Jerry’s Glorious ‘Gustav’
Björn Hellenius describes the stunning restoration of the Military Aviation Museum’s Bf 109G-4 ‘Black 1’
Jagdgeschwader 52 (JG 52) fighter ace Viktor Petermann survived World War Two after being credited with 64 victories. But almost three years on the Eastern Front did not come without hazard.
On three occasions the Luftwaffe ace (who was awarded the Knights Cross of the Iron Cross) force-landed his aircraft, the last resulting in severe injuries and an amputated arm. Amazingly, despite the wounds, he returned to active flying and claimed yet more kills.
One of his forced landings was on June 6, 1943 after combat with a Yak-1, which fired rounds into his oil cooler. Setting down his Messerschmitt Bf 109G-4 on its belly behind Soviet lines, Petermann managed to avoid capture by the Red Army and returned to his unit three days later.
His aircraft, Bf 109G-4 W.Nr. 19257 ‘Black 8’, inspired an ambitious attempt to restore an example of the type to airworthy condition.
Renowned warbird collector Gerald ‘Jerry’ Yagen, based in Pungo, Virginia Beach, USA, created something that in many ways is more than just an everyday aircraft collection. His Military Aviation Museum (MAM), which focuses on the aerial combat of both world wars, is where attention to detail is everywhere.
All the flying machines operate from a grass strip, whether it’s the Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz, F4U Corsair, Spitfire or the heavier B-25 Mitchell. Soon the action will be observed and directed from an original RAF/USAAF watch office, taken apart and shipped in its entirety from Goxhill, Lincolnshire, UK, to MAM, where reconstruction began in 2014. The tower is now fully erected, brick by brick, and is said to be as authentic as it gets.
Visitors can walk among the aircraft without any boundaries or fences – not so much as a rope. Jerry told FlyPast: “I wanted to create a place where people can step back in time to experience and breathe in the atmosphere of the era for a while.”
Of course, there are risks involved with having people walking freely among all the treasures, as Jerry explained: “Once I had to tell a fellow who had his photo taken by his girlfriend that he perhaps should not sit in the cockpit of my Corsair!”
The main building of the museum is flanked by two hangars, themed for army and navy, featuring mainly Allied fighters of World War Two. Great War machines are stored and displayed at the other end of the field in a replica wooden hangar, partly strengthened with metal beams and brackets to withstand Virginia hurricanes and thunderstorms. Next to it is Jerry’s Fighter Factory facility, where all repair and maintenance work is carried out by the museum’s own technicians.
The building adjacent to the Fighter Factory is quite special too: a genuine World War Two German Luftwaffe hangar. It was built as Hangar 6 at Cottbus Army Airfield in 1934 and used during the war by flight schools, and the Focke-Wulf company for aircraft storage and assembly.
Being an important part of Focke-Wulf Ta 152 production made it a target for a US Eighth Air Force bombing raid towards the end of the war. However, the hangar was repaired and remained in use at Cottbus until 2004. When the base closed, MAM was able to acquire it and transport it to the US.
The rest of this article is in the October issue of FlyPast. It’s available in UK shops via the website – www.flypast.com. Alternatively, you can download a digital edition from www.pocketmags.com – simply search ‘FlyPast’.