Sharks of the Air: Willy Messerschmitt and How He Built the World’s First Operational Jet Fighter

Casemate
7
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In July 1944 the Allies were stunned by the appearance of the Messerschmitt Me-262, the world’s first operational jet warplane. This new German fighter was more than 100 mph faster than any other aircraft in the skies. Although always greatly outnumbered, the Me-262 gained scores of victories over Allied fighters and bombers, and by the end of the war, many of the Luftwaffe’s greatest aces had clamored to be in their cockpits. No wonder military leaders believed that if it had been introduced earlier, this jet could have changed the outcome of the war.

Sharks of the Air tells the story of Willy Messerschmitt’s life, and shows how this aeronautical genius built many revolutionary airplanes—not excluding the Luftwaffe’s mainstay, the Me-109—and culminating in the Me-262. It describes how his various warplanes fought in Spain, Poland, France, Britain, the U.S.S.R., and over Germany, and it provides thrilling accounts of air battles drawn from combat reports and interviews with veterans.

This book also shows how Messerschmitt—like other geniuses such as Porsche, von Braun, and Speer— was affected by cutthroat Nazi politics, and describes his intense rivalries with other aircraft designers. It reveals aspects of his life never before made public, including his love affair with the beautiful Baroness Lilly Michel-Rolino, a rich aristocrat who left her husband to live with Willy.

And finally it shows how in Word War II Messerschmitt believed he was loyally supporting the Fatherland, until he realized too late that Hitler was a madman. Like many of the technical innovations of Nazi Germany in the war, production arrived too late in order to change the final outcome. If Messerschmitt had been given free rein from the start, however, Allied air superiority might never have occurred.

Author James Neal Harvey has been a pilot for more than 40 years and has owned a dozen aircraft (including a De Havilland Tiger Moth built for the RAF, a Stinson V-77 that flew in the Royal Navy, and a Messerschmitt Bf-108 that served in the Luftwaffe). Author of six previous books, his grasp of aero-dynamics informs the narrative, as he examines how Messerschmitt might well have changed the course of the Second World War.
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About the author

Author James Neal Harvey has been a pilot for more than 40 years and has owned a dozen aircraft (including a De Havilland Tiger Moth built for the RAF, a Stinson V-77 that flew in the Royal Navy, and a Messerschmitt Bf-108 that served in the Luftwaffe). Author of six previous books, his grasp of aero-dynamics informs the narrative, as he examines how Messerschmitt might well have changed the course of the Second World War.

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Publisher
Casemate
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Published on
Jan 5, 2011
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781612000237
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / Aviation
History / Military / World War II
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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 In introducing the student to the history of the development of European culture, the problem of proportion has seemed to me, throughout, the fundamental one. Consequently I have endeavored not only to state matters truly and clearly but also to bring the narrative into harmony with the most recent conceptions of the relative importance of past events and institutions. It has seemed best, in an elementary treatise upon so vast a theme, to omit the names of many personages and conflicts of secondary importance which have ordinarily found their way into our historical text-books. I have ventured also to neglect a considerable number of episodes and anecdotes which, while hallowed by assiduous repetition, appear to owe their place in our manuals rather to accident or mere tradition than to any profound meaning for the student of the subject.

The space saved by these omissions has been used for three main purposes. Institutions under which Europe has lived for centuries, above all the Church, have been discussed with a good deal more fullness than is usual in similar manuals. The life and work of a few men of indubitably first-rate importance in the various fields of human endeavor—Gregory the Great, Charlemagne, Abelard, St. Francis, Petrarch, Luther, Erasmus, Voltaire, Napoleon, Bismarck—have been treated with care proportionate to their significance for the world. Lastly, the scope of the work has been broadened so that not only the political but also the economic, intellectual, and artistic achievements of the past form an integral part of the narrative.

I have relied upon a great variety of sources belonging to the various orders in the hierarchy of historical literature; it is happily unnecessary to catalogue these. In some instances I have found other manuals, dealing with portions of my field, of value. In the earlier chapters, Emerton's admirableIntroduction to the Middle Ages furnished many suggestions. For later periods, the same may be said of Henderson's careful Germany in the Middle Ages and Schwill's clear and well-proportioned History of Modern Europe. For the most recent period, I have made constant use of Andrews' scholarlyDevelopment of Modern Europe. For England, the manuals of Green and Gardiner have been used. The greater part of the work is, however, the outcome of study of a wide range of standard special treatises dealing with some short period or with a particular phase of European progress. As examples of these, I will mention only Lea's monumental contributions to our knowledge of the jurisprudence of the Church, Rashdall's History of the Universities in the Middle Ages, Richter's incomparable Annalen der Deutschen Geschichte im Mittelalter, the Histoire Générale, and the well-known works of Luchaire, Voigt, Hefele, Bezold, Janssen, Levasseur, Creighton, Pastor. In some cases, as in the opening of the Renaissance, the Lutheran Revolt, and the French Revolution, I have been able to form my opinions to some extent from first-hand material.

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