Captured and recaptured

Spitfire Site

Click to enlarge image American P-47 and British Spitfire (in the rear) share a pair of German railway cars near Herne, Germany, 1945. The ...

Click to enlarge image

American P-47 and British Spitfire (in the rear) share a pair of German railway cars near Herne, Germany, 1945. The area has been captured by the advancing 35th Division of the 9th US Army; a GI can be seen inspecting the unexpected booty.

The Allied air offensive resulted in many of their aircraft making emergency landings on German-occupied territory, and thus supplied the Germans with substantial numbers of more or less usable aircraft. Conditions in Western Europe, with its dense web of railway lines and availability of heavy machinery and road transport, were favourable for salvaging captured enemy equipment. The aircraft recovery organization employed a large number of people and resources and worked right through the final year of the conflict.

While some aircraft were returned to flying condition under German ownership, many were used as vital sources of spares, fuel or lubricants to keep the others flying. In the late war period the wreckage was also used to complement dwindling supplies of light alloys within the Reich.

[US National Archives]

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