Czypionka, however, is now the only surviving pilot of Kommando Welter, a unit whose name is well known to students of the WW II Luftwaffe but about whose operations little is known; thus, his memories are important.
Born in Berlin in 1921 and raised in southern Germany and prewar Czechoslovakia where his
father was a businessman, Czypionka
considers himself lucky that his
adolescence was spent outside Germany."Even after Germany took over the Sudetenland," he
recalls, "it was not compulsory that we join the Hitler Jugend
as it was for boys who lived in Germany and in Austria."A good student who aspired to be a doctor, Czypionka fell in love with flying as a teenage glider pilot at a flying club in Czechoslovakia before the Nazi occupation.He
enlisted in the Luftwaffe
in 1940, took his
flight training in southern Austria and was made a primary and basic flight instructor."I have to say I loved that job," he
stated that these brightly lit airfields were seldom bombed by the Allies for reasons that he
could never explain.The weaving searchlights would sometimes highlight the enemy aircraft, but generally, the fighter pilot would be on his
own to locate a British Mosquito bomber to attack.For general area navigation, the Wilde Sau pilots had only maps that were designed to be used under cockpit ultraviolet lighting to avoid impairing the pilot's night vision.
Owing to his
thousands of hours of instructing hundreds of primary and basic flight-course Luftwaffe
student pilots in aerobatics, instruments, emergency procedures and night flying from 1940 to 1944, Czypionka
transitioned rapidly and confidently into this Wilde Sau night-fighter arena.He
also had a great desire to fly the latest, high-altitude, supercharged Bf 109G-14.His
many hours allowed him to be instantly capable and proficient in this high-performance fighter.
When the Wilde
Sau unit received its first Me 262s, he
stated that the jet fighter's cockpit was almost similar to the Bf 109's, and that made his
two circuits around the field impressive enough to be sufficient operational training for the new, much higher performance Me 262 jet.In any other air force, minimum jet training would have required at least 50 to 100 transition hours.
For any jet pilot trained since WW II, it would seem that the Me 262's lack of a speed brake for airspeed control and formation flying would have been a very negative factor in jet combat.Having no speed brake in a jet fighter is like having a 130mph, turbocharged Mercedes 450SL without wheel brakes!Czypionka
told me that because they were flying solo aircraft and knew that any throttle motions were very critical for avoiding flameouts at high altitude, they maintained a constant throttle setting and didn't have any problem in that area.He
did say that he
missed the Bf 109 fighter's excellent speed control made available by rapid throttle movements combined with the propeller drag from reduced throttle settings.However, the four 30mm cannons of the Me 262,all firing straight ahead,and its 150mph speed difference over Allied fighters compensated for the few Me 262 deficiencies.The Me 262's cannons were the most powerful gun-firing armament of any production fighter in WW II.All U.S. jet fighters, however, had large speed brakes to control airspeed in both gunnery and formation-flight conditions.Czypionka
is much too modest in his
description of his
flameout of the right engine and subsequent air start during a landing.
was at 600 meters and approaching his
airfield at night with his
two tanks very low on fuel!The engine flamed out just as the lights of the runway were turned off because of a previous aircraft's landing accident.He
performed the tedious, time-consuming air start of the engine and maintained eye contact, alternating between the inside and outside of the cockpit, to keep the blacked-out airport in sight.This air-start procedure took at least 25 to 30 long seconds.He
had to continue to circle the field until the wreckage had been cleared.After starting his
final approach, he
was given a further change in landing direction to a grass runway adjacent to the autobahn.As his
wheels touched down, both engines flamed out because his
last tank's fuel was exhausted.
This event would have been a great credit to a jet pilot with many hours in type, during daylight hours and on a long, regular, military-jet runway.
Jorg's guardian angels were crowding his
cockpit that night.
admires both the Mosquito and its crews."That airplane ...CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE
dived from 11,000 to 7,000 meters with the searchlights sticking to the wild-flying Mosquito.Just as he
was about to pull into range, "The searchlights lost him and I was in darkness.And then, before I could throttle back, the engine exploded!"Oil burst from the engine all over the windscreen, and the engine compartment caught fire."I intended to bail right out," he
recalls, "and I got rid of the hood, but then the wind blew out the fire in the engine.
threw down his
wallet with his
identification."They went into their office and looked at it, and when they came out, it was ‘Ja, ja, Herr Leutnant! and they fell all over themselves saluting while they got that ladder out and helped me down."As if that wasn't enough, he
still faced a night walk of several kilometers through the forest to get to a road where he
walked to a train station and took a train back to his
"Over Christmas 1944, he
went to Rechlin, where he
got them to show him how to fly the jets," Czypionka
explains.Once there, Welter tried the Arado Ar.234, but the glass in the nose reflected too much light at night.
The plane Welter decided could do the job was the single-seat Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a Schwalbe (swallow).On January 2, 1945, he
took off from Rechlin with the only armed Me 262 at the field."Over Berlin, he
caught five Mosquitos and shot them down," says Czypionka
"In those seven weeks, he
shot down perhaps twenty Mosquitos," Czypionka
remembers."In the whole of the previous year, an entire JaGe with special equipment did not shoot down more than ten, but he
doubled that in seven weeks."The British crews soon knew that the Germans had something that could catch the Mosquitos even with the speed advantage that had been its defense since it first appeared over Europe in 1942.But no one thought it possible that a jet could be flown at night, or that a fighter without radar could accomplish such things."Actually," Czypionka
explains, "it really wasn't that hard to see them.The fires below would reflect on them, or, if they were over clouds, the searchlights would silhouette them.Having an airplane that could catch up to them almost as soon as they saw them made it easy."
By March 1945, Welter had a total of eight Me 262s, and he
to join him.For Czypionka
, the invitation was a godsend: the great Russian offensive of 1945 was pressing toward Jüterbog, and things were falling apart in central Germany.
Even today, almost 60 years later, Czypionka's eyes light up when he
recalls the first time he
ever saw the Me 262.