Over the past seven years of researching aviation stories on the web, I have kept a folder on my laptop dedicated to images of Second World War aircraft that had been captured and had suffered the indignity of being painted in the national makings of the enemy they were designed to fight and vanquish–like a Spitfire in the service of the Luftwaffe, a Zero in US Navy markings.
It has always struck me as undignified to see a Supermarine Spitfire wearing the hated Hakenkreuz (swastika). Here was an aircraft which came to be the poster child for the strength of the British people and their ability to withstand the international bully that was Nazi Germany and now they had their hands and evil symbols all over it. To me, it was an outrage–like vandals spray-painting foul language on my mother’s car; as if some thugs had stolen Terry Fox’s van and painted 666 and neopaganist pentagrams on the sides.
But I soon learned that something I had originally thought was a rare exception, was in fact a widespread, even systematic practice, not only in the Second World War, but from the very first time aircraft were pitted against each other in war.
One thing I know is that no fighter pilot relishes a fair fight. What they want above all is an advantage so that when they go toe to toe with the enemy, they are assured a much greater chance of the win than their opponent. Ever since David and Goliath, a fighter with a technological edge can triumph over a greater opponent. A Luftwaffe fighter pilot would rather engage a Fairey Battle than a Supermarine Spitfire, because the outcome would be weighted in his favour.
One of the simple ways to gain a technological advantage over an enemy it simply know his weaknesses, be familiar with his blind spots, know what it is he can and can’t do. As the greatest war theorist of all time, Sun Tzu, wrote in The Art of War – “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles ”. To this end, Allied and Axis nations alike in both World Wars slavered at the chance to take possession of one of their enemy’s flying machines and study it up close on the ground and in the air.
Read the rest of the article at Vintage Wings of Canada.
Source / Author: Vintage Wings of Canada / Compiled by Dave O’Malley from the World Wide Web, with the assistance of Alex Soupy Campbell and Omer Syed
Photo: Vintage Wings of Canada