I am Oberleutnant Heini Opitz of Test-Commando 16 and this is not a war story. It's the story of a lunatic revolution-the inmates with Bedlam's keys-and the boys all call me Pitz.

We fly (fly? ride!) the Messerschmitt 163, the first manned rocket-powered aircraft, the first aircraft in the world to exceed a thousand kilometers an hour in level flight, and in statistical terms the most dangerous aircraft ever built in a series. We sit in these squat fireworks with wings and are skyrocketed upwards eight thousand meters in under a minute to bring down the Allied bombers. Mostly we bring down ourselves.

(We move at such speeds that they can barely touch us with their defensive fire, and we have little more success shooting at them.) The emblem of our fighter wing is an escutcheon depicting a jet-propelled silhouette of a flea, bracketed by the inscription Like a flea-but oho! We strap ourselves in and lock down the canopies and plug our helmets'R/T leads into the radios and give our thumbs up, and before we ignite the witches' cauldrons behind our rear ends we shout as loudly as we can into our masks, “Climb aboard the mighty flea!”

Our field controllers know to pull away their earphones at the last minute. It's a tradition. We've been doing it for weeks.

On our nose shield we have a little emblem of Baron Munchhausen riding his cannonball.

We are all good Germans but we've stopped caring about the war. They'll bomb Leipzig flat or they won't; either way we'll be tearing their engines out by the roots with our cannons.

If anything ever goes right. Either way we go up and come down, skidding and bouncing and exploding across our grassy airstrip. Either way we lose two pilots and four aircraft per week. Either way sense has long since abandoned us.

Our aircraft's designation is Komet, which suggests that someone in Aircraft Development at Messerschmitt A.G. still has some wit: sorties, and careers, with the thing tend to be nasty, brutish and short. Wörndl-who received his certificate in philosophy from Heidelberg-says they should have named it the Hobbes.