This book outlines the competing jet programs during World War II that took place in Britain, Germany, and the US. The British program was hampered by inconsistent government interest, and little real need, the US program to develop a jet also lagged because of strategic concern. In Germany, the need for the technology existed, the innovative spirit of several designers, and official funding combined to produce a combat-operational jet aircraft despite wartime limitations. Analysing a variety of primary and secondary materials, this book provides a comprehensive comparison of the three (ultimately) successful jet programs of the war. However, only the Germans, even in defeat, committed jet aircraft to combat operations.
In the 1930s the German military build up caught Britain and the United States off-guard, particularly in aviation technology. The unending quest for speed resulted in the need for radical alternatives to piston engines. In Germany, Dr. Hans von Ohain was the first to complete a flight-worthy turbojet engine for aircraft. It was installed in a Heinkel designed aircraft, and the Germans began the jet age on August 27, 1939. The Germans led the jet race throughout the war and were the first to produce jet aircraft for combat operations. Britain and America developed their own jet engines but a lack of interest hampered both projects.
The Germans did it right and did it first, while the Allies lagged throughout the war, only rising to technological prominence on the ashes of the German defeat.
Sterling Michael Pavelec is currently Associate Professor of airpower history at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. His research and teaching focuses on the interaction of military, industry, and society in the 20th century. He lives in Montgomery, AL.