Despite the passage of 70 years since the end of the Second World War, there are still incredible stories from that conflict that are either overlooked or unknown by the general public. The story of the Luftwaffe Mistel Composite Bomber Units is a case in point.
The 'Mistel' (mistletoe) program developed by the Luftwaffe in September 1942 was a revolutionary concept whose roots extended back to 1927 when the German aircraft designer Hugo Junkers filed a patent for a design in which "a flying machine is placed on or connected with another flying machine of some suitable type, which serves for imparting to the machine to be started an additional acceleration and, if desired, to support it in the air until a predetermined altitude has been attained. The aircraft to be started is supported by another flying machine."
This book goes to considerable lengths in explaining how the 'Mistel' program - which began with tests involving a Focke Wulf 56 single-seat fighter trainer "riding atop", via a means of a series of support trusses, a DFS 230 glider - perfected the feasibility of developing a "flying bomb" that could be successfully guided onto a heavily defended target (such as an Allied ship or specialized artillery emplacements). Indeed, as the program evolved from theory to experimentation to actual field testing in early 1944, both the Focke Wulf 56 and DFS 230 glider were replaced with the combo of the ME 109F fighter perched atop specialized twin-engined Junkers 88 bombers, whose cockpit were displaced with a special high explosive warhead. Once aloft, the pilot of the ME 109F could guide the Junkers 88 to its assigned target, detach itself from the Junkers 88 which would impact the target with a massive detonation, leaving the ME 109F pilot free to attack any other inviting targets and fly home. Later, the Focke Wulf 190 fighter would also be combined with the Junkers 88 bomber to further augment the 'Mistel' program.
'Mistel' units first went into action against Allied shipping over Normandy in July 1944. It had little effect upon the battle there. Subsequently, as German forces were pushed back to the frontiers of the Reich in the latter part of 1944 and into the spring of 1945, 'Mistel' units were also deployed in various actions against Soviet forces along the Oder and Vistula Rivers, and against American forces advancing over the Rhine River.
What I also found illuminating from reading this book are the many personal accounts from some of the pilots and technicians who were a part of 'Mistel'. There are also lots of fantastic photos and illustrations. For anyone wanting to know more about 'Mistel', this is the best place to start.