Five days before German divisions invaded Poland, a moment before the term "blitzkrieg" was added to the history books and the world was introduced to the definition of a merciless war, the Nazis completed the construction of the first jet plane.
Under a mantle of secrecy, ministry executives and the owners of the "Heinkel" Plane Company gathered in an airport close by to Berlin and watched the technological miracle leave behind a jet trail and take off into the sky.
10 minutes in the air
"Not one of the people standing in the audience could understand the magnitude of the invention that took off at that moment", explained Rose Lee, Curator of the World War II Exhibition at the "National Air and Space Museum" in Washington. "The plane looked quite ordinary, not particularly revolutionary, because of an effort to keep flying it as simple as possible. Its engine, on the other hand, was a tremendous invention".
The plane's lucky pilot was Captain Erich Worchitz, a test pilot and engineer in the German Air Force (Luftwaffe).
"Erich was a particularly talented person with much experience flying new platforms. They chose him for a reason. Because of the sensitivity of the plane and its system, Erich was required to make only one round above the airport, and decided against orders to stay in air and make a few more rounds".
Erich didn't have much time to examine the plane in air, seeing as the system was not fuel efficient and its flight time was only 10 minutes. A short while after the emotional landing, the sophisticated jet technology was confiscated in the basements of the Reich's flight offices, and was released only in the year 1944. This time with the purpose of conquering Europe.
"A few days before the plane took off, Hitler commanded to postpone the production of any product that doesn't have to do with arming", explained Rose Lee. It would eventually be discovered that the reason for the pause on production was the upcoming war.
"Heinkel, the founder of the company, thought it necessary to finish the development and the experimental flight as quickly as possible, and eventually did meet his own deadlines".
If the plane's first flight weren't so close to the invasion to Poland, Lee estimates that Germany wouldn't hesitate to bring the new technology into the battlefield. "The Germans had aerial and ground supremacy so they deemed bringing in the jet plane technology "unnecessary" at such an early stage of the war".
In the same timeframe, the United States and the United Kingdom were also trying to develop their own jet planes, but delays caused them to complete their developments only toward the end of the war.
"Germany, on the other hand, had already developed the technology and implemented changes to it throughout the years. In 1944, toward the end of the war, Germany introduced the Messerschmitt, the first double-seated combat jet plane, and the biggest threat to the Allied Forces. This plane could've easily dominated in aerial combat if it hadn't suffered from major technical issues".
At the end of the war and with the expansion of jet technology, many countries began implementing the revolutionary engine in cargo aircrafts, a variety of collecting planes, and eventually in commercial aircrafts.