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As the war in Europe drew to its close, an elite group of Luftwaffe fighter pilots, undaunted by the over-whelming odds against survival, heralded in the new Jet Age in a final desperate attempt to defend their homeland. All were veteran combat pilots, most having flown continually since the Battles of France and Britain almost six years earlier. Many had completed upwards of 1000 combat missions, and even as Germany was fast falling to the Allied advances, these remarkable men refused to contemplate defeat. Roaring off the airfields of southern Germany with a sound hitherto unheard, Willie Messerschmitt's Me262 jet fighter was faster than anything that had flown before. Thrown into battle whilst still in development, the aircraft was a handful to fly effectively, but when it made its first bomber interceptions it brought immediate consternation to the Allied aircrews. In the hands of the most experienced fighter Aces the world has ever known, the Me262 was an instant success.
"RETURN OF THE HUNTERS" is a recreation of a typical scene from the final days of World War II: Messerschmitt Me262s of JG7 race back to their base at Brandenburg after intercepting a USAAF bomber raid on Munich and Luftwaffe air bases in the area. With rockets expended and fuel running low, they hug the Bavarian landscape to avoid the attentions of the American escort fighters. Below them a B-26, brought down on an earlier mission, has crash-landed in the fields still covered with a sprinkling of late winter snow. In the distance the afternoon sun glistens on the Bavarian Alpine mountains.
In addition to the artist each print in the edition is personally signed by three extraordinary Luftwaffe pilots:
General ADOLF GALLAND (head of Germany's fighters, holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds, 104 air victories)
Major ERICH RUDORFFER (holder of the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, and Swords, flew over 1,000 missions, 224 air victories),
Leutnant FRITZ TEGTMEIER (holder of the Knight's Cross, flew over 700 missions, 146 air victories)
RETURN OF THE HUNTERS by NICOLAS TRUDGIAN (me-262: lLuftwaffe:Adolf Galland) @vbader.com