History[edit | edit source]
The eighth of the series manufactured at Weser Flugzeugbau's Nordenham plant, parts of the airframe were also built at ATG in Altenburg and at Niedersächsische Metallwerke Brinckmann & Mergell in Hamburg-Harburg. Completed early in 1945, it was captured by U.S. troops in May 1945 at the Junkers plant in Merseburg.
Members of the 9th Air Service Squadron of the 365th Fighter Group, belonging to the 9th US Air Force, were ordered to examine the aircraft and make it airworthy, if possible. Crew Chief Tommy Haworth and his men found the Ju 388 L fuelled up in a Hangar. As the men suspected the aircraft to be booby-trapped, it was inspected with utmost care. They looked for explosives behind all panels and in every corner of the airplane. After that, the Ju 388 was put on jacks, and the landing gear and the flaps were tested. Obviously, the aircraft had not been fully equipped yet, because no cameras were found in the bomb bay.
In order to be able to operate the aircraft, Haworth climbed into the cockpit with an interpreter to figure out what each lever and switch was for. This job was complicated by the fact that his interpreter knew nothing about airplanes. When using the switches in the cockpit, Haworth always held his breath because he expected an explosion any time.
Finally, it seemed safe enough to start the engines, and Haworth started them, still dreading an explosion. Because the cylinder temperature reached the critical value fairly quickly, the engines had always to be shut down after a five-minutes test run on the ground.
After some test flights at Merseburg with US crews, it was decided to fly the aircraft to Kassel/Waldau on May 20, 1945. As the aircraft still bore German markings, it had to be escorted by three P-38s. The flight took place between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
The aircraft was examined and test flown by "Watson's Whizzers", led by United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Colonel Harold E. Watson, as part of Operation Lusty and it is believed that Watson himself flew in the aircraft in preparation for flying it directly back to the U.S. Instead, on 17 June 1945 the aircraft was flown to Cherbourg, France where it was shipped to the United States, together with other captured German aircraft for detailed evaluation in the U.S.
The aircraft was flown to Freeman Field in Indiana for evaluation, and in September 1945 made a flight demonstration for the press. The Ju 388 was flown for 10 hours of flight tests at Wright Field near Dayton, Ohio with the "foreign evaluation" registration FE-4010 (later changed to T2-4010). Following these tests the aircraft was displayed at the Dayton Air Show in 1946 along with other captured German aircraft.
On 26 September 1946, 560049 was transferred to Orchard Place Airport in Park Ridge, Illinois, near the present O'Hare International Airport. This temporary storage facility was a vacant U.S. Government-owned factory previously used by the Chrysler Corporation to build the Douglas C-54. 560049 was donated to the Smithsonian Institution's National Air Museum on 3 January 1949. The aircraft arrived at Silver Hill, Maryland, for storage in November 1954.
Eventually, the Ju 388 was moved to the National Air and Space Museum's Paul E. Garber facility in Silver Hill. As the aircraft is still in a rather good condition, it will be displayed at NASM's new Dulles International Airport facility in 2003 without prior restoration. Unfortunately, the NASM does not plan to reassemble the aircraft.
Sources[edit | edit source]
- SDASM Photo via Luftwaffe Warplane Survivors