The Me262 was the first operational jet fighter and its engines gave it a massive advantage in speed versus the propeller driven aircraft used in WWII. This miracle weapon was expected to turn the tides of the war in the air. However according to the standard accounts Hitler instead wanted to use it as a bomber. This meant that lengthy modifications had to be made and so much time was lost than when it finally went into mass production the war was almost over.
For example Field Marshall Erhard Milch who was in charge of aircraft production says in his memoirs ‘The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe: The Life of Field Marshall Erhard Milch’, p316 ‘In desperation the field marshal appealed to Hitler to think again, but he was subjected to a torrent of abuse; and before he could control himself he shouted back, ‘Mein Führer, the smallest infant can see that this is a fighter, not a bomber aircraft!’This story is satisfying on an emotional level as it has the dumb dictator who doesn’t listen to anyone and a miracle weapon that could have changed the outcome of the war. However both parts are wrong.
According to ‘The Last Year Of The Luftwaffe: May 1944-May 1945’ by aviation historian Alfred Price, p147-8:There can be no doubt that if it had gone into action in sufficient numbers in the fighter role, the Me 262 could have brought to a halt the daylight attacks on German industry by B-17s and B-24s. In May 1944 it had seemed that the large-scale operational use of the Me 262 was imminent. Components for airframes were being turned out in large numbers at numerous small factories dispersed throughout the country, and final assembly of Me 262s was moving ahead rapidly. The restricting factor was the Jumo 004 engine that powered the new fighter. The 004 was the first turbojet engine in the world to enter pilot production and initially its average running life was only about 10hr. That was too low for general service use, and until it was improved the design could not be frozen for mass production to begin. When engineers face technical problems never previously encountered, it is impossible to predict how long it will take to find a solution - hence the over-optimistic noises being made in May 1944 on when the 004 would be ready for mass production……………………………………………. It has become part of the accepted wisdom about the Luftwaffe that Hitler's decision was instrumental in preventing the large-scale deployment of the Me 262 in the fighter force. In fact his edict was not the main reason, or even a major reason, for the failure to deploy the fighter in the hoped-for numbers. Not until August 1944 was the average running life of the 004 jet engine raised to 25hr; that was still a very low figure, but it meant that the design could be frozen and mass production could begin. In September Hitler rescinded his order that all new Me 262s be delivered as fighter-bombers. By then more than a hundred fighter airframes were sitting around without engines, and as soon as 004s became available these aircraft were completed and delivered to the Luftwaffe. In fact Hitler's order delayed the introduction of the Me 262 into service in the fighter role by only about three weeks. For the real reason for the failure to deploy the fighter in large numbers, we must look elsewhere.
As a completely new combat aircraft, the Me 262 suffered its share of teething troubles when it entered service. Despite energetic efforts to eradicate these, serviceability was poor and its sortie rate was correspondingly low during the latter part of 1944.The author also finds Hitler’s idea to turn the Me262 into a fast bomber reasonable:
Much has been written about the delay to the Me 262 programme supposedly imposed by Hitler's edict that initially the aircraft be used as a fighter-bomber rather than an air defence fighter. Few commentators have considered the possibility that Hitler's edict might have been correct in military terms, and this author believes it was. If the Allied landings in Normandy had run into serious difficulties - as actually happened to American troops coming ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day - repeated bombing and strafing attacks from a few score Me 262s could have tipped the balance and changed the operation from one that just succeeded to one that failed with heavy loss of life. If the jet aircraft were available only in small numbers they were better employed as fighter-bombers against the beach-head than in high-altitude jousts with Allied fighters aloof from the troops coming ashore. Yet the point is purely academic, for in June 1944 the Me 262 was quite unready for operations in any role.For comparison’s sake an Arado Ar 234 prototype was able to penetrate Allied fighter defenses and take detailed pictures of the Normandy beaches on August 2nd 1944, thus performing a task that the entire recon force in the West was not capable of.
Note: Me262 picture available from Wikipedia Commons user Softeis