The Messerschmitt story begins with Professor Willy Messerschmitt joining the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1927 and forming a design team. He promoted a concept he called "light weight construction" in which many typically separate load-bearing parts were merged into a single re-enforced firewall, thereby saving weight and improving performance. The first true test of the concept was in the Bf 108 Taifun sports-plane, which would soon be setting all sorts of records. Based on this performance the company was invited to submit a design for the Luftwaffe's 1935 fighter contest, winning it with the Bf 109 based on the same construction methods.
From this point on Messerschmitt became a favourite of the Nazi party, as much for his designs as his political abilities and the factory location in southern Germany away from the "clumping" of aviation firms on the northern coast. Messerschmitt AG was incorporated as a separate company on July 11, 1938, with Willy Messerschmitt as chairman and managing director. The renaming of Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to Messerschmitt AG on that date, resulted in the all future types being designated Me instead of Bf. Existing types, such as 109 and 110, retained their earlier designation in official documents, although sometimes the newer designations was used as well.
During the war Messerschmitt became a major design supplier, their Bf 109 and Bf 110 forming the vast majority of fighter strength for the first half of the war. Several other designs were also ordered, including the enormous Me 321 Gigant transport glider, and its six-engined follow on, the Me 323. However for the second half of the war, Messerschmitt turned almost entirely to jet-powered designs, producing the first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 Schwalbe. They also produced the DFS-designed Me 163 Komet, the first, and only, rocket-powered design to enter service.
Late in the war, Messerschmitt also worked on a heavy "Amerikabomber" design, the Me 264, which flew in prototype form but was too late to see combat.
In 1968 Messerschmitt AG merged with Bolkow, and one year later the aviation department of Blohm + Voss was added. The company then changed their name to Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm. In 1989 it was taken over by Daimler Benz Aerospace AG
A well known appearance of the Messerschmitt is in Terry Gilliam's Brazil, to great effect.