If you are a regular visitor here you will know that I will often look at the Luftwaffe content to be seen in the monthly and bi-monthly magazines that are published by our European neighbours. I have a subscription to 'Avions' and pick up issues of 'Aérojournal' from the local supermarket. 'Flugzeug Classic' is usually purchased from the Geramond website or ebay.de as postage from Germany can be expensive. As our own Key Publishing attempts (bizarrely) to turn 'Flypast' into 'Aviation News' and 'Aeroplane' into 'Flypast' - no doubt in the face of some competition from 'Britain at War' and even the rather hit-and-miss 'Iron Cross' - there is no doubt that titles such as 'Flugzeug Classic', 'Avions' and 'Aérojournal' leave our own UK-based titles floundering in their slipstream. Not a metaphor for what is happening in the wider world. I hope. Try one and see for yourself.
Markus and his team at Geramond.de (Flugzeug Classic) continue to produce a very nice magazine with a wide range of Luftwaffe-related features. (along with plenty of other content too) In the January 2021 issue Peter Schmoll completes his account of the life and times of JG 52 pilot Ernst Stengl in "Fight for survival". Accounts from Jagdflieger in the East during 1945 are pretty rare and this is a very detailed one. Stengl describes endless strafing and 'freie Jagd' missions against and over Russian columns during early 1945. On 20 January Stengl was hit by ground fire and made a forced landing some 10 kms behind the front lines, east of the Oder. Making his way through woods to the banks of the river he recalls the constant engine noise of Soviet columns moving up. Unable to locate any sort of boat or barge to cross in, Stengl took the risk of entering the freezing water with his clothes/uniform bundled inside his Lederkombi held above his head, and half-wading, half-swimming managed to reach the western bank. By March 1945 Stengl was flying two to three resupply sorties per day into the besieged 'fortress' of Breslau - " solange wir genügend Versorgungsbehältern und Sprit hatten.." ('or as long as we had resupply cannisters and fuel available...'). According to the author the contents of their resupply canisters were on one occasion emptied of food, chocolates and cigarettes on the orders of the Gestapo since only weapons and munitions were to be dropped on the beleaguered city. Stengl also describes his last - and 17th victory - also in March, prior to his transfer with Staffelkapitän Oblt.Neuböck to II./JG 52 on 17 April 1945.
Opening his piece with a brief account of events and using claims data from Johannes Matthews, author Zamansky constructs a picture of the movements of Jagdgruppen from the East to the Mediterranean during 1942 as the Soviet front was slowly ‘denuded’ of key resources. I./JG 53 is one unit under the spotlight, removed from the fighting around Stalingrad in late September 1942 – their claims total for the single month of September 1942 was nearly 350 Soviet machines - rather more than the figure achieved by III./JG 53 in the 3-month period June-October 1941 (highest JG 53 scorers in the East during 1941). They were followed by Gruppen of JG 77 and JG 51. The author points out that nothing replaced JG 77 in the East and by the time JG 27 left Africa it was in a very poor state. While all of its Gruppen eventually gathered in Austria to defend the southern part of the Reich, elements of one Gruppe remained in the Mediterranean until well into 1944. The key point is that the resources sent to Rommel may have been of much more use elsewhere, also a point made forcefully by others, such as J-L Roba in his recent ‘Luftwaffe in Africa’ (Casemate). Ultimately, Rommel neglected the problem of supply far too much and, worse, attracted Luftwaffe units to Africa that would have been more useful in Sicily operating against Malta..( or the USSR.)
“ ..In assessing Rommel and the campaign, it is important to remember that Germany was weaker than Britain, even Britain alone. Therefore, after Britain had held out in 1940, Germany had very few good strategic choices left. The attack on the USSR was a desperate choice, but the best choice remaining. […] the problem for the Germans was that giving up Africa would only draw the noose tighter around their necks. After Alamein, evacuation was the obvious choice, but this had equally obvious implications, such as "the beginning" of the end..."
When it comes to unit movements from East to South in 1942, the movement of Kampfgruppen was possibly even more significant but not dealt with in Dan Zamansky's piece. Hopefully the author will be given the chance to publish more on this. Like the fighter forces taken from the East, a number of Stuka and Transport Gruppen transferred to Africa not to mention elements of ZG 26 (Heller of 8./ZG 26 won his RK in Africa) and the Ju 88s of LG 1 and it was these forces that contributed chiefly to the DAK's early successes of course. It could even be argued that the German fighter force - with the pilots’ focus on 'acedom' - did not have the 'crucial' impact in either theater as, say, the Gruppen of Stuka Geschwader. After all German fighters went after other fighters and not for example Allied bombers. That said the Stukas operated with success into 1943 in Africa so while the German fighters were outnumbered this strongly indicates that " Marseille and his fellow pilots were as good at tactical bomber escort as they were at air combat..".
The article concludes with a 're-statement' of the author’s somewhat ‘controversial’ thesis that the USSR's role in the war is exaggerated – the author's contention briefly put is that the movement of forces away from the East took place as early as 1942 so that fighting the Western Allies became the dominant focus of Germany's war.
The latest issue of 'Avions' - the best bi-monthly French aviation magazine* - covers RAF Lysanders in France (J-L Roba) and Mikhail Timine looks at some long-range Zerstörer sorties flown on the opening day of Barbarossa. Elsewhere 'Avions' have also republished the long OOP and hard to find "Romanian Black Hussars" in this new 'Special' edition entitled "Stukisti" - an account of the Romanian Grupul 3 Picaj Stukas in action by J-L Roba and Cristian Craciunoiu. Other units and aircraft types flying in Romania are also covered to a lesser extent with details of training carried out by the experienced airmen of St.G. 77 and Grupul 3 escort flown by the Bf 110s of Küstenstaffel Krim. Text in French. The Luftwaffe blog extends sincere thanks to co-author Jean-Louis Roba for a review copy of 'Stukisti'..
The prolific J-L Roba also has a long feature in the latest Aérojournal - the best bi-monthly French aviation magazine* - in the form of a lengthy bio of JG 77 56-victory RKT Eduard Isken which features many rare images from the albums of JG 77 veterans. Incidentally issue no. 79 also covers the aerial battles over Kasserine (Tunisia) during early 1943. In addition to Chris Goss on the Battle of Britain, recent issues of Yannis Khadari's magazine continue to evoke the spirit of CJE with very nice multi-part features on JG 26 in the Westfeldzug (Philippe Saintes) and a thorough sixteen-page account by J-L Roba of 2.(H)/14 with plenty of colour and artworks! Issue 77 covered Luftwaffe 'rockets and missiles' in a fantastic 40-page spread with outstanding artworks, photographic content and reproductions of period blueprints. Highly recommended. Having used the service a number of times now I can confirm that back issues are speedily and professionally shipped via http://caraktere.com Keep an eye on the website too for a forthcoming 'Encyclopedia of Luftwaffe fighters' from the same publisher.