With impressive short take-off and landing performance the Storch would be used on almost every front by the German armed forces. Just over 2,500 would be built with the Fiesler Storch
used by both Albert Kesserling and Erwin Rommel and was also used to rescue Benito Mussolini.
The Fieseler Storch came to life when the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) required a new aircraft which had good short take-off and landing performance (STOL), which lead to Fieseler,
Focke-Wulf, Messerschmitt and Siebel all submitting designs. Fieseler's design allowed for a three man crew, featured fixed landing gear, a high wing which incorporated Fieseler's own
high-lift devices and had its power supplied by an Argus inverted-Vee piston engine.
Three prototype Storch aircraft were produced designated as Fi 156 V1, V2 & V3, with the first flight on the 24th May 1936, with testing showing that the STOL expectations were bettered
by the type. It could land in around 70ft and take off in about 200ft, in the right conditions. A fourth prototype Fi 156 V4 was produced and featured skis instead of a landing gear. This
was followed by a Fi 156 V5 pre-production Storch.
During the early part of 1937 ten Fi 156A-0 were built and these were used for testing and service evaluation and in July 1937 the public saw the new aircraft for the first time when a
Fi 156A-0 appeared at a international flying meeting, by which time production of the Fi 156A-1 was already underway. A Fi 156B which featured a number of small changes was planned but
ultimately never entered production.
So the next variant to enter service was the C series and a pre-production Fi 156C-0, based on the Fi 156A-1, was produced. The C series introduced a rear-firing 7.92mm machine-gun thanks
to the glazing in the rear-cabin being raised. So the Fi 156C-1 would be the first production version and was used for staff transport and liaison, with the Fi 156C-2 used in two different
roles depending on when they were built. Some would have a crew of two and a top speed of 109mph and be used for reconnaissance whilst others could carry a single stretcher for medical
evacuation. Both of these, however, would be superseded by the Fi 156C-3 and it's 'universal cockpit'. The C-3 also had a change of engine with the Argus As 10P engine being fitted. The
last of the C series was the Fi 156C-5 which could carry either a drop tank or camera on it's fuselage. With dust and sand filters installed tropical versions of the C-3 and C-5 appeared.
It was to be the Fi 156D-1 which would be the last production version and as with the A & C series a pre-production version was built, designation Fi 156D-0, and whilst this versions
powerplant was the Argus As 10C the production version was powered by the 10P engine. A tropical D-1 was also produced.
An Fi 156E-0 version which was designed to operate on rough terrain never went past the pre-production version with a total of ten built. Morane-Saulnier built two five seat versions
during World War 2 which were for civil use and known as Fi 256.
The confirmation of the Storch's versatility was that the aircraft could be found almost everywhere the German armed forces were based. And it would be a Fi 156 which on the 12th September
1943 took part in the rescue of the imprisoned Benito Mussolini from a hotel in the Apennine mountains. The Fieseler Storch was also the last dogfight victim of the Western Front when on the
12th April 1945 a Piper L-4 Grasshopper and it's occupants used their .45 calibre pistols and forced the Storch to land and it's crew to surrender.
In total 2,549 Fieseler Storchs were produced with Morane-Saulnier and Mraz, who had built the type during the Second World War for the Luftwaffe, continuing production of the type post-war
under new designations. The Storch was also used by both Kesselring and Rommel and a captured Fi 156 was to become Field Marshal Montgormery's personal plane.