Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-3 (Emil)

Place in history: Introduced in 1935, the Messerschmitt Bf 109 was the first modern fighter. A monoplane, with all-metal stressed-skin construction, enclosed cockpit and retractable landing gear, it had no equal. The original Bf 109 could fly 290 mph, about 100 mph faster than most other military craft. More Bf 109s were produced in ten years of production than any other aircraft in history, with approximately 35,000 units delivered. Though Allied fighters eventually surpassed it in speed, maneuverability, and firepower, the Bf 109 remained in service until Germany's surrender.

This aircraft: This Bf 109-E was manufactured in Germany and deployed in October 1939. Piloted by Eduard Hemmerling, it flew primarily over France. Hemmerling shot down a British Spitfire on July 7, 1940, while escorting Stuka dive-bombers that were attacking British ships in Dover harbor. Later that month he destroyed a British Blenheim bomber and another British plane. But his own aircraft was mortally wounded, and Hemmerling turned back toward France. His failing airplane crashed off the coast of Cap Blanc Nez, killing the 27-year-old pilot. In 1988, a man walking on the beach near Calais noticed a piece of metal sticking out of the sand – the tip of this plane's wing.

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