1945 Captain Fred McIntosh was called by the personnel section of the 65th Fighter Wing and asked if he would mind doing nine days of temporary duty, TDY, on the Continent. “Sure, why not,” McIntosh replied. “The war was all but over and I didn’t have a job any-way. When I picked up my orders they didn’t read nine days, but ninety...

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18. Project Seahorse

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pp. 248-261

No plan turns into action in an organization as large and hierarchical as the military without numerous “players” at ever-loftier organizational levels first having the opportunity to cross a “t” or dot an “i,” to say yea or nay before that plan becomes someone’s road map for implementation. Although cumbersome at times, the military...

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19. Melun-Villaroche

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pp. 262-278

Watson flew into Lager Lechfeld on May 29 to take a look at how things were going. He discovered to his surprise that Sergeant Freiburger and Herr Caroli had nearly finished putting ten airplanes into flying condition. Bob Strobell, who had arrived at Lechfeld only two days earlier, cautioned Watson that he personally didn’t feel very...

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20. Roast Duck at Aalborg

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pp. 279-290

By the seventeenth of June, Fred McIntosh was back at Villacoublay to pick up a Ju 388, the same airplane which he and Watson had flown in May from Merseburg to Kassel. He flew the 388 to Cherbourg- Querqueville. His arrival at Querqueville was timed to coincide with...

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21. The Arado 234 Caper

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pp. 291-298

Although Watson was pleased to obtain one of the few TA 152Hs for his growing collection of German aircraft, what he really wanted from the British were several Arado 234 jets, the German twin-jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. None were found in flyable condition...

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22. So Far, So Good

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pp. 299-309

Within a period of two weeks,Watson had pulled together more than fifty Americans and Germans to do his bidding. On May 2, 1945, when he showed up at the doorstep of Karl Baur’s apartment house in Augsburg, he was pretty much a one-man operation. With Karl Baur came twenty-six former Messerschmitt company employees. Then...

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23. The Conquering Hero

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pp. 310-327

Just a day after Bob Strobell bailed out of his P-47 fighter over Mannheim, Colonel Harold Watson and Flugkapit

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24. The Focke-Wulf 190 Tragedy

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pp. 328-343

Wright Field had been testing captured German fighters and bombers since 1943 to determine their strengths and weaknesses.Whatever the Wright Field test pilots learned about those aircraft was passed on to the men fighting the Luftwaffe. One of many test pilots at Wright Field was Kenneth O. Chilstrom. Ken was assigned to the Fighter Section...

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25. Air Shows and Air Races

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pp. 344-352

In the 1940s airmen died all too frequently exploring the frontiers of flight. There was still much to learn, and the equipment they were flying had a diversity of problems. As for the aircraft Colonel Watson retrieved from Germany, they were beset by their own unique problems, some the result of the early state of technology, such as the...

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26. The Birth of Project Overcast

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pp. 353-370

A former Heinkel 177 pilot, Franz Hausmann, recalled, “In late April 1945 I found myself at Parchim airfield in Mecklenburg, flying the Ju 88 twin-engined medium bomber. We were sitting in the officers’ mess, talking about what we should do, where we should go to surrender, when someone said, ‘I am just going to walk...

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27. Project Overcast and One Man’s Experience

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pp. 371-381

Karl Baur was one of two mainstays of Watson’s Me-262 recovery program; Ludwig Hoffmann was the other. From the day Watson arrived in Augsburg on May 2, 1945, until the last Me-262 was delivered to Querqueville airfield, Karl had been there to provide assistance and advice. Not only that, but Karl was the only other pilot besides...

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28. From Overcast to Paperclip

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pp. 382-399

By October 1945, after the last air show for the year at Wright Field, Watson relocated all of his German aircraft to either Wright Field or Freeman Field. Ninety-six freight cars loaded with everything from air-to-ground guided antiship missiles, such as the Hs 293 and the...

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29. How Captain Wenzel Made American Citizens Out of Enemy Aliens

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pp. 400-421

The first four German scientists destined for Wright Field—Doctors Braun, Edse, Zobel, and Nöggerath—had accompanied Karl Baur in September 1945 on his flight via the Azores to the United States. Dr. Rister and Mr. Bock, assistants to Dr. Zobel, joined them two days later. The six men were promised that their families would soon...

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30. The Way Things Changed

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pp. 422-441

“It was in the Battle of the Bulge. We were cowering in our foxholes when my sergeant called out, ‘Here come the Krauts.’ And I was looking up for airplanes, but I couldn’t hear the sound of motors. And then I thought, What on God’s earth is that? One of the new German jets passed right above me, didn’t have a propeller in front. Didn’t fire...

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Afterword: What Became of All These Good Men?

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pp. 443-451

Colonel Harold E.Watson (later Major General Watson) continued his pursuit of building a lasting technical intelligence organization for the United States Air Force. Wright Field, renamed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1947, remained Watson’s focus for the remainder of his career. Watson headed the Collection Division of Air Technical Service Command’s Technical Intelligence Directorate,...


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pp. 452-478


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pp. 479-484


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pp. 485-493

E-ISBN-13: 9781604731361
E-ISBN-10: 1604731362
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578066490
Print-ISBN-10: 1578066492

Publication Year: 2004