Aviation History

The story of the observation mission to monitor V2 impacts flown by Luftwaffe Arado Ar 234 reconnaissance aircraft on Christmas Day 1944

While less famous than the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, the Ar 234s that reached Luftwaffe units provided excellent service, especially as reconnaissance aircraft.

The Arado Ar 234 B Blitz (Lightning) was the world’s first operational jet bomber and reconnaissance aircraft. The first Ar 234 combat mission, a reconnaissance flight over the Allied beachhead in Normandy, took place Aug. 2, 1944. With a maximum speed of 735 kilometers (459 miles) per hour, the Blitz easily eluded Allied piston-engine fighters.

While less famous than the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters, the Ar 234s that reached Luftwaffe units provided excellent service, especially as reconnaissance aircraft.

As told by Robert Forsyth and Nick Beale in their book Arado Ar 234 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units, with the German offensive stalled, it was decided on Christmas Day of 1944 that all Ar 234 reconnaissance flights should start from Rheine for the time being and, once reinforcements had arrived, Kommando Sperling (Detachment Sparrow) should hold a pilot at readiness for V2 spotting over Antwerp ‘in accordance with oral instructions to detachment pilot Hauptmann Horst Götz’.

The 25th saw cloudless skies for once, and Oberleutnant Werner Muffey and Leutnant Wolfgang Ziese took off in quick succession to cover the battle area, Nijmegen and Tilburg. Oberleutnant Erich Sommer, meanwhile, was travelling by car to Lw.Kdo. West (Luftwaffenkommando West – Air Command West) photographic section.

On the 26th, Muffey fulfilled a task assigned a week earlier – photographing the English coast from Southwold to Dover then Boulogne, Calais, Dunkirk, Ostend, Zeebrugge, the Scheldt and Antwerp. He later recalled such a flight; ‘Crossing the coastline near Lowestoft at around 10,000 m and in a clear blue sky, trailing long white condensed streams for everyone to see. I can’t remember just how many airfields we counted on the film I had brought back, full of Fortresses and Liberators, but that had been the order – to start early enough [so as] to still have them on the film before they had left their base, heading for Germany.’

Ziese was also up on the 25th, flying an observation mission to monitor V2 impacts on Antwerp in Ar 234B‑2 Wk‑Nr 140153 T9+HH. Antwerp, the Allies’ principal supply port, had been under sustained attack from V2s since October in an assault that would last until Mar. 28, 1945. While flying over the city at an altitude of between 7000‑9000 m, he reported the first at 1307 hrs 7.5 km south‑southwest of the city centre, west of the Willebroek road, the second four minutes later in the angle of ‘the Turnhout–Meuse canal’ (probably the junction of the Kempisch and Albert Canals) east‑northeast of the city centre, and the third rocket at 1314 hrs, at Rijkevorsel, 30 km east‑northeast of the city. Photographs were taken of the impact points and of the Scheldt as far as Vlissingen, as well as of Antwerp itself, Breda, Tilburg, ’s‑Hertogenbosch and Nijmegen.

Mark Postlethwaite’s specially commissioned cover artwork depicted in this post features Ziese’s Ar 234 as it flies over the Belgian port city shortly after the second impact on the Turnhout–Maas canal, with smoke drifting skywards.

Arado Ar 234 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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