Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A new book in my library - " Nachts über den Wolken. Ein Fliegerleben, wie es wirklich war - Erinnerungen an den Zweiten Weltkrieg " Wolfgang Zebrowski SKG 10 - review Osprey Duel Bf 110 vs Lancaster (1942-45)

 a blog update for bibliophiles in the spirit of my favourite thread at " A new book in my library.."  Some new and not so new Luftwaffe books..

" Nachts über den Wolken. Ein Fliegerleben, wie es wirklich war - Erinnerungen an den Zweiten Weltkrieg " is Wolfgang Zebrowski's 144-page tale of combat flying with SKG 10 under Maj. Kurt Dahlmann. Zebrowski was posted to 1./SKG 10 in France in early 1944 and flew 144 combat sorties at the controls of Fw 190 G " Red 2"surviving night raids over England and the Normandy  invasion front. During the later stages of the war he saw action over the Ardennes and even attempted to drop ordnance on the bridge at Remagen. Memoirs from Fw 190 pilots are not exactly thick on the ground and Zebrowski was one of the few survivors from his Staffel. " Nights above the clouds " is written in simple straight forward Fliegersprache German. This second printing appeared in 1997, copies are available from re-sellers for less than 10 euros. 

New from Mushroom - nice profile artwork, handbook drawings, museum walkarounds and some text in handy A-5 format. You may have seen much of it before but hard to resist when its this well done and, in this easy-to-read format, great for the morning commute. Must get their Storch and Taifun volumes - and please hurry up with the Hs 123 book, Roger!

New from German publisher Geramond is the latest issue of Flugzeug Classic's "Special" series (No 11 covers Me 262 projects, Misteln, helicopters and liaison types) which is building into encyclopedic coverage of all Luftwaffe types. Similar to Lela Presse's style of monograph these 100-page A-4 soft cover 'magazines' are available in the UK from The Book Depository or even Amazon. If you don't read German each issue features around 250 photos and profiles for around £10. Recommended.

Thompson produced the Classic Pubs Seeflieger volume with Dave Wadman so this volume from Fonthill Media should be recommended. Individual chapters cover all the Küstenfliegergruppen in 160 pages, so unfortunately this will not provide the sort of coverage that Roba gave us in his huge Luftwaffe Seaplanes volumes from Lela Presse. I didn't really see the point of devoting chapter 3 - with one paragraph printed twice - to camouflage and markings. The AS/88 is covered in an appendix at the end of the volume.

 This is Volume 1 and Volume 2 is also out now- Red Kite/ Wingleader's 'Luftwaffe Crash Archive'. While most of the aircraft are familiar a lot of the pictures are not. Nor are the Air Intelligence and police crash reports around which the text is organised.

 Another new series from Kagero entitled "Units". I picked up the JG 54 and Stukageschwader Immelmann titles, both for less than the price of an EagleCals decal sheet. You get photographs, interesting captions, colour profiles in a readable 32-page booklet, along with decals for four machines in three scales - what more could any JG 54 fan want? Well, better photo and text print quality for a start - here it is frankly abysmal and the choice of aircraft for the decals/profile artwork somewhat less than stunning. However their latest 'Topcolors' (no. 34) " Messerschmitt Bf 109s over the Med -Part 1"  is superb with some great subjects "sourced" from and inspired by Erik Mombeek's Luftwaffe Gallery series and Prien's Jagdfliegerverbaende series

 New from Claes Sundin , a work of the highest class - artwork is often a matter of personal preference but Claes has to be the best in his field. I'm just sorry I missed his "RLM 04" limited edition book. Prints are also available as in this lovely Schlacht Hs 123 below. 

Yannick Delefosse's huge monograph " V-1, Weapon of desperation" from Lela Presse. This is the second Edition of  a much-praised work first published in 2006. This 2011 380-page hardback reissue includes 60 new plans, 514 new photos and 20% more text (French language) and represents a considerable re-working of the original volume. Chapters focus on research, development, technology and the operational deployment of the weapon along with a study of underground storage sites and detailed treatment of 155 Flak Regiment, its organisation, its personnel, uniforms and even losses. British counter-measures and intel are also covered and the book sheds new light on certain myths and preconceptions that still exist in the literature, some of which have recently re-appeared in the latest Osprey Duel title 'Meteor vs V-1' Needless to say this book doesn't appear in Osprey's bibliography. This book is the most definitive treatment of the subject presented in any language.  

This latest 'Duel' title features the usual competent text, the usual Bundesarchiv pictures, unfortunately already seen many times before, a relative dearth of first-person accounts and some neat cockpit and 'action' illustration by Hector and Laurier, two of the best in the business. Unsurprisingly (for an American) author Forczyk concludes that Bomber Command's night offensive was on the whole thwarted by the Luftwaffe night fighter defenses, the Lancaster being especially vulnerable to the upward firing armament of the Bf 110 twin-engine night fighter. The 'duel' was largely fought out against a backdrop of tactical innovations by the radar scientists and while the British had the strategic edge at all times, German nightfighters were able to score some tactical victories, although usually (not that the author points this out..) when weather conditions conspired to leave the raiders exposed to night fighter offensive action. Which happened occasionally with disastrous consequences for the bomber crews. While the text skips neatly through events and actions to which entire books have been devoted elsewhere, ultimately though the Lancaster and its crews get relatively little credit here for the almost wholesale destruction wrought on German industrial centres and related infrastructure. The fact that German armament production increased during 1944 is explained, Mr Forczyk, by the FANTASTIC resources devoted by the Germans to bunker building, civil defence, production dispersal, underground factories, the massive deployment of foreign and slave labour and many other factors - not least the relative ineffectiveness of the USAAF's daylight bombing offensive - and not to any failure of Bomber Command's night offensive. The author produces statistics on the cost to the UK of producing a strategic bombing force which make interesting reading - his aim though is to show that the British invested almost as much in the Lancaster "program" as the US did in the atomic bomb project and seemingly got far less in return for their investment. He ignores the evidence that roughly 50% of Germany's entire war effort was devoted to DEFENDING against the RAF's strategic bombing campaign while British expenditure on strategic bombing was 12% of the UK's total war outlay - a decent enough return I'd have thought. And US Lend-Lease "meant that the British didn't have to produce landing craft or machine guns.. ". Maybe not, but simply put, Mr Forczyk, RAF Bomber Command were the much vaunted Second Front in Europe; even early on in the war large numbers of Germans - not just women and children - were manning anti-aircraft guns in German cities and constructing huge bunkers for civil defence. A considerable number of these could perhaps have been fighting soldiers at the front against the British in North Africa or against Stalin's Russia in front of Moscow - not every Flak 88 produced was mounted in a Tiger or deployed as towed piece on the Eastern Front. By the time the RAF launched it's first 1,000 bomber raid (May 1942, not 'late 1942') the city of Cologne had devoted nearly one hundred million RM to civil defence including bunker building. This was just one German city. See Zaloga in 'Defence of the Third Reich' (an Osprey "Fortress" title) for some figures. Hitler of course had ordered the 'Sofortprogram' of huge civil defence projects from the first raids on Berlin that took place in mid-1940. Difficult to describe the bombing of Germany as " ineffectual " in the context of the overall picture of German home defence and the FANTASTIC resources it tied up. Of course the author quotes the RAF's own 1942 Butt report which highlighted the difficulties of hitting individual factory targets from 4 miles up. Hence the campaign against the Ruhr district. For the British, 'Terror bombing' was the only offensive weapon available to Bomber Command in mid-1940 when British backs were to the wall. As usual American writers/historians tend to forget this. Nor do they tend to point out that the USAAF were just as eager to bomb the big German cities and especially Berlin as the RAF were and the USAAF tried any number of times to do just this from March 1944 when they felt sufficiently strong enough. The USAF hid (hides) behind the pretense that collateral casualties were avoidable but the vaunted Norden sight was just as ineffectual above cloud cover and of course US policy over Japan was no more than 'area bombing'. Having already demonstrated that Kammhuber's Himmelbett and the limited 'box' system for the night defence of Germany could be easily overwhelmed, Bomber Command comprehensively defeated & blinded the Nachtjagd over Hamburg in July 1943 - Forcyzk almost says this; his emphasis though is on the "40,000 civilians " that died. In the context of this defeat of the German night fighter force it is perhaps not surprising that 'Bomber' Harris thought his heavy bomber squadrons could go on and finish the job. Even the Nazi hierarchy (men like Speer) thought they could too - not that Forcyzk says this. Rather bizarrely Forczyck ends his text by declaring that the resources devoted to the Lancaster could have been far better spent on another great British aircraft, the de Havilland Mosquito. Mosquitoes were already largely deployed as Pathfinder's, target makers, intruders and in the 'Berlin express', the highly effective 'Light Night Striking Force' that no German defences could counter so this is a somewhat anomalous assertion in the context of this title. The bomber offensive might not make much sense to author Forcyzk 70 years after the event - but I'm afraid authors - and series - like this tend to ignore the context in which the machines they are writing about were deployed. With German bombers over the UK  almost nightly during the early part of the war was it really practical not to retaliate in kind and could Churchill seriously have remained PM until 1945 had he done nothing to take the war to Hitler's Germany ? 

Recommended reading on this topic

 Demystifying the German " Armament Miracle " During World War II: New Insights from the Annual Audits of German Aircraft Producers   -  Lutz Budrass, Jonas Scherner and Jochen Streb (2005)
"1944-1945: Allied Air Power and the German National Railway;"

"..The author focuses on the Reichsbahn as a lynchpin of the German wartime economy. In my studies regarding the Me 262, I have been of a mind that the bombing campaign against oil and its affect on the military, especially the Luftwaffe, was the key to the Luftwaffe's loss of operational ability in the last year of the war. However, the author has made a strong case that bombing attacks against the Reichsbahn were of even greater import against the ability of the German economy and war effort to succeed.  
In its purest terms, it doesn't matter if war materiel could still be fabricated, if you simply couldn't get it from point A to point B it was useless. Coal was the most important commodity carried, as the Reichsbahn, industry, and home heating required it to be available..."