Luftwaffe pilots of Adolf Galland’s legendary Jagdverband 44 (JV 44) seen here at Munich-Riem Airport with their Messerschmitt Me 262, March-April 1945.
Jagdverband 44 was formed in February 1945 on Hitler’s orders, to fly the Me 262 Schwalbe, the world’s first operational jet fighter, and demonstrate its superiority. The unit was led by the legendary Adolf Galland, who recruited some of Germany’s leading aces into it, to the extent that it was said that the Knight’s Cross was its unofficial badge. JV 44 engaged the US Ninth Army Air Force over Bavaria and, with its significant speed advantage and powerful armament of cannon and rockets, the Me 262 proved a formidable interceptor in the hands of its expert pilots. In its brief operational existence, never able to get more than six jets in the air at any one time, this small unit achieved approximately 50 kills in less than a month. Unfortunately for the German defensive effort there were not enough Me 262s to have any overall effect on the Allied air campaign.