Secret Unit of German Luftwaffe Flew American Planes

During World War Two, KG 200, a top secret unit of the German Luftwaffe, flew American bombers and several other types of American aircraft on secret missions. They acquired these planes by repairing American aircraft which crash landed or made emergency landings in Germany or German occupied Europe.

Curiously, there was a custom in World War Two for a bomber to actually surrender in the air. This didn’t always work.

The weather had to be clear so the German fighters could see from a distance that the American bomber in their gun sights had slowed almost to stall speed, lowered its landing gear, and begun rocking its wings.

In these various ways, the KG 200 collected a rag tag group of American airplanes including B-17s, B-24s, and two P-38 Lockheed Lightnings. One of the reasons to use these aircraft was a belief American and British fighter patrols would not attack them particularly at dusk or dawn, when the silhouette of the aircraft would be highly visible but not the markings.

The Germans didn’t “fly false colors” – they repainted the aircraft and added a swastika and the Balkan Kreuz to the plane, this last a symbol of the Prussian military for centuries and originally the symbol of the Teutonic Knights. Because of its centuries long association with the Prussian military, thus long pre-dating the Third Reich, the Balkan Kreuz is still used today as a symbol on German vehicles and aircraft and ships.

The only book I have ever found on this subject is KG 200: the Luftwaffe’s Most Secret Unit by Geoffrey J. Thomas and Barry Ketley. Unfortunately, KG 200 was so secret that while the authors painstakingly tracked down the specific American aircraft the Germans used and what happened to them, they provide little detail of what missions they were used for except for the broad category of “secret missions.” The book is well researched and footnoted. The authors tracked down and interviewed a handful of surviving members of the unit. But there the trail went cold. Apparently, all the files of KG 200 were destroyed in the last days of the war. We think. At least no one can find them. The mystery continues.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

One thought on “Secret Unit of German Luftwaffe Flew American Planes”

  1. Hi Charles,
    Great choice for a posting. KG-200 is one of those intriguing subjects about which almost nothing is known, though there is a growing field of conjecture on the subject.

    When I first started researching the “Flensburg Reich” for my novel GERMANIA, I read about an incident where Albert Speer and his dive-bomber buddy Colonel Werner Baumbach dreamed of flying away to Greenland in one of Baumbach’s monster flying boats. At the time it was written, I’m not sure anyone even knew that the Flying boats Speer was referring to belonged to KG200 and that his pal Baumbach was its commander. I found Baumbach’s memoir in a university library once and foolishly imagined that it would answer all my questions about Speer the flying boats and the “Flensburg Reich” it turned out, it didn’t answer any burning questions at all. It didn’t even mention losing the war.

    About the only factual thing I’ve ever seen was about five or six years ago, a scottish newspaper had an interview with a navigator from one of the B&V-222 flying boat. And he thought the details of what he knew should not die with him. I would be curious what actual documentary evidence exists about them.

    But on the other hand, you can read a fictional account of them in my GERMANIA A Novel, by Brendan McNally

    Cheers, Charles

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