Ummm, there are a few problems with this story . . .
According to William Green (Warplanes of the Third Reich), the usual source for the mission claim, it went thusly:
. . . “In January 1944, the Ju 390 was assigned to Fernaufklaerungs-Gruppe 5 (Long-Range Reconnaissance
Group) at Mont de Marson south of Bordeaux, for operational evaluation. The Ju 390 carried sufficient fuel for an
endurance of 32 hours, and after a few short-distance flights, the aircraft flew from Mont de Marson to a point some
12 miles from the US coast, north of New York, returning successfully to its base.” I understand the story; Green’s
source was an interrogation transcript in an intelligence report from 11 August 1944, detailing the questioning of
captured German personnel. A prisoner, who claimed having been photo assistant in Mont de Marsan, made the
New York flight claim during his interview. A second prisoner, in the same report, said that the Ju 390 had an
endurance of 32 hours.
Let’s look at a flight from Bordeaux to New York. Such a flight is, approximately, great circle route and not
allowing for any navigational detours to avoid Allied maritime patrols, 5795 kilometers (3129 nautical miles) one
way, so figure 11,590 km or 6,258 nmi, give or take, round trip. But according to the information I can find, the
range of the Ju 390 was rated as having a maximum range of between 8,000 km (4320 nmi) and 9,700 km (5,238
nmi). My theory on the difference between these two figures is based (1) on counting a safety factor in the lower
number into the higher number, typically calculated as .20 x fuel for range plus fuel for 45 minutes, and (2)
any additional auxiliary fuel tanks which could have been installed. In either case, the 9700 km maximum range
is somewhat fatally short of 11,590 km round trip.
So, that’s interesting. Now let’s see ... IF the Ju 390 could travel 11,590 km and the rated cruise speed was 347
km/hr, that works out to about 33 hours at cruise which slightly exceeds the 32 hours cited by Green. Further, that
little calculation doesn’t begin to address fuel consumption, especially expended climbing to altitude. Don’t forget,
also, that the first half mission, from the vicinity of Bordeaux to the vicinity of New York, means bucking headwinds
(or even the jet stream if high enough) most of the way … doesn’t exactly do much for the fuel consumption, and
can rob you of an average 20 percent efficiency in the right (or wrong, depending on your point of view) conditions.
The BMW 801 engine, at cruise, as I understand it, burned about 570 liters (150 gallons) of fuel per hour, or for
the 6 engine Ju 390, about 3,420 liters (900 gallons) an hour. For Green’s declared 32 hours of flight, not counting
climb out consumption, headwinds, and other such inconvenient vagaries, that’s a requirement for some 109,440
liters of fuel. And of course, 109,440 liters of fuel is in the neighborhood of 28,795 gallons (US), which would
weigh about 215,000 pounds.
But wait ... empty weight of the Ju 390 was 36,900 kilograms (81,350 pounds) and the fully loaded weight was
75,500 kilograms (166,448 pounds); and I presume that includes POL, crew and ancillary equipment.
So, figure: 166,448 pounds rated max weight versus 215,000 pounds in fuel, equals: 48,552 pounds over weight.
How do you suppose they got all that off the ground? Was there really a crew with enough gonads to attempt to
takeoff at almost 30% over rated weight limits? All in fuel? With the only one of the aircraft type in
existence? For some sort of navigational stunt?
And to pull off their stunt they're going to fly into a hostile coastal area that had near it some of the enemy’s
more important aircraft production facilities, Grumman comes to mind, that had radar coverage and they're not
going to be detected? Maybe, but only if they run the last hundred miles or so, in and out, at about 150 feet (that
would do wonders for their fuel consumption, wouldn't it). And if you strip out defensive armament, cut crew size,
remove any armor, and self-sealing tanks, all in the name of weight savings (not that such could come close
to accounting for all the 48,552 over weight pounds), what happens when you just happen to run into a patrolling
PB4Y loaded for bear? PB4Ys knocked down about 343 Japanese planes, included 95 twin and multi engine types,
and five German planes (a Do 217, an He 177, and three Ju 88's). One PB4Y would be perfectly capable of chasing
down and ruining a stripped down Ju 390's day. Are you willing to take that chance for what is essentially a one
Then there's the small matter of geography. Look at a map. The New York coastline runs roughly from ENE to
WSW. "North" of New York, city or state, is over land. Jeez, you think if they managed to get some 510 nmi (half
the distance in the above maximum range variance) beyond their rated roundtrip range and ended up somewhere
west of Long Island Sound it would make a much better story. If they took pictures of the coast, they would have
had to turn around to do so.
And what about Reichs Marshall Fatty or Herr Goebbels? Don't you think they would trumpet such a feat to the
all the world? Yet, there is no record of such a propaganda coup.
Also, remember, there were only two of these airplanes, V1 and V2. According to "Die großen Dessauer.
Junkers Ju 89, 90, 290, 390. Die Geschichte einer Flugzeugfamilie" ("The Big Ones from Dessau. ... History
of an aircraft family") by Karl Kössler and Günter Ott, during the time period of this feat was supposedly
accomplished, the lone Ju 390 V1 was in Prague, arriving there on November 26th 1943. While at Prague,
V1 was involved with a series of flight tests, flying on Nov. 30th, and Dec. 2nd and 3rd. The flight on the 3rd was
to Merseburg. V1 returned to Prague on Dec. 10th. More flights were made: on 17th, and again on 30th and
31st of December. Still more flights in January 1944, on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th. From January 17th to the 23rd,
in-flight refueling tests were conducted with a Ju 290. More tests for aerial refueling took place in through
February and March in the Prague area. The preoccupation with flight tests in the December, January, February
and March time period would seem to knock single prototype Ju 390 V1 out of contention for four weeks duty
in FAGr 5 culminating in a side trip to New York..
And the Ju 390 V2? Well, there’s some question as to whether or not that particular aircraft was ever actually
completed. If it was, as near as I can find, it would not have been completed before September 1944, s
ometime after the mission in question. Further, FAGr 5 evacuated from Monte de Marsan on August 20, 1944.
So, probably built too late and could not have possibly launched from Monte de Marsan.
With the wrong information even an otherwise reputable historian can make a mistake. Take a look at Eric
Hammel's Pacific Air War Chronology for the TF-38 strike casualties on 28 July 1945. Absolute hogwash. Similar
error appears in Clark Reynold's The Fast Carriers ... could they be feeding each other? Did someone mis-read
information published elsewhere? I have a TF-38 report for the period, it is way, way different than either Hammel’s
or Reynolds’ writing. Similarly, a recently published book by popular oral history genre writer, Gerald Astor, entitled
Wings of Gold, on the US naval air war in the Pacific devotes whole pages to fabrications from folks claiming to have
been involved in actions they were no where near, performing feats of daring-do that never happened. Checking
facts would have prevented mistakes. Maybe Green should have looked a little deeper.
I'll be the first to admit I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so maybe someone else ought to run the
numbers and see how they come out. I'm willing to be wrong, but I just don't see how this flight could have
happened the way it is described. Nor does the historical record bear it out. I'd suggest that there may have
been a plan to try to see how close they could get. A plan with a lot of wishful thinking involved (not unusual
for some of those folks, especially as events became more and more unpleasant and more and more desperate
for them) that never got off the ground when the rational thinkers on the pointy end of the stick looked at it.
http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/aviati ... 579-3.html
All the best