In the news: Giant Messerschmitt found off the coast of Sardinia

According to the British newspaper The Telegraph (13 September 2012) a team of Italian researchers led by Cristina Freghieri recently discovered a Messerschmitt 323 Gigant (Giant) some 200 feet below the surface of the Mediterranean. The enormous aircraft had been shot down by an RAF Beaufighter in 1943, but was still largely intact after almost seventy years.

The pictures below show Me 323s in operation during WWII. With a wingspan of 181 feet, the Me 323 would have dwarfed even the largest Allied bomber and made the puny Spitfire look like an oversized mosquito. [An earlier glider version (the Me 321) had been ordered for the Wehrmacht with Operation Sealion in mind].

The Me 323s suffered badly in the Mediterranean campaign. Some twenty or so were shot down by Allied fighters in a single day whilst attempting to fly to Tunisia to supply the Afrika Korps. Since only about 200 Me 323s (and the glider version, Me 321s) were ever built, the losses that day constituted 10% of the total production!

Despite its slow speed (maximum 136 mph), the Messerschmitt 323 was one of the most successful German transport planes of WWII. Powered by six (French) Gnôme-Rhône engines, it could carry 130 troops or 10 tons of freight over a range of 685 miles.

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