James Evans from Australia reported an encounter with an anonymous Komet pilot he had in 1979. Over to James:
I do not known his name as we never exchanged our names or whether he is even still alive for that matter. I was a young man then working in a hobby store and one quiet morning an old man walked into the store using a walking cane as one of his legs hardly worked. I welcomed him he nodded and looked at our plastic aircraft model kits. After a while he came and spoke to me. He was surprised that so many German World War Two aircraft models were made, he did not see why people would be interested in building models or even remembering the aircraft of the side that lost (in his words). I suggested that this may be because Germany made many aircraft that were not only very good at what they did but the designs tended to be very different. He corrected me saying superior. I asked did he see them in action and he replied yes I saw them in action and I was one of the young men flying them. He said he started flying 109s when they went into France and had flown against French and British fighters, he said Germany's fighters were much better. He continued saying that his fighter crashed one day and he had his leg crushed in the crash.
After he had recovered his legs were no good for flying fighters any more and so he thought that his flying days were over, but he was sent to the Russian front were he piloted assault gliders. This he recalled as the most frightening time of his life. He said when the bomber released you, you had to dive down fast and fly the glider as fast as you could close to the ground and when you reached where you were going you pulled the nose up hard and let it fall out of the sky. About half the people you were carrying had something broken. He said this was much better to do this than to land it safely, you would land too slow and they would have time to kill everyone with their machine guns. He said that the last time he did this he pulled the nose up but it dropped and went straight into the ground and nearly killed himself.
He said that he thought that he would never fly again but they called him back and he flew the little fire ball. I question his reference to fire ball and he said you known - Comet. This took me by surprise as I never thought I would ever meet a 163 pilot as there were very few of them and I live in Australia. I took out a catalogue and showed him the artwork of the box of the Airfix 1/72 scale Komet, he said yes that is it. So I asked him what was it like to fly? He seemed very excited as he explained that when you took off it was like being tied to a ball and fired out of a cannon, only the new American fighter pilots would know how this feels. I think he was making a reference to F-15 pilots. He said you went up so fast your ring would be doing this (he made a gesture with his hand suggesting some kind of muscular spasm of the anus) all the way up and then it was like flying with a rocket shoved up your ass. Then you would try and line up on a bomber and come up, shoot at it with everything as you flew past it on the way up and then turn and fly home. You don't get enough time to line up another one if you missed as you can only fly for a few minutes and then you out of fuel and you had to land like a glider. If you glided back all the fighters would come after you rip you apart.
Then his mood changed he was almost angry. The fire balls were very dangerous to fly! They sometimes blew up when you went to take off. If you made too many sparks when you land they could blow up. The fighters never tried to shoot you when we where coming up, we were too fast, they would wait and shoot you when you were coming down and almost out of fuel. You see they were too dangerous to risk good pilots on and they used pilots like me who had a bad leg or arm and it did not matter if we got killed. The fire ball was the last bite from a fox as the hounds ripped it apart. He went on to talk about everything the Germans had were better but they were out numbered. Before he finished a customer came in to pick up some special silk covering he had ordered, but when I had finished serving this customer I looked up to continue talking to him but he was gone. I never saw him again.
He seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the Komet. The excitement of the launch and flying the fastest thing around at the time, but angered by the loss of the pilots he flew with. I have always assumed that he must have flown them in the very last closing stages of the war when Germany was almost out of good pilots and by this stage the Komets would not have been that well maintained, thus making them very dangerous. I belief, perhaps a little too romantically, that he was an ideal candidate to fly the Komet as he was a trained fighter pilot and assault glider pilot, even though he had a stiff leg.
I have always had my doubts about the story he told as it has been my experience that veterans do not like talking about the things that they saw and did in combat. The only ones that want to talk and make you listen to them were the one that never made it to the front lines but according to them they won the war single handed. The other thing was that he really only made a passing reference to the Komet being rocket powered. However recently the last two ANZAC veterans died, Australian veterans of 1914 battles in Turkey at the early stages of World War I. In previous years they would not talk about their experiences but when they realised they were the last they started talking and in a similar way to the Komet pilot. It was not about how many people they killed or saw killed, It was about what they had to do and about stating something emotional that had been inside them unspoken for so many years and by the time they had finished speaking they were proud to be ANZACs. The same way this man was proud to be a Luftwaffe pilot. So today I place more belief in what the man had said to me and his first hand account of the Komet.