The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith
SOMETHING SPECIAL IN THE AIR
The first "Historical Missions" in Aces Over Europe are set two months before D-Day. If you decide to fly for the RAF, most of your targets are close to home, because the British aircraft industry—despite producing the most capable long-range bombers of the war—never had any fighters other than short-range interceptors and a few medium-range fighter-bombers. The best British aircraft for "Transportation Plan" missions is undoubtedly the plywood-bodied Mosquito.
If you decide to fly for the American forces, you might want to think twice about signing up with a Mustang outfit. Many ground-strike pilots preferred the heavier (nine tons), ungainly-looking P-47 Thunderbolt because even a slight nick anywhere in the plumbing of the Mustang's poorly protected liquid-cooling system would cause its water to leak out and the engine to seize within a matter of minutes, usually over enemy territory.
But the sturdy "Jug" had a huge, air-cooled radial engine, and could take dozens of hits and keep on flying. The P-47 wasn't as maneuverable, but in the attack role, where enemy fire was likely to be coming straight at you, it was a lot more survivable.
Despite the fact that the top-scoring U.S. aces flew P-38s, the Lightning's biggest victories were in the Pacific Theater (see below). It never did well in Europe, in part because the Brits never did get the hang of blending the right avgas for its finicky turbocharged engines (the Mustang's was supercharged), and because its cockpit heater and defroster systems were hopelessly inadequate in the subzero climate forty thousand feet above the Continent. (Unlike almost every other fighter, its pilot wasn't directly behind a warm, toasty engine in the twin-boom Lightning.) Not that this is a big problem in a sim.
While RAF targets in Ace Over Europe are mainly ship and barge traffic, Yank aircraft get to blow up trains; take out German Tiger, Panther, and Mk. IV tanks; and chase after road traffic like the Sd.Kfz. half-track (here misidentified as the SDFK, and invariably played by American M3 half-tracks in World War II movies).
"Transportation Plan" was so successful that by D-Day the only German reinforcements that arrived at the front were on foot or horseback. The Luftwaffe had been brought to an almost complete standstill, managing only 300 sorties on the Western Front…and only 2 (!) over the invasion beaches. By contrast, the Allies flew 14,600 sorties.
Hitler cagily refused to believe that the Normandy invasion was real, and kept most of his serviceable aircraft on the soon-to-collapse Eastern Front. He was convinced Normandy was a diversion and that the real invaders would wade ashore at Calais, across the narrowest part of the Channel from Dover. His best general, Rommel, had been injured in an Allied tactical air strike and had been replaced by the aging, cautious von Rundstedt, who concurred with the Führer that the crack SS Panzer divisions should be held back in readiness for the second beachhead (which never materialized).
When the initial German resistance collapsed, the Allies raced across France, liberating Paris on August 25, and—after being momentarily stalled by Hitler's last-ditch Christmas offensive—reached the Rhine in early '45. When retreating German troops failed to destroy the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen, the Allies had their foot in the door of the Reich itself.
The end was at hand.
Flying for the Luftwaffe against this unstoppable force would seem a hopeless undertaking, but German pilots fought every meter of the way. The top outfit at the beginning of Aces Over Europe is JG-26 (Jagdgeschwader, or Squadron), "The Abbeville Boys," aka "The Yellow-Nosed Bastards" (from the canary-yellow spinners on the props of their Focke-Wulf FW-190s).
At first, Luftwaffe missions are to intercept bomber formations and fighter sweeps, but as of D-Day, this changes to ground strikes against British Churchill and American Sherman tanks and the unwieldy DUKW amphibious assault vehicles as they roll inland from Gold, Sword, Juno, Omaha, and Utah beaches.
The last Luftwaffe missions in Aces Over Europe are to take out Allied tactical air assets in preparation for the Ardennes offensive, which, when it fizzled, became known as the Battle of the Bulge. The best outfit of this period was the elite JV-44 (Jagdverband, or Fighter Group), equipped with Me-262 jets and led by the legendary General Galland.
But by then it was way too late to stop the Allied advance. Strategic bombing of Germany's industrial center coupled with air superiority over the front lines in France and Italy had been like a vertical pincers choking off the Nazi war machine.
As the exhausted Allied airmen celebrated V-E Day, military personnel halfway around the world saw no end in sight to their war.