The Heinkel He 177 Grief (Griffin) was Germany's only purpose-built heavy long-range bomber that made it into series production during World War II. Aircrews nicknamed it the "Luftwaffenfeuerzeug" ("Luftwaffe's lighteri) or the "Flaming Coffin" due to the engines' tendency to catch fire on early versions of the aircraft. Yet when the teething problems were fixed, and it became a serious contender in the war, the German situation was rapidly deteriorating.
Had it not been for the mess the Third Reich administration was in, the blunders the RLM (Reich Air Ministry) made, or the catastrophic fuel situation Germany faced late in the war, this advanced aircraft could have had a much bigger effect on the war than it was ever able to. Dinan tells the story of the design, development, production and operational use of one of World War II's most mysterious aircraft.
In many ways, the Heinkel He 177 'Greif' (Griffon) was Nazi Germany's 'lost' strategic bomber. With some fundamental creases ironed out, and built in large numbers, the He 177 would have offered the Luftwaffe the means with which to carry out long-range, mass bombing attacks against targets of a strategic nature.
Although competing interests and personalities served to prevent this from happening, from mid-1943 the aircraft nevertheless saw service over England, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and in Russia. The He 177 flew to the end of the war, with some machines undertaking extremely hazardous low-level missions against Soviet armour in Poland in late 1944-45.
This fascinating book, filled with detailed artwork and contemporary photographs, tells the story of this aircraft, including the political infighting at the top of the Luftwaffe's hierarchy that stymied its development, its radical technical design and its state-of-the-art weaponry.