The Horten Ho 229 [often erroneously called Gotha Go 229 due to the identity of the chosen manufacturer of the aircraft] was a late-World War II flying wing fighter aircraft, designed by the Horten brothers and built by the Gothaer Waggonfabrik. It was a personal favourite of Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, and was the only plane to be able to meet his performance requirements.
In the 1930s the Horten brothers had become interested in the all-wing design as a method of improving the performance of gliders. The all-wing layout removes any "unneeded" surfaces and –in theory at least– leads to the lowest possible drag. For a glider low drag is very important, with a more conventional layout you have to go to extremes to reduce drag and you will end up with long and more fragile wings. If you can get the same performance with a wing-only configuration, you end up with a similarly performing glider with wings that are shorter and thus sturdier.
Years later, in 1943 Reichsmarschall Göring issued a request for design proposals to produce a bomber that was capable of carrying a 1000 kg load over 1000 km at 1000 km/h; the so called 1000/1000/1000 rule. Conventional German bombers could reach Allied command centers in England, but were suffering devastating losses, as allied fighter planes were faster than the German bombers. At the time there was simply no way to meet these goals; the new Jumo 004B jet engines could give the speed that was required, but swallowed fuel at such a rate that they would never be able to match the range requirement.
The Hortens felt that the low-drag all-wing design could meet all of the goals – by reducing the drag, cruise power could be lowered to the point where the range requirement could be met. They put forward their current private (and jealously guarded) project, the Ho IX, as the basis for the bomber. The Government Air Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium) approved the Horten proposal, but ordered the addition of two 30MM cannon, as they felt the aircraft would also be useful as a fighter due to its estimated top speed being significantly higher than any allied aircraft.
Reichsmarschall Göring believed in the design and ordered the aircraft into production at Gotha as the RLM designation of Ho 229 before it had taken to the air under jet power. Flight testing of the Ho IX/Ho 229 prototypes began in December 1944, and the aircraft proved to be even better than expected. There were a number of minor handling problems but otherwise the performance was outstanding.
Gotha appeared to be somewhat upset about being ordered to build a design from two "unknowns" and made a number of changes to the design, as well as offering up a number of versions for different roles. Several more prototypes, including those for a two-seat 'Nacht-Jäger' night fighter, were under construction when the Gotha plant was overrun by the American troops in April of 1945.
The Gotha factory also was building the radar-equipped Horten Ho IX, a for that time futuristic jet-engine flying wing. Using the knowledge they gathered from the construction of these now named Gotha Go 229 [the other name used for the Horten Ho IX], they made a proposal for a fighter, the Gotha P60. The P60 used nearly the same wing layout as the Go 229. The first proposal, the P60A, used a cockpit with the crew  in a prone position laying side-to-side.
The engines of the P60A were placed outside the wing. One on top of the central part, one under the central part. Maybe this was done for better maintenance of the engines.
The second proposal, the Gotha P60B, no longer had the prone pilots. It seems to be that Gotha needed to make a simplified cockpit. Maybe they wanted to speed up development or production. Gotha got approval to start building the P60B-prototype, but work was stopped in favor of the final proposal, the P60C.
The Ho 229 A-0 pre-production aircraft were to be powered by two Junkers Jumo 004B turbojets with 1,962 lbf [8.7 kN] thrust each. The maximum speed was estimated at an excellent 590 mph [950 km/h] at sea level and 607 mph [977 km/h] at 39,370 ft [12,000 m]. Maximum ceiling was to be 52,500 ft [16,000 m], although it is unlikely this could be met. Maximum range was estimated at 1180 miles [1,900 km], and the initial climb rate was to be 4330 ft/min (22 m/s). It was to be armed with two 30 mm MK 108 cannon, and could also carry either two 500 kg bombs, or twenty-four R4M rockets.
It was the only design to come close to meeting the 1000/1000/1000 rule, and that would have remained true even for a number of years after the war. But like many of the late war German designs, the production was started far too late for the plane to have any effect. In this case none saw combat.
The majority of the Ho-229's skin was a carbon-impregnated plywood, which would absorb radar waves. This, along with its shape, would have made the Ho-229 invisible to the crude radar of the day. So it should be given credit for being the first true "Stealth Fighter". The US military initiated "Operation Paperclip" which was an effort by the U.S. Army in the last weeks of the war to capture as much advanced German weapons research as possible, and also to deny that research to advancing Russian troops. A Horton glider and the Ho-229 number V2 were secured and sent to Northrop Aviation in the United States for evaluation, who much later used a flying wing design for the B-2 "Spirit" stealth bomber. During WWII Northrop had been commissioned to develop a large wing-only long-range bomber [XB/YB-35] based on photographs of the Horton's record-setting glider from the 1930's, but their initial designs suffered controllability issues that were not resolved until after the war.
The Ho-229's design employed a thoroughly modern wing shape far ahead of its time. The wing had a twist so that in level flight the wingtips [and thus, the ailerons] were parallel with the ground. The center section was twisted upwards, which deflected air in flight, and provided the majority of its lift. Because of this twist in its shape, If the pilot pulled up too suddenly, the nose would stall [or, lose lift] before the wingtips. This meant that the craft's nose would inherently dip in the beginnings of a stall causing the plane to accelerate downwards, and thus it would naturally avoid a flat spin. A flat spin is difficult to recover from, and many rookie pilots have crashed from this condition. Horten also noticed in wind-tunnel testing that in the beginnings of a stall, most airfoil cross-sections began losing lift on their front and rear edges first. Horten designed an airfoil cross-section that developed most of its lift along the centerline of the wing. Since the center line had high lift and the front and rear edges had low lift, it was called a "Bell-Shaped lift curve". The wings were also swept back at a very modern and optimum angle [his gliders from the 1930's used this sweep long before it became popular] which enhanced its stall-resistance, and also lowered its wind-resistance which helped its top speed. This made the Ho-229 easy to fly and very stall-resistant in all phases of its operation.
The only existing Ho-229 airframe to be preserved was V2, and it is located at the National Air and Space Museum [NASM] in Washington D.C. The airframe V1 crashed during testing, and several partial airframes found on the assembly line were destroyed by U.S. troops to prevent them from being captured by advancing Russian troops.
In 1944 the RLM issued a requirement for an aircraft with a range of 11000 km [6835 miles] and a bomb load of 4000 kg [8818lbs]. This bomber was to be able to fly from Germany to New York City and back without refuelling. Five of Germany's top aircraft companies had submitted designs, but none of them met the range requirements for this Amerika Bomber. Their proposals were redesigned and resubmitted at the second competition, but nothing had changed. The Hortens were not invited to submit a proposal because it was thought that they were only interested in fighter aircraft.
After the Hortens learned of these design failures, they went about designing the XVIIIA Amerika Bomber. During the Christmas 1944 holidays, Reimar and Walter Horten worked on the design specifications for their all-wing bomber. They drew up a rough draft and worked on weight calculations, allowing for fuel, crew, armaments, landing gear and bomb load. Ten variations were eventually worked out, each using a different number of existing turbojets. Several of the designs were to be powered by four or six Heinkel-Hirth He S 011jet engines, and several of the others were designed around eight BMW 003A or eight Junker Jumo 004B turbojets.
The version that the Hortens thought would work best would utilize six Jumo 004B turbojets, which were buried in the fuselage and exhausted over the rear of the aircraft. They were fed by air intakes located in the wing's leading edge. To save weight they thought of using a landing gear that could be jettisoned immediately after takeoff [with the additional help of rocket boosters] and landing on some kind of skid. The Ho XVIII A was to be built mainly of wood and held together with a special carbon based glue. As a result, the huge flying wing should go largely undetected by radar.
The Hortens were told to make a presentation for their Amerika Bomber design on 25 February 1945 in Berlin. The meeting was attended by representatives of the five aircraft companies who originally submitted ideas for the competition. No one challenged their assertion that their flying wing bomber could get the job done. A few days later the Hortens were told to report to Reichsmarshall Göring, who wanted to talk to the brothers personally about their proposed Amerika Bomber. There they were told that they were to work with the Junkers company in building the aircraft.
Several days later Reimar and Walter Horten met with the Junkers engineers, who had also invited some Messerschmitt engineers. Suddenly it seemed that the Horten's design was to be worked on by committee. The Junkers and Messerschmitt engineers were unwilling to go with the design that the Hortens had presented several days earlier. Instead, the committee wanted to place a huge vertical fin and rudder to the rear of the Ho XVIII A. Reimar Horten was angry, as this would add many more man-hours, plus it would create drag and thus reduce the range. The committee also wanted to place the engines beneath the wing, which would create additional drag and reduce the range even further. After two days of discussion, they chose a design that had huge vertical fins, with the cockpit built into the fin's leading edge. Six Jumo 004A jet engines were slung under the wing, three to a nacelle on each side. The bomb bay would be located between the two nacelles, and the tricycle landing gear would also be stored in the same area. The committee would present the final design to the RML and recommended that it be built in the former mining tunnels in the Harz Mountains.
Dissatisfied with the committee designed Ho XVIII A, Reimar Horten redesigned the flying wing Amerika Bomber. The proposed Ho XVIII B had a three man crew which sat upright in a bubble-type canopy near the apex of the wing. There were two fixed main landing gear assemblies with two He S 011 turbojets mounted to each side.
During flight, the tires would be covered by doors to help cut down on air resistance and drag, a nose wheel being considered not necessary. Overall, the aircraft would have weighed about 35 tons fully loaded. Fuel was to be stored in the wing so that no auxiliary fuel tanks would be required. It was estimated that the Ho XVIII B would have a range of 11000 km [6835 miles], a service ceiling of 16 km [52492 feet] and a round-trip endurance of 27 hours.
It was decided that construction was to be done in two bomb-proof hangers near Kala, which had concrete roofs 5.6 meters [18.4 feet] thick. In addition, extra long runways had been constructed so the aircraft could be test flown there too. Work was supposed to start immediately, and the RLM expected the Ho XVIII B to be built by the fall of 1945, which Reimar Horten reported to be impossible. At any rate, Germany surrendered two months later before construction could begin.
Not until August 1941 was Reimar asked to explore the potential of the Nurflügel as a fighting aircraft, and even then his work was largely clandestine, in an authorized operation arranged by his brother in the Luftwaffe.
In 1942 Reimar built an unpowered prototype with a 61-foot span and the designation Ho 9. After some difficulty the airframe was mated with two Junkers Jumo turbojets of the sort developed for the Messerschmitt Me 262. The turbojet was apparently flown successfully in December 1944, and it eventually achieved a speed of nearly 500 mph [800 km/h]. After about two hours of flying time, it was destroyed in a February 1945 crash that killed its test pilot.
Its potential was obvious, however, and the Gotha company promptly readied the turbojet for production as a fighter-bomber with the Air Ministry designation Ho 229. [Because Gotha built it, the turbojet is also called the Go 229].
Supposedly it would fly at 997 km/h [623 mph], which if true meant that it was significantly faster than the Me 262 - let alone the Flying Wings that Northrop was building. Fortunately for the Allies, the Gotha factory and the Ho 229 prototype -the world's first all-wing turbojet- were captured by U.S. forces in April 1945.
Like today's B-2 Stealth bomber [and unlike Jack Northrop's designs], the Go-229 had a comparatively slender airfoil, with the crew and engines housed in dorsal humps, and its jet exhaust was vented onto the top surface of the wing. The first feature made it faster than the stubby Northrop designs; the second made it even harder to detect, as did the fact that wood was extensively used in its construction.
[At 132 feet, its span was a bit less than that of the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, the largest warplane of World War II, but considerably shorter than the Northrop XB-35 that was in the works from 1941 to 1946].
Several Nurflügels came to the U.S. as war booty, including the center section of the Ho 229.
Roswell and the Horten Brothers
It was nighttime on the Rio Grande, 29 May 1947, and Army scientists, engineers, and technicians at the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico were anxiously putting the final touches on their own American secret weapon, called 'Hermes'. The twenty-five-foot-long, three-thousand-pound rocket had originally been named V-2, or Vergeltungswaffe 2, which means "vengeance" in German. But 'Hermes' sounded less spiteful; Hermes being the ancient Greek messenger of the gods.
The actual rocket that now stood on Test Stand 33 had belonged to Adolf Hitler just a little more than two years before. It had come off the same German slave-labor production lines as the rockets that the Third Reich had used to terrorize the people of London, Antwerp, and Paris during the war. The U.S. Army had confiscated nearly two hundred V-2s from inside Peenemünde, Germany's rocket manufacturing plant, and shipped them to White Sands beginning the first month after the war. Under a parallel, even more secret project called "Operation Paperclip" the complete details of which remain classified as of 2011, 118 captured German rocket scientists were given new lives and careers and brought to the missile range. Hundreds of others would follow.
Two of these German scientists were now readying 'Hermes' for its test launch. One, Wernher Von Braun, had invented this rocket, which was the world's first ballistic missile, or flying bomb. And the second scientist, Dr. Ernst Steinhoff, had designed the V-2 rocket's brain. That spring night in 1947, the V-2 lifted up off the pad, rising slowly at first, with von Braun and Steinhoff watching intently. 'Hermes' consumed more than a thousand pounds of rocket fuel in its first 2.5 seconds as it elevated to fifty feet. The next fifty feet were much easier, as were the hundred feet after that. The rocket gained speed, and the laws of physics kicked in: Aything can fly if you make it move fast enough. 'Hermes' was now fully aloft, climbing quickly into the night sky and headed for the upper atmosphere. At least that was the plan. Just a few moments later, the winged missile suddenly and unexpectedly reversed course. Instead of heading north to the uninhabited terrain inside the two-million-square-acre White Sands Proving Ground, the rocket began heading south toward downtown El Paso, Texas.
Dr. Steinhoff was watching the missile's trajectory through a telescope from an observation post one mile south of the launchpad, and having personally designed the V-2 rocket-guidance controls back when he worked for Adolf Hitler, Dr. Steinhoff was the one best equipped to recognize errors in the test. In the event that Steinhoff detected an errant launch, he would notify Army engineers, who would immediately cut the fuel to the rocket's motors via remote control, allowing it to crash safely inside the missile range. But Dr. Steinhoff said nothing as the misguided V-2 arced over El Paso and headed for Mexico. Minutes later, the rocket crash-landed into the Tepeyac Cemetery, three miles south of Juarez, a heavily populated city of 120,000. The violent blast shook virtually every building in El Paso and Juarez, terrifying citizens of both cities, who swamped newspaper offices, police headquarters and radio stations with anxious telephone inquiries. The missile left a crater that was fifty feet wide and twenty-four feet deep. It was a miracle no one was killed.
Army officials rushed to Juarez to smooth over the event while Mexican soldiers were dispatched to guard the crater's rim. The mission, the men, and the rocket were all classified top secret; no one could know specific details about any of this. Investigators silenced Mexican officials by cleaning up the large, bowl-shaped cavity and paying for damages. But back at White Sands, reparations were not so easily made. Allegations of sabotage by the German scientists who were in charge of the top secret project overwhelmed the workload of the Intelligence officers at White Sands. Attitudes toward the former Third Reich scientists who were now working for the United States tended to fall into two distinct categories at the time. There was the let-bygones-be-bygones approach, an attitude summed up by the Army officer in charge of 'Operation Paperclip', Bosquet Wev, who stated that to preoccupy oneself with "picayune details" about German scientists' past actions was "beating a dead Nazi horse". The logic behind this thinking was that a disbanded Third Reich presented no future harm to America but a burgeoning Soviet military certainly did and if the Germans were working for us, they couldn't be working for them.
Others disagreed, including Albert Einstein. Five months before the Juarez crash, Einstein and the newly formed Federation of American Scientists appealed to President Truman: "We hold these individuals to be potentially dangerous¡ Their former eminence as Nazi party members and supporters raises the issue of their fitness to become American citizens and hold key positions in American industrial, scientific and educational institutions". For Einstein, making deals with war criminals was undemocratic as well as dangerous.
While the public debate went on, internal investigations began. And the rocket work at White Sands continued. The German scientists had been testing V-2s there for fourteen months, and while investigations of the Juarez rocket crash were under way, three more missiles fired from Test Stand 33 crash-landed outside the restricted facility: one near Alamogordo, New Mexico, and another near Las Cruces, New Mexico. A third went down outside Juarez, Mexico, again. The German scientists blamed the near tragedies on old V-2 components. Seawater had corroded some of the parts during the original boat trip from Germany. But in top secret written reports, Army Intelligence officers were building a case that would lay blame on the German scientists. The War Department Intelligence unit that kept tabs on the German scientists had designated some of the Germans at the base as "under suspicion of being potential security risks". When not working, the men were confined to a six-acre section of the base. The officers' club was off-limits to all the Germans, including the rocket team's leaders, Steinhoff and von Braun. It was in this atmosphere of failed tests and mistrust that an extra-ordinary event happened, one that, at first glance, seemed totally unrelated to the missile launches.
During the first week of July 1947, U.S. Signal Corps engineers began tracking two objects with remarkable flying capabilities moving across the southwestern United States. What made the aircraft extra-ordinary was that, although they flew in a traditional, forward-moving motion, the craft, whatever they were, began to hover sporadically before continuing to fly on. This kind of technology was beyond any aerodynamic capabilities the U.S. Air Force had in development in the summer of 1947. When multiple sources began reporting the same data, it became clear that the radar wasn't showing phantom returns, or electronic ghosts, but something real. Kirtland Army Air Force Base, just north of the White Sands Proving Ground, tracked the flying craft into its near vicinity. The commanding officer there ordered a decorated World War II pilot named Kenny Chandler into a fighter jet to locate and chase the unidentified flying craft. This fact has never before been disclosed.
Chandler never visually spotted what he'd been sent to look for. But within hours of Chandler's sweep of the skies, one of the flying objects crashed near Roswell, New Mexico. Immediately, the office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or JCS, took command and control and recovered the airframe and some propulsion equipment, including the crashed craft's power plant, or energy source. The recovered craft looked nothing like a conventional aircraft. The vehicle had no tail and it had no wings. The fuselage was round, and there was a dome mounted on the top. In secret Army intelligence memos declassified in 1994, it would be referred to as a "flying disc". Most alarming was a fact kept secret until now, inside the disc, there was a very earthly hallmark: Russian writing. Block letters from the Cyrillic alphabet had been stamped, or embossed, in a ring running around the inside of the craft.
In a critical moment, the American military had its worst fears realized. The Russian army must have gotten its hands on German aerospace engineers more capable than Ernst Steinhoff and Wernher von Braun, engineers who must have developed this flying craft years before for the German air force, or Luftwaffe. The Russians simply could not have developed this kind of advanced technology on their own. Russia's stockpile of weapons and its body of scientists had been decimated during the war; the nation had lost more than twenty million people. Most Russian scientists still alive had spent the war in the Gulag. But the Russians, like the Americans, the British, and the French, had pillaged Hitler's best and brightest scientists as war booty, each country taking advantage of them to move forward in the new world. And now, in July of 1947, shockingly, the Soviet supreme leader had somehow managed not only to penetrate U.S. airspace near the Alaskan border, but to fly over several of the most sensitive military installations in the western United States. Stalin had done this with foreign technology that the U.S. Army Air Forces knew nothing about. It was an incursion so brazen, so antithetical to the perception of America's strong national security, which included the military's ability to defend itself against air attack, that upper-echelon Army Intelligence officers swept in and took control of the entire situation. The first thing they did was initiate the withdrawal of the original Roswell Army Air Field press release, the one that stated that a "flying disc" landed on a ranch near Roswell, and then they replaced it with the second press release, the one that said that a weather balloon had crashed, nothing more. The weather balloon story has remained the official cover story ever since.
The fears were legitimate: fears that the Russians had hover-and fly technology, that their flying craft could outfox U.S. radar, and that it could deliver to America a devastating blow. The single most worrisome question facing the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time was: What if atomic energy propelled the Russian craft? Or worse, what if it dispersed radioactive particles, like a modern-day dirty bomb? In 1947, the United States believed it still had a monopoly on the atomic bomb as a deliverable weapon. But as early as June 1942, Hermann Göring, commander in chief of the Luftwaffe, had been overseeing the Third Reich's research council on nuclear physics as a weapon in its development of an airplane called the "Amerika Bomber", designed to drop a dirty bomb on New York City. Any number of those scientists could be working for the Russians. The Central Intelligence Group, the CIA's institutional predecessor, did not yet know that a spy at Los Alamos National Laboratory, a man named Klaus Fuchs, had stolen bomb blueprints and given them to Stalin. Or that Russia was two years away from testing its own atomic bomb. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, all the Joint Chiefs of Staff had to go on from the Central Intelligence Group was speculation about what atomic technology Russia might have.
For the military, the very fact that New Mexico's airspace had been violated was shocking. This region of the country was the single most sensitive weapons-related domain in all of America. The White Sands Missile Range was home to the nation's classified weapons-delivery systems. The nuclear laboratory up the road, the Los Alamos Laboratory, was where scientists had developed the atomic bomb and where they were now working on nuclear packages with a thousand times the yield. Outside Albuquerque, at a production facility called Sandia Base, assembly-line workers were forging Los Alamos nuclear packages into smaller and smaller bombs. Forty-five miles to the southwest, at the Roswell Army Air Field, the 509th Bomb Wing was the only wing of long-range bombers equipped to carry and drop nuclear bombs.
Things went from complicated to critical at the revelation that there was a second crash site. Paperclip scientists Wernher von Braun and Ernst Steinhoff, still under review over the Juarez rocket crash, were called on for their expertise. Several other Paperclip scientists specializing in aviation medicine were brought in. The evidence of whatever had crashed at and around Roswell, New Mexico, in the first week of July in 1947 was gathered together by a Joint Chiefs of Staff technical services unit and secreted away in a manner so clandestine, it followed security protocols established for transporting uranium in the early days of the Manhattan Project.
The first order of business was to determine where the technology had come from. The Joint Chiefs of Staff tasked an elite group working under the direct orders of G-2 Army intelligence to initiate a top secret project called "Operation Harass". Based on the testimony of America's Paperclip scientists, Army intelligence officers believed that the flying disc was the brainchild of two former Third Reich airplane engineers, named Walter and Reimar Horten, now working for the Russian military. Orders were drawn up. The manhunt was on.
Walter and Reimar Horten were two aerospace engineers whose importance in seminal aircraft projects had somehow been overlooked when America and the Soviet Union were fighting over scientists at the end of the war. The brothers were the inventors of several of Hitler's flying-wing aircraft, including one called the Horten 229 or Horten IX, a wing-shaped, tailless airplane that had been developed at a secret facility in Baden-Baden during the war. From the Paperclip scientists at Wright Field, the Army Intelligence investigators learned that Hitler was rumored to have been developing a faster-flying aircraft that had been designed by the brothers and was shaped like a saucer. Maybe, the Paperclips said, there had been a later-model Horten in the works before Germany surrendered, meaning that even if Stalin didn't have the Horten brothers themselves, he could very likely have gotten control of their blueprints and plans.
The flying disc that crashed at Roswell had technology more advanced than anything the U.S. Army Air Forces had ever seen. Its propulsion techniques were particularly confounding. What made the craft go so fast? How was it so stealthy and how did it trick radar? The disc had appeared on Army radar screens briefly and then suddenly disappeared. The incident at Roswell happened just weeks before the National Security Act, which meant there was no true Central Intelligence Agency to handle the investigation. Instead, hundreds of Counter Intelligence Corps [CIC] officers from the U.S. Army's European command were dispatched across Germany in search of anyone who knew anything about Walter and Reimar Horten. Officers tracked down and interviewed the brothers' relatives, colleagues, professors, and acquaintances with an urgency not seen since Operation ALSOS, in which Allied Forces sought information about Hitler's atomic scientists and nuclear programs during the war.
A records group of more than three hundred pages of Army Intelligence documents reveals many of the details of "Operation Harass". They were declassified in 1994, after a researcher named Timothy Cooper filed a request for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. One memo, called 'Air Intelligence Guide for Alleged Flying Saucer Type Aircraft', detailed for CIC officers the parameters of the flying saucer technology the military was looking for, features which were evidenced in the craft that crashed at Roswell.
Extreme maneuverability and apparent ability to almost hover; a plan form approximating that of an oval or disc with dome shape on the surface; the ability to quickly disappear by high speed or by complete disintegration; the ability to group together very quickly in a tight formation when more than one aircraft are together; evasive motion ability indicating possibility of being manually operated, or possibly, by electronic or remote control.
The Counter Intelligence Corps' official 1947 C1948 manhunt for the Horten brothers reads at times like a spy novel and at times like a wild goose chase. The first real lead in the hunt came from Dr. Adolf Smekal of Frankfurt, who provided CIC with a list of possible informants' names. Agents were told a dizzying array of alleged facts: Reimar was living in secret in East Prussia; Reimar was living in Göttingen, in what had been the British zone; Reimar had been kidnapped "presumably by the Russians" in the latter part of 1946. If you want to know where Reimar is, one informant said, you must first locate Hannah Reitsch, the famous aviatrix who was living in Bad Hauheim. As for Walter, he was working as a consultant for the French; he was last seen in Frankfurt trying to find work with a university there; he was in Dessau; actually, he was in Russia; he was in Luxembourg, or maybe it was France. One German scientist turned informant chided CIC agents. If they really wanted to know where the Horten brothers were, he said, and what they were capable of, then go ask the American Paperclip scientists living at Wright Field.
Neatly typed and intricately detailed summaries of hundreds of interviews with the Horten brothers' colleagues and relatives flooded the CIC. Army Intelligence officers spent months chasing leads, but most information led them back to square one. In the fall of 1947, prospects of locating the brothers seemed grim until November, when CIC agents caught a break. A former Messerschmitt test pilot named Fritz Wendel offered up some firsthand testimony that seemed real. The Horten brothers had indeed been working on a flying saucer-like craft in Heiligenbeil, East Prussia, right after the war, Wendel said. The airplane was ten meters long and shaped like a half-moon. It had no tail. The prototype was designed to be flown by one man lying down flat on his stomach. It reached a ceiling of twelve thousand feet. Wendel drew diagrams of this saucerlike aircraft, as did a second German informant named Professor George, who described a later model Horten as being "very much like a round cake with a large sector cut out" and that had been developed to carry more than one crew member. The later-model Horten could travel higher and faster, up to 1,200 mph. because it was propelled by rockets rather than jet engines. Its cabin was allegedly pressurized for high-altitude flights.
The Americans pressed Fritz Wendel for more. Could it hover? Not that Wendel knew. Did he know if groups could fly tightly together? Wendel said he had no idea. Were "high speed escapement methods" designed into the craft? Wendel wasn't sure. Could the flying disc be remotely controlled? Yes, Wendel said he knew of radio-control experiments being conducted by Siemens and Halske at their electrical factory in Berlin. Army officers asked Wendel if he had heard of any hovering or near-hovering technologies. No. Did Wendel have any idea about the tactical purposes for such an aircraft? Wendel said he had no idea.
The next batch of solid information came from a rocket engineer named Walter Ziegler. During the war, Ziegler had worked at the car manufacturer Bayerische Motoren Werke, or BMW, which served as a front for advanced rocket-science research. There, Ziegler had been on a team tasked with developing advanced fighter jets powered by rockets. Ziegler relayed a chilling tale that gave investigators an important clue. One night, about a year after the war, in September of 1946, four hundred men from his former rocket group at BMW had been invited by Russian military officers to a fancy dinner. The rocket scientists were wined and dined and, after a few hours, taken home. Most were drunk. Several hours later, all four hundred of the men were woken up in the middle of the night by their Russian hosts and told they were going to be taking a trip. Why Ziegler wasn't among them was not made clear. The Germans were told to bring their wives, their children, and whatever else they needed for a long trip. Mistresses and livestock were also fine. This was not a situation to which you could say no, Ziegler explained. The scientists and their families were transported by rail to a small town outside Moscow where they had remained ever since, forced to work on secret military projects in terrible conditions. According to Ziegler, it was at this top secret Russian facility, exact whereabouts unknown, that the German scientists were developing rockets and other advanced technologies under Russian supervision. These were Russia's version of the American Paperclip scientists. It was very possible, Ziegler said, that the Horten brothers had been working for the Russians at the secret facility there.
For nine long months, CIC agents typed up memo after memo relating various theories about where the Horten brothers were, what their flying saucers might have been designed for, and what leads should or should not be pursued. And then, six months into the investigation, on 12 March 1948, along came abrupt news. The Horten brothers had been found. In a memo to the European command of the 970th CIC, Major Earl S. Browning Jr. explained. "The Horten Brothers have been located and interrogated by American Agencies", Browning said. The Russians had likely found the blueprints of the flying wing after all. "It is Walter Horten's opinion that the blueprints of the Horten IX may have been found by Russian troops at the Gotha Railroad Car Factory", the memo read. But a second memo, entitled 'Extracts on Horten', Walter, explained a little more. Former Messerschmitt test pilot Fritz Wendel's information about the Horten brothers' wingless, tailless, saucerlike craft that had room for more than one crew member was confirmed. "Walter Horten's opinion is that sufficient German types of flying wings existed in the developing or designing stages when the Russians occupied Germany, and these types may have enabled the Russians to produce the flying saucer".
There is no mention of Reimar Horten, the second brother, in any of the hundreds of pages of documents released to Timothy Cooper as part of his Freedom of Information Act request, despite the fact that both brothers had been confirmed as located and interrogated. Nor is there any mention of what Reimar Horten did or did not say about the later-model Horten flying discs. But one memo mentioned "the Horten X"
and another referred to "the Horten XIII" . No further details have been provided, and a 2011 Freedom of Information Act request by the author met a dead end.
On 12 May 1948, the headquarters of European command sent the director of Intelligence at the United States Forces in Austria a puzzling memo. "Walter Horten has admitted his contacts with the Russians", it said. That was the last mention of the Horten brothers in the Army Intelligence's declassified record for "Operation Harass".
Whatever else officially exists on the Horten brothers and their advanced flying saucer continues to be classified as of 2011, and the crash remains from Roswell quickly fell into the blackest regions of government. They would stay at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for approximately four years. From there, they would quietly be shipped out west to become intertwined with a secret facility out in the middle of the Nevada desert. No one but a handful of people would have any idea they were there.
-- Annie Jacobsen, "Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base", RuBooks.org