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Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units

Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review November 2015 Title Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units
Author Robert Forsyth Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2015 ISBN 9781472808462
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.95


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. Now it’s the subject of the 112th installment in Osprey’s “Combat Aircraft” series.

Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units tells the total tale – development, deployment and downfall.

Early experiments with light aircraft and gliders confirmed the concept’s viability. And author Robert Forsyth duly distills the technical challenges in bringing Mistel to operational service – notably, for instance, control, separation and guidance.

That role fell to flight-test engineer and test pilot Siegfried Holzbaur.  The driving force behind Mistel, Holzbaur “proposed using ‘weary’ Ju 88 bombers whose airframes and engines had reached their maximum permissible service hours and were thus expendable”.  A single-engine fighter – initially a Bf 109 and later an Fw 190 – conveyed the bomber-cum-warhead to target. Once free, the fighter could theoretically defend itself – and return home.

The composite contraption proved surprisingly easy to control – and packed “enormous destructive power”. But performance, one airman reported, “left a lot to be desired”. And excessive weight largely restricted Mistel basing to airfields with hardened runways.

Combat introduction during the Normandy campaign proved disappointing. On the night of 14 June 1944, Mistel’s baptism of fire resulted in the aircraft’s destruction – and no Allied ships sunk or damaged. An October attack against the Nijmegen bridge proved equally discouraging. From there, Forsyth charts the program’s desperate deployment – against both tactical and strategic objectives – and inevitable demise. His account of aborted Operation Eisenhammer proved engrossing.

Liberally seasoned with absorbing anecdotes, Osprey’s well illustrated account sports B&W photos, extended captions, appendices, selected bibliography and index – but, unfortunately, no annotations. Sixteen pages of superb color profiles survey the sweep of Mistel warpaint. Modelers will love them.


My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!