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The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch

Overview

Fieseler Flugzeugbau began developing the Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (Stork) in 1935. The plane’s designers had short takeoffs and landings, and visibility for the crew in mind. The Fi 156 made its first flight on May 24, 1936.[i] Production till the end of World War II was almost 2,900 aircraft. Production continued post-war in France and Czechoslovakia. The saying went the Storch went wherever the Wehrmacht went. About 8% of the Fi 156s went to Germany’s allies. The Soviet Union was also scheduled to produce Fi 156s but the Wehrmacht overran the plant when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.[ii] After France’s liberation Morane-Saulnier produced these aircraft as the Morane-Saulnier MS.505. Production of the MS.505 continued until 1965. France retired these aircraft in 1970. Czechoslovakia also built postwar Fi 156s. The Czech version, during and after the war, was the Mraz K.65 Cap.[iii] The Fi 156 was used by at least 23 countries.

A Fi 156 normally had aft 7.9mm (.303 caliber) machine gun. This was considered “respect armament” rather than a credible threat to enemy fighters. The main defense was its low speed and maneuverability. The Storch’s speed range was 32-108 mph. With an 8 mph (13 km/h) wind its takeoff run was about 55 yards (50 meters) and landing run under 19 yards (17 meters).[iv]


[i] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes © HarperCollins Publishers 2005. P160.

[ii] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970

[iii] History of War, Mraz K.65 Cap, Mraz K.65 Cap (historyofwar.org), last accessed 8/22/2021.

[iv] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970

In Service

The Storch made its first public appearance at an international flying meeting in Zurich, Switzerland on August 1, 1937.[i] The Fi 156 first saw combat service in 1937 with the German Condor Legion. They were used as staff transport and utility aircraft.[ii] The Fi 156’s official presentation to the German military came on Army Day in March 1939.[iii]

In World War II the Storch took on the additional duties of artillery spotting, air ambulance, pilot rescue, cable laying, counter insurgency, and various special missions.[iv] Field Marshalls Erwin Rommel, Albert Kesselring, and Bernard Montgomery were among the field commanders who used the Fi 156.[v] When the allies shot down Kesselring’s Storch he switched to the Fw 189.[vi]

On November 23, 1941 Unteroffizer Konrad Hupp crashed in his Fi 156. The next day a South African Air Force Boston fell to the guns of Oberfeldwebel Espnenlaub of JG 27. Two Storches, one flown by Hauptmann Heinz Krossenberg, commander of the Wϋstenstaffel, rescued the four Boston crewmen. A Storch flew the Boston pilot, Lt. B.G. Roxburgh to Derna for internment, Unteroffizer Hupp was also on that flight.[vii] The next day Krossenberg was on a search and rescue mission when Royal Australian Air Force P-40 Tomahawk pilot, Sergeant Rex K. Wilson, shot down Krossenberg. Krossenberg and his passengers survived the crash. Subsequent Tomahawk strafing runs wounded Leutnant Gorny, a passenger.[viii]

On May 12, 1942 Beaufighters and Kittyhawks shot down 11 out of 14 Junkers Ju 52 transports. Two Ju 52s crash landed in Africa. The other nine crashed in the Mediterranean Sea. Each transport was carrying 20 soldiers.[ix] Hauptmann Heinz Krossenberg, commander a Fi 156 Squadron, flew out to locate and report any survivors he found in the water. He had life vests with him that he threw to any survivors he found. He threw out all the life vests on board, including his own. An Allied aircraft shot down and killed Krossenberg. Krossenberg was awarded the Knights Cross.[x]

Soviet ace Alexander Pokryshkin scored his 50th air victory against a Storch. It was not a chance kill. On a free hunt he flew along the routes of enemy liaison aircraft. On this mission he found an Fi 156 and shot it down.[xi]

On September 8, 1943 Italy surrendered and subsequently switched sides. On September 12 former dictator Benito Mussolini was under arrest at the Hotel Camp Imperatore. The hotel was on top of Gran Sasso Massif and only accessible by cable car. SS-Hauptsturmfϋhrer Otto Skorzeny[xii] led the operation to rescue Mussolini. His initial plan to get Mussolini off the mountain was with a Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 helicopter. The helicopter became unserviceable and Skorzeny used a Storch for the mission.[xiii]

In April, 1945 an Fi 156 pilot got lost in a fog and landed in Akesholm, Sweden. Sweden interned the aircraft. This Storch is now in the Brussels Air Museum.[xiv]

On April 11, 1945, an American L-4 Grasshopper, a military version of the Piper Cub, was on an observation mission. Its crew, pilot First Lieutenant Duane Francis and observer Second Lieutenant Bill Martin, spotted a Fiesler Storch. The aircraft were unarmed. Francis dived towards the Storch. Francis and Martin opened fire with their Colt 45 handguns. They shot down the Storch and wounded its observer. Francis and Martin landed and captured the Fi 156’s crew.[xv]

On April 26, 1945 Generalobertst Ritter von Greim and test pilot Hanna Reitsch were making their way to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin. An enlisted pilot flew them to Gatow, Berlin. Von Greim learned all approaches to the bunker were in Soviet hands. Hanna Reitsch suggested they get to the bunker by flying in a Fiesler Storch. Von Greim flew out of Gatow with Reitsch in the rear seat. When groundfire damaged the aircraft and knocked von Greim unconscious Reitsch took over the controls. She landed on the heavily cratered Bismarckstrasse.[xvi]


[i] Classic Warbirds, Fieseler Storch, Fieseler Storch | Classic Warbirds, last accessed, 8/22/2021.

[ii] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970

[iii] Mutley’s Hangar, Fieseler Storch Fi-156 by Francios Dumas, Fieseler Storch Fi-156 Revew (mutleyshangar.com), last accessed, 8/22/2021.

[iv] Fieseler Fi 156 Overview, Fieseler Fi 156 - Overview (historyofwar.org), last accessed, 8/22/2021.

[v] Fieseler Fi 156 Overview, Fieseler Fi 156 - Overview (historyofwar.org), last accessed, 8/22/2021.

[vi] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970

[vii] The Crusader Project, wuestennotstaffel – The Crusader Project (rommelsriposte.com), last accessed 8/28/2021.

[viii] The Crusader Project, wuestennotstaffel – The Crusader Project (rommelsriposte.com), last accessed 8/28/2021.

[ix] Globe at War, How The Air War in the Mediterranean Theater Undermined Germany’s Strategic Effort in 1942, How The Air War in the Mediterranean Theater Undermined Germany's Strategic Effort in 1942 | The Globe at War, last accessed 8/28/2021.

[x] Traces of War, Kroseberg, Heinz Gustav - TracesOfWar.com, last accessed, 8/28/2021.

[xi] Warfare History Network, Innovative Soviet Fighter Ace, by Christopher J. Chlon, Innovative Soviet Fighter Ace - Warfare History Network, last accessed 8/28/2021.

[xii] SS-Hauptsturmfϋhrer was equivalent to a U.S./UK army Captain. Otto Skorzeny finish the was as an SS-Oversturmbannfϋhrer, equivalent to a U.S./UK army Lieutenant Colonel.

[xiii] Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970

[xiv] Aerial Visuals Airframe Dossier, Aerial Visuals - Airframe Dossier - Fiesler S-14B Storch, s/n 3822 SweAF, c/n 5503, last accessed 8/28/2021.

[xv] Grasshopper vs Fieseler Storch – WW2’s Weirdest Dogfight, Mark Felton Productions, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAf0maieLjs, last accessed 8/22/2021. Some accounts inaccurately claim this was the last air victory of World War II.

[xvi] A History of the Luftwaffe 1915-1945 by John Killen, © 1967.

Fi 156C-3 Specifications

Source: Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green (c) 1970.

Engine Rating at Take Off

240 hp

Armament

1x7.9mm (.3030 Cal.) M.G.

Max Speed (Sea Level)

109 mph

Cruising Speed (3,280 ft.)

93 mph

Economical Cruising Speed

81 mph

Range

240 miles @ 93 mph @ 3,280 ft

Initial Climb

905 ft/min

Time to 3,280 feet

4.1 minutes

Service Ceiling

15,090 feet

Weight Empty

2,050 lb

Normal Load

2,920 lb

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Robert Sacchi

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 29, 2021:

Thank you MG Singh Emge for reading and commenting. There are no doubt many more stories surrounding the Fi 156. It was extensively flown. This type of aircraft generally don't make the headlines.

I'm glad you got to my story in time to comment. I wish they would make it so people could continue to comment on the story.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 29, 2021:

Very interesting article. I had a vague idea but you added a lot of information for me. Thank you.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 29, 2021:

Thanks for another airplane background article. Our computer has been in the shop for many days, so it is hit or miss my being able to comment. I am glad I got to yours before it got to Discover.

Robert Sacchi (author) on August 29, 2021:

Thank you both for reading and commenting. The fighters and bombers usually get the most publicity but there air forces have use for many other aircraft. I read an account that claims an American in a parachute shot down a Japanese Zero with a handgun. I'll let others judge the veracity of that account. The Storch was well liked and had a big advantage in short takeoffs and landings.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 29, 2021:

This is an interesting article, Robert. I don't think I have heard of another story where handguns were used to take down a plane.

These planes were obviously well-liked at the time since several countries were making a version of it. I enjoyed reading this informative article.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 28, 2021:

This is a fascinating collection of accounts of the Storch in service. Given its light armoury I wondered how effective it would have been in war. But clearly it fulfilled a useful purpose.

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