THE ‘AMERIKA BOMBER’ MYTH

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For years there has been much debate about the ‘Amerika Bomber’. Today frequent reference is made to an ‘Amerika Bomber’ programme and numerous German bomber projects are regularly associated with it. But there is no contemporary evidence for a programme using that term.

However, there are several references in contemporary British intelligence reports indicating that the Me 264 had indeed been given a nickname by German personnel. Was this the ‘Amerika Bomber’?

A. I. 2.(G) Report No. 2208 of December 26, 1943, states: “The information which has been received concerning the Me 264 is of a rather spectacular nature. It was originally believed that this was to be a twin-engined aircraft but more recent reports describe it as a four-engined long-range recce-bomber. Particular emphasis is laid upon range, which has been variously indicated as 9300 miles; 6200 miles (with four- ton load); and ‘sufficient to attack the USA’. There has also been a reference to sleeping accommodation for four out of a total crew of nine.”

A later account, A. D. I.(K) Report No. 169/44 of April 18, 1944, says: “Two P/W [prisoners of war] who were at Lechfeld during the summer of 1943 had seen an aircraft which they referred to as a Me 264 at that airfield. It appears that one aircraft of this type was standing in the open at Lechfeld airfield for several months up to August 1943 when it suddenly disappeared.

“It aroused P/W’s interest owing to its reputed prodigious range; it was usually referred to as the ‘USA Bomber’, as it was supposed to be capable of attacking the United States, and one P/W asserts that it has been flown to Tokyo and back.”

A. D. I.(K) 1346 dated October 18, 1944, refers to the “Me 264 ‘York Bomber’” presumably meaning ‘New York Bomber’. The most oft-stated reference for the Me 264 as being the ‘Amerika Bomber’ comes from a speech given by Hermann Göring at his Carinhall retreat on March 18, 1943. He is quoted as saying: “I well remember that at Augsburg – it was exactly a year ago – I was shown an ‘Amerika Bomber’ that really called for nothing more than to be put into mass production.” In fact, word for word, the original transcript actually says: “I remember – it is years ago now – when I was in Augsburg, I was shown an ‘America’ aircraft which had only to be put into large-scale production.”

This interesting speech is reproduced in its entirety elsewhere in this publication. So there appears to be no contemporary source that puts ‘Amerika’ and ‘Bomber’ together. Where, then, does this common ‘secret projects’ term come from?

The earliest verified reference appears on p15 in the November 1952 issue of American magazine Flying and is used in reference to a postwar Soviet-supervised Junkers design, the EF 132. It states: “More German scientists and equipment arrived and more German aircraft and engine plants took roots in Russian soil. Professor Doctor Schiebe, Freundel, Wocke, Hartmann and hundreds of others went to work on different projects, such as the most secret Luftwaffe plan of transatlantic bombing with the JuEF 132 – The ‘Amerika Bomber’.”

There is scant evidence from the 1960s but writing in his highly influential 1970 work The Warplanes of the Third Reich, William Green stated that the Me 264 was ‘dubbed unofficially the Amerika-Bomber’. Green was writing at a time when most if not all documents and reports relating to German projects were still classified and unavailable. He therefore did what he could with what he had.

No doubt as a consequence of this description, Herbert Molloy Mason stated in his 1973 book, The Rise of the Luftwaffe, that the Me 264 was known as the Amerika-Bomber, and in his 1978 Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare, Bernard Fitzsimons said the Me 264 was ‘popularly called’ the Amerika-Bomber. In the 1987 Smithsonian Book of Flight, Walter J Boyne also uses ‘Amerika Bomber’ to refer to the Me 264.

Nathan C Goldman, writing in 1992, used the term to refer to Eugen Sänger’s suborbital bomber, as did NASA writer A M Springer in 2003. In 1999, Isolde Baur called the Me 264 an ‘Amerika-Bomber’ in her biography of her husband, Messerschmitt test pilot Karl Baur.

Perhaps most influentially in recent times, David Myhra referred to the Horten XVIII as an Amerika Bomber in his 1998 book Secret Aircraft Designs of the Third Reich. This followed his interview with Reimar Horten in 1980, where Horten stated: “The Ho 18 was to have been a very long-range all-wing bomber which Walter and I were ordered to design and build for Hermann Göring in April 1945. The project already had a nickname – it was being called the ‘Amerika-Bomber’.”

Suffice to say that only Göring and perhaps Horten himself ever used the ‘nickname’ since the XVIII was entered for a competition that was meant to result in a bomber capable of attacking England and, to a limited degree, supply vessels in the Atlantic. Following Myhra’s lead, Walter J Boyne also refers to the Horten XVIII as the ‘Amerika-Bomber’ in his 2002 Air Warfare encyclopaedia, as does Jean-Denis G G Lepage in his 2009 Aircraft of the Luftwaffe, and Lance Cole in his 2015 Secret Wings of World War II.

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