Compiled by Dave O’Malley from the World Wide Web, with the assistance of Alex Soupy Campbell and Omer Syed.


Over the past seven years of researching aviation stories on the web, I have kept a folder on my laptop dedicated to images of Second World War aircraft that had been captured and had suffered the indignity of being painted in the national markings of the enemy they were designed to fight and vanquish—like a Spitfire in the service of the Luftwaffe, a Zero in US Navy markings.

It has always struck me as undignified to see a Supermarine Spitfire wearing the hated Hakenkreuz (Swastika). Here was an aircraft which came to be the poster child for the strength of the British people and their ability to withstand the international bully that was Nazi Germany and now they had their hands and evil symbols all over it. To me, it was an outrage—like vandals spray-painting foul language on my mother’s car; as if some thugs had stolen Terry Fox’s van and painted 666 and neopaganist pentagrams on the sides.

But I soon learned that something I had originally thought was a rare exception was in fact a widespread, even systematic practice; not only in the Second World War, but from the very first time aircraft were pitted against each other in war.

One thing I know is that no fighter pilot relishes a fair fight. What they want above all is an advantage so that when they go toe to toe with the enemy, they are assured a much greater chance of the win than their opponent. Ever since David and Goliath, a fighter with a technological edge can triumph over a greater opponent. A Luftwaffe fighter pilot would rather engage a Fairey Battle than a Supermarine Spitfire, because the outcome would be weighted in his favour.

One of the simple ways to gain a technological advantage over an enemy is simply to know his weaknesses, be familiar with his blind spots, know what it is he can and can’t do. As the greatest war theorist of all time, Sun Tzu, wrote in The Art of War, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles”. To this end, Allied and Axis nations alike in both World Wars slavered at the chance to take possession of one of their enemy’s flying machines and study it up close on the ground and in the air.

This folder of mine grew to hundreds of photographs and many links to the stories that explained the images. Over the years, I realized that many images that had been in this folder had long ago lost their links to the information I needed to explain them. But that didn’t stop me from putting together a pictorial essay. Here, for your enjoyment and edification, are nearly 250 of those images of captured aircraft wearing spurious markings. The truth is I could have made this a 500-image pictorial tribute, but one has to stop somewhere. These images have come from many sources over the years, and some links I have lost or have ceased to exist. I have written many of the accompanying texts, but in most cases, I have simply edited the texts that I found with the images (thank you Wikipedia). In each case I attempted to find additional sources on the web to back up the stories associated with each image.

In no way is this definitive. In no way is this a historical treatise or be-all and end-all of anything. In no way is this more than simply a visual tribute to all those aircraft that had to endure the indignity of enemy symbols. In many cases I may in fact have it wrong and I invite anyone to show me the correct information and I will update anything. In fact, for this I would be grateful. If anyone has issue with the use of any of this material if it is proprietary, let me know and I will remove offending images.

Let’s get the show on the road.

The First World War

During the First World War, advances in aviation were astounding... certainly greater than any “advances” on the ground. The difference between the aircraft at the outset and at the end of the war was nothing short of astonishing. It was easy for one combatant to gain air superiority over another with the simple application of a single new technology. The introduction of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane, with its ability to fire its machine gun forward through the propeller without deflectors on the propeller, was such an advance, the Allied air forces were at a distinct disadvantage for some months. The capture of an enemy aircraft on either side meant a chance to look closely at new technology like synchronizing propellers, new structural and engine technologies. The world of military aviation was advancing so fast that seeing what the other half was doing was as important as one’s own research.

When the First World War started in 1914, it was the habit of ground troops to fire on all aircraft, friend or foe, which “encouraged” the need for some form of identification mark on all aircraft. At first, the Union Flag was painted under the wings and on the sides of the fuselages of Royal Flying Corps (RFC) aircraft. It soon became obvious that, at a distance, the St George’s Cross of the Union Flag could be confused with the Iron Cross that was already being used to identify German aircraft—particularly from below and against the glare of the sky. After a Union Flag inside a shield was tried unsuccessfully, it was decided to follow the lead of the French air force which used a circular symbol resembling, and called, a “cockade” (a rosette of red and white with a blue centre). The British reversed the colours and it became the standard marking on Royal Flying Corps aircraft from 11 December 1914, although it was well into 1915 before the new marking was used entirely consistently. The Royal Naval Air Service meanwhile briefly used a red ring, without the blue centre, until it was sensibly decided to standardize the RFC roundel for all British aircraft.

With ground troops and pilots on both sides attuned to identifying friend from foe based on these new national markings displayed on aircraft, it behooved pilots who were test flying enemy aircraft to mark them in the manner of their own armed forces. This had two benefits. Firstly, all test flights were conducted over friendly territory where ground troops would not take kindly to the flight of a single enemy-marked aircraft doing loops and rolls overhead. Marking the aircraft as friendly was simply common sense. Secondly, should a pilot testing an enemy aircraft, through disorientation, find himself over enemy territory and forced down, it would not result in a good outcome should he be flying an aircraft in the markings of the men who captured him. He would, no doubt, be considered a spy, and despite whatever he did to convince them otherwise, the pilot would likely be shot for wearing the markings of his enemy, much as ground troops posing as their enemies to gain superiority would be treated.

During the First World War, engine technology was still in its infancy. Rotary, in-line and radial engines could and often did, under many situations, simply stop in flight, either packed in, mishandled or roughly handled. Aerial battles were always conducted over enemy territory for one side or another. Aircraft in perfect condition, except for engine trouble, quite regularly were forced down and captured. In scouring the internet for photographic evidence of captured and remarked aircraft from the First World War, I was surprised at the wealth of spectacular images of both British and German aircraft in the hands of their adversaries. The internet is an amazing place to do a walkabout in search of information on a specific thing. The truth was that after just a few hours, I came across dozens of well documented cases of Sopwiths in Iron Crosses or Fokkers with roundels. I chose just ten of the dozens I found. Here, in no particular order, is a short visual tribute to the first military pilots and the captured aircraft they came to fly.

Es ist nicht ein “Pup”, es ist ein “Welpe”! A perfectly intact Sopwith Pup in Imperial German Air Service markings shares a flight line with German-built types in France. The Pup in this shot has been identified as the same Pup (N6161) featured in the following photo; however, to me, it seems they have different crosses on their fuselages, so I am not sure they are the same aircraft. Photo:

A Sopwith Pup (N6161), built by Sopwith at Kingston-upon-Thames, was brought down in nearly perfect condition near Blankenberghe on 1 February 1917 by Flugmeister Carl Meyer of Seeflugstation Flandern 1 and the pilot of the Pup, Flight-Sub-Lieutenant G.L. Elliott, was made a POW. Following evaluation and trials with the German Air Service, N6161 was then re-painted and given German markings. Not all post-capture test flights were successful with N6161, as indicated by this shot of her having broken her undercarriage and nosed over. It is interesting to note that though the markings were completely changed to those of Imperial Germany, the aircraft retained its RFC serial number. Photo:

We, Second World War warbird students, can be forgiven if our less-trained eyes call this a Fokker Triplane. It is in fact a Sopwith Triplane, sometimes called a “Tripehound” or just “Tripe”. This particular Tripe, Serial No. N5429, had previously seen service with No. 8 Naval and No. 10 Naval Squadrons, before being assigned to RNAS 1 Naval Squadron at Bailleul, France. While being flown by Flt. Sub-Lt J.R. Wilford of Naval 1, this aircraft was forced down by German pilot Kurt Wüsthoff (as his 15th victory), and captured on 13 September 1917. Following capture, this Tripe was painted over with German markings. Photo:

British officers get a close-up look at a captured German fighter, an Albatros DVa, wearing Royal Flying Corps roundels. This particular Albatros (Serial Number 1162/17–coded G56) was captured at St. Omer, France following an attack on a balloon of 38KBS and given captured serial number of G56. It was a former Jasta 4 aircraft flown by Feldwebel Clausnitzer. The DVa was brought down by a Lieutenant Langsland of 23 Squadron. After capture it was extensively tested and flown in the UK. Photo:

Another captured Albatros (D4545/17) in Royal Flying Corps markings including recovered rudder. This Albatros was brought down in December 1917 by anti-aircraft fire (which must have been relatively light as there is little damage evident). The pilot was Max Wackwitz of Jasta 24. The aircraft was then given an RFC capture number–G97.

Another angle on Albatros D4545/17 (the same aircraft as the previous photo) shows her original five-colour lozenge camouflage, so typical of many German flying machines of the First World War, and also her Royal Flying Corps roundels and fin flash.

A captured Fokker DVII (German serial 6792) is serviced with Sopwith Camels (in background), whilst wearing Royal Flying Corps markings. We can also see the standard multi-colour German lozenge camouflage paint scheme. A close look at the lettering on her sides, we see in addition to the 6792 serial, the words Fok DVII (Alb). This means it is a Fokker D7 and was manufactured under license by Albatros Werke. Photo supplied courtesy of John W. Adams Collection

Another captured Fokker DVII (D-7 serial number 2009/18), this time in French Air Force markings, carries long pitot tube on its starboard inter-plane struts, added post capture. Photo:

During the Second World War, there was no way an RAF fighter would share top billing next to a Hakenkreuze (Swastika), but this early application of a swastika in the First World War on a Pfalz D.III carries none of the evil we have come to know and is merely decoration with the roundel or cockade being painted over the mark that really mattered—the German Iron Cross which once occupied the fuselage. Swastikas were used by both sides during the First World War and were looked upon as good luck symbols. Some aircraft of the American squadron in the French Air Force, known as l’Escadrille Lafayette, actually carried a similar swastika. In fact, a swastika like this was the personal symbol of Raoul Lufbery, the leading ace of l’Escadrille Lafayette. Thanks to Mark Nelson for assistance with this aircraft identity. Photo:

A Fokker Eindecker EIII (the main production variant of the German fighter) captured and over-painted with early French Air Force cockades and tri-colour fin flash. The Fokker Eindecker fighters were a series of German First World War monoplane single-seat fighter aircraft designed by Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker. Developed in April 1915, the first Eindecker (“Monoplane”) was the first purpose-built German fighter aircraft and the first aircraft to be fitted with a synchronization gear, enabling the pilot to fire a machine gun through the arc of the propeller without striking the blades. The Eindecker granted the German Air Service a degree of air superiority from July 1915 until early 1916. This period was known as the “Fokker Scourge”, during which Allied aviators regarded their poorly armed aircraft as “Fokker Fodder”. Photo:

A Bristol F2BF2 Fighter (A7231) was captured by Jasta 5 of the German Air Force and provided valuable intelligence of the type’s capabilities. It was then painted in German markings and used as the squadron hack. Concerned that German Iron Crosses were not enough to deter German soldiers from taking pot shots at her, Jasta 5 pilots added large lettered notifications stating clearly: Don’t Shoot! Good People!

The Second World War

At the beginning of the Second World War, both for the Europeans and for the Americans (when their turn came two years later), the Allies were caught off guard by the ruthlessness, the seemingly unstoppable momentum and the new weapons of the enemy for which they had not yet found answering technologies. In Europe, the Fairey Battles, Hampdens, Lysanders, Whitleys, Gladiators and Ansons were simply not the equals of the Messerschmitts, Heinkels and Dorniers. The French, British, Dutch, and Belgians found themselves reeling backwards under the technological tsunami that was the blitzkrieg.

After Pearl Harbor, the scourge of the Mitsubishi Zero lashed the Pacific and South Asia from the Aleutians to Papua New Guinea and from Hawaii to Burma. The Hellcat and Corsair were still at least a year away from their debuts. If only the US Navy could get their hands on a single intact Mitsubishi Zero, not so they could copy or benefit from the technology, but so they could test fly it, understand its strengths and, more importantly, find its weaknesses. The Zero was fast, wickedly manoeuvrable and its pilots were battle tested in China and trained more rigorously than any in history. American and Allied pilots were just as courageous, but half a year into the Pacific war, they had not yet found the right tactics to fight the Zero on an equal basis. Then along came the Akutan Zero.

The Akutan Zero

In the summer following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, far, far out on the Aleutian Island archipelago, a young Japanese Petty Officer by the name of Tadayoshi Koga was fighting his rising fear and an overheating Nakajima 12-cylinder radial engine that was about to seize up on him. Just 15 minutes before, he had been strafing Yankee Catalina flying boats at the remote American fishing outpost of Dutch Harbor and just a few hours before that, he was drinking tea with his squadron mates aboard the mighty carrier Ryujo.

Over Dutch Harbor, he heard the metallic clank of something hitting his engine, perhaps a bullet or flak. Immediately, he smelled smoke and saw his oil pressure gauge start to drop. His oil line had been hit and he had just minutes to nurse his aircraft to safety. Trailing smoke, he made for a prearranged emergency landing spot on then-uninhabited Akutan Island, a remote, cold and mountainous island 25 miles further up the Aleutian chain from Dutch Harbor towards Unimak Island. There, if he landed safely, he would climb out of his fighter, destroy it and work his way to the coast where a Japanese submarine was standing by to rescue him. His section mates Chief Petty Officer Makoto Endo and Petty Officer Tsuguo Shikada stayed with him all the way and he could see them circling around him as he set up for his final landing in a grassy valley on a northeastern cape of Akutan. At the last minute, Shikada saw the sun glint off water hidden beneath the grassy surface of the valley. He knew instantly that Koga should have made a wheels up landing, but it was too late.

As soon as the aircraft’s weight was on them, Koga’s Zero’s wheels immediately dug into the boggy ground. From high above Shikada saw it flash in the sun as it dug in and snapped onto its back. The last thing that Koga saw was the flashing, tall, green grass, the mountains in the distance and the sun on the mists in the valley. His neck broke when the aircraft flipped onto him. Endo and Shikada were required to strafe and destroy the Zero to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, but could not bring themselves to do so as they were not sure whether Koga had survived and had just been knocked out.

He hung there in his straps until the heat left his body. He hung there while his mates landed back aboard Ryujo. He was still hanging there under his Zero more than a month later when Lieutenant Bill Thies’ PBY Catalina overflew the spot on his way into Dutch Harbor after being off course. He and his crew circled Koga’s aircraft with its bright red Hinomaru roundels on its wings and knew they had found something important.

Within just a few weeks, the Zero had been removed from Akutan to San Diego and in another month, it was ready to fly. While Koga’s body lay buried on an uninhabited island in a frozen corner of the world, his aircraft was flying in the sunny South Californian sunlight, its beautiful, serene and elegant Hinomarus replaced by the hated white stars on blue circles of the enemy.

The Akutan Zero was the first intact enemy aircraft to be acquired, repaired and flight evaluated by the newly formed Technical Air Intelligence Unit, whose job it was to recover Japanese aircraft to obtain data regarding their technical and tactical capabilities. The Akutan Zero became TAIU No.1. The tests immediately bore fruit. Lieutenant Commander Eddie R. Sanders took the Akutan Zero up for its first test flight and reported: “The very first flight exposed weaknesses of the Zero which Allied pilots could exploit with proper tactics... immediately apparent was the fact that the ailerons froze up at speeds above 200 knots so that rolling maneuvers at those speeds were slow and required much force on the control stick. It rolled to the left much easier than to the right. Also, its engine cut out under negative acceleration due to its float-type carburetor. We now had the answer for our pilots who were being outmaneuvered and unable to escape a pursuing Zero: Go into a vertical power dive, using negative acceleration if possible to open the range while the Zero’s engine was stopped by the acceleration. At about 200 knots, roll hard right before the Zero pilot could get his sights lined up.”

The Akutan Zero was just one of literally hundreds of aircraft that fell into the hands of the enemy on both sides during the Second World War, but it was the best known—at least after the war. By the start of the Second World War, the Germans and the British had special units formed and waiting for enemy aircraft to fall into their hands—the British had test facilities and units like 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight (EAE), while the Germans had the Zirkus Rosarius and their test facility at Rechlin plus Special Operations units like Kampfgeschwader (KG) 200. The Japanese and the Americans both sought to acquire enemy aircraft for evaluation and the Germans and Japanese even used captured aircraft on operations—both clandestine and tactical.

While both sides had systems for retrieving captured aircraft and for testing them, ordinary field commanders and flying units would often mark captured aircraft for themselves and operate them as squadron instructional machines or as squadron hacks. The result was hundreds of captured aircraft usually used for the enjoyment of the pilots and as war trophy motivators. Here, now, are some of the thousands of images we found and some of the stories of their capture and subsequent fates:

Japanese Navy fighter pilot Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga’s Mitsubishi Zero would live on to fly again with the United States Navy, but sadly Koga’s body would be lost among hundreds of unknown Japanese servicemen who died in the Aleutian Islands campaigns. Photo:

The Japanese Imperial Navy carrier Ryujo delivered death and destruction to Catalina crews in Dutch Harbor, Alaska in July of 1942, but she also unwittingly delivered unprecedented intelligence to the US Navy in the form of a Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the first flyable enemy aircraft to fall into US hands. The Japanese Navy sent two carriers (Ryujo and Junyo) with 82 fighters and bombers, escorted by two heavy cruisers (Takao and Maya), and three destroyers. Also included in this task force were troopships holding 2,500 troops, 5 I-class submarines, and 1 oil tanker. This task force was to destroy Dutch Harbor, and occupy the islands of Attu, Kiska, and Adak. Photo:

4 June 1942, half a year into the havoc created by the Mitsubishi Zero throughout the Pacific Region, Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga’s Mitsubishi A6M2 Zero takes a hit in an oil line over Dutch Harbor, Alaska. Koga was part of a three-plane section from the aircraft carrier Ryujo that had just shot down an American Consolidated PBY Catalina and was in the process of strafing the survivors when his Zero was hit. Photo: US National Archives

With Koga’s engine smoking and running out of oil, Koga and his two wing men reduced speed to preserve it for as long as possible and made their way to unpopulated Akutan Island, about 25 miles from Dutch Harbor. Akutan was a designated emergency landing area with a Japanese submarine patrolling nearby to rescue any downed pilot. Here, Koga made an attempt to land with his wheels down, but the grassy meadow was boggy and his gear dug in and flipped the Zero on its back. Koga was killed instantly, likely with a broken neck. His squadron mates were instructed to strafe and destroy any downed aircraft to save it from falling into enemy hands, but they were unsure whether their friend was dead or alive and were loath to kill him if he had survived. The crash site was undetected for a month, but was finally spotted by a PBY. A recovery team was sent immediately to inspect the aircraft wreckage and recover intelligence. Photo: Arthur W. Bauman, USN

An inspection crew clambers over Koga’s damaged Zero on Akutan Island. The smallest member of the team had the unpleasant task of climbing into the cockpit and cutting Koga’s harness. His body was dragged out and photographed then buried in a shallow grave nearby. An attempt was made in 1988 to recover Koga’s body and repatriate his remains. The grave was found empty. A search of records indicated that an American war graves team had dug up Koga and buried him as unidentified along with other Japanese bodies at Adak Island. This graveyard was excavated in 1953 and the remains of the 236 Japanese buried there were repatriated to Japan and Koga’s body would never be identified. After two attempts to recover the Zero without damaging it, it was finally removed upside down by barge to Dutch Harbor. Photo: Arthur W. Bauman, USN

Koga’s Mitsubishi, soon to be known as the Akutan Zero, is hoisted from a transport barge at Dutch Harbor and loaded into the USS St. Mihiel for transport to Seattle, Washington. From there, it was transported by another barge to NAS North Island near San Diego where repairs were made—straightening the vertical stabilizer, rudder, wing tips, flaps, and canopy. Photo: US National Archives

The captured A6M Zero fighter known as the Akutan Zero is seen landing at San Diego, California, United States, in September 1942. It carries the standard medium blue over light blue scheme typical of carrier-borne aircraft of the early war. Photo: US Navy

The Akutan Zero taxiing at San Diego’s NAS North Island. For a series of breathtaking photos of the Akutan Zero’s recovery and subsequent flights, visits Warbird Information Exchange (and sign up!) The photos, posted by member “” are from NARA (National Archives and Records Administration of the United States), via Sean Hert and are EXCELLENT. Photo: US Navy

The Akutan Zero in flight, high above San Diego during initial flying tests. There are those that say it was the most important intelligence acquisition of the war and ultimately led to the defeat of the Japanese Army and Navy air forces. There are others who say that it was somewhat inconsequential, as fighter pilots in the Pacific area were already and quickly learning how to fight the nimble fighter. As well, the aircraft which would ultimately best the Japanese in the air were already in design and in production. Regardless of the impact, the Akutan Zero was a sensation, albeit a Top Secret one. Photo: US Navy

Koga’s crashed aircraft, while resurrected temporarily, did not in fact survive the war. Following its tests by the Navy in San Diego, the Zero was transferred from Naval Air Station North Island to Anacostia Naval Air Station in 1943 (becoming TAIC 1). In 1944, it was recalled to North Island for use as a training plane for rookie pilots being sent to the Pacific. As a training aircraft, the Akutan Zero was destroyed during an accident in February 1945 at North Island. While the Zero was taxiing for a takeoff, a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver lost control and rammed into it. The Helldiver’s propeller sliced the Zero into pieces. Only small bits (instruments) still exist in museums in Washington and Alaska. Photo: US Navy

One of the first Allied aircraft to be captured and put to work in Luftwaffe colours during the Second World War were the North American NA-57 and NA-64 trainers of France. The Armée de l’Air, the French Air Force, and the French Navy already had 230 NA-57s and had ordered 230 of the NA-64 Harvard predecessors, and 111 of the initial order (of NA-64s) were already in France when the Germans invaded. They gratefully took the excellent trainers (230 NA-57s and 111 NA-64s), while the other 119 still on order were delivered to Canada and used extensively in training RCAF and commonwealth pilots. The RCAF named them Yales. This camouflaged example of an NA-64 carries only the Balkenkreuz on its fuselage and did not have to endure the indignity of a Hakenkreuz (Swastika) on its tail. Photo: Luftwaffe

A Luftwaffe officer flies along with a disturbingly high angle of attack in this photo of a captured Armée de l’Air North American NA-57. The NA-57 can be identified by its ribbing and fabric covered fuselage. The peaked officer’s cap would most certainly have flown off at some time during the flight. My professional opinion is that this is a staged shot of one on the ground superimposed on a cloudscape. The angle is perfect for a sitting/parked Yale. Can’t be sure of this but I suspect it. The NA-57 is painted in the scheme common to the NA-57 and 64 trainers—overall bare metal with bright yellow engine cowling and tail.

In a scene so typical of a Canadian training base during the Second World War, an all-metal NA-64 (called North by the French and Yale by the RCAF) warms in the winter sun in Europe somewhere during the Second World War.

An NA-57 in Luftwaffe markings with yellow cowling and empennage, photographed at Guyancourt, France in early 1944. Image via

A year and a half before the Americans were in the war, American-designed and -built aircraft like the previous French Norths (Yales) were not only in the war, but already captured and remarked as Luftwaffe. One of these types was the Curtiss Hawk Model 75 (P-36). The Germans captured several dozen of Armée de l’Air Curtiss H-75 Hawks during the French campaign in the summer of 1940. Many of those were subsequently donated (or sold) to Finland, later joined by Norwegian examples up to a total of 44. Others were operated by the Luftwaffe. A dozen of captured Curtiss Hawks were assigned to 7/JG 77 (The Aces of Hearts) during August–October 1940 as interim equipment while awaiting delivery of their Messerschmitt Bf 109s. After this, some were utilized in the fighter-trainer role with Jagdfliegerschule 4 near Nuremberg. Photo: Luftwaffe

There is no doubt that the Luftwaffe pilots of Jagdgeschwader 77 enjoyed the experience of flying the captured American-built French Curtiss Hawk 75s, and learning that they were no competition for the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt 109s, but enough was enough. They could not have enjoyed the time they were equipped with them when the rest of the Luftwaffe was wreaking havoc with the 109. Thankfully, it was an interim situation and their Hawks, along with KQ+ZA, were handed to Jagdfliegerschule 4 near Nuremberg as a fighter-trainer. Photo: Luftwaffe

One of the best-known and most photographed captured aircraft in enemy markings is the now-infamous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Wulfe Hound. This “Fort” was a B-17F of the 303 Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force that a made a forced landing in France in December 1942. Wulfe Hound became the first B-17 captured intact by the Luftwaffe and was thoroughly used by them to better assess weak points of the Flying Fortress. It was later transferred to the Luftwaffe’s KG 200. Wulfe Hound’s American pilot, Lieutenant Paul Flickenger, said that he always felt guilty because his was the first B-17 that the Luftwaffe was able to capture in a flyable condition. The crew was attempting to destroy the airplane by stuffing a parachute into a fuel tank and then firing a Very pistol flare into it. Unfortunately, the Germans arrived before they could get a fire started. He ended up as a POW and managed to escape twice, being captured again on both occasions. Photo: Luftwaffe

A shot of Fortress 124585, nicknamed Wulfe Hound by its original USAAC crew, shows the Swastika and Balkenkreuz markings of the Luftwaffe. All aircraft that were captured by the Germans had their original national markings removed and replaced by the Balkenkreuz and Swastika and then had their undersides painted overall “RLM 04 yellow” to help prevent trigger-happy anti-aircraft crews from destroying the aircraft and months of important intelligence work. Boeing B-17F-27-BO Fortress (c/n 3270/3324, USAAC Serial 41-24585) flew with the 360th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd BG. Wulfe Hound force-landed at Melun, France on 12 December 1942, after attacking the Rouen-Sotteville railroad marshalling yards, while in service with 303rd Bomb Group, at RAF Molesworth. After flight testing at Rechlin, the Luftwaffe’s famed test facility airfield, she visited fighter units throughout Germany and France so that pilots could recognize the Fortress’ strengths and weaknesses. Wulfe Hound then returned to Rechlin in July 1943, before being transferred to Kampfgeschwader (KG 200) in September 1943 and coded A3+AE. Profile via wingspalette

It’s likely that this Luftwaffe-marked B-17 Fortress is not Wulfe Hound, as the Swastika on the tail is considerably bigger than in other photographs of the famous aircraft. This Fort is heavily camouflaged from marauding Allied aircraft, and was used extensively by KG 200 for night missions. Kampfgeschwader 200 (Battle Wing 200) was a Luftwaffe unit of the Second World War. The unit was the Luftwaffe’s special operations wing that carried out long-distance reconnaissance flights, tested new aircraft designs (when a special Erprobungskommando unit was not used), and operated captured aircraft. This unit also operated a Short Sterling, P-38, Mosquito and a Beaufighter.

Hans-Werner Lerche, the legendary Luftwaffe test pilot from the Luftwaffe’s Rechlin test facility wrote about his experience with another B-17 in his Second World War memoir called “Luftwaffe Test Pilot–Flying  captured Allied Aircraft of World War 2”. Lerche writes:

“The B-17 interested us so much because of its flying characteristics but more because of its supercharged engine, which gave excellent performance at higher altitudes. These superchargers were activated by exhaust-driven turbines which became really efficient corresponding to the greater difference in air pressure at higher altitudes, exactly when more power was needed. For that reason the Flying Fortress was primarily made available to the power plant experts, who tried to get to the bottom of as many details of the engines as possible. The most varied measuring instruments were installed for this purpose, so that the fuselage behind the bomb-bay was like a laboratory with engineers in attendance. I took over the following test flight, which was to take place with the full complement of the engineers aboard; our task was to monitor the engine and airframe performance in climbing to higher altitudes. I remember this flight particularly well, and shall therefore dwell on it some detail.

The take-off was made with full fuel tanks, which meant having some 2310 Imp gals of fuel on board. We departed from the concrete runway of Larz airfield and the take-off was monitored on instruments. Even with the comparatively heavy all-up weight the actual take-off presented no problem and the aircraft handled normally. Then began the climb with maximum climbing power which was also measured and monitored. Everything went very well at first. The engineers were busy doing their jobs, and we had meanwhile reached an altitude of at least 9000 ft, and we saw ourselves in a nice mess: the starboard outer (No.4) engine was on fire! It was quite a remarkable fireworks display with the flames flaring out just behind the engine nacelle and over the wing to a length of some 15 feet.

Now, what does one do when an engine is on fire? By no means throttle back the misbehaving engine, but instead stop the fuel flow immediately by shutting the relevant fuel valve so that the fuel already in the pipes and carburettor is used up as quickly as possible. That done, I alerted the rest of the crew and the engineers about the fire – in so far as they had not already noticed it themselves. For this purpose there was a loud alarm bell in the B-17, which could be heard everywhere despite the rumble of the engines. In any case, I also opened the bomb-bay doors as I considered this is the best method of bailing out from this aircraft without getting caught in the tail unit. The fuel in the pipes was soon used up, but I let the engine run for a while longer to make sure every last drop was gone. Despite this, the flames hardly became smaller at all.”

Lerche, who had flown the B-17 from Denmark where it had landed, had enough experience with the type to land it successfully in this situation. Photo via

If Allied crews were in the vicinity of Switzerland when they ran into mechanical problems, they chose to make forced landings in the neutral country, rather than risk capture and internment as POWs. They were however not allowed to return to the war and their aircraft were impounded. Switzerland played host to numerous crews (170 aircraft landed or crash-landed in Switzerland during the war—mostly B-17s and B-24s) and even commandeered some of their aircraft for evaluation. Here we see the strange sight of a strategic offensive bomber in the bright red markings of neutral Switzerland. This B-17G-35-BO (QJ-D, s/n 232073), operated by the 339th Bombardment Squadron, 96th Bomb Group, force-landed on 13 April 1944. It was returned to England in September 1945. Many of the aircraft were painted in the red Swiss markings simply for the ferry flight to a storage field at Dübendorf, Switzerland, not wishing to be inadvertently shot down.

Another B-17 in Luftwaffe markings. This one, the second B-17 to fall into German hands was B-17F-85-BO “Flak Dancer” (42-30048) from 544BS 384BG. The aircraft was piloted by Lieutenant Dalton Wheat when he forced-landed at Laon airfield in France on 26 June 1943, on a mission to Villacoublay. After repairs and traditional period of trials in Rechlin, the Flying Fortress was transferred to KG 200 in the spring of 1944 and coded A3+CE. Units like the famous KG 200 actually operated a number of captured B-17 bombers, in particular on night missions, where the markings were less obvious. Due to the lack of German aircraft with sufficient range, some recon missions used captured American B-17s or B-24s and Soviet Tu-2s. For the most part, these machines were used for re-supply roles (dropping in supplies to German forces operating behind Soviet lines), or transporting important personnel. It appears that this was photographed at a captured Luftwaffe airfield late in the war as the gawkers appear to be Allied airmen.

In the fast shifting battlefields of the North African campaign, where the whole desert was an emergency landing field, aircraft could in fact change hands more than once. Here we see Hawker Hurricane Mk I Trop* V7670, a former 260 Squadron Hurricane in the Desert Air Force. It had been captured by the Wermacht in April 1941, but was then taken back by the Allies in January of the following year at a place called Gambut in Libya, albeit in poorer condition. * The “Trop” was for “Tropicalized”—meaning fitted with modifications for the desert sand and heat. Photo: Luftwaffe

Former 261 Squadron Hawker Hurricane V7670 (from previous photograph) at the time of its recapture (January 1942), some eight months after the Germans took it. It clearly had seen better days. It was one of about 30 Hurricanes which were left in Derna, Bomba and Gazala. The Germans had made use of two of the Hurricanes—V7670 and T9536. Photo via Wikipedia

A Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 in Luftwaffe markings. Little is known by us about this captured aircraft. On the web, I have read where it was operated by Jagdgeschwader 51, but was unable to corroborate that. Photo: Luftwaffe

A rare colour photo of a Hurricane in the service of the Luftwaffe—with mechanics, pilot and brass looking on. Looking at this image and the previous black and white image, it seems possible that these are one and the same Hurri. Photo: Luftwaffe

This Spitfire (colour image is a model) suffers the double indignity of having not only Nazi markings, but the attachment of a Daimler-Benz DB605 Engine. The RAF identity of this aircraft was EN830—a Spitfire F.Vb (Merlin 45) and was the presentation aircraft called “CHISLEHURST AND SIDCUP” (a grammar school on Kent). The Spitfire force-landed on the occupied Channel Island of Jersey after air combat over Ouistreham, France on 18 November 1942. The pilot, Pilot Officer Scheidhauer was captured and made a POW. Scheidhauer took part in the Great Escape, but was recaptured at Saarbrucken, and shot dead by the Gestapo on 29 March 1944, along with 50 others who took part. After the Spitfire was captured and received its DB605, it was taken to Sindelfingen Daimler-Benz factory, near Echterdingen, where a 3.0 m. diameter Bf 109G propeller was added, together with the carburettor scoop from a Bf 109G. After a couple of weeks, and with a new yellow-painted nose, the Spitfire returned to Echterdingen. Capt Willy Ellenrieder, of Daimle-Benz, was the first to try the aircraft. He was stunned that the aircraft had much better visibility and handling on the ground than the Bf 109. It took off before he realized it and had an impressive climb rate, around 70 ft. (21 m.) per second. Much of the Spitfire’s better handling could be attributed to its lower wing loading. Inset photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr . Model and its photo by Alain Gadbois

After a brief period at Rechlin confirming the performance data, the modified Spitfire (CJ+ZY) returned to Echterdingen (today’s Stuttgart Airport) to serve officially as a test bed. It was popular with the pilots in and out of working hours. Its career ended on 14 August 1944, when a formation of US bombers attacked Echterdingen, wrecking two Ju 52s, three Bf 109Gs, a Bf 109H V1, an FW 190 V16, an Me 410 and the Spitfire. The remains of the hybrid Spitfire were scrapped at the Klemm factory at Böblingen. Text via Stewart Callan, Flickr

Achtung Spitfire! One wonders why the Luftwaffe wanted to re-engine the Spitfire with a Daimler-Benz engine from a Messerschmitt Bf 110; it’s not like Supermarine would build the result for them. Perhaps the Merlin was permanently destroyed and they had not captured any other Rolls-Royce engines. Photo: Luftwaffe

At first glance, I saw a P-47 in this photo, but then on second glance realized it was not... it took me a while to figure it out, as I was not familiar with French types. This is the only Marcel Bloch MB 157 (conversion of a MB 152 meant to have a 1,580hp Gnome-Rhône 14R-4 engine) ever built. It was taken by the Luftwaffe for evaluation. After a series of very promising test flights, the aircraft was flown to Paris-Orly, where the Germans removed the engine (it was a slightly less powerful one) and brought it to the Gnome-Rhône factory at Bois-Colombes. The aircraft remained in an incomplete state in Orly, until it was destroyed in an Allied air raid. During the research phase under German control, it wore the German registration code PG+IC. Photo:

The Marauder that never marauded. A Martin B-26B Marauder (41-17790) of the 437th Bomb Squadron of the 319th Bomb Group, USAAF in Luftwaffe markings. This Marauder was evaluated by the Luftwaffe in 1943 and then displayed at an air show in Germany after its bizarre capture on 2 October 1942. The aircraft never saw combat, having been lured to a Dutch island following spurious German radio signals as it was trying to land somewhere safely (following an engine fire) on its remaining engine during its delivery flight from Iceland to Scotland. Flown by 2nd Lieutenant Clarence Wall, the crippled bomber force-landed on a beach in Noord Beveland, Netherlands. Photo: Luftwaffe

This is exactly how most of the aircraft that fall into enemy hands are retrieved. Marauder 41-17790 (the one from the previous photo) sits forlornly on a beach on the Dutch island of Noord Beveland, surrounded by admiring Germans. The pilot, Clarence Wall, was lured off course by fake radio directions from Germans and, having an engine fire, made a picture perfect wheels up landing. The aircraft was quickly jacked up and removed. Hans-Werner Lerche, the legendary Luftwaffe test pilot from Rechlin wrote about his experience with this aircraft in his Second World War memoir called “Luftwaffe Test Pilot–Flying captured Allied Aircraft of World War 2”. He said,
“A mid-wing monoplane with an aerodynamically faultless fuselage, the aircraft had a fast and racy look about it even from the outside. Its long range also made it suitable for direct ferry flights across the Atlantic. But the B-26 had its negative points. With its small wing area and a gross weight of some 30,000 lb (later increased to over 38,000 lb), the load per square foot of the wing area was relatively high, and the high take-off and landing speeds caused so many bad accidents that this aircraft at first had a poor reputation amongst the crews and was known as the ‘Widow Maker.’ Its other nickname of the ‘Flying Prostitute’ was unknown to me when I became intimate with the Marauder for the first time. Apart from other bad characteristics, malicious tongues also asserted that the Marauder’s landing speed was higher than its cruising speed. Yet all this did not prevent experienced crews from appreciating the combat values of the B-26 on account of its high speed and strong armament, and using it accordingly. That much was known to us – and it was to be expected that the grass field at Rechlin would not be abundant enough for this ‘hot’ aircraft.” Photo: Luftwaffe

It is surprising that any of the aircraft captured by both Germany and Japan survived the war. Here, an RAF ground crew inspects the former USAAF B-26B Marauder (41-17790) that carried the Nazi markings for nearly two and a half years. The bright yellow fuselage band and tail flashes can still be seen (though barely visible on orthographic film), but the Swastika has been blanked out by a censor in this photo. We can also see the paint circle where the old USAAF star roundel was painted over—just to the right of the airman. Photo: RAF

A Vickers Wellington Mk I captured by the Luftwaffe from the Royal Air Force’s 311 Sqn (KX-T, RAF Serial L7842). 311 Squadron was first formed at RAF Honington, Suffolk on 29 July 1940, equipped with Wellington I bombers and crewed mostly by Czechoslovakian aircrew who had escaped from Europe. This was before the aircraft received its traditional yellow underside paint used by the Luftwaffe’s Rechlin test facility. L7842 was delivered in mid-1940. It was lost on 6 February 1941 while in service with No. 311 (Czech) Squadron, RAF, while on a mission to Boulogne (France). It was forced to land and captured intact. Photo: Luftwaffe

A wonderful digital recreation of the captured 311 (Czechoslovak) Squadron Vickers Wellington shows us just how she was repainted. Luftwaffe markings were added including painting her underside yellow as both the Axis and the Allies did with experimental aircraft. She still carries her 311 Squadron code letters (KX-T) and her RAF serial (L7842). The crew was comprised of P/O F. Cigos, Sgt P. Uraba, P/O E. Busina, F/L Ernst Valenta, Sgt. G. Kopal and P/O K. Krizek. All were made Prisoners of War, with Valenta eventually being murdered by the Gestapo following an escape attempt at Sagen POW Camp. Image via by Checkmysix

I searched for days on the web trying to find an image of the one and only Avro Lancaster to be captured and taken to Rechlin for study and eventually for missions. It is mentioned in Hans-Werner Lerche’s book, but there is no photographic proof to be found. The leading candidate for its RAF identity is Lancaster ND396, BQ-D, of 550 Squadron, which crash-landed near Berlin on 30–31 January 1944. Late in the war, it behooved the Germans to get the intact aircraft to Rechlin as soon as possible, for marauding Allied aircraft would soon be on hand to make sure it would never fly for the Nazis. Here we see another Lanc being shot up by a P-51 the day after it went down in a field in Germany. Note the staff car which then got the same treatment. The strafed Lancaster, probably PB362 of 83 Squadron, crash-landed near Rouen shortly after midday on 18 August 1944. Photo:

Even the Finnish were into capture and release. This Soviet lend-leased P-40M (USAF 43-5925) was captured by the Finns during the Battle of Leningrad. Piloted by Soviet pilot, Sub. Lt. V.A. Ruevin from 191st fighter squadron, on 27 December 1943, it made a forced landing on the frozen surface of Lake Valkjarvi, Karelian Isthmus. The Finns captured it in perfect condition. It was overhauled at the Mechanics’ School and delivered to HLeLv32 on 2 July 1944. It was used till 12 February 1945. It was not used in combat flights however, due to lack of manuals and parts. The two letters “KH” on the fuselage possibly stood for the Finnish words “Koe Hävittäjä” (Test Fighter) or even Kittyhawk. The Finns also employed a swastika device as a national marking, but it was blue on a white roundel and was 45º off the alignment of the Nazi version. The Finnish Swastika predates the Nazi symbol by a number of years, dating back to the end of the First World War. The Latvians also use a swastika (red on white). Photo via WWII in Color

A Ju 88 photographed in Foggia, Italy, in 1943, when its Romanian pilot defected to the Allies in Cyprus. It was repaired by the men of the 86th Fighter Squadron and flown from Italy to Wright Field in 1944 by 86th Fighter Squadron Comanche pilots Major Fred Borsodi (the guy with the big smile) and Lt Pete Bedford. This Junkers Ju 88 not only wears USAAF markings, it wears a fighter squadron’s nose art. It appeared in war bond drives, and was finally returned to Wright Field in the summer of 1945 after being superficially damaged in Los Angeles. It finally went to Freeman Army Air Field, Indiana and was eventually scrapped. Photo: USAAF

The same Junkers Ju 88 from the previous photo is shown being prepared for flight at Foggia, Italy wearing USAAF star roundels, RAF fin flash and Luftwaffe camouflage. When it landed back at Freeman and Wright Fields it was repainted in Nazi markings for public viewing. Photo: USAAF

A Heinkel He 111H bomber, which was abandoned by the Luftwaffe during the retreat after the Battle of El Alamein on a landing ground in Libya after being “commandeered” by No. 260 Squadron RAF. Several 260 Squadron pilots climbed in and took off to check it out. It worked fine, so they painted RAF roundels on it and the squadron letters “HS-?”, flying it to Alexandria for mess supplies. 260 Squadron’s popularity climbed fast in this period as they were the only mess around with cold beer in a hot desert. It was nicknamed Delta Lily. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Junkers Ju 52/3m – 450 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force. This Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 52/3m transport aircraft was captured intact by Australian forces at Ain-El Gazala, Libya, repainted with the Royal Australian Air Force’s roundels and nicknamed “Libyan Clipper”. The aircraft was used by 450 Squadron RAAF to transport mail, food supplies and small items from Cairo and back to the front line, doing two or three trips each week. Lord Casey, Governor General of Australia, came in this aircraft to see the men of the squadron in 1943. Photo: Australian War Memorial via

The starboard side of the Libyan Clipper had a different layout for her lettering. The Junkers Ju 52 was built in very large numbers—nearly 5,000. Their Luftwaffe crews lovingly referred to them as Tante Ju (Aunt Ju). Photo: Australian War Memorial via

One of the most beautiful aircraft of the war was the Italian-designed SM.82 Trimotor. In my estimation it belongs in the top ten most beautifully designed aircraft of the war along with the Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 (next photo). The Savoia-Marchetti SM.82 Canguru (Kangaroo) was an Italian bomber and transport aircraft of the Second World War. It was a cantilever, mid-wing monoplane trimotor with a retractable tail wheel undercarriage. About 400 were built, the first entering service in 1940. Although able to operate as a bomber with a maximum bomb load of up to 8,818 lb (4000 kg), the SM.82 saw very limited use in this role. After the armistice with Italy in September 1943, the Germans captured 200 SM.82s, many being operated as transports by the Luftwaffe. The Germans were thus rewarded for the delays in their order for 100 SM.82s, only 35 of which were delivered in 1943. These aircraft had better capabilities as transports than the Ju 52, the standard transport aircraft of the Luftwaffe, even if it was much more robust, being all metal. The “Savoia Gruppen” operated many of these aircraft, with a force in early 1944 of over 230 aircraft, but little is recorded of the activities of these aircraft in the last 18 months of the war as most were ad-hoc units. Records were either not kept or were destroyed. Information via Wikipedia, photo via

There is something about a trimotor that seems just right and balanced and yet which seems so foreign. Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 Sparviero (Sparrowhawk) is one of the most compelling designs extant with striking lines and art deco styling. After the Armistice in September 1943, the Luftwaffe captured a number of the beautiful aircraft and pressed them into service. Photo via

When the Italians surrendered on 8 September 1943, this was not the end of the combat history of the SM.79. A new Sparviero variant was designed and put into production, the SM.79-III torpedo-bomber. The North of Italy was still in German hands and a fascist government continued construction. Some Sparvieros were taken on the spot by the Luftwaffe and used with German or Italian crews as regular Luftwaffe utility transports. Some served in the newly created ARSI, the Air Arm of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana, which continued to fight on the side of the Axis. A few found their way to the Allied side and served with the Co-Belligerent Air Force against German Forces. The Co-Belligerent Air Force (Aviazione Cobelligerante Italiana, or ACI) dropped the use of the fascist symbol and, instead, employed the old First World War tri-colour roundel, the same used by the Italian Air Force today. Photo:

A captured Gloster Gladiator (Luftwaffe serial NJ+BO) in the Russian forests—one of 15 Latvian Gladiators which were captured and used first by the Soviets, then captured by the Germans. When the Germans removed the Soviet red star markings they found the Latvian Swastikas underneath. The Germans operated them at virtual squadron strength as glider tugs for assault glider pilot trainees. None are known to have survived. Photo:

An RAF-marked Messerschmitt Bf 109 at Treviso Airfield, Italy, in March 1946. This aircraft, a former Croatian operated 109, was captured by the British and operated by 318 Polish Squadron in Italy immediately after the war. Note the Polish checkerboard symbol on the nose. The “LW” lettering was the RAF Squadron code for 318 Squadron. 318 was at Treviso for only one week in the month of May 1945, and then March to August of 1946. Photo: RAF

A Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2  “Gustav” code-named Black 14 and with the name “Irmgard” painted in Germanic lettering on the side (so-named after the German crew-chief’s girlfriend) was captured by airmen of the 79th Fighter Group. Here we see it shortly after the Americans painted their brand on her sides. During the Second World War, the 79th and its subordinate fighter squadrons were assigned to the 12th Air Force in the Mediterranean Theatre. With the beginning of the occupation period, the Group was reassigned to the Ninth Air Force which had been assigned the primary Army Air Corps occupation duties in the European Theatre. Photo: USAAF

“Irmgard”, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 captured by the 79th Fighter Group of the USAAF, is seen wearing the 87th Fighter Squadron crest, with an 86th Fighter Squadron P-40 Warhawk (X5-8) behind it. The 86th and the 87th along with the 85th Fighter Squadron made up the three squadrons of the 79th Group. Photo: USAAF

A great colour shot of “Irmgard” taken in the field with 87th Fighter Squadron emblems on each side. This appears to have been painted right over the dirt from the exhaust or perhaps the stain was cleaned off for the photo. This was applied to both sides. This emblem was eventually replaced by that of the 86th Fighter Squadron, shown in the next photo. Photo: USAAF

“Irmgard” eventually wound up at Wright Field in Ohio for testing. She is photographed here undergoing static testing. Note the replacement port wing. The original port wing can be seen off to the side, behind the tail. Here she has had her 87th Fighter Squadron emblem (a cartoon mosquito with a machine gun) replaced with that of sister 86th Fighter Squadron, a Native American with a Tomahawk and quiver of arrows leaning down from the clouds. Photo: USAAF

A Yank named Gustav—a captured Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 (Tropicalized) in USAAF colours. This intact fighter was captured by American soldiers on 8 May 1943 at Soliman airfield in Tunisia. Originally it belonged to the 4. Staffel of JG 77. The aircraft was disassembled, shipped to the USA, reassembled by the North American Aircraft company, and subsequently flown to Wright Airfield. Note the tropical filter, the re-painted surfaces and the missing seat armour. Photo: USAAF

Another shot of the USAAF’s Messerschmitt at Wright Patterson. The USAAF test pilot who evaluated the Yankee Gustav, Major Fred Borsodi, had this to say about the Nazi fighter: “The airplane was assembled by North American Aircraft and was flown briefly at the factory before being ferried to Wright Field by the undersigned pilot. The only changes made at North American were installation of American radio and oxygen equipment. The armour plate behind the pilot`s head was removed. The ME 109G has a high rate of climb and good level flight performance. Its range is very limited as only 105 gallons can be carried internally and flights of over 300 miles leave little gasoline for reserve... It is very light on all controls below 400 KPH but the turning radius is poor compared to our fighters. At high speed the controls become very heavy. The airplane is stable and should be a good gun platform but the vision is very poor under all conditions. The cockpit is cramped but would not be too bad if the visibility were better.” Photo: USAAF

A captured Messerschmitt Bf 109F with tropical filter on its engine cowl was used by No. 5 Squadron of the South African Air Force as a squadron hack. Here we see one of many times that the aircraft letter code was replaced by a punctuation mark. Photo: RAF

Another Messerschmitt Bf 109F, captured by a South African Air Force unit (No. 4 Squadron SAAF) in North Africa (with the serial “KJ-?”), is pictured on the airfield at Martuba’s No.4 Landing Ground in Libya, January 1943. It is not uncommon, for squadrons operating captured aircraft, to give them squadron markings so as to lay claim to the booty. Also it was common to give them a question mark (?) or an exclamation point (!) instead of an aircraft letter code. Whether this was done for humorous reasons or to keep letters for operational aircraft is not known. Martuba is where Stocky Edwards gained his first nickname—“The Hawk of Martuba”—when it was still in German hands. Today, Martuba is still a Libyan Air Force base. Photo: SAAF

In the previous photograph we make mention of Wing Commander James “Stocky” Edwards, Canada’s highest scoring living ace of the Second World War (as of the publishing of this article—January 2014). Stocky (then nicknamed “Eddie”) gained most of his victories while flying with 260 Squadron of the RAF’s Desert Air Force in North Africa. Here we see a captured Bf 109 (likely from the Luftwaffe unit III/JG77) in 260 Squadron code (HS) and an exclamation point as its aircraft designator. The aircraft was flown for evaluation purposes by squadron pilots including Stocky Edwards. This very Luftwaffe fighter may have met Edwards in aerial combat previous to its capture. Photo: RAF

A Messerschmitt Bf 109G-2 “Black 6” (Trop), flown by Lt. Heinz Lüdemann, was damaged on 4 November 1942 as a result of a dogfight between fighters from 8./JG77 and Kittyhawks from 112 Squadron, RAF. Lüdemann made a perfect forced landing at the Quotafiyas airfield near Gambut in Libya. It was subsequently ferried to Gambut by another pilot. The Messerschmitt was found at the Gambut Main airfield by Australian Ken McRae of 239 RAF Wing. The aircraft was repaired by maintenance crews of the No. 3 Squadron Royal Australian Air Force and coded with their code—CV-V. Photo: RAF

Once the Messerschmitt Bf 109G from the previous photo was repaired, it was given the markings of No. 3 Squadron RAAF and the aircraft code letter “V” for Victory. This was Squadron Leader R. Gibbes’ personal code. No. 3 Squadron Engineering Officer Flight Lieutenant Ken McRae relates the story of finding the perfectly intact fighter:

“During the successful advance of November 1942 in the Western Desert, the Wing was returning to Gambut Satellite airfield, where we had operated from prior to the retreat. My co-driver and myself were ahead of the convoy and when we had arrived at our Satellite, the only aircraft there was a 3 Sqn. Kittyhawk on jacks.  It had been under repair when we retreated six months earlier, as our orders were not to destroy aircraft that couldn’t be flown out as we’d probably be returning within a few days. The aircraft appeared to be OK and it was obvious no enemy had operated from the airfield. Our main object was to find an enemy aircraft that could be flown by our C.O. Bobby Gibbes – so we went to see if there were abandoned aircraft at Gambut Main, several miles away.

There were lots of damaged aircraft and we were delighted to find an almost-new 109. On examination the damage was slight – mainly no canopy – which must have been jettisoned in flight for the tail plane was damaged where hit by the canopy. I wrote CV on the fuselage and then realised if we left it unguarded someone else would grab it.  I sent Rex back to the Squadron to notify Bobby of what had happened and saying we would return the following morning. A team of airmen and a truck was organised to come to Gambut Main early next morning.

In the meantime, three army officers appeared and wanted to know what I was doing with the 109. I told them that I was taking it back to the Squadron for the C.O. to fly and evaluate its capabilities. They informed me that they were Intelligence and I couldn’t take it – they wanted to evaluate it. I told them ‘no way’. – I had the aircraft and was going to keep it!  

Outranked (I was a Flying Officer) and outnumbered, I did well to convince them the prize was going to 3 Sqn.

We finally compromised… they’d take the name plates from various places on the aircraft – which would allow them to find out where the bits and pieces had been manufactured. On departing their final remark was, “We’ll get it anyway.”

“Maybe,” I said, “but not before we’ve flown it.”

When Sergeant Palmer returned we parked the vehicle against the fuselage and that night slept under the mainplane. No one was going to get the 109, which we now knew to be a 109G.

The ground staff arrived early the next morning and the aircraft was towed back to the Sqn. I imagined the look in the eyes of the C.O. – to see such a prize and in such good condition.

Three or four days later the aircraft was repaired and the C.O. test-flew it and later made more flights.

Eventually the Intelligence people did get the aircraft and Bobby Gibbes flew it back to the Delta area. (Much later we heard that they had pranged it!)”

Captured in Tunisia in 1943 and often attributed to Heinz Lüdemann of 2./JG77, “Black 6” is likely one of the most famous, if not THE most famous 109 survivor extant thanks to her intricate restoration at the hands of Russ Snadden and his team. She appeared at numerous air shows throughout the early 1990s, demonstrating the grace and power of this beautiful aircraft and, in a twist of sheer irony, she was heavily damaged when landing from what was to be her final flight before permanent retirement in the RAF Museum. Her full history can be read here.

The end result of the previous description of stealing a Messerschmitt Bf 109 is one happy unit commander. Here Squadron Leader Bobby Gibbes smiles widely in “his” new Messerschmitt—the captured “Black 6” with an improvised canopy replacement. Photo via Mike Mirkovic at

Captured Messerschmitts of the South African Air Force.  

Thanks to South African-born Yuri Maree, we have these two captured 109s from the North African campaign.

When No.1 Squadron arrived at Derna on Christmas eve 1941, the aerodrome was  a sea of mud and heavy rain which curtailed most flying for several weeks. The squadron personnel amused themselves by inspecting the many abandoned German and Italian aircraft on the field. A Me 109F that had been shot up and crashlanded became the Squadron Engineering officer, 2/Lt ‘Red’ Connor’s pet project. Despite badly damaged wings, undercarriage and prop and a stripped instrument panel, he was determined to make it airworthy again. Various parts were scrounged off wrecks at Derna and nearby airfields, and a new airscrew was found at an airfield 100 km away. On the 18th January the 109 was started up for the first time, and just before noon on the 24th the CO Major Malcolm Osler flew it for ten minutes. General Rommel had started an offensive the day before, and an hour later the squadron’s ground party started moving further east to an airfield named Gazala No.3. The squadron’s Hurricanes, and Major Osler in the 109 flew to Gazala no.3 on the 26th. Two days later Captain Peter Venter, one of the flight commanders, flew the 109 for 30 minutes and reported reaching 700 km/h in a shallow dive. As soon as word got out that 1 Squadron had an airworthy Me 109F – the first one captured in the desert – RAF HQ in Cairo decided they wanted it. A signal was sent on the 25th with orders that it be flown to Heliopolis. Rommel’s offensive was gathering steam, and on the morning of 3rd February Major Osler departed Gazala no.3 for Heliopolis in the 109, escorted by a Hurricane. Later in the day the squadron moved further east to El Adem airfield. From Heliopolis the 109F was eventually shipped to England for further testing. Photo via Yuri Maree   

Major Peter Metelerkamp at left, standing by "his" Me 109F. Photo via Yuri Maree

Major Peter Metelerkamp's “own” 109F. No.1 Squadron, still flying obsolete Hurricane Mk.2’s from LG 172 which was only 60 km behind the front, was in the thick of the fighting during the Battle of El Alamein that started on 23 October, 1942.  8TH Army broke through the Axis lines on 4 November and on the same day the SAAF’s first Spitfire Mk.V’s arrived at 1 Squadron. The unit was taken off operations for ten days to train on the aircraft and stayed behind at LG (Landing Ground) 172 as the Allied offensive moved west at high speed after the Alamein breakout. The swift German retreat left much equipment behind. On the 8th, the CO, Major Peter Metelerkamp and Engineering Officer Lt. ‘Red’ Connor and two mechanics drove to the abandoned German LG’s west of Daba, looking for flyable aircraft. They reported 120+ abandoned German aircraft, including about 90 Me 109s, numerous Ju 87 Stukas, a few He 111s, Ju 88s and twin-boom 20 seat gliders on LGs 20, 21 and 104. On LG 104 they found an intact Me 109F and after an inspection and service, Major Metelerkamp flew it back to LG 172 on 10 November. After a few low passes he made a “ropy landing” and the 109 groundlooped when the left brake locked up. Damage was slight, and after a new engine was installed Major Metelerkamp flew the 109 (renumbered AX-? and carrying 1 Squadron’s trademark red wingtips, visible in the first photo) in mock dogfights against the squadron’s new Spitfires on the 15th. He noted in his logbook that it couldn’t outturn the Spitfire but could outclimb it, and that downward visibility was poor. Captain Hannes Faure, one of the flight commanders, flew AX-? that afternoon and expressed the same opinion. The next day Lt. Stewart ‘Bomb’ Finney flew the 109, and on the 17th the squadron moved forward from LG 172 to resume operations. 8th Army’s advance was swift and No. 1 Squadron moved forward 830 km in big leaps: LG 172 to Martuba in Libya on the 19th where it joined the Spitfire Mk.V equipped 244 Wing, on to Msus and finally to El Hasseiat, south of Benghazi. ‘Bomb’ Finney ferried the Me 109 to Msus, from where Peter Metelerkamp flew it to El Hasseiat on 1st December. On the 6th the squadron was ordered to send the 109 back to 59 Repair and Salvage Unit at Gazala, when RAF HQ decided that tame 109’s caused confusion among AA gunners and wasted valuable fuel. Major Metelerkamp flew it back to Gazala, but most of the LG’s in the area were flooded by heavy rain and he landed at Tmimi where the SAAF’s (non-operational) Liaison Officer wanted to have a go at the 109. However, the cockpit hood had blown off upon landing at Tmimi and it was fixed by No.12 Squadron SAAF, based there. On the morning of the 8th Major Metelerkamp made a third attempt to reach Gazala but the 109’s engine failed on takeoff and, as he recorded in his logbook, “pranged her....thank God, before Colonel P--- took her off”. Major Metelerkamp was killed in action five days later.  Photos via Yuro Maree

The fast-moving armoured war of the Eastern Front would from time to time cough up an intact enemy aircraft for both sides. Here we see a fur-hatted Soviet pilot or technician in the cockpit of Bf 109G-2/R-6 (No. 13903), in January of 1943. One can only imagine how cold this scene would have been in that brutal winter war. The date indicates that the German forces were just a few weeks away from surrendering at Stalingrad. Captured near Stalingrad and tested in the Soviet Union using the designation “Five-Pointer”, this fighter seriously worried the Red Army Air Forces leadership due to its excellent flight capabilities. Photo via

Another Messerschmitt Bf 109 trophy (14513 operated by II JG 3) bagged by the Soviets was tested against a Lavochkin La-5FN and Yakovlev Yak-9D, with the conclusion being that the Russian fighters could compete successfully against the 109. This aircraft was tested at NII VVS Research Centre after it had been captured, following a forced landing with battle damage. According to trophy lists, the Soviets would acquire 54 Messerschmitt Bf 109s with eight of these being fully operational. Photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr

Out in the North African desert, mechanics and pilots of the Royal Australian Air Force get a very close look at a captured Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 with RAF serial number HK849. Used by 3 Squadron RAAF as a squadron hack. Photo via Lou Kemp

This Japanese Messerschmitt Bf 109 is certainly not a captured aircraft, but more of a military exchange project. Japanese 109 pilots pose with one of five 109 “Emils” sent to Japan. In 1941, the five Bf 109Es were sent to Japan, without guns and armament, for evaluation. While in Japan they received the standard Japanese Hinomarus (red meatball) and yellow wing leading edges, as well as white numerals on the rudder. A red band outlined in white is around the rear fuselage. Study of the Bf 109 in Japan led to the design of the formidable Kawasaki Ki-61 Hein (Japanese for “Swallow” or “Tony” as it was called by the Allies). Photo via

In 1943, the Japanese Army received one Focke–Wulf Fw 190A-5, and this aircraft was extensively tested during that year. It was most probably delivered by submarine, and also carried standard Luftwaffe camouflage, and was flown in Japanese markings. Photo via

A strange aircraft with a strange roundel. This former Regia Aeronautica Macchi MC.200 “Saetta” was captured on Sicily in September 1943 and flown by pilots of the Desert Air Force of the RAF in North Africa. The Saetta was a Second World War fighter aircraft built by Aeronautica Macchi in Italy, and used in various forms throughout the Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force). The MC.200 had excellent manoeuvrability and general flying characteristics left little to be desired. Stability in a high-speed dive was exceptional, but it was underpowered and under-armed for a modern fighter. In keeping with a test aircraft, the rudder and fuselage band of this aircraft were painted bright yellow, while the roundel is wrong in every respect—proportion and size. Photo via

The Royal Air Force impounded four Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifuns on the outbreak of the Second World War and put them into service, designating them as the “Messerschmitt Aldon”. One of them was used by the German Embassy and was at Croyden. That particular Taifun was blocked from escaping by the placement of a large woodden packing crate at the doors of the Embassy hangar. Another of the impounded 108s belonged to the Messerschmitt dealer/agent. This Taifun was first used by the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in connection with the tests carried out there on the Bf 109E. The aircraft was pressed into service with the RAF on 17 April 1941 and received the RAF serial DK280. It was allocated to the Maintenance Command Communication Squadron (MCCS) at Andover. It was the fastest light communications aircraft the RAF had then, but they were often mistaken for Bf 109s. Postwar, 15 more captured Bf 108s flew in RAF colours. Photo: RAF

Royal Air Force Air Vice-Marshal Harry Broadhurst, Air Officer Commanding the Desert Air Force, about to board his Fieseler Fi 156 C Storch at the Advanced Headquarters of the DAF at Lucera, Italy. Broadhurst acquired the captured German communications aircraft in North Africa, had it painted in British markings and used it for touring the units under his command. Broadhurst took command of the DAF in January 1943, becoming (at the age of 38) the youngest Air Vice-Marshal in the Royal Air Force. He continued flying the Storch while commanding the 2nd Tactical Air Force in North-West Europe. Photo: RAF via Imperial War Museum

A captured German Fieseler Fi 156 C-3/Trop Storch (ex “NM+ZS”) commandeered by the Air Officer Commanding, Western Desert, Air Vice-Marshal Arthur Coningham, as his personal communications aircraft. A very crude roundel has been applied to cover the full fuselage Balkenkreuz. The photograph was probably taken at Air Headquarters, Ma’aten Bagush, Egypt. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Focke–Wulf Fw 190G-3 (No. 160057) was one of two captured by ground crews of the 85th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group at Gerbini Airfield on the Island of Sicily, in September 1943. It was painted in a striking white scheme with red spinner, cowling, fuselage band and USN striped tail. Here we see it at Gerbini, covered in camouflage netting to keep it hidden from marauding Luftwaffe aircraft bent on destroying it to keep it from the Americans. Later, in 1945 while stateside, this aircraft was repainted in a standard USN 3 tone non-specular, intermediate blue and insignia white scheme. Photo: USAAF

The Gerbini Focke–Wulf  Fw 190 (previous photo), flying unmolested above the United States. It was shipped to the United States in January 1944, where repairs were made. It was test flown at NAS Anacostia, then moved to NAS Patuxent River in February. It should be noted that the USN seemed impressed enough by this aircraft that they encouraged development of the F8F Bearcat, which was clearly and visually inspired by the tough fighter. Photo: US Navy

The other Focke–Wulf Fw 190A that was captured at Gerbini and then flown by the 85th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group of 12th Air Force. The 79th FG is the same unit that captured and flew the Messerschmitt Bf 109 Irmgard, shown earlier in this article. To avoid any possibility of the aircraft being taken to be the enemy, the aircraft was painted overall red with yellow wings and red wingtips as well as a yellow fuselage band and horizontal stabilizer. It carries USAAF markings as well as the flying skull emblem of the 85th FS. Photo: USAAF

It is believed that this is an air-to-air photograph of the same Focke–Wulf Fw 190 that is shown in the previous image but it could be another airframe altogether. The former Luftwaffe aircraft appears to be flying over olive groves, which makes sense, as the 79th Fighter Group was assigned to the 12th Air Force operating in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. The orthographic film used by the photographer gives the appearance of a colour shift. This may be later as the rudder now sports red, white and blue stripes. Photo: USAAF

Another shot of the Focke–Wulf Fw 190A captured by the 79th Fighter Group. It is interesting to note that today, the 79th Fighter Group became the 79th Test and Evaluation Group in the early 1990s, and then was consolidated with another group to become the 53rd Test and Evaluation Group. One wonders whether the test and evaluation experience won by the 79th on 109s and 190s during the Second World War played a part in this new assignment. Photo: USAAF

A close-up of the 85th Squadron Flying Skull emblem. There were two Fw 190s procured and flown by the 79th Group. The colour image in the inset is likely the same as the larger photo, but there are differences—the inset photo has a foot step near the wing root that is missing in the larger shot. The call sign for the 85th was “DICKEY”. Photos: USAAF

On 1 January 1945, 404 Fighter Group 508 Squadron’s airfield at St-Trond, Belgium was attacked in Operation Bodenplatte—a front wide attack to destroy allied aircraft on the ground. A Focke–Wulf Fw 190A-8 piloted by Gefreiter Walter Wagner, of 5. II/JG4 was slightly damaged by Allied anti-aircraft fire and was forced to land at the airport of St-Trond. It was captured and painted overall bright orange-red to distinguish it from enemy Focke–Wulf 190s. The aircraft’s code, OO–L, has been described dramatically as standing for OH OH ’ELL, however St-Trond was a Belgian base and OO is the Belgian national code for aircraft registration purposes. Presumably the L was for its intended pilot Leo Moon, the CO. In the end, the aircraft was never flown and was left behind when the 404th left St-Trond. Photo: USAAF

USAAF Focke–Wulf 190 OO-L. The 404th’s CO, Colonel Leo Moon, wrote regarding the all red Focke–Wulf 190; “The aircraft was painted red by a crew who had overheard me saying that I had always wanted to own a red airplane... the OO*L code was placed on it because we had created an ‘imaginary’ fourth Squadron in the Group, and as in the 508th, we used the first initial of the pilot’s name as the last of the three code letters. Since I agreed that we should try and get the 190 into flying condition, everyone considered it my aircraft and added the ‘L’ accordingly... when it was ready I taxied it at all speeds up to near takeoff speed but we had no clearance to fly it from the Anti-Aircraft. After taxiing in I found the tires soaked in hydraulic fluid and they were so deteriorated I felt that they were unsafe... we spent considerable time looking for new tires without success. Then we had to move on and left the Fw 190 at St- Trond. I regret that I wasn’t able to get that 190 in the air – I had even learned the ‘offs’ and ‘ons’ of the switch labels in German but I don’t feel too bad about not flying it. I did get to fly the Bearcat which I believe was more or less a copy of the 190—although no-one ever admits it.” It also looks like the Americans have left the JG4 unit crest on the cowling. Photo via

Prior to a test flight, we see Canadian Squadron Leader Hart Finley at the controls of an RCAF-marked Focke–Wulf Fw 190 at Soltau, Germany at the end of the war. The aircraft bears the JFE markings of James Francis “Stocky” Edwards who was visiting Finley at the time. We can see where the German markings were either buffed out or spray-painted over.  Finley relished the opportunity to understand what he had been up against. Both pilots felt that the Spitfire was superior. For more on Hart Finley, click here. Photo via Vintage Wings of Canada

The Luftwaffe de l’Air—war reparations take many forms. In the immediate postwar period, the French Armée de l’Air operated Fw 190 fighters (French designation NC.900). 65 Fw 190s were built in 1945 and 1946 by the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Centre (S.N.C.A.C.) at Cravant. Between 600 and 900 people worked at Cravant, and the facility was also known as camp 918. Cravant had been a Luftwaffe repair facility, and 127 Fw 190 fuselages and 162 wings of Fw 190 A-4s, A-5s, and A-8s were captured there by the Allies in October 1944. About 100 BMW 801 radial engines were found at Dordogne, and the French planned to assemble 125, under the designation AACr-6, or NC.900. The first NC.900 was flown on 1 March 1945, but there were many problems with the new aircraft. Sabotaged airframe parts and the use of hastily recycled metals meant many aircraft were of poor quality. Armée de l’Air Fw 190s only saw service for a few years, before more modern fighters were acquired. The principal operator of the NC.900 was GC 111/5 Normandie Niemen, which received just fourteen NC.900s. They flew with the unit for 18 months. A majority of the remaining 51 NC.900s were used by the CEV (Centre d’Essais en Vol) at Brétigny. The final flight by a French NC.900 was on 22 June 1949. Photo via Gekho

Last Rufe standing (floating). As soon as the war was over in Europe, the French were looking to consolidate their interests in the Far East, including French Indochina (Vietnam). Here at Cat Lai in 1946, some French “matelots” check out a captured (confiscated) Japanese Nakajima A6M2-N, a single-seat float seaplane based on the Mitsubishi A6M Zero Model 11. The Allied reporting name for the aircraft was the Rufe. This was the last A6M2-N in Japanese military service, recovered by the French forces in Indochina in 1946. It crashed shortly after this photo was taken, killing the pilot. The large float and wing pontoons of the A6M2-N degraded its performance by about 20%, enough that the A6M2-N was not usually a match for even the first generation of Allied fighters. Being from an island country with an empire spread over half the largest ocean in the world, the Japanese were into float planes in a big way—not just transports, but bombers and fighters. Photo via

Some aircraft were never captured or found, but were in fact outright gifts from individuals making bad career decisions, such as this P-38 Lightning. Actually an F-5E, a reconnaissance version of the P-38. This particular aircraft, sporting Luftwaffe markings, was stolen by USAAF pilot Martin James Monti (Italian-Swiss father and German mother) when he defected to the Axis side. Monti hitched a flight aboard a C-46 from his base in Pakistan, to Cairo, and then to Italy via Tripoli. He stole the plane from the 354th Air Service Squadron and landed this Lightning at Pomigliano Airfield near Milan in Italy. The Italians had captured the aircraft and handed it over to the Germans. He defected and became a member of the SS, gained the rank of Leutnant, and participated in radio propaganda broadcasts to the United States and to American troops in Europe under the nom-de-plume of Captain Martin Wiethaupt. After the end of the war, he returned to Italy and turned himself in at the Fifth Army Headquarters, still wearing his SS uniform. Monti was court-martialled and sentenced to 15 years for desertion, but was pardoned after less than a year on the condition that he join the Army as a private. In 1948, having achieved the rank of sergeant, he was given a general discharge under honourable conditions, but was promptly arrested by the FBI, as his activities in Germany had become known. Ultimately, Monti was tried for treason and sentenced to 25 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was paroled in 1960, and died in 2000. Now that’s a good story! The Lightning was overall bare metal but the Luftwaffe painted the entire underside bright yellow from mid-fuselage down with T9+MK Luftwaffe serials. Source:

Another Lockheed P-38 Lightning, this one landing at Capoterra airfield, in southern Sardinia, 12 June 1943. The stunned Italian Air Force personnel at Capoterra could barely believe what had happened, but one airman quickly drove a vehicle in front of the Lightning to prevent it from taking off again. The embarrassed and soon to be imprisoned pilot was just opening his canopy when he realized that he had landed at the wrong airfield. He had landed at Capoterra almost out of fuel after a long trip over the Mediterranean from Gibraltar. It was later determined that his compass was off by 30 degrees. The USAAF insignia was covered with Italian Dark Green paint which was a bit darker than the US Olive Drab. New white fuselage bands circled the twin booms, Italian “Sabaudian” crosses emblazoned the tails, while the prop spinners were painted in white. The Lightning was test flown at Guidonia Experimental Centre near Rome and later was used against USAAF bombers. Col. Angelo Tondi, flying this P-38 and using its familiar profile, was able to get up close and down a USAAF B-24 Liberator off the Italian coast near Anzio on 11 August 1943. Six of the B-24’s crew bailed out from the aircraft. The Italian Lightning had a short flying career because the German synthetic fuel used by Italians corroded the P-38’s fuel tanks and the aircraft was grounded, but US reports say that B-17 bombers were attacked by two P-38s in early September 1943. During another mission, a damaged USAAF P-38 was flying close to American bombers needing protection. The bomber’s gunners, thinking he was the “enemy” P-38, shot down the aircraft.

The Free French Air Force in North Africa made good use of captured Italian aircraft such as this CANT Z.1007 Alcione (Kingfisher), a three-engined medium bomber with wooden structure, captured at Enfidaville, Tunisia. The Alcione had excellent flying characteristics and good stability and was regarded by many as the best Italian bomber of the Second World War although its wooden structure could be easily damaged by extreme climate conditions, like those experienced in North Africa and in Russia. Despite being a bomber, it was used as a transport aircraft by the Free French. This example carries the Free French cross of Lorraine, a symbol chosen by General Charles de Gaulle himself, on its tail.

At the very beginning of the Second World War, France operated many indigenous types in all aircraft categories including native fighters like the Dewoitine D520, which showed promise and could match the performance of even the Messerschmitt Bf 109s of the Luftwaffe. Unlike most captured aircraft which were used for evaluation purposes and black ops, the Dewoitine D520 would be put to work in numbers by the Luftwaffe as advanced fighter trainers. The Vichy French were allowed to continue to manufacture them, so there was a large and accessible supply. This photo shows Dewoitine D520 SV+GB, an advanced fighter trainer operated by Jagdgeschwader 103 of the Luftwaffe in Belgium in late 1944. Photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr

Italian Regiane Re.2002 fighter, fresh off the assembly line at Caproni’s Taliedo factory prior to delivery to a Schlachtgruppe of the German Luftwaffe. This was not a captured aircraft, but one that was purpose built under license for the Luftwaffe, which used them against French resistance. Photo: Caproni

The Russian-built Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik ground attack aircraft was the nemesis of the German Army on the Eastern Front, so getting their hands on one to see first-hand and close up what made it tick was important to the German military planners and designers. This is an early version without the rear machine gun position. Without this protection, the heavy and slow-flying Sturmovik was vulnerable to fighter attack from the rear. Until the gun position was added, the Il-2’s losses were heavy. Image via

A Junkers Ju 87B-2 Stuka in RAF service (W.Nr. 5763, s/n HK827). It had been in service with 209a Squadriglia, Regia Aeronautica, and was forced to land behind enemy lines when running out of fuel in September 1941. It made its last flight from El Ballah airfield, Suez Canal Zone, on 27 September 1944 and was then scrapped due to corrosion in the wing structure. Photo: Australian War Memorial

These RAF ground crew display their famous British droll sense of humour, a sign meant as much for the enemy as the folks back home. This captured Junkers Ju 87-D Stuka, seen here at Sidi Haneish (temporary landing ground LG 13, November 1942 was test flown and used by 601 City of London Squadron. The commanding officer of 601, Squadron Leader Billy Drake, commandeered this Ju 87-D as the squadron beer run hack. Sidi Haneish Airfield was a Second World War military airfield in Egypt, in the Western Desert, about 35 km east-southeast of Marsa Matruh; 410 km northeast of Cairo near the Mediterranean coast. It was used during the Eastern Desert Campaign by the British Eighth Army and was little more than tents and unprepared landing areas. Photo: RAF

Just like the ambivalent Italian Air Force (Regia Aeronautica Italiana (RAI)) of the Second World War, it was better to hedge their bets with markings from competing sides of the conflict. Well, not really. Here a German-built Ju-87 Stuka wears the markings of both the Italians AND the RAF. The Stuka is a surprise in the Italian markings alone, but the roundels and fin flash of the RAF share the space with the white cross fin flash of the RAI and the Italian roundel. The RAI roundel depicted the three “fasces” insignia. The fasces were originally a symbol representing the authority of the Roman Republic. The fascist Italian government adopted it with the same symbolism in mind, supremacy of the state. The original national air markings had three fasces, they symbolised the three holders of power in the Italian state, King, Parliament, and the Fascist Party.

Those ungrateful Brits! The Regia Aeronautica (Italian Air Force), if anything, operated some interestingly designed aircraft, with a particular love of the three-engined configuration. This Cant Z.506, photographed at Kalafrana, Malta, belonged to the Regia Aeronautica’s 139th Squadron. On 29 July 1942, it was used by the RA to rescue the crew of a ditched Bristol Beaufort, but the “ungrateful” English prisoners overwhelmed the Italians during the flight to Taranto, Italy and hijacked the aircraft to Malta. Afterwards the aircraft was based at Alexandria. The CANT Z.506 Airone (Heron) was a triple-engine floatplane produced by CANT from 1935. During the Second World War, it was used as a reconnaissance aircraft, bomber and air-sea rescue plane by the Italian Regia Aeronautica and the Luftwaffe. Photo: RAF

French design in Italian colours. Prior to the beginning of the Second World War, they were many indigenous French aircraft designs. Despite the German occupation, some of these types were continued in production for the Vichy French. Many Potez 63.11, like the Regia Aeronautica example above, were acquired by the Luftwaffe after the defeat of France—80 reportedly at Meaulte alone— and fell into the hands of the Wehrmacht in unused condition while awaiting ferrying to the Vichy French Air Force. The Potez was employed by the Luftwaffe for training and liaison duties. The assembly line at Les Mureaux was to be reactivated during the following year when a further 120 Potez 63.11 were to be assembled for the Luftwaffe from existing components. Ten Potez aircraft of this type were flown by the Regia Aeronautica, mostly for training flights. Photo via

Italian ground crews and pilots of the Regia Aeronautica help to move a captured Bristol Blenheim of 40 Squadron RAF, here in Regia markings. The Mk. IV Blenheim (Serial Number N3589) landed at Pantelleria airport on 13 September 1940. Pantelleria, a small Italian island halfway between Sicily and Tunisia in the Strait of Sicily, was a strategic base from which attacks on Malta and North Africa were staged during the first half of the Second World War. The aircraft was evaluated at Guidonia, an airfield near Rome—quite possibly where this photo was taken. N3589 might be the Mk. IV appearing in a non-flying role in the movie Un Pilota Ritorna (A Pilot Returns) (1942) directed by Roberto Rossellini. Photo via

The Germans, as well as the Italians, captured, evaluated and made use of all types of aircraft, even obsolete ones. Here a Bristol Blenheim Mk. IV is seen at a test facility sporting Luftwaffe markings and the numerals 5+5 on her fuselage. Photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr

It’s not often that we can see photographs of an aircraft at the very beginning of its existence and then at the end of its fascinating military career with both the Yanks and the Jerries. Consolidated B-24H Liberator (s/n 41-28641) is seen here test running its four engines at the Douglas Tulsa factory prior to delivery to the United States Army Air Force. Not long after, she was in the employ of the Luftwaffe—see next photo. Photo: Consolidated Aircraft

American airmen inspect the damaged hulk of a former USAAF Consolidated B-24H-5-DT Liberator in Salzberg, Austria. This “Lib” is Serial Number 41-28641, once operated by the 732nd Bomb Squadron of the 453rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. She force-landed at a Luftwaffe airfield in France on 4 February 1944. The entire crew was captured. Apparently this aircraft got separated from the formation while still very near the base and flew eastward until it either force-landed or crash-landed at an airfield at Ager, Czechoslovakia. It was repaired and assigned to the famous Luftwaffe unit, KG 200, and painted with German markings and code A3+KB. It was used to fly supply missions to the Island of Rhodes from forward fields near Vienna. Pilot was Hptm. Stahnke of Commando Clara. This was the first B-24 captured by the Luftwaffe, though not the first that they flew—that being B-24D “Blonde Bomber II” (Serial number 41-23659) which had been captured by the Italians when it landed by mistake at Pachino, Sicily on 20 February 1943. Photo: USAAF

This Consolidated B-24H Liberator (squadron code H6-X+), nicknamed “Borsuk’s Bitch” (after M/Sgt. Matthew Borsuk, the aircraft’s crew chief), made an emergency landing in Switzerland on 25 April 1944, following flak damage over France while on a mission to bomb Mannheim, Germany and, along with its crew, was interned by the Swiss government. The “Lib”, built in Forth Worth, Texas (s/n 42-64496) was operated by the 735th Bomb Squadron, 453rd Bomb Group, of “The Mighty Eighth” Air Force. The bomber was marked in Swiss markings and evaluated by the Swiss Air Force and was eventually returned to the United States Army Air Force in October 1945. All of her crew were interned, however, the Bombardier, 2nd Lt. William O. Smith, escaped from Switzerland and made it back to England. Photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr

There are not many colour photographs of activities at the Luftwaffe’s test field at Rechlin, at least not that I could readily find. I did find this excellent colour slide showing two Soviet MiG-3s (one in background) captured and brought to Rechlin air base for evaluation. These two are likely still in assembly, and the Germans have rather lackadaisically painted a black cross over the red star marking of the Soviets. The angled line just below the cockpit is the point where the fuselage material changes from metal in front to wood at the back with the paint colour changing accordingly. Photo via

A Messerschmitt Me 262 Swalbe (Swallow) marked as Yellow 17, sports RAF roundels while sitting in a postwar aircraft park for captured German aircraft. This aircraft became a war trophy of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Me 262A-1 (Werk Nummer 500210), AM 52, coded Yellow 17 of I./JG 7, surrendered at Fassberg and was taken over by No. 616 Squadron, RAF. It was flown to Lübeck on 29 May 1945, and then ferried to Schleswig and on to Farnborough on 9 June 1945. It was allocated RAF Serial No. VH509 on 14 June, and made at least one test flight in July at Brize Norton. Information via Axis Warplane Survivors (great book!) Photo: RAF

The same Messerschmitt Me 262, Yellow 17. AM 52, was shipped to Canada from Ellesmere Port on board the SS Manchester Shipper on 23 August 1946, arriving at Montréal on 1 September.  AM 52 was sold to Cameron Logan of New Scotland, Ontario, about 1947, with 300 other war-surplus RCAF aircraft, and was eventually scrapped by him at New Scotland. Information via Axis Warplane Survivors (great book!) Photo: RAF

A Messerschmitt Me 262 in United States Army Air Force markings. This Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a was surrendered at Lechfeld and became part of “Watson’s Whizzers”. In 1944 intelligence experts at Wright Field, under the leadership of Colonel Harold E. Watson, a former Wright Field test pilot, had developed lists of advanced aviation equipment they wanted to examine. Watson and his crew, nicknamed “Watson’s Whizzers,” composed of pilots, engineers and maintenance men, used these “Black Lists” to collect aircraft. Watson organized his Whizzers into two sections. One collected jet aircraft and the other procured piston-engine aircraft and non-flyable jet and rocket equipment. Named “Screamin’ Meemie”, the aircraft was allocated to the US Navy Flight Test Division where it was used to test the reaction of jet aircraft to a wave off from an aircraft carrier. The airplane was retired in January of 1947 and placed into storage. In 1957 it was given to the U.S. Air Force Museum, where it remains on display to this day. Photo: USAAF

Allied and American intelligence officers and aerodynamicists were particularly interested in German aircraft types with unique configurations, such as this hefty pusher/tractor configured twin-engined Dornier Do 335. The Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (“Arrow”) was a Second World War heavy fighter built by the Manzell, Friedrichshafen-based Dornier company. The Pfeil’s performance was much better than other twin-engine designs due to its unique “push-pull” layout and the much lower drag of the in-line alignment of the two engines. The Luftwaffe was desperate to get the design into operational use, but delays in engine deliveries meant only a handful was delivered before the war ended. Here an American test pilot makes himself familiar with the controls of a USAAF-painted one at a captured Luftwaffe airfield, surrounded by the wreckage of other German aircraft, possibly a Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger and an Me 262. Photo: USAAF

Another Yankee Arrow. A Do 335 A-1 Werk Nummer 102 (VG+PH) at the U.S. Navy’s Patuxent River Test Center in Maryland. The rear propeller could be jettisoned to enable the pilot to bail out safely, thus avoiding the Cuisinart effect. Photo: US Navy

Dornier Do 335A-10 two-seat piggyback conversion trainer. This one was captured by American forces in Germany and given to the British. The aircraft above was seen here on display at the “Royal Air Force Captured Enemy Aircraft and Equipment” display at Farnborough in April 1946.

The two-seater trainer version was also nicknamed Ameisenbär (“anteater”) for obvious reasons. This is the same Dornier Do 335 as pictured in the preceding photograph and the location is also likely Farnborough. Photo via Stewart Callan, Flickr

Royal Air Force Captured Enemy Aircraft and Equipment display at Farnborough in April 1946 includes the Dornier Do 335A-10 “Pfeil” as well as many other Luftwaffe and RAF types, including a Supermarine Spiteful (left front) and Blackburn Firebrand (front right).

A Salamander in French markings. The Heinkel He 162 Volksjäger or “People’s Fighter” was a single-engine, jet-powered fighter aircraft operated by the Luftwaffe at the end of the Second World War. Designed and built quickly, and made primarily of wood as metals were in very short supply and prioritized for other aircraft, the He 162 was nevertheless the fastest of the first generation of Axis and Allied jets. Volksjäger was the Reich Air Ministry’s official name for the government design program competition that the He 162 design won. Other names given to the plane include Salamander, which was the code name of its construction program, and Spatz (“Sparrow”), which was the name given to the plane by the Heinkel company. Photo: RAF

During the spring of 1942, a Soviet pilot of a regiment based in the Far East defected and made a wheels-up landing near Chiasmus, in Manchukuo. The aircraft was captured by the Japanese. They repaired the aircraft and started an evaluation flight cycle, whose supervisor was Major Yamamoto of the Army Test Centre. These tests were made from the Mutanchiang Air Base, in Manchuria. The Japanese test pilots were not satisfied with the LaGG-3’s performance and flight characteristics; the difference in handling and wing load with A6M Zero and other typical Japanese fighters was enormous. For those who are not familiar with the Soviet Lavochkin-Gorbunov-Gudkov LaGG-3 fighter aircraft of the Second World War, we have shown a Russian version along with a Japanese captured example. Overweight despite its wooden construction, at one stage 12 LaGG-3s were being completed daily and 6,528 had been built when factory 31 in Tbilisi switched to Yak-3 production in 1944—by sheer numbers alone, it was an important stopgap aircraft.

While modern in appearance, the LaGG-3 is actually a throwback. Constructed primarily of wood, the LaGG-3 proved to be surprisingly resistant to damage. While it did not perform as well as some other Russian designs, it did provide a sort of stopgap until sufficient numbers of better performing fighters could be produced. Later developement of the type included adding a radial engine which increased speed and performance. This prototype eventually led to the LaGG-5.
Soviet pilots generally disliked this aircraft. LaGG-3 Pilot Viktor M. Sinaisky recalled: “It was an unpleasant client! Preparing the LaGG-3 for flight demanded more time in comparison with other planes. All cylinders were supposed to be synchronized: God forbid you from shifting the gas distribution! We were strictly forbidden to touch the engine! But there were constant problems with water-cooled engines in winter: especially as there was no antifreeze liquid. You couldn’t keep the engine running all night long, so you had to pour hot water into the cooling system in the morning. Furthermore, pilots didn’t like flying the LaGG-3 – a heavy beast with a weak M-105 engine – but they got used to it. Even so, we had higher losses on LaGG-3 than on I-16s.” Top image:, bottom image:

At the Eastern Front, the Germans wanted to know what they would be up against when it came to the new Lavochkin La-5, a later development of the LaGG-3 lineage. In the summer of 1943, a brand new La-5FN made a forced landing on a German airfield providing the Luftwaffe with an opportunity to test-fly the newest Soviet fighter. Test pilot Hans-Werner Lerche wrote a detailed report of his experience. He particularly noted that the La-5FN excelled at altitudes below 3,000 m (9,843 ft) but suffered from short range and flight time of only 40 minutes at cruise engine power. All of the engine controls (throttle, mixture, propeller pitch, radiator and cowl flaps, and supercharger gearbox) had separate levers which served to distract the pilot during combat to make constant adjustments or risk suboptimal performance. For example, rapid acceleration required moving no less than six levers. Lerche describes some of his experience with the type: “The captured La-5–actually an La-5FN–was powered by an M-82FNV twin-row radial engine with direct fuel injection. It was obvious from the start that this aircraft was no longer comparable with the earlier Soviet fighter types of sometimes rather primitive construction, and was a very serious opponent to our fighters in altitudes below 3000 m (10,000 ft).” The large number 21 on the side of this La-5 is not Luftwaffe in origin, but the number worn in Soviet service.


Japanese George fighters in American markings prepare for a flight from their base to an American-held base at Yokosuka. After the war’s end in Japan, the Americans found six surviving Kawanishi N1K Shiden (Japanese for “Violet Lightning”, Allied code name “George”) at a base in Kogashima. In late August 1945 Japanese pilots, flying these Georges and escorted by US Navy F6F Hellcats, flew from the air base at Kogashima in the south of Kyushu to Yokosuka. The flew a well-defined route under the threat that they would be shot down if they did anything unexpected. On this trip they were able to use American fuel of a much higher octane than they had had access to before. The Japanese pilots reported that they had to use 75% of the normal power settings in order to stop themselves from pulling away from their escorts. Two of these Georges were subsequently scrapped in Yokosuka and the remaining aircraft (no. 71, 5128, 5312 and 5341) were moved to the USA to further learning. Photo: US Navy

In the flicks!

While most aviation cross-dressing was done to make captured aircraft, not all strangely marked aircraft were captured or if they were, they did not necessarily have enemy markings. Some aircraft were dressed to look like the enemy for feature films or captured aircraft might be put into the sky for propaganda purposes. The discerning aerogeek is on the lookout for these discrepant aircraft and is often disappointed at their use. Witness these next four images from the motion picture business.

Early in the Second World War, a Spitfire that had been captured by the Luftwaffe was used in a propaganda film/photo shoot, showing one about to be shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Spit had been painted in spurious markings which included an incorrectly proportioned roundel and a fin flash which was unwittingly reversed—the red should be forward with the blue trailing in all RAF and Commonwealth aircraft. Photo: Luftwaffe

Here is a close-up black and white photograph of the same Spitfire used in the propaganda photograph in the previous photo. It is possible that initially the RAF markings were painted over and the Balkenkreuz and Swastika applied on top as we see in this photo. I suggest it was when the propaganda photo op was planned that the roundels and fin flashes were applied—incorrectly. The Spitfire was a Mk V and is seen here at the Luftwaffe training base at Kolberg in Northeast Germany. One very interesting modification to the Spitfire is the addition of a smoke generator under the fuselage, forward of the tail wheel. This, we assume, was meant to generate smoke to simulate the aircraft being shot down by the Luftwaffe on the propaganda photos (or film). Photo: Luftwaffe

In the big Warner Bros. blockbuster called Captain of the Clouds, the troubled and ostracized pilot played by James Cagney finds redemption when he takes on a lone “Hurricane” mid-Atlantic during a ferry of a Hudson bomber across to England. The entire film was shot in Canada, mostly here in Ottawa, but one sequence required an RCAF Hurricane from an East Coast squadron to play the part of a Messerschmitt Bf 109... all dressed in evil-looking black. After he was done shooting the sequence above, Hurricane/Messerschmitt pilot F/O Dal Russel, a Battle of Britain veteran, couldn’t resist a low level rip up Barrington Street in wartime Halifax. Despite warnings to the public, this caused some degree of panic. Russel’s commander, S/L Hartland Molson, also a BoB veteran, was apparently not amused. Screen capture via Warner Bros.

A stranger sight you may never see than a whole squadron of Spitfires wearing Nazi markings. Spitfires of Numbers 5 and 17 Squadrons, Royal Air Force, suffer a massive indignity as they were used to masquerade as Messerschmitt Bf 109s in an air show performance at Farnborough in 1950. The scene they were re-enacting was the Luftwaffe’s interception of the attacking de Havilland Mosquitos in the set piece—a reconstruction of the famous Second World War raid to destroy a Gestapo jail at Amiens and release prisoners. The look is certainly enhanced by the use of all clipped wing Spitfires. Photo: RAF from A Pictorial History of the Royal Air Force

The Evaluators—No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight, RAF Text Via Wikipedia

No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight RAF, nicknamed the “Rafwaffe”, was a Royal Air Force flight formed during the Second World War to evaluate captured enemy aircraft and demonstrate their characteristics to other Allied units. Several aircraft on charge with the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) Farnborough section were also used by this unit. The RAE facilities at Farnborough were utilized for the flight testing of German and Italian aircraft during the war. Many crash-landed airframes were brought to Farnborough for examination, testing and cannibalization of spare parts to keep other airframes in serviceable condition.

The main flight testing work was carried out by the Aerodynamics Flight of the Experimental Flying Department and the Wireless & Electrical Flight (W&EF), the latter responsible for evaluation and examination of radar-equipped aircraft later in the war. The unit was established in November 1941 at RAF Duxford, made up of a small group of pilots who had previously been maintenance test pilots with No. 41 Group RAF. Initially, it operated a Heinkel He 111 (AW177) that had been in British hands for two years, a Messerschmitt Bf 109 that had been captured during the Battle of France (AE479) and a Junkers Ju 88A-5 (HM509). The Ju 88 was a more recent British acquisition after the pilot landed at night at RAF Chivenor in the belief it was an airfield in France—the crew had made a navigational error after being deceived by a Meacon; decoy, navigational radio beacons set up by the British to mimic German ones.

The aircraft in the unit changed throughout the war as further later marques came into the RAF’s hands in various ways, including capture by Allied troops, forced or mistaken landings by German pilots, and defections. They were then passed to the Air Fighting Development Unit (RAF Duxford 1940–1943) where they were extensively tested before passing them on to the Flight. Several aircraft were lost to crashes, or damaged and then cannibalized for spare parts. Others were shipped to America for further evaluation. The unit later moved to RAF Collyweston. The Flight ceased operations at Collyweston on 17 January 1945, reforming at RAF Tangmere on the same date, with unit codes EA as the “Enemy Aircraft Flight” of the Central Fighter Establishment, which finally disbanded in December 1945.

Mechanics with No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight RAF (humorously regarded as the “Rafwaffe”) at Collyweston, Northamptonshire, perform maintenance on Focke–Wulf Fw 190A-3, PN999 (read further to learn how this came to be in the hands of the RAF), while airmen in the foreground re-paint the wings of Junkers Ju 88S-1, TS472. Photo: Imperial War Museum

Pilots of the Royal Air Force 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight took their aircraft on the road to fighter and bomber bases across England, escorted by Allied fighters in case they were mistaken for the enemy. Here, a pilot of the “Rafwaffe” “Flying Circus” chats with and answers questions from pilots and air crew of the 390th Bomb Group in England on 28 April 1944 while sitting on Messerschmitt Bf 109 NN644. Photo via

On 20 May 1942, while bombing shipping in the harbour at Newhaven, this Messerschmitt Bf 109F took a machine gun hit in the oil radiator and was forced down on the coastal grass at nearby Beach Head. The engine was severely damaged by overheating and exploding of the water jacket. The pilot, Unteroffizier Oswald Fischer (seen here at right), also emptied his pistol into the engine. The aircraft was then sent to the Enemy Aircraft Flight. See next image. Photo: RAF

It seems that the aircraft (from the previous photo) was kept until a serviceable engine or cylinder block could be acquired from a downed aircraft in the Middle East. In August of 1943 the aircraft was delivered to No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft Flight). A F/Lt R.F. Forbes flew the aircraft at RAF Collyweston on 24 October, while it was still in Luftwaffe markings. Shortly after that, it was painted in RAF colours and given the serial NN644, keeping the white 11 and bomb markings. RAF pilots had similar ground handling problems with the 109 as did Luftwaffe pilots. In July of 1944, the port wing and aileron where damaged when an RAF pilot ground looped it on landing at RAF Thurleigh, Bedfordshire. The Messerschmitt passed to the Enemy Aircraft Flight at Tangmere in January of 1945, and went into storage at No. 47 MU at RAF Sealand in November of that year. Photo: RAF

The captured German Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4 (RAF serial NN644) of No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft Flight), based at Collyweston, Northamptonshire (UK), parked near the control tower at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire, during the unit’s 11th tour of operational stations giving flying demonstrations. Although painted in RAF colours, the aircraft retains the “White 11” and bomb symbol markings on Oswald Fischer’s former Luftwaffe unit, 10.(Jabo)/JG 26. Photo: RAF via Imperial War Museum

A terrific shot of Messerschmitt Bf 109 NN644 in action in January of 1944 at the USAAF bomber base at RAF Chelveston where the 305th Bomb Group was getting one of the famous 1426 Flight demonstrations. In addition to NN644, the Enemy Aircraft Flight brought with them one of their Focke–Wulf Fw 190s, a Messerschmitt Bf 110 and a Junkers Ju 88. We can see one of the 305th’s Flying Fortress in one of the T-2 hangars in the background. Photo via Ian White, 305th BG contributor on

A B-17 crew member of the 305th Bomb Group poses with an enemy he is likely to meet in the sky in the next week—the Focke–Wulfe Fw 190 of No. 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight of the RAF during a visit in January 1945. Photo via Ian White, 305th BG contributor on


Intercepted by RAF fighters while on a reconnaissance mission on 21 July 1940, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 of 1426 Flight was forced down and captured largely intact. Royal Aircraft Establishment repaired this aircraft and after handling trials, it was flown to the Air Fighting Development Unit at Duxford in October 1941. In March 1942, AX772 was transferred to No. 1426 Flight until moving to the Enemy Aircraft Flight of the Central Flying School at Tangmere in January 1945. It was stored at No. 47 Maintenance Unit (MU) Sealand in November 1945 and scrapped in 1947. Photo: RAF

A Messerschmitt Bf 110 C-4 (c/n 2177) in flight in Royal Air Force roundels but Luftwaffe camouflage. This captured aircraft belonged to the German Luftwaffe reconnaissance unit 4(F)/14 (code 5F+CM) and was force-landed at Goodwood Racecourse, Sussex, after being hit by gunfire, on 21 July 1940. It was repaired at Royal Aircraft Establishment Farnborough with parts of another Bf 110 that was shot down near Wareham on 11 July. It was flown for the first time on 15 February 1941. Later it was tested at RAE Duxford wearing a new colour scheme and the RAF serial AX772. After the trials, the aircraft was assigned to No. 1426 Squadron. It was stored in November 1945 and subsequently scrapped in November 1947. Photo: RAF

The same Messerschmitt Bf 110 as the previous photo, but in new RAF colours (green grey over bright yellow (for experimental aircraft)) and her new RAF serial number AX-772, is shown flying near Duxford. Photo: RAF via Imperial War Museum

Messerschmitt Bf 110 AX772 in RAF markings and camouflage with RAF officers getting a tour. In April of 1943 some captured German Aircraft visited RAF Molesworth to help bomber combat crews learn about and better identify the German aircraft they were facing. Visiting aircraft included: Fw 190, Ju 88, Bf 109, and Bf 110 (above). Photo: RAF via 303 BG Website

Messerschmitt Bf 110 AX772 in flight over England wearing markings she was never meant to wear. Photo: RAF

A Messerschmitt Bf 109E (Emil), built by the Erla Maschinenwerk near Leipzig, in September 1940, in RAF markings. On a sortie on 27 November 1940, it was piloted by Lt Wolfgang Teumer of II/JG 51, 4101 and was shot down by Flt Lt George Christie, DFC flying a Spitfire of 66 Sqn. The damaged 109 was rebuilt from components of other captured Bf 109s and flown in British hands with RAF serial DG200. In this shot, when it was flown by Rolls-Royce pilot Harvey Hayworth, it is flying without its canopy. Because of Hayworth’s size, over 6 feet tall, the Bf 109’s canopy was removed and “mislaid” and was never seen again! DG200 lives today, on display in its original Luftwaffe markings. Photo: RAF

Another fine shot of lanky Harvey Hayworth of Rolls-Royce flying the captured Messerschmitt Bf 109E, re-serialed as DG200, with No. 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight. Photo: RAF

This Messerschmitt Bf 109G was captured when its pilot, Lt. Horst Prenzel, Staffelkapitan of JG 301, landed at RAF Manston by mistake, following a Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) sortie over the invasion area against night bombers on 21 July 1944. Another Bf 109 also attempted to land with him, but crashed. The RAF markings were applied and it was given an RAF serial—TP814. Wilde Sau (German for “Wild Boar”) was the term given by the Luftwaffe, during the Second World War, to the tactics by which British night bombers were mainly engaged by single-seat fighter aircraft. Photo: RAF

Another great shot of captured Bf 109G with RAF serial TP814. The aircraft was operated by No. 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight of the RAF. It was subsequently written off in a takeoff accident at RAF Wittering near Stamford, Lincolnshire, on 23 November 1944. We can see lots of exhaust soot on her sides in this photo. The band of colour around the fuselage near the tail was red. Photo via Aces High Bulletin Board

Messerschmitt Bf 109E— AE479. During a dogfight on 22 November 1939, Luftwaffe pilot Karl Heir became disoriented and landed by mistake at the French airfield at Strasbourg-Woerth in Alsace. The aircraft was taken to the research facility Centre d'Essai du Matériel Aérien of the Armée de l'Air at Orléans-Bricy. Here they test flew it to determine how it fared against French types like Dewoitine D.520, Bloch MB 152 and the British Spitfire Mk I. German markings were painted over with French markings. A camera was installed under wing for filming combat simulations. On 2 May 1940 the French lent the aircraft to the British. It was flown from Chartres to Tangmere by F/O Hilly Brown of 1 Squadron, then to Boscombe Down and the hands of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). British roundels and fin flashes replaced those of France. In keeping with test aircraft paint standards, the undersides were painted yellow except for the control surfaces, ailerons, flaps and elevators, which were left in the original light blue. It was given the serial number AE479 and used for comparative tests with the Hurricane Mk I and Spitfire Mk I by the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) in May and June 1940. Between May–July 1940 and July 1941 it made 78 flights, totalling 49 hours, operating from Farnborough and Northolt. It stayed with the RAE until July 1941 when W/C I.R. Campbell-Odre flew it from Farnborough to Duxford to deliver it to the Air Fighting Development Unit. It returned to Farnborough on 20 November. As a result of a crash, the tail of another captured 109 (Construction Number 1480 —Franz von Werra’s aircraft— famous Luftwaffe pilot who was the only successful escapee from a North American POW camp) was used for repairs. After repairs were completed, it was handed to 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight on 11 December 1941. In January 1942, it was dismantled and crated for transit to the USA. It left on 7 April 1942 on the freighter S.S. Dramesford. After arrival (May 1942 to Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio) it was damaged in a crash on 2 November 1942 and never flew again. Photo: RAF

Junkers Ju 88A-5 (Luftwaffe markings M2+MK) of 2/KGr 106 landed by mistake at RAF Chivenor, Devon on 26 November 1941. It was remarked in RAF roundels and camouflage and given RAF serial number HM509. The aircraft flew with No. 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight until it was damaged in a ground loop at RAF Thorny Island on 19 May 1944. Though not seriously damaged, it was cannibalized for spares for other Ju 88s operated by the unit. Likely painted yellow underneath. Photo: RAF

A single Fiat Cr.42 Falco was captured during the Battle of Britain. The aircraft was salvaged following a forced landing at Orfordness, Suffolk, on 11 November 1940. Still wearing its Italian camouflage scheme, it was given RAF roundels and RAF serial BT474. It is pictured here parked on the dispersal of Air Station Duxford, Cambridgeshire, during a cold winter day where it was in the employ of the RAF’s Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) through the war. It is preserved and displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum Hendon, as MM5701 ‘13-95’. Photo: Imperial war Museum

The very Fiat Cr.42 Falco which became RAF BT474 nosed over in Orfordness, Suffolk. On 11 November 1940, with an overheating engine, Sergente Pilota Pietro Salvadori’s aircraft “MM5701” force-landed on the shingle beach at Orfordness, Suffolk, gently nosing over on the shingle. Salvadori was taken prisoner and was apparently very proud of his landing. His aircraft is now displayed at RAF Museum in London in its original markings. Photo: Imperial war Museum

The captured RAF Fiat Cr42 Falco, which Salvadori had crashed in Suffolk, is now displayed in its original markings at the RAF Museum in London. The RAF Museum website states: “Mussolini brought Italy into the war in June 1940. Convinced of an Axis victory and not wishing to miss out on the spoils of war he ordered the Italian Air Force - Regia Aeronautica - to form an air expeditionary force, the Corpo Aereo Italiano/Italian Air Corps (CAI) - composed of three Stormi-Wings - some 200 aircraft - to operate against the United Kingdom in support of an unenthusiastic Luftwaffe from bases at Melsbroek, Chievres, Maldeghem and Ursel in Belgium.

CAI operations began at the close of the Battle of Britain, with an unsuccessful night raid around Harwich on 24 October 1940, with the first daylight mission, bombing Deal, on 29 October, and a unopposed fighter sweep over Canterbury on 1 November. Offensive fighter sweeps along the channel continued until 28 November 1940 and mainly night bomber raids on Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Ipswich and Harwich until 7 February 1941, with defensive/patrol fighter sorties continuing until the same month, the CAI Cr42s and BR20s then returned to Italy, although two squadrons of G.50bis aircraft remained in Belgium until April 1941 on local coastal patrols. Despite numerous claims, the CAI shot down no British aircraft but lost two dozen in a relatively ineffectual campaign that caused little damage, having suffered from limited experience and training, using outdated aircraft and tactics.” Photo by Bryan Gibbins, via

Heinkel 111H-1 (Luftwaffe marked as 1H+EN, RAF as AW177) was captured when it force-landed in a field near North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland on 9 February 1940, having been damaged by an RAF Spitfire. The aircraft crashed at RAF Polebrook on 10 November 1943 while carrying a number of 1426 Flight ground crew as passengers. The pilot, F/O Barr, and six others were killed, four were injured. Photo: RAF

A nice photograph of Heinkel 111H of the Enemy Aircraft Flight flying over England. The Luftwaffe bomber was shot down in Scotland. The crash report indicated that a Spitfire fighter from 602 Sqn, flown by S/Ldr A. Farquhar, damaged the German aircraft over the Firth of Forth. The undercarriage was lowered in a sign of surrender and then, with one engine out of action, it turned towards the coast and made a forced landing, tipping onto its nose. The aircraft was recovered and repaired and then flown by the RAF as AW177. Of the crew, Unteroffizier (Uffz-Corporal) F. Weiners died of injuries, while Uffz H. Meyer, Uffz J. Sangl and Obergefreiter (LAC in RAF) H. Hegemann were made Prisoners of War. Photo: RAF

A former Luftwaffe Focke–Wulf Fw 190, sitting in the cold European rain awaiting pilots to test fly her for evaluation, sports Type C roundels of the RAF and RAF serial number PN999. This Focke–Wulf 190A-3 was flown by No. 1426 (Enemy Aircraft) Flight at Collyweston, Northamptonshire. Several aircraft on charge with the RAE Farnborough section were also used by this unit. The RAE facilities at Farnborough were utilized for the flight testing of German and Italian aircraft during the war. Many crash-landed airframes were brought to Farnborough for examination, testing and cannibalization of spare parts to keep other airframes in serviceable condition. This particular Fw 190 was flown by Uffz. Werner Ohne (Luftwaffe Call sign White 6) and was captured when he landed in error at RAF Manston, 20 June 1943.

Another shot of Werner Ohne’s Focke–Wulf Fw 190—about to be run up by a pilot of 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight, Royal Air Force. Just visible in the right background is the fuselage of Messerschmitt Bf 109G Trop (RAF serial number VX101) which was captured in the Middle East in 1943, but was written off as a result of a forced landing at RAF Thorney Island on 19 May 1944. Photo: RAF

Focke–Wulf Fw 190A-3, formerly of the Luftwaffe and now trundling along at an RAF base in the markings of the RAF. This 190, flown by Oberleutnant Armin Faber, Gruppe Adjutant of III./JG 2 “Richthofen”, became disoriented after shooting down an RAF Spitfire over Start Point, Devon. Attempting to return home, he accidentally flew north instead of south and landed at RAF Pembrey on 23 June 1942 to his dismay and embarrassment. This aircraft (MP499) was struck off charge from 1426 and the RAF the following year on 18 September 1943. At one point this aircraft carried the “P” for Prototype markings, but they are not evident here. This aircraft is available as a die-cast model from Corgi. Photo: RAF

Another captured Focke–Wulf Fw 190 in the employ of 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight. This one, PM679, was captured when its pilot, Unteroffizier Heinz Ehrhardt, accidentally landed at RAF Manston, Kent on 20 May 1943. The last flight of PM679 was in June 1944 when, shortly after takeoff, the aircraft suffered a major engine failure and force-landed. The aircraft was used for spares. Photo: RAF

An absolutely fantastic shot of one of the four Focke–Wulf Fw 190s of 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight, winging over and diving for the English countryside. The underside of the Fw 190 would have been bright yellow, so this would have been a really spectacular image had it been in colour. Photo: RAF

Like peas in a pod—the similarities between the de Havilland Mosquito and the Messerschmitt Me 410 are pretty darn obvious in this image and their roles were similar. This 410 (Luftwaffe code F6+OK) was formerly of 2(F)/122, which landed intact and was captured at Monte Corvino, Italy when the crew had become lost during a photo–reconnaissance mission in the Naples area. This aircraft wears the P for Prototype roundels showing she was at RAF Boscombe Down for testing. Photo: RAF

Another great shot of the Messerschmitt Me 410 of 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight (TF209), showing her big twelve cylinder V-12 Daimler-Benz engines, probably at RAF Collyweston. Photo: RAF

A shot of Junkers Ju 88 in the RAF markings of No. 1426 Enemy Aircraft Flight. This is RAF serial HM509, a Ju 88-A-5 which landed accidentally at RAF Chivenor on 26 November 1941. It was damaged in a ground loop on landing on 19 May 1944, the same day that Focke–Wulf Fw 190 PN999 was written off in a landing accident at RAF Thorney Island. Though repairable, the aircraft was cannibalized for parts to keep others going with 1426. Just visible beneath the fuselage of the Junkers is the fuselage of Airspeed Oxford V3781, one of the support and liaison aircraft operated by 1426. This shot is likely at RAF Collyweston. Photo: RAF

One of 1426 Flight’s seven Messerschmitt Bf 109s poses in the sunshine for the RAF cameraman. Photo: RAF

One of the 1426 Flight Focke–Wulfs (likely PN999 based on the bare metal cowling) poses beautifully for an RAF camera. Photo: RAF

The Evaluators—The Luftwaffe’s “Zirkus Rosarius” Text Via Wikipedia

Zirkus Rosarius (also known as the Wanderzirkus Rosarius) was an Erprobungskommando-style special test unit of the Luftwaffe, specifically of the Luftwaffe High Command, tasked with testing captured British and American aircraft, all of which were repainted in German markings.

The purpose of testing allied aircraft was to discover any strengths or vulnerabilities in their design or performance. This information was highly useful in enabling German service personnel to develop tactics designed to counter strengths and exploit any vulnerabilities.

The unit was formed by Theodor Rosarius in 1943 and was part of the 2./Versuchsverband Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe. The Zirkus also toured operational airfields, showing Luftwaffe pilots the captured aircraft and training them in techniques to counter these aircraft. The Zirkus Rosarius seemed to have merited the use of its own Geschwaderkennung (“Geschwader code”) of “T9”, with a few of the unit’s aircraft coming from KG 200, which already used the “A3” identification code of that wing.

Some web references indicate that this colour photograph was taken in July 1944 at Sagan-Kupper airfield (now Zagen-Kopernia in Poland), an advanced training base. The unit code on test platforms such as captured Allied aircraft was typically applied in small white letters (T9 in this case). T9 was the unit code associated with the famed Zirkus Rosarius (also known as the Wanderzirkus Rosarius). Photo: Luftwaffe

Given the size of the Balkenkreuz on her sides, the yellow tail and overall dark paint, this is likely the same Spitfire as the previous shot and therefore T9+CK. The Zirkus Rosarius aircraft, including a P-51 Mustang in the background, have landed at a Luftwaffe base to demonstrate their flying abilities and to familiarize other German pilots with their features. This particular Spitfire was a 412 Squadron, RCAF Spit. This is the same squadron which John Gillespie Magee, the poet of High Flight, served with until his untimely death. The squadron still exists operationally here in Ottawa, Canada. Photo via

Seeing a Supermarine Spitfire or de Havilland Mosquito in Nazi markings is like seeing Canadian hockey superstar Sydney Crosby wearing a Russian hockey jersey and playing for the Russians in the Olympics... very painful to look upon. While Crosby will never defect, the Nazis captured both of these iconic British designs and slapped the symbols of evil on them, even before they were ready to fly. Here, a captured de Havilland Mosquito (T9+XB) fighter/bomber is displayed for the benefit of Nazi party officials and Luftwaffe brass, wearing the bright yellow empennage and undersides of a Zirkus Rosarius aircraft.

The officers and party officials get a close look at an aircraft that is already a legend—the de Havilland Mosquito Mk IV but, without propellers, this Mossie (T9+XB) isn’t going anywhere soon. According to Australian aviation writer Mark Nelson, this Mosquito never flew after it was captured as the landing gear and propellers were seriously damaged in a wheels-up landing. For display purposes, the Germans fabricated a makeshift steel tube “undercarriage” using the original Mosquito’s tires. Strangely, the Zirkus Rosarius used the T9+XB lettering for both the Mosquito and their P-38 Lightnings... see following photo.

A P-38E Lightning with Luftwaffe Swastikas and crosses wears the typical yellow underbelly and appendages of aircraft under evaluation at the Luftwaffe’s Rechlin Technical Development Centre. This was done so that anti-aircraft crews in the Rechlin area would not shoot at the very-Allied Lightning silhouette. This P-38 T9+XB (USAAF serial 43-2278) was operated by the Zirkus Rosarius and was later used in an air show put on at Rechlin during late 1943. It was captured when the former 15 Air Force Lightning landed by mistake at Capoterra Italy on 12 June 1943. Photo: Luftwaffe

This P-47 D2 s/n 42-22490, formerly belonging to the 358th FS, 335th FG, had been piloted by Lt. William Roach who mistakenly confused a French airfield with one in Southern England and had landed at Caen. This aircraft was captured in November 1943 and delivered to the Rechlin experimental centre. Later, after receiving a thorough overhaul, it was delivered to the Rosarius Zirkus. The original American paint scheme was replaced by Luftwaffe camouflage and the code T9+FK applied. Evan Gilder of writes, “On November 7, 1943, 110 B-17s from the 1st and third air division were assigned to bomb aviation industrial targets in Wesel and Duren. They were escorted by 283 Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, working in relays to provide cover for the bombers throughout the mission. Twelve P-47s from the 358th Squadron of the 355th FG would fly their part, taking off with a spare aircraft in case any had difficulty. That spare, “Beetle”, was flown by Lieutenant William E. Roach. Lieutenant John Lanphier developed engine problems and was unable to fly the mission. He returned to base while Roach formed up with Yellow Flight.

The mission was an uneventful mission until they reached the rendezvous point for their relief. The relief had been delayed due to weather. Colonel Cummings chose to stay and protect the bombers, a decision that would prove disastrous. Head winds caused them to burn more fuel than expected. Captain Walter Kossack, the yellow flight leader became disoriented and lost in the clouds. The flight became desperately low on fuel. Captain Kossack ran out of fuel and crash landed on the beach in Caen. Flight Officer Chester Watson ran out of fuel over the North Sea and bailed out to be captured by the Germans and made a POW. Lieutenant Jack Woertz was the only one from Yellow Flight to make it to England, where he crash landed at Hastings, just short of the runway. Lieutenant Roach watched his flight leader go down and looked around for options. He spotted a field nearby. Thinking he was in Southern England, he made a short approach and landed safely. He followed an airfield vehicle to a parking space and had shut down his engine when he realized that he was not in England! Germans approached with their guns drawn. They took him prisoner and he served the rest of the war in Stalag Luft I, with his flight leader, Walter Kossack.

Roach had landed at the Luftwaffe base in Caen. This was the first complete and flyable P-47 that the Luftwaffe had seen. American markings were quickly replaced with German markings. The Luftwaffe wisely chose to move the Thunderbolt inland to keep it away from allied strafing attacks. The P-47 was flown to Rechlin. There it was tested and evaluated thoroughly. The Germans gathered data on the performance, armament and handling of the P-47. During testing, the Germans found the Thunderbolt to be slow and difficult to fly below 15,000 feet. At higher altitudes, they were impressed with its dive speed and roll rate. They were also impressed with the firepower of the 8 .50 caliber machine guns.

As with other fighters tested by the Luftwaffe, after a complete test and evaluation period, Beetle was released to “Zirkus Rosarius”. Zirkus Rosarius was a special Luftwaffe unit under the command of Flugkapitan Ted Rosarius that visited front line fighter units to instruct Luftwaffe pilots on the characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of enemy aircraft. The Germans also captured and flew 2 other P-47 Thunderbolts.

Beetle also became a bit of a movie star. In early 1944, the German propaganda ministry used Beetle for a propaganda film. For the filming, the aircraft paint job was restored to its original American markings. It was returned to Luftwaffe markings after the filming. Nazi propaganda films later also included a captured Spitfire for filming a propaganda film about the Battle of Britain.”
Photo: Evan Gilder of

This Republic P-47 Thunderbolt T9+FK is the unquestioned centre of attention at this Luftwaffe fighter base as ground crew and pilots alike discuss the big fighter and ground attack machine. Before seeing it, test pilot Hans Werbner Lerche called the P-47 “precious”. While standing in front of the P-47 for the first time he said, “At long last I was standing in front of the legendary Thunderbolt!” Lerche said, “The P-47 cockpit could baffle even an experienced pilot.” He also talked about how long it took for him to get used to flying this aircraft. He appreciated that the Americans colour-coded the instruments. Lerche clearly enjoyed the comfort of the Thunderbolt as he said, “The Thunderbolt was flying in comfort indeed.” He described how the flight, takeoffs and landings were no problem with the undercarriage lowered. He explained how the Thunderbolt flew and attacked better at higher altitudes. Photo: Luftwaffe

Another day and another Luftwaffe base. A Zirkus Rosarius P-47 Thunderbolt (likely T9+FK) draws another group of inquisitive Luftwaffe mechanics and pilots. In his memoir Luftwaffe Test Pilot–Flying captured Allied Aircraft of World War 2, Hans Werner Lerche wrote:

“The P-47 cockpit could baffle even an experienced pilot. I gradually managed to ascertain the function of most of the levers and instruments, but there were also some obscure controls, the meaning of which was not immediately clear to me. For example, the flaps were hydraulically compensation of the flap angle on both sides of the wing, but how this should function was at first a mystery to me. So I decided to try the flaps at a safe altitude and to operate them step by step. Lowered for take-off, they seemed able to take some dynamic pressure.

On the other hand, I was obliged to the Americans for having meanwhile indicated on the instruments with the red and green sections regarding which values were acceptable for the engine and which were not. This was probably due to the fact that the P-47 was also flown in combat by non-English speaking pilots who could not easily understand the inscriptions. The levers for regulating the fuel mixture and the hydraulic constant-speed propeller was moved into full revs when the throttle was fully opened. A warning lamp was provided to indicate over speeding of the exhaust-driven turbine which activated the supercharger of the 2000 hp Double-Wasp radial engine at higher altitudes, but I did not intend to test this during my ferry flight. The sliding cockpit hood in the Thunderbolt was particularly pleasant and could be easily opened at low speeds. The roominess of the cockpit was also pleasantly surprising and comfortable, with the exhaust pipe leading to the turbine behind the pilot’s compartment. I was used to cowering in the Bf 109 seat to avoid continually knocking my head against the cockpit hood, compared to which sitting in the Thunderbolt was flying comfort indeed.

And so came my first flight in our capture Thunderbolt in the afternoon of 10 November 1943. With its broad and robust undercarriage taking off and landing were not difficult at all, but nevertheless it was important to lock the tail wheel to keep the big fighter straight. Later on, I once forgot to do this when taking off and was barely able to avoid a ground loop when landing. There were no difficulties in flight. I first lowered, and everything worked out fine. The engine was running beautifully smoothly, something that I was already accustomed too from the other American aircraft I had test-flown. But I could discover nothing of the speed for which the Thunderbolt was renowned, at least not near the ground level.” Photo: Luftwaffe


This P-47 Thunderbolt (T9+LK as this appears to have yellow undersides whereas T9+FK had grey undersides) was captured when its pilot, 2nd Lt Lloyd Hathcock of the 301st Fighter Squadron became disoriented during a mission on 29 May 1944 and landed in Rome, where he and his aircraft were taken. This particular P-47 (sn 42-75971) had at one time been the personal mount of 8-victory ace George Novotny of the 317th. This was the second P-47 captured by the Germans and it quickly made its way to the Wanderzirkus Rosarius at Rechlin. The alphanumerical code “T9” (just visible to the left of the flaps) was the unit code associated with the famed Zirkus Rosarius (also known as the Wanderzirkus Rosarius). The tail and wing undersides would have been painted in bright yellow. Among many Luftwaffe pilots who test flew T9+LK was Hans Werner Lerche. This particular image was taken after Americans captured Göttingen and pulled T9+LK outside. Photo: USAAF

Captured P-47 Thunderbolt T9+LK from Zirkus Rosarius in Göttingen, Germany. It was probably used for several reconnaissance missions over England just before the D-Day invasion. It was recaptured by US troops in Göttingen in 1944 when the Germans were forced to make a rapid withdrawal to Bad Wörishofen. The Germans had to leave T9+LK behind because of mechanical problems. It had original American camouflage, with yellow tail and lower surfaces. USAAF Poster

Mechanics and pilots inspect T9+CK, a North American P-51B Mustang that was restored to flying status by the Germans and evaluated at the test facility at Rechlin. Some forum discussions about this particular aircraft (P-51B 42-103458) indicate that it was flown by Lt. Thomas Todd and had force-landed, due to poor weather in a field in Austria, near the Hungarian border. When it was first captured, this Mustang wore overall USAAF dark green camouflage which was the USAAF standard at the time. Only the undersides and empennage were painted bright yellow by the Germans—the standard colour used on Luftwaffe test aircraft. In the personal test flying memoirs of legendary Rechlin test pilot Werner Lerche, his aircraft had landed intact. Here, Luftwaffe ground and air crews check the aircraft out, possibly at a fighter base where the pilots were being taught some of the flying characteristics of the legendary aircraft. Photo: Luftwaffe

Another shot of Mustang T9+CK shows that, later, her camouflage was removed and bare metal was left unpainted except for the yellow tail and undersides. The use of bare metal matched the new standard for USAAF Mustangs and saved considerable weight. Mustang historian and artist Gaëtan Marie states, “Urban legends have arisen concerning the use of captured aircraft by the Luftwaffe. KG 200 is said to have used restored bombers to get into American bomber ‘boxes’ undetected and open fire on unsuspecting aircraft. It is also claimed that Mustangs were used to attack ‘stragglers’ – bombers who had dropped out of formation after taking damage. These reports seem untrue: possibly some aircraft were used to parachute spies in England, but this is probably as glamorous as it gets. Although no hard evidence exists for such things, the Luftwaffe nevertheless did use Allied aircraft rather extensively – but for more straightforward and useful purposes.” Photo: Luftwaffe

Another P-51B Mustang (T9+HK) gets the same attention as does the P-47 in the background. This P-51B-15-NA (s/n 43-24825) was originally nicknamed “Jerry” and assigned to Lt. Thomas E. Fraser of the 4th FG, 334th FS. It was lost in Cambrai, France, on 6 June 1944 and was tested by the Germans at Rechlin, before being transferred to the famous Zirkus Rosarius for training. It was lost on 10 December 1944. Often, pilots from the Rechlin test establishment would fly the fighters to other German bases and let the pilots there get a really close look at the enemy aircraft. Walter Wolfrum was one of the fortunate pilots who was afforded the opportunity to test fly aircraft like the Mustang: “During the war I had the opportunity to fly captured P-47s and P-51s. I didn’t like the Thunderbolt. It was too big. The cockpit was immense and unfamiliar. After so many hours in the snug confines of the 109, everything felt out of reach and too far away from the pilot. Although the P-51 was a fine airplane to fly, because of its reactions and capabilities, it too was disconcerting. With all those levers, controls and switches in the cockpit. I’m surprised [their] pilots could find the time to fight. We had nothing like this in the 109. Everything was simple and very close to the pilot. You fitted into the cockpit like a hand in a glove. Our instrumentation was complete, but simple: throttle, mixture control and propeller pitch. How [the] pilots were able to work on all their gadgets and still function amazes me.” Photo: Luftwaffe

A giant Short Stirling (RAF Serial N3707) with bright yellow test evaluation undersides was one of the stranger aircraft to be captured and test flown. The 7 Squadron RAF Stirling was on a mine-laying mission on 16 August 1942 when the radio operator radioed for a position at 04:58. Within a few hours, the Stirling, piloted by Sgt. S.C. Orrell, made a wheels-down landing in a marshy field near Gorinchem, Netherlands. Luftwaffe personnel from nearby Gilze-Rijen airfield took two weeks to make field repairs to the damaged Stirling and prepare the meadow as a makeshift runway. The Stirling was flown to Gilze-Rijen on 5 September 1942. It was tested at Erprobungsstelle Rechin, Germany, and recoded as Luftwaffe. Photo: Luftwaffe

Another view of the Nazi-marked former RAF Short Stirling N3707. This aircraft was operated by the Zirkus Rosarius.

The Evaluators—Allied Technical Air Intelligence Units (Wikipedia)

Technical Air Intelligence Units (TAIU) were joint Allied military intelligence units formed during the Second World War to recover Japanese aircraft to obtain data regarding their technical and tactical capabilities.

The first such unit, known later as Technical Air Intelligence Unit–South West Pacific (TAIU–SWPA), was formed in November 1942 by the United States Navy (USN), United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) at Eagle Farm Airbase, Brisbane, Australia.

During 1943–44, three other TAIUs were formed in the other Allied theatres of the Pacific War.

  • South East Asia: ATAIU–SEA; British Royal Air Force (RAF) / USAAF
  • Pacific Ocean Areas: TAIU–POA; USN
  • China: Republic of China Air Force

Crashed and captured aircraft were located, identified, and evaluated (often in or near the front lines), before being recovered for further tests. Aircraft that were not too badly damaged were rebuilt for test flights that revealed vulnerabilities that could be exploited. Examination of the materials used in the construction of aircraft allowed the Allies to analyze Japanese war production. The unit also absorbed a small team who developed the code name system for Japanese aircraft, and produced aircraft recognition charts and photographs.

The hand drawn crest of the Technical Air Intelligence Unit of Southwest Pacific Area depicted the typical racist caricature of a Japanese pilot—buck-toothed and squinting, while technicians measure up his aircraft and fill out a Crashed Enemy Aircraft Report. Technical Air Intelligence Unit logo drawn by D.W. Coffin, during his time on Leyte in the Philippines

Two captured RAF-marked Mitsubishi A6M5 Model 52 Zeros, captured in Malaya at the end of the Pacific War, form up on a camera ship over Malaysian plantations in roughly applied markings of the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit–South East Asia (ATAIU–SEA). These were actually tested and evaluated by Japanese naval pilots under the supervision of Royal Air Force officers. One of these Zeros, along with other captured Japanese aircraft, ended up at Tebrau Airfield in Johor, Malaysia. It was then transported by ship to England, arriving in 1947 and was stored by the RAF until 1961, when it was then transferred to the Imperial War Museum for display. All that remains today is the centre fuselage section and wing centre section, with the landing gear partially deployed. The rest of the aircraft was lost or scrapped. The Sakae 21 engine, reportedly from this Zero, is displayed separately at the Aerospace Museum at Cosford. Photo: Sgt. Breeze, RAF via Imperial War Museum

The Mitsubishi J2M5 Raiden (Japanese for “Thunderbolt”) was designed by Jiro Horikoshi, creator of the A6M Zero. Japanese aircraft taken over by the Allies in British Malaya were tested and evaluated by Japanese naval aviators under close supervision of RAF officers from Seletar Airfield. Here two Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighters (known to the Allies as “Jack”), belonging to the 381 Kōkūtai of Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service, are flying in close formation during their evaluation flight with the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit–South East Asia. Primarily designed to defend against the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the lack of a turbocharger handicapped the Jack at high altitude. However, its four-cannon armament supplied effective firepower and the use of dive and zoom tactics allowed it to score occasionally. Insufficient numbers and the American switch to night bombing in March 1945 limited its effectiveness. Photo: Sgt. Breeze, RAF via Imperial War Museum

The previous photograph by RAF Sergeant Breeze showing two Raiden/Jack fighters flying in close formation over the Malaysian jungle is a well-known by aviation researchers. It is actually a tight cropping of a much wider shot taken that day which looks far more beautiful. According to most websites discussing this image, the pilots were in fact Japanese. Photo: Sgt. Breeze, RAF via Imperial War Museum

While researching the Raiden and its capabilities, I came upon a couple of images of the two Raidens from the famous ATAIU–SEA photo which show the preparations for the photo flight. Here we see Japanese ground crew watching as one of their Raidens, bearing the crudely applied markings, warms up. At right we see a British Army armed guard. Photo: Sgt. Breeze, RAF via Imperial War Museum

Another photograph from the Raiden formation flight photo-op shows Raiden mechanics watching as one of their pilots runs up the big 1,850 hp Mitsubishi MK4R-A Kasei 23a 14-cylinder twin-row radial engine. In the background we see the high tail of another ATAUI–SEA aircraft—a Mitsubishi G4M Betty, which likely flew that very same day as witnessed by the following photograph. Photo: Sgt. Breeze, RAF via Imperial War Museum

Along with the two Raidens and other Japanese aircraft being evaluated by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit–South East Asia, this Mitsubishi G4M Betty was put though her paces on the Malaysian Singapore area. Photo: Imperial War Museum

The Aichi B7A Ryusei (Japanese for “Shooting Star”) was a heavy, powerful carrier-borne torpedo/dive bomber produced by Aichi Kokuki KK for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service during the Second World War. It was known as “Grace” by Allied pilots. The Grace was manufactured in small numbers (only 114) and, sadly, the carriers it was supposed to operate from were largely sunk by the time of their appearance. It had little opportunity to show its metal before the war ended in 1945. This Grace was captured by American troops and was test flown in 1946 by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit ATAIU–SEA. Photo: US Navy

Mitsubishi A6M3 Zero-Sen “Hamp” in the snow at Wright Field, Ohio. The Zero variant was built at the RAAF’s Eagle Farm Air Base, Brisbane, Australia, on 5 August 1943. Known as the Hamp, the A6M3 was rebuilt with parts from other A6M3, Model 32s, to rebuild a flying example for testing. The engine from one was used, main fuselage and wing section from another and the rear fuselage from another, plus components from other wrecks recovered at Buna. With an interpreter and a Japanese pilot POW, a cockpit checklist was created. USAAF pilot William Farrior, a replacement pilot, was asked to test the Zero. He stayed with Air Intelligence throughout the Second World War. The Hamp was later shipped to Wright Field, Ohio for testing. Arriving at Wright with 69 hours flying time, the Hamp was given the number EB-201. Testing at Wright Field added another 22 hours. Inspections found that the Hamp needed a new engine. The fate of the Hamp after the Second World War is unknown, but most likely the plane was scrapped. The performance report from Wright stated: “The Japanese Hamp, AAF No. EB-201, is a low wing single-engine fighter of all metal, stressed skin design. The fuselage is in two sections, joined aft of the pilot’s compartment, the forward section is of the semi-monocoque construction, the rear section is full monocoque. The wings are integral with the forward section of the fuselage.

The airplane is highly manoeuvrable, has a fair rate of climb, and good visibility; however, its speed in level flight is low, it is lightly armed, has no armor protection for the pilot, and the fuel tanks are not self sealing. The cockpit layout is fair, leg room is insufficient for an average sized man and application of the brakes with fully extended rudder is impossible.” 
Photo: USAAF

The Nakajima Ki-43 Hayabusa (Japanese for “Peregrine Falcon”) was a single-engine land-based tactical fighter used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in the Second World War. Though code-named Oscar, it was often called the Army Zero for it similarities to the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. This Oscar, in USAAF markings, is seen on a photo in flight over Brisbane, Queensland (Australia) in 1943. After its capture, it was rebuilt by the Technical Air Intelligence Unit (TAIU) in Hangar 7 at Eagle Farm, Brisbane.

Technical Air Intelligence Center 1. After the United States Navy squeezed all the performance intelligence they could from the Akutan Zero in San Diego, it was transferred from Naval Air Station North Island to the Technical Air Intelligence Center at Anacostia Naval Air Station in 1943 becoming TAIC 1. Photo: NARA

Technical Air Intelligence Center 6, taking off at Naval Air Station Anacostia. The Nakajima B5N (Allied reporting name “Kate”) was the standard torpedo bomber of the Imperial Japanese Navy for much of the Second World War. Although the B5N was substantially faster and more capable than its Allied counterparts, the TBD Devastator, Fairey Swordfish and Fairey Albacore, it was nearing obsolescence by 1941. Nevertheless, the B5N operated throughout the whole war, due to the delayed development of its successor, the B6N (see example captured by TAIC below). Photo: NARA

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA 7. A Kawanishi N1K “George” (Serial No 5511), painted in the markings of the Army Air Forces Technical Air Intelligence Unit – Southwest Pacific Area, pictured on the ground in 1945. Built by Kawanishi at Naruo in November 1944, it was assigned to the 201st Kōkūtai, with tail code 201-53 and painted in yellow. It was captured at Clark Field on 30 January 1945. Evaluated and flight tested by TAIU–SWPA at Clark Field, assigned tail number S7, but only 7 was applied to the tail. This aircraft was eventually scrapped. Photo: US Navy via

Technical Air Intelligence Center 8. Another shot of a Technical Air Intelligence Center aircraft—a Mitsubishi A6M-5 Zero (sometime called a “Zeke”) The Zero has been stripped of all paint save USAAF markings and the TAIC markings on the tail (T.A.I.C. 8) and under the canopy rail. This is the Zero that is presently displayed at the National Air & Space Museum hanging from the 2nd Floor, Second World War gallery. This particular Zeke was built by Mitsubishi in or around December 1943. It was originally assigned to the 261st Kōkūtai with tail code 61-108. It was one of 12 captured by the US Marines at Aslito Airfield, Saipan in March 1944. American intelligence coded this aircraft as TAIC 8, and later FE-130 and T2-130. In the United States, this Zero was transported to the US Army Air Forces test organization at Wright Field, Ohio. During 1945 it was relocated at Eglin Field, Florida. At one time it had the name “Tokyo Rose” on its engine cowling.  This colour photo was taken in the US some months after the Second World War. The TAIC operated several Zekes and used them to evaluate their performance against many different American types. Photo: TAIC

A captured Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien (Japanese for “Swallow”) in American markings and the tail inscription TAIC 9. The Kawasaki Ki-61 was a Japanese fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. The first encounter reports claimed Ki-61s were Messerschmitt Bf 109s: further reports claimed that the new aircraft was an Italian design, which led to the Allied reporting name of “Tony”. It is my understanding that if the tail/fuselage inscription says Technical Air Intelligence CENTER, this means that the aircraft was shipped stateside for more testing at Anacostia Naval Air Station near Washington, DC and if the inscription says Technical Air Intelligence UNIT, this means the aircraft was still being tested at one of the TAI Units in or near the Pacific theatre. Photo: US Navy

The last remaining Tony in Japan was put on display at Yakota Air Base in Japan, which is still a functioning USAF base today. It was initially set up on the base in Japanese markings it was captured in at Yakota at the end of the war. Sometime in 1947, it was deemed offensive to American personnel and repainted in the above bogus USAF markings (with new red bar in flashes in use after 1 January 1947). It was easier to mark them as American than to dispose of them . In 1953, the Tony was returned to the Japanese people through civilian representatives of the Japan Aeronautic Association (Nippon Kohkuh Kyohkai). They moved it to Hibiya Park in Tokyo near the Imperial Palace for display. Photo: Unknown

Technical Air Intelligence Center 10. The Mitsubishi Ki-46-II, a twin-engine reconnaissance aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army in the Second World War was a sleek and fish-like beauty. This elegant aircraft was the best high-altitude long-range reconnaissance type that the Japanese put into the field in the Second World War. Its high speed allowed it to frequently avoid Allied interceptors for most of the war, making it a well-respected thorn in the Allies’ side. Its Army Shiki designation was Type 100 Command Reconnaissance Aircraft but the Allies nicknamed it the “Dinah”. Here we see it in the now-familiar markings of the Technical Air Intelligence Center (written on the fuselage) at Naval Air Station Anacostia near Washington, DC after it was delivered there and restored in 1945. Photo: TAIC

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S11. A captured Japanese Nakajima Ki-44 “Tojo” fighter pictured in flight in American Navy markings (“Tech Air Intel Unit – South West Pacific Area”). The Nakajima Ki-44 was a single-engine fighter aircraft used by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force in the Second World War. The type first flew in August 1940 and entered service in 1942. The Allied reporting name was “Tojo”; the Japanese Army designation was “Army Type 2 Single-Seat Fighter”. Photo: US Navy

The Technical Air Intelligence Center 11. Not every aircraft evaluated by the Technical Air Intelligence Units or the Center were marked as US Navy aircraft. Here we see a T.A.I.C. Mitsubishi A6M5 Model 52 in the markings of the British. Photo:

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S12. As well as ATAIU–SEA, the TAIU–SWPA operated two Mitsubishi J2M Raiden fighters, known as the Jack. The Jack is shown at Clark Field being put into flying condition by Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA in 1945 at Luzon, Philippine Islands. Photo: US Navy

A great shot of the TAIU–SWPA S12 Raiden in flight in perfect plan view. It was a beautiful aircraft in plan. Photo: NARA via

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA 14, Nick the Dragon Slayer. The Technical Air Intelligence Unit – South West Pacific Area clearly ook great care of their captured aircraft, as witnessed by this well-maintained and carefully painted captured Kawasaki Ka-45 Toryu. The word Toryu means Dragon Slayer in Japanese, but the Allied simply called them by the non dramatic code name “Nick”. This is at Clark Field, Luzon, Philippine Islands. Photo: US Navy

Pilots of the Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA turn the Kawasaki Ka-45 Nick on its wing as they put it through its paces after the end of the Second World War. Photo: US Navy

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA. A captured bare-metal finish Mitsubishi G4M Betty bomber of the Japanese Army is shown in flight in 1945 and being evaluated by the Allied Technical Air Intelligence Unit based at Eagle Farm Airbase, Brisbane, Australia. The Japanese aircraft wears the red and white striped tail markings of the USAAC which had been out of use for over three years—perhaps to make it as American in appearance as possible. Photo:

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S16, Judy in the skies. A US Navy–marked Yokosuka D4Y3 Model 33 Suisei (Comet) dive bomber wears titles (Tech Air Intel Unit S16) that indicate she is flown and evaluated by TAIC (Technical Air Intelligence Center) at NAS Anacostia. This evaluation took place after the war.  The “Comet” Navy Carrier Dive bomber was operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Its Allied reporting name was “Judy”. The D4Y was one of the fastest dive bombers of the war and only the delays in its development hindered its service while its predecessor, the slower fixed-gear Aichi D3A remained in service much longer than intended. Despite limited use, the speed and the range of the D4Y was nevertheless valuable (probably the reason it was evaluated by the TAIC), and the type was used with success as reconnaissance aircraft as well as for kamikaze missions. Photo: US Navy

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S17. A Japanese fighter followed in close contact by three of the Allies’ most formidable fighter aircraft would normally quickly hard and pull hard on the pole to get away. In this case, it’s an Allied pilot and he is leading this foursome in a captured Japanese fighter aircraft Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Japanese for “Gale”, allied code name “Frank”). This Frank, in US markings, was discovered at an abandoned airfield (Clark Field) in Luzon, Philippines, after the U.S. recapture of the island in January 1945; the first aircraft of this type was discovered on the island of Leyte. This aircraft was operated by the Technical Air Intelligence Unit – South West Pacific Area (SWPA) located at Clark Field, Luzon (Philippines), from the end of January 1945. Other aircraft in the formation are a Royal Navy Seafire (lower left), a US Navy Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat and a USAAF North American P-51D Mustang. The Nakajima Ki-84 models, fitted with engines exceeding 1800 horsepower, could surpass the top speeds of the P-47D Thunderbolt and the P-51D Mustang at 6,000 m. Photo: Australian War Memorial

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S17. This could be the same captured Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate (Frank) as in the previous photograph, however it now wears Technical Air Intelligence Unit markings and the number S17 while being shipped to the US aboard USS Long Island in 1944.

Technical Air Intelligence Unit – SWPA S19. The Nakajima B6N Tenzan (Japanese for “Heavenly Mountain”, Allied code name: “Jill”) was the Imperial Japanese Navy’s standard carrier-borne torpedo bomber during the final years of the Second World War and the successor to the B5N “Kate”. Due to its protracted development, a shortage of experienced pilots and the United States Navy’s achievement of air superiority by the time of its introduction, the B6N was never able to fully demonstrate its combat potential. Photo: US Navy

Sometimes the markings were put on aircraft simply to rub it into the enemy... especially one that lost. Because the Japanese High Command thought that Japan did not have enough obsolete aircraft to use for kamikaze attacks, it was decided that huge numbers of cheap, simple suicide planes should be constructed quickly in anticipation for the invasion of Japan. The Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi (Sabre) was one of these designs. It had a droppable takeoff gear, as there was no expectation of a return flight. While the Japanese High Command had plans to construct some 8,000 per month in workshops all across Japan, only just over 100 were made and they thankfully never saw service. This Nakajima Ki115 kamikaze aircraft “war prize” is pictured on display as a “gate guardian”, in faux United States Air Force markings, at Yokota Air Base. The aircraft was on display at Yokota between 1945 and 1952.

The Nakajima G8N1 Renzan (Japanese for “Mountain Range”) long-range heavy bomber, code named Rita by Allied forces, in American markings. The first prototype Renzan made its first flight on 23 October 1944, and it was followed by the second, third and fourth aircraft in December 1944, March 1945 and June 1945, far too late to be put in mass production. In the last months of the war, the disastrous situation of the Japanese industry and severe shortages of strategic materials led to the cancellation of the program, with only four Renzans being completed. One of those aircraft was destroyed on the ground during an Allied air raid, and after the war, one of the remaining examples was taken to the United States for testing. The few test flights conducted by the Japanese between American bombing raids showed that the G8N Renzan held great promise; this was backed up by American tests after the war.  Photo: USAAF, taken at Teterboro Airport, Newark, New Jersey, USA, ca. 1946 by Howard Levy

The Watanabe-designed Kyushu Q1W Tokai looked a lot like the Luftwaffe’s Junkers Ju 88 and was the only Japanese aircraft specifically designed to carry out antisubmarine warfare during the Second World War. The design started in 1942, and the first prototype of the Tokai (“Eastern Sea”) was flown in September 1943. Production of the type was not authorized until early 1944, and only 153 examples of the type were built before the war ended. The view offered her crew was clearly excellent. The design proved to be relatively ineffective, especially in the face of American fighters. Photo via

When Japan invaded the Dutch East Indies (today known as Indonesia) in 1942, the Dutch put up a stiff defense, but ultimately could not possibly win over the onslaught of the Japanese. 32 Douglas DB-7B Bostons (A-20 Havoc) were allocated to the Dutch by the USA for defense aid, and a number were already in the country, some just recently assembled and others still in crates from Australia. Most of the twin-engined medium bombers were destroyed by retreating Dutch airmen with the Dutch Naval Air Service and the Army Aviation Corps of the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army or sent (still in crates) to Australia for use by the RAAF. Those that were assembled or nearly assembled could not be flown out due to a shortage of 100 octane fuel. However, the Japanese were able to acquire a number of intact Bostons—among these, one still in crates on the waterfront at Tjilatjap and another fully assembled at Andir. The aircraft in the above two photos was the Boston assembled from crated components and was flown to Tachikawa, the Japanese test centre. The one in crates (top image) was assembled by Dutch POWs and flown by Dutch personnel under Japanese guard from Tjilatjap to Andir and then on to Japan with Japanese pilots. It wore a Japanese registration (Ko-DA-1) on its tail. This aircraft’s fuselage (lower image) was found after the end of the war at Atsugi, a Japanese Navy facility, where it was being used as an instructional airframe. Photos via

A photograph of the Dutch Douglas Boston (RAF serial No. AL906, Dutch serial No. D52), which the Japanese had captured intact at Andir, taken at the Japanese Army Air Force test facility at Tachikawa, Japan.

The Curtiss-Wright Model 21 Demon (also known as the Curtiss-Wright Model 21 Demonstrator, the Curtiss-Wright CW-21 Interceptor, and the Curtiss-Wright CW-21 Demon) was an American-built fighter interceptor, developed by the St. Louis Airplane Division of Curtiss-Wright Corporation during the 1930s.The Netherlands East Indies Army Air Corps operated the Curtiss Wright CW-21 in Java. Lower right, we see the Dutch orange triangular markings on the side of a CW-21 Demon at Andir Airfield, Bandung, Java. Above, we see another Demon wearing the Hinomaru or “Meatball” after it was captured at Java and flown to the Tachikawa test centre in Japan. The winged symbol on the tail of the aircraft is that of the Tachikawa test centre. The aircraft survived the war and was found at the Tachikawa test facility at Singapore (lower left).

The official reason the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force (IJAAF) decided to use Curtiss P-40E Warhawks operationally in the defense of occupied Rangoon is not known, but they had several. Several Curtiss P-40E Warhawks were captured by the IJAAF in the Philippines and Java, while others were recovered from the water after being dumped by Allied cargo ships. After the fall of Burma, Malaya, Netherlands East Indies (NEI), and the Philippines, all types of Allied aircraft were pressed into service by the Japanese including this flight of P-40s sporting Hinomaru markings—the Rising Sun roundel of the Japanese, sometimes referred to as the “Meatball”. In the background stands a Japanese B-17. Photo via

A rare colour photograph of a Japanese airfield near Tokyo after VJ Day shows a captured P-40 Warhawk along with other Japanese types. The USAAF star roundel can still be seen beneath the Hinomaru red roundel of the Japanese Imperial Army. Photo: James G. Weir

A proud Japanese fighter pilot stands before a captured P-40 Warhawk. Image via

A Grumman F6F Hellcat (s/n 71441), the Navy fighter that finally bested the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, was found by Marines of Marine Air Group 31, who flew from Okinawa to occupy the famous Yokosuka Naval Air Base, which was situated 30 miles from Tokyo. This example had its USN markings over-painted with the Hinomaru rising sun roundel. The aircraft was flown by Lt. Charles V. August, of VF-44, aboard USS Langley when he was shot down and crash-landed on Formosa. He became a POW of the Japanese on 4 January 1945. It was the second time that he had been shot down and made a POW—the first being as a POW of the Vichy French on 11 August 1942. He is likely the only naval aviator to be a POW of two different enemy forces in the Second World War. Photo via

Immediate Postwar Cross-dressing

At the end of the war, the Allied air forces loaded up on as many new German technologies as they could lay their hands on. While everyone wanted to get their mitts on jet technology, the Germans had also made advances in vertical flight technology. The Focke–Achgelis Fa 223 Drache (“Dragon” in English) was a helicopter developed by Germany during the Second World War. Although the Fa 223 was noted for being the first helicopter to attain production status, production of the helicopter was hampered by Allied bombing of the factory and only 20 were built. This one ended its life as the RAF’s first helicopter. Photo: RAF

On 5 May 1945, just as the war was coming to an end, the Luftwaffe was looking for locations to regroup their remaining aircraft. One of those places was Norway and on that date there was a massive relocation of Luftwaffe assets. When the British and American forces arrived in Norway, the Ar 234 was a high priority intelligence target. As Norway was part of the British occupation zone, the British forces decided on Ar 234 dispositions. An American request for 3–4 Ar 234s from Sola was granted in June, and the American Colonel H. Watson arrived with a team to collect the airplanes. His team included two American pilots and one German pilot—H. Baur. Three Ar 234s were selected, and these were prepared for flights via Germany to France. From France the airplanes were later to be shipped to USA for evaluation. Arado Ar 234B-2 No. 140311. Photo: USAAF

A Nazi secret weapon in Royal Air Force colours. Certainly, the greatest captures at the end of the war for the Allies would have been the mysterious first generation jet aircraft like this Arado 234 B2. The Arado Ar 234 was the world’s first operational jet-powered bomber, built by the German Arado company in the closing stages of the Second World War. Produced in very limited numbers, it was used almost entirely in the reconnaissance role, but in its few uses as a bomber it proved to be nearly impossible to intercept. It was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to fly over England during the war, in April 1945. Photo:

The Heinkel He 177A-5 (Geschwaderkennung code of F8+AP from 6./Kampfgeschwader 40) was captured in the Toulouse–Blagnac airfield in September 1944. It was repainted with British markings and given the serial TS439. It was tested by the Royal Aircraft Establishment who applied its Circle P roundel for experimental aircraft. The final end for the He 177 came in late 1944 when high grade fuel wasn’t available in the quantity needed to operate a whole Geschwader and the implementation of the Emergency Fighter Program. At this point the He 177 proved to be the most reliable, rugged and technically advanced bomber of the Luftwaffe. This seems to be confirmed by postwar tests on the He 177A-5 and the single long-range He 177A-7, which turned out to be impressive for the RAF.

Le Heinkel—A Heinkel 274 in French Air Force markings. The Heinkel He 274 was a four-engine bomber designed during the Second World War as a high-altitude variant of the Heinkel He 177 for the German Luftwaffe. Developed in substitution for the planned He 177A-4 high-altitude bomber, the Heinkel He 274 was the detail design responsibility of the Société Anonyme des Usines Farman’s Suresnes factory in occupied France. Fitted with a pressure cabin, the aircraft was powered by four 1305kW Daimler–Benz DB 603A-2 engines and featured a lengthened version of the He 177A-3 fuselage, with a new high-aspect-ratio wing and twin fins and rudders. Two prototypes were ordered in May 1943, together with four He 274A-0 pre-production examples, which were to have 1417kW DB 603G engines. Despite an unsuccessful German attempt to destroy the almost-complete first prototype when they retreated from Paris in July 1944, the aircraft was finished by the French after the liberation and flown from Orléans-Bricy in December 1945 as the AAS 01A. In 1949, one of the AAS 01A aircraft (above) took part in Sud Ouest S.O. 4000 Vautour I jet-bomber programme. It was used as the Sud Ouest 1/2 scale SOM.1 model carrier. The captured German aircraft was withdrawn from French Air Force service in 1953. Photo via

While the Germans captured several four-engined B-17s and B-14s from the Allies, they operated very few four-engined types themselves, making the capture of one really worth the intelligence. Here a captured Focke–Wulf 200C Condor in RAF roundels but still with its Luftwaffe aircraft code GC+AE is evaluated in Great Britain during the Second World War. Aft of the letters AE on her fuselage she carries the words “Air Min” for Air Ministry. The Condor, also known as Kurier to the Allies, was a German all-metal four-engine monoplane originally developed by Focke–Wulf as a long-range airliner. A Japanese request for a long-range maritime patrol aircraft led to military versions that saw service with the Luftwaffe as long-range reconnaissance and anti-shipping/maritime patrol bomber aircraft. The Luftwaffe also made extensive use of the Fw 200 as a transport with Adolf Hitler himself using one as his personal aircraft. This particular Condor (CG+AE) was the personnel aircraft of Heinrich Himmler and later Grand Admiral Doenitz. It was found intact at Achmer in 1945 and flown to Farnborough on 3 July 1945 for evaluation. In addition, Danish-owned Fw 200 aircraft named Dania was seized by the British on English soil after Denmark was invaded by German forces in 1940. It was subsequently operated by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and was then pressed into service with the Royal Air Force. It was damaged beyond repair in 1941. Photo: Air Ministry

A Junkers Ju 290 four-engined transport and patrol bomber, wearing United States Army Air Force markings and getting her port outer engine changed at Orly, Paris, France on the way to America in 1945. Renamed Alles Kaputt, (It’s all over), and numbered FE 3400 (former Luftwaffe code PI+PS), it was flown to the U.S. by Colonel Harold E. Watson from Orly, Paris to Wright Field on 28 July 1945, via the Azores. The captured aircraft, with its Nazi insignia repainted, was a frequent performer at air shows at Freeman Field and Wright Field. When the aircraft was scrapped at Wright Field in 1946, a plastic explosive device of German manufacture was discovered in the wing near to a fuel tank. Photo: USAAF

A great moody shot of the captured Junkers Ju 290 with her new American nose art Alles Kaputt and a fresh port outer engine, photographed at Orly airport just prior to her departure for the USA. She also wears a newly-installed Allied-style radio compass antenna behind the cockpit and forward of the gun turret. Photo: USAAF

A beautiful colour photograph of Alles Kaputt being displayed in Dayton at either Freeman or Wright Field. When she arrived back in the U.S., her Balkenkreuz and HakenKreuze (Swastika) were repainted on her sides, but she retained her Alles Kaputt nose art. Sadly, she was scrapped in 1946. Photo via FalkeEins–the Luftwaffe Blog

The entrance sign at Freeman Army Airfield in Indiana was made from the port wing of a captured Luftwaffe Focke–Wulf Fw 190. The base was established in 1942 as a pilot training airfield. After the war, captured German, Italian and Japanese aircraft were brought to the base for evaluation, testing and even public display. It was closed in 1946. Photo via Alex Campbell

Though this Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun (T2-4610) was brought from Europe to Freeman Army Air Field after the war, it clearly was not for evaluation, for there could be little the USAAF could learn from a pre-war design. Likely it was taken because it was a sweet little performer and made a great liaison aircraft. Near the end of the war, this aircraft was with Air Technical Intelligence at Villacoublay, France. It was used as a communications aircraft by the Air Technical Intelligence teams in theatre. It was transferred to the United States aboard HMS Reaper, to continue as a liaison aircraft and used as a flying trophy by members of that team. When it arrived, it was painted overall orange-red still with Swastikas and Balkenkreus. There is a rumour that this aircraft had one time been Herman Goering’s personal Taifun. This aircraft is currently owned by the Planes of Fame Museum at Chino, California. Image from Ashley Annis Collection via

A Focke–Wulf Fw 190 / Ju 88 combination known as the Mistel (Mistletoe) in the snow, likeley in Great Britain after the war. Both aircraft wear Royal Air Force roundels as well as a captured Ju 52 in the distance. The bottom Ju 88 bomber would normally have a cockpit area filled with explosives and a long proboscis-like nose that would detonate the warhead. Photo: RAF

Another captured 3B Mistel combination in RAF markings at RAF Farnborough after the war—a Focke–Wulf 190A fighter-guide on top of a Junkers Ju 88A pilotless bomber. Photo: RAF

Cross-Dressing for the Cold War

A former Japanese Tachikawa Ki-9 “Spruce” pictured at airfield K-1 (Pusan-West) in South Korea during 1951. Note that it is painted in South Korean markings (under wing) as well as American. We’re not sure whether the Americans captured this aircraft after the Second World War and then transferred it to Korea, or the other way around. Photo: US Navy

United States Marines guard a captured North Korean Yakovlev Yak-9 (USAF serial T2-3002) during the Korean War. This aircraft would be packed up and sent to the United States for evaluation. See next photo. Photo via

According to, the captured North Korean Yak-9U was found in airworthy condition by Marines at Kimpo airfield on 17 September 1950, and subsequently shipped to USA for evaluation. It arrived at Buffalo for rebuild by the Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory. The Yak-9U was assigned the serial number T2-3002, with the first flight in US hands occurring on 21 September 1951. In all, 23 hours and 55 minutes of flying time was accumulated in the Yak-9. The last flight took place on 12 December. Following the conclusion of the tests, the Yak-9 was allotted to the USAF Museum in the mid-1950s. Sadly, due to lack of storage space, it was scrapped in 1958. Interestingly, it is alleged that the Yak was offered back to the Soviet Union as a gift by the USAF! Information via

An American MiG-15 under heavy guard. In April 1953, the U.S. Far East Command made an offer of $100,000 for the first MiG-15 delivered intact. No enemy pilot took advantage of this offer and when the Korean Truce went into effect on 27 July 1953, the UN still had not acquired a MiG-15 for flight-testing. On 21 September 1953, personnel at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, Korea, were surprised to see a MiG-15 suddenly land downwind and roll to a stop. The plane was piloted by a 21-year-old Senior Lt. Kum Sok No of the North Korean Air Force, who had decided to fly to South Korea because he “was sick and tired of the Red deceit.” Shortly after landing at Kimpo Air Base, the young pilot not only learned of the $100,000 reward but also that his mother had been safely evacuated from North to South Korea in 1951 and that she was still alive and well.

The MiG-15 was taken to Okinawa where it was first flown by Wright Field test pilot Capt. Tom Collins. Subsequent test flights were made by Capt. Collins and Maj. Chuck Yeager. The airplane was next disassembled and airlifted to Wright–Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in December 1953 where it was reassembled and given exhaustive flight-testing. The United States then offered to return the airplane to its “rightful owners”. The offer was ignored, and in November 1957 it was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force for public exhibition. Today it carries its original number “2057”.

At his request, No came to the United States, changed his name and became a U.S. citizen. He graduated from the University of Delaware, was joined by his mother and was later married. Interestingly, just below the gunsight on Lt. No’s MiG-15 was the following admonition in red Korean characters: “Pour out and zero in this vindictive ammunition to the damn Yankees.”

A former Syrian MiG-17 F “Fresco” in the Nevada skies, thanks to Israel. A number of U.S. federal agencies undertook a program at Groom Lake to evaluate the MiG-17 to help fight the Vietnam War, as North Vietnamese MiG-17s and MiG-21s had a kill rate against them of 9:1. The program was code-named HAVE DRILL, involving trials of two ex-Syrian MiG-17F Frescos over the skies of Groom Lake. These aircraft were given USAF designations and fake serial numbers so that they may be identified in DOD standard flight logs.

In addition to tracking the dog fights staged between the various MiG models against virtually every fighter in U.S. service, and against Strategic Air Command’s B-52 Stratofortresses and B-58 Hustlers to test the ability of the bombers’ countermeasures systems, they also performed radar cross-section and propulsion tests that contributed greatly to improvements in U.S. aerial performance in Vietnam. Photo: US Department of Defense

A Soviet-built MiG-21F(68-0965) in the simplest of United States Air Force markings is seen overflying the Tonopah Test range in Nevada during evaluation tests. During the late 1960s and 70s, the USAF’s Foreign Technology Division, Air Force Systems Command obtained a number of Soviet-built fighters from various sources, including several MiG-21s. Following their evaluation (a top secret program called Project Doughnut) within the frame of other projects, they gradually entered service with 4477th TES “Red Eagles” at Tonopah, in the early 1980s. These aircraft came from such places as Israel and Indonesia. Photo: US Department of Defense

This Syrian MiG-23 Flogger was gifted to Israel by a defecting pilot in the late 1980s. It wears both Israeli and Syrian roundels and a Syrian flag on its tail. Photo: Israeli Air Force

In 1966, a Christian Iraqi pilot, dissatisfied by the Saddam Hussein regime, defected to Israel in his MiG-21. This was a result of an extensive Mossad operation. As a humorous nod to the black ops required to get the aircraft, it was given the serial number 007. Photo: Serge Batoussov




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