The Smithsonian’s Arado Ar-196
The Ar-196 at the Paul E. Garber Facility.Click thumbnail to view full-size
Arado Ar-196A-5, Werke Nummer 623167
Among the aircraft in the Smithsonian’s collection is an Arado Ar-196A-5, Werke Nummer (Serial Number) 623167. This aircraft is one of only 3 known Ar-196s in the world. The Smithsonian’s Ar-196, and the Ar-196 at Willow Grove in Pennsylvania, was on board the Prinz Eugen when the allies captured it at the end of World War II.
The Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen was the largest German Navy ship to survive World War II. The Prinz Eugen is best known for sailing with the Battleship Bismarck and as being one of the ships that made The Channel Dash. The Ar-196A-5s did not enter service until 1943 so these aircraft were not involved in these combats. The Ar-196’s primary mission was artillery spotting. The Prinz Eugen bombarded Tukum on August 19 and 20, 1944. The Prinz Eugen carried out artillery support operations from October 1944-April 1945. The Smithsonian’s Ar-196 logged 12 flight hours during the war.
At the end of the war the allies split up the surviving German ships between them. The U.S. got the Prinz Eugen. The Prinz Eugen was sailed to the Bikini Atoll to be a target in atomic bomb tests. The U.S. Navy removed the Prinz Eugen’s catapult for evaluations. It was during these catapult evaluations that the Air and Space Museum’s Ar-196s logged an additional 4 flight hours.
The two Ar-196s were displayed at Willow Grove in the mid-1950s. The National Air & Space Museum acquired its Ar-196 from Willow Grove in the 1960s. It was loaned to the U.S. Naval Air Museum at Pensacola, Florida in 1971. The National Air & Space Museum got their Ar-196 back in 1988 and stored it in the Paul E. Garber facility at Silver Hill, Maryland. A team of National Air & Space Museum restorers will probably begin restoration of this aircraft in 2015. It is next in line to be restored after the team completes its current project, a He-219.
 The Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green, © 1970 William Green.
The Arado Ar-196 in Combat
The most notable action involving the Ar-196 happened early in the war. On May 5, 1940 two Ar-196s, piloted by Lieutenants Guenther Mehrens and Karl Schmidt, captured the British submarine H.M.S Seal.[i] The submarine had been damaged by a mine and was on the surface when the Ar-196s spotted it. The Ar-196s disabled the submarine and her captain, Lieutenant-Commander Rupert P. Lonsdale, surrendered the ship.
The Battleship Bismarck launched an Ar-196 in an unsuccessful attempt to drive away an R.A.F. Catalina that was shadowing it. Later, when the Bismarck’s situation seemed hopeless, an attempt was made to have ship’s Ar-196s fly to France with letters from the ship’s sailors. A catapult malfunction prevented this mission from happening. The Ar-196 was not a fighter plane but, 26 Ar-196s based near the Bay of Biscay did fly patrols to intercept R.A.F. Whitleys which were on anti-submarine patrols.[ii] Ar-196 aircrews claimed Whitleys of RAF Squadron 51 on July 12, August 3, and September 6, 1942.[iii] Probably the last air victory for an Ar-196 in the Bay of Biscay occurred on January 29, 1943. An Ar-196, piloted by Oberleutnant Heinz Wurm, and ground gunners shot down an A-20 Boston of RAF 226 Squadron. In that combat FW-190s shot down three Spitfires for the loss of one FW-190.[iv]
[i] The Luftwaffe War Diaries, by Cajus Bekker, © 1966 by Macdonald &Company, Ltd.
[ii] Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green, © 1970 .
[iii] Forum 12 o’clock.net (http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=41491) Chris Goss
[iv] Asisbiz.com (http://www.asisbiz.com/Luftwaffe/SAGr-128.html).