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Mistel: German Composite Aircraft and Operations 1942-1945

Mistel: German Composite Aircraft and Operations 1942-1945 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2021 Title Mistel: German Composite Aircraft and Operations 1942-1945
Author Robert Forsyth Publisher Classic
Published 2021 ISBN 9781910809815
Format 238 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $64.95

Review

Missed this seminal 2001 study first time around? You’re in luck.

Classic, an imprint of Crécy Publishing, has released a revised, “reworked” Mistel: German Composite Aircraft and Operations 1942-1945 – available in North America from Specialty Press.

Take an unmanned, twin-engine bomber. Season with high explosives. And top with a single-seat fighter for a one-way mission to target. Such was Nazi Germany’s recipe for its revolutionary Mistel (“Mistletoe”) program.

And author Robert Forsyth tells the total tale – development, deployment, and downfall – in 13 chapters across 238 pages.

Richly illustrated, annotated, and indexed, contents commence with “early” and pre-WWII “composite aircraft experiments” outside Germany. Coverage then segues to nascent German civil developments, and thence to military applications – coded “Beethoven-Gerät”.

Mistel configurations aimed at striking a “heavily armored target such as a battleship or gun emplacement”.

War-weary, explosive-packed Ju 88 bombers – whose airframes had “reached their maximum permissible service hours and were thus considered expendable” – operationally comprised lower components. And smaller, swifter fighters – Bf 109s and Fw 190s – served as upper control aircraft.

Upon releasing the Ju 88, the fighter “would be able to make good its escape at high speed upon separation, and also be well able to defend itself if attacked by hostile fighters”. The unmanned, explosive-packed lower part would continue, detonating the hardened target.

In theory, that is.

Combat introduction during the Normandy campaign proved disappointing: no Allied ships were sunk or damaged. An October attack against the Nijmegen bridge proved equally discouraging. And the last, desperate Mistel attacks against Soviet objectives signaled the program’s – and the Nazi régime’s – inevitable demise.

Hundreds of images – photos, close-up shots, personnel portraits, color profiles, scale drawings, and more – season the study. Artwork is especially excellent.

Sidebars, biographies, memoirs, anecdotes, action accounts, and extended, explanatory captions further augment the account. And commentary also explores stillborn Mistel proposals with various combinations of upper and lower aircraft.

Forsyth’s sprawling survey even includes similar Allied efforts – like the 1944 “Anvil” action that claimed the life of Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., son of America’s ambassador to England and brother of future President John F. Kennedy.

Recommended!

With thanks to Specialty Press for the review copy!