Massive, Nazi-German Messerschmitt 323 “GIGANT” Aircraft, “Leviathan of the Skies,” Discovered Off Coast of Sardinia, Italy

One of the rarest of all WW2 German aircraft, an ME-323 “Gigant” was recently discovered underwater off the coastline of Sardinia near Italy. It is the only known example of its type in the world. (Photo: Luftwaffe)

In flight, the “Gigant” was quite impressive and featured unusual “in-line” multi-wheeled landing gear. (Photo: Luftwaffe)

2012 continues to be a year of amazing discoveries for WW2 history buffs and fans of military aviation. This time, what experts describe as an ultra-rare, “Nazi Leviathan,” or more accurately, a Messerschmitt 323, dubbed the “Gigant” (or GIANT), has been found some 200 feet underwater off the Sardinian coast—69 years after it had shot down by the fighter planes of the RAF.

The plane’s wreckage was located by Cristina Freghieri, a military history buff and diver. Ms. Freghieri described her elation at finding the rare aircraft:

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“It was a pure emotional charge to suddenly see the airplane in the veiled blue of the sea. First we saw a piece of a sheet of metal, then another until the plane appeared, in an explosion of images, in all its beauty. My heart skipped a beat.”

In this recent photo of the Gigant, one of its six propellers appears to still show some of its original, bright yellow Luftwaffe paint after almost 70 years under the sea. (Photo: Aldo Ferruci)

With a wingspan of 181 feet and 6 massive engines, the Gigant dwarfed other aircraft of the era.
(Photo: Luftwaffe)

In an article written for the UK’s Daily Mail, reporter Chris Parsons provided these details about the exciting discovery:

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“Experts have found the only surviving example of the Messerschmitt 323 ‘Gigant’ transport plane—the largest land-based transport aircraft from the War. It was on its way to the Tuscan city of Pistoia from its German base in Sardinia when it was hit by a Bristol Beaufighter fighter plane in July 1943 and plunged into waters off the Maddalena islands.”

The Gigant’s massive maw could swallow tanks, trucks and troops whole, with no problem. Originally based on a glider design, the ME-323 was of the war’s most unusual aircraft. (Photo: Luftwaffe)

The Gigant was indeed Germany’s “Leviathan of the Skies,” with a capacity of 130 troops, and 12 tons of equipment, it could transport almost anything required on a WW2 battlefield. It was also one of the largest aircraft of the war, measuring in at a whopping 92 ft long and a wingspan of 181 ft.

The Daily Mail article also had a quote from Freghieri’s friend and fellow discoverer, Aldo Ferruci, about the accidental way the plane was found, saying:

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“A small team of divers and amateur historians stumbled upon the wreckage hundreds of feet underwater, claiming the rusting Messerschmitt is amazingly still intact. Aldo Ferruci, a diving instructor and photographer who took pictures of the wreck, said, ‘It was just by chance that we found it because we were actually looking for a different plane wreck. We understood that the Me-323 was in a totally different location, so we were lucky to stumble upon it. It’s in good condition, almost intact, with the six engines still all in line.”

Luftwaffe personnel assist in loading (or unloading) a factory-fresh Kettenkrad tractor. The question now is… Who will be the first talented customizer to recreate this amazing image in 1:6 scale? (Photo: Luftwaffe)

Bottom Line: Other experts were quick to chime in, saying that the find is one of “great historical importance”and that they were aware of “no other complete surviving Messerschmitt-323 Giant in existence.” Exciting stuff! Sounds like another mission for GIjOE: Ocean Explorer!

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2 thoughts on “Massive, Nazi-German Messerschmitt 323 “GIGANT” Aircraft, “Leviathan of the Skies,” Discovered Off Coast of Sardinia, Italy

  1. GIJOEBILL says:

    Holy smokes that thing is huge!!
    Can you imagine it in 1/6th scale?

  2. J F Benedetto says:

    Off the top of my head, I believe that the 1/6 model would have a wingspan on the order of 30+ feet. (Me, I’ve always loved the Glider design it originated from, the Me 321. Problem was, it was so huge they had no aircraft that could tow it into the sky! After many trials and errors, they ended up converting the unpowered glider design to an six-engine transport,)

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