Tuesday 21 August 2012

Werner Girbig's Jagdgeschwader 5 vs. Erik Mombeek's Jagdgeschwader 5 history, Oblt. Frank Liesendahl's Jabostaffel

" Much as I appreciate all the work that went into making such a book, I'm not very willing to pay $70 for it (not to mention shipping costs). Especially when I see books like Werner Girbig's Jagdgeschwader 5, a hardcover, 320-page book to be published this month by Schiffer (in English), which I have just pre-ordered at Amazon at a mere $27.10..."

The comment above was posted on the TOCH forum in response to an announcement regarding the publication of the latest volume in Erik Mombeek's history of Jagdgeschwader 2 which was previously covered on the Luftwaffe blog here. Erik Mombeek is of course the leading author of self-published Luftwaffe fighter unit histories and has already produced the histories of JG 1, JG 4, and JG 5. The two volume history of Jagdgeschwader 4 was translated from the original French and German text by this blog author. The third volume of Erik's on-going series devoted to JG 2 has just appeared in French. Volume 1 in English, translated by myself, is still available from Erik's website. I post Erik's response to the comment above here, not only because I had a hand in composing it, but because it offers a rare insight into the trials and tribulations of self-publishing large Luftwaffe unit histories and because of the rare information contained in Erik's reply on a member of Oblt. Frank Liesendahl's noted Jabostaffel...

" ...First of all, thank you for starting this debate and my thanks to those who have participated or who are willing to offer a comment here. I am very interested to read all your opinions since I have recently been considering exactly how to proceed with my book series especially with regards to the sensitive issue of pricing. In fact on price I have already taken a decision communicated just last month to the various bookshops stocking my books and which I will attempt to explain here.

To return to certain points raised in the various posts here. In my view the general and ‘elderly’ history of JG 5 – dating from the 1970s- that Schiffer are finally publishing is frankly a long way from my detailed JG 5 history published over four large-format volumes representing more than 1,000 pages and nearly 2,000 photos in a day-by-day diary format. Incidentally, while the Schiffer book appears under Girbig’s name, it was largely researched and compiled by Erich Mikat. The original manuscript was entrusted to me by the JG 5 veterans association along with their archive when I took on the task of writing the history of this Geschwader.  Of course if a general Osprey-style overview is all that the reader is looking for then this new book is probably fine – so far as it goes.

I suppose we should note – if not perhaps entirely understand – a work that skims the surface is probably adequate for a certain readership. However if the enthusiast wants more detail, more pictures – in short much more depth - then we get into much more specialised areas. That of course involves its own costs.

Speaking personally, lists of names whether of aces or their claims has never been enough for me. Those who know my books will appreciate that I always try where possible to place a person in a precise historical context, both militarily and, where I can, on a human level. I tend to think that this is not just ‘history’ but on one level ‘psychology’ and such a presentation lends itself to a better understanding of events that took place seventy years ago and helps to inject a ‘spark of life’ into the stories of those young men whose lives were cruelly cut short in their 20s. Perhaps some readers are not at all interested in the sort of information that appear in letters such as the one that follows, but these are the types of details – if I can find them - that I want in my books.

Take one particular example that comes to mind from the latest volume of my JG 2 history; the death of Gottfried Weiser, a member of Liesendahl’s Jabostaffel, who was KIA on 31 March 1942. Does the following letter add anything to our understanding of events in the history of JG 2. I personally tend to think so. Others though may find it superfluous;

“ Dear Mr. Oblt. Liesendahl,

.. I received your news that our son Gottfried is not coming back home. We have received his personal effects. Unfortunately on the day that Uffz. Mücke delivered them to Brieg, my wife was visiting me at Schießwasser. We only returned home the following day. We so much wanted to talk to your officer!

“ So we know that Gottfried has died. He has thus joined his elder brother Erich, an Oberleutnant in a Stuka unit, who was killed on 1 June 1940 near Dunkirk as he was leading an attack against a troop transport vessel in the port itself. What a horrible coincidence of fate! Erich’s last words as reported to us were “ I am attempting an emergency landing..” Despite all our efforts we have been unable since to ascertain the whereabouts, either of Erich himself, his radio operator or his aircraft. Gottfried was driven to avenge the death of his brother. He was eager to go into combat and now he has been taken in his prime.

“ And can you imagine, Monsieur Liesendahl, that on the very same day in Schießwasser that we learnt of Gottfried’s death we were told that our last son had also fallen on the Western Front on March 1st. For us as parents this is an unbearable burden, especially if we tell you that our brother-in-law Doctor Strauss was also killed last February with the rank of Leutnant on the Eastern Front.

In three months we have received three death notices in the family! Yet we carry on because we want to win this war, we must win this war and a war such as this demands sacrifices. Has any trace of Gottfried been found on a beach somewhere or has the Channel swallowed up both our sons so completely that we shall never know where either one lies.

“ In conclusion I would like to send to both you and your Staffel, to which Gottfried was so proud to belong, and to all his comrades, our best wishes and much success, but also our hopes that you will all one day return home to us here in Germany..

Sincere greetings,

your J. Weiser Hauptmann”

So you will probably say, "OK, that’s fine, but is it a reason to make your books so expensive?” Well, try to put a cost on 50 hotel nights per year in Germany, two or three hours of work on a manuscript per day over the past twenty five years; printing and postage costs, storage costs and wholesalers who offer you a margin of just $1 per book for your own book - you can appreciate that only a small percentage of my costs in writing, research and book production, whether financial, or in time and energy, are covered. It is easy to get discouraged and sometimes I wonder whether the amount of work and effort involved in producing such volumes is appreciated at all. It has never been my intention to ‘make money’ from this hobby (which by definition brings no financial reward) but the past twenty five years has been rich in rewarding contacts...even so to pay for the second volume in a series, the first has to pay its way..

Take the example of the first English-language volume in this series, JG 2/1. As I believed the American market would be interested in this work, I organised a print run in China for distribution via the West coast of the US. With hindsight this was a mistake – the print and binding quality was inferior to what I could have expected from a book produced in Europe – Jukka’s remark hit the nail on the head. Importing the book into the US was out of the question since my original distributor ripped me off and I am now paying to ‘re-import’ my books back to Europe. Roughly speaking I have covered my production and distribution costs when I have sold two thirds (2/3) of the print run. The last third is not exactly ‘profit’ but represents a cash sum that is re-invested into the production of the following volume in the series. Thus far I have sold only 300 copies of JG 2/1 in English – I need to sell an equivalent number before even considering JG 2/2 in English.

Of course the numbers of veterans that I can contact is diminishing rapidly and with their disappearance my travel costs are also decreasing – there are correspondingly fewer trips to Germany and Austria to make. Therefore the costs of producing each book are consequently decreasing. This is why I have recently decided that I can price my large unit history volumes at under 50 Euros for those books purchased directly from myself. However I doubt whether my books are price sensitive – the audience is simply too restricted.  I also doubt whether book sellers will bring their prices down in line with my new pricing structure as they of course have their own costs and sales criteria to take into consideration. So much for my contribution to this debate. Thanks for reading!

Erik Mombeeck

Saturday 18 August 2012

in-box review of the new-tool Zvezda Bf 109 F-2 in 1:72 scale - fantastic fun for frugal Friedrich fans!

..retailing for £7.50 in the UK this is the neat new-tool Friedrich F-2 sub-type in 1:72nd scale from Zvezda. Designed like their Yak-3 - which is an excellent little kit- to be a 'snap-together' easy build, the parts are well detailed and, er, well, ..snap together!
 This really is a very easy and quick build. I compared it with the Fine Molds kit and the Zvezda kit easily holds it own. Just look at that cockpit - here I have painted some parts and added some etch rudder pedals before going over the cockpit again. There is some nice side wall detail, a bucket seat, a three-part pilot figure, a trim wheel and optional instrument panels  - all of which just plug in. All of this is added to the top of the upper wing after the lower wing insert and the radiators have been plugged in. The acid test will no doubt be the fit of the fuselage around these parts. Zvezda have avoided the worst errors of the FM kit - the narrow oil tank aft of the prop and the low fuselage around the wing trailing edge. The upper wing surfaces have no panel lines on the Zvezda kit which I believe is correct for the F-2 variant, but the supercharger intake is solid and needs replacing - those Italeri Friedrich's will come in useful for something after all!.. note that one of the decal options is for Hans Philipp's F-2, Gkr I./JG 54, but I fancy something with a yellow cowl and rudder as seen here at Ander's Profile Paintshop. Catch up with more of this build on my modelling blog..

However while it may look nice on the sprues, the parts don't exactly fit together that well, to be expected for a 'snap-together' kit I guess. I particularly didn't like the upper cowl MG inserts and the tail fin has a large trench across the top of the empennage. The charger intake is from the Italeri kit. A little disappointingly the look of the  canopy is spoilt by some great big 'snap-in' lugs - the model can easily be built and stay assembled without glue. Having said that it convinces as a 72nd scale F variant..there is certainly no need to hang on to those terrible Italeri Friedrichs.

The completed model can be seen on my modelling blog at the following link


Monday 13 August 2012

Aircraft and 'personalities' of 6./JG 53, Sicily, Kanalfront

Michael Meyer continues to offer for sale some interesting and atmospheric views from JG 53. First up, a small sequence taken on Sicily during the of summer 1942, with the offensive against Malta in full swing. Ground crews - mit Blumen und Schild - from 6./JG 53 await the return of Oblt. Günther Hess from a milestone 300th combat sortie. The aircraft piloted by Hess was most probably a Friedrich coded 'Yellow 11'. Below, two views of the pilot, below, centre and second left, on his return having been presented with the typical bouquet of flowers and commemorative 'plaque'.

  6./JG 53 'Friedrich' on the Channel front (Kanalfront) during 1941 belonging to the Staffelkapitän Oblt. Otto Böhner.  Böhner survived the war with around 9 victory claims. Below; photographed alongside Böhner's 'Friedrich' on their return from a sortie over Malta in early 1942, (Flugzeugführer) Lt. Dr. Heiner Jörg (left) and Staka Oblt. Otto Böhner..

Above, Me 109 E of 6./JG 53, late 1939 in Manheim-Sandhofen. Note the Pik As Wappen on the cowl.

Above, nice view of one of the more 'famous' Staffelkapitäne of 6./JG 53. Hptm. Horst Bretnütz.  Bretnütz was awarded the RK on 22 October 1940 and had achieved some 37 Luftsiege (victories) at the time of his death on the opening day of Barbarossa (22.6.1941) over Jubarkas/Litauen. According to the caption the snapshot above was taken in Dinan, Brittany during July 1940. Note the pilot's wife's pet-name under the cockpit "Peter", and, assisting the pilot, his first mechanic Eugen Schultheis.

Me 109 E " Yellow 2" belonging to 6./JG 53 seen during the summer of 1940. Unfortunately the name of the pilot is unknown. He is wearing an inflatable life jacket.

Monday 6 August 2012

Last sorties of JG 300 April 1945 - Salzburg Ainring Jagdgruppe 300 - Edit

A selection of rare photos of Jagdgruppe 300 and/or JG 300 wrecks most probably photographed at Salzburg Ainring during April/May 1945 following the capture of the airfield by US forces recently sold on Ebay.


More from this seller



Note that the (probably) Erla-built G-10 (see photo above) features blue/white/blue fuselage bands and a short Gruppe bar. Jagdgruppe 300 was 'officially' established through the amalgamation of II. and III./JG 300 in April 1945 and is mentioned in a Luftflottenkommando 6 ORB dated  03 May 1945 (!) but as the following account indicates probably only 'existed' on paper.  It is hard to believe that anybody was still applying Gruppe Balken in April 1945 - especially since III./JG300 & IV./JG300 never utilised Gruppe markings, while I./JG300 had already been disbanded - but had Bf109G-10s in the WNr. 491000 series. 

Adapted from the history of JG 300 published by Editions Larivière entitled 'Bataille dans le Ciel d'Allemagne' by Jean-Yves Lorant and Richard Goyat (my translation..), the following is probably the only personal account to make mention of a 'Jagdgruppe 300'...

On 30 April 1945 , in one of the final actions of the war for JG 300, III./JG 300 put up four Messerschmitt Bf 109 G‑10s and K‑4s from Klein Karolinenfeld to fly a ground attack sortie against US forces driving deep into southern Germany. The pilots had instructions to fly on to Salzburg Ainring once their mission was completed. The Schwarm was led off by Fw. Arnulf “Timm” Meyer (9. Staffel) and headed out at low-level for an American motorized column north-west of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Aside from Meyer, three other experienced pilots were airborne for this last sortie: Uffz. Klaus Lambio (former wingman of Ofhr. Grothues) as well as Unteroffiziere Jochen Stiege and Günther Obst (9. Staffel). “Timm” Meyer never forgot the events of 30 April:

"....Towards the end of the morning, in something of a daze, we took off from “Wiese Kreuzstraße” . This was my first and last sortie at the controls of a 109 K-4. Passing over the front lines, my ship was seriously damaged by anti-aircraft fire, my engine quickly losing a lot of revs. I had to turn back. I indicated to Klaus Lambio that I had to turn for home and that he was henceforth in command for the rest of the sortie. He acknowledged my message with his usual calm, asking me if I was wounded. I replied in the negative. He wished me good luck and that was the last I heard of him for many long, too long, years...."

Only Lambio and Stiege managed to reach Salzburg-Ainring, to where several other Luftwaffe units had also fallen back. Just as the two pilots were climbing down from their aircraft, the airfield came under attack from Thunderbolts.  Klaus Lambio was able to recall his arrival at Salzburg-Ainring years later:

"...In front of my 109 I saw a mechanic throw himself face down in the grass… It was at that moment that I realized that the roaring engine noise I could hear was not familiar. Streaking past to my left barely twenty metres off the ground, two Thunderbolts roared low overhead, strafing aircraft and installations and setting off a widespread stampede for cover. Then two or three other Americans released napalm bombs. I saw two P‑47s disappear off to the south trailing smoke. In the mid-distance a parachute swung for a few seconds above the trees of a small wood.  None of this was really important any more as Salzburg-Ainring was going to be our last airfield and would soon come under threat from the enemy advance. Hauptmann Fritz Lonzius put in a quick appearance a few moments later and brought us together in front of an ad hoc command post. It was then that I realized that a few III./JG 300 pilots had managed to land on this field. More arrived towards the end of the afternoon, landing at the controls of two Messerschmitt Bf 109s and a Bf 108. There was no more than a handful of us men left now. For the first time, “Timm” Meyer and Werner Maybohm were absent from this roll call. About twenty pilots and around one hundred male and female mechanics, had preferred to surrender to the Americans rather than undertake the dangerous road journey to Salzburg. We were told that henceforth our new designation would be “Jagdgruppe” 300 and not Jagdgeschwader 300. For my part, I flew no further combat sorties prior to the capitulation, apart from one short airfield protection flight on 2 May 1945 in the 109 marked with the double chevron of Hauptmann Lonzius. As I recall Lonzius had fled to Linz in a Bü 181 that same day. Our Gruppenadjutant Willi Miholek even claimed that he had put on the overalls of a Gefreiter mechanic in order to avoid interrogation and get home more easily. At Salzburg-Ainring, our principal concerns were food and shelter. The last drops of fuel were siphoned off from the tanks of the numerous abandoned aircraft.."

Saturday 4 August 2012

Bückers with bazookas - Bü 181 'Bestmann' mit Panzerfäusten (1)

Above; Bücker Bü 181 'Bestmann' WNr 501659 was built in Czechoslovakia in early 1944 and served at the FFS A/B 23 in Kaufbeuren with the Kennung RM+HE where it was converted to mount Panzerfaust bazookas in the final weeks of the war. Today it is exhibited at the Deutsche Technik Museum in Berlin. Photo courtesy Marc Hasenbein.

Below; first published in the Modell Magazin issue of 3/83 this was for a long time the only known photo of a fully-armed Panzerfaust-toting Bücker Bü 181 'Bestmann' seen here undergoing trials with the Panzerfaust Versuchskommando (test detachment) at Trebbin on 01 April 1945.

According to Christian Möller in his book “ Das letzte Aufgebot..” , “ kaum jemand weiß, dass die deutsche Luftwaffe kurz vor dem Kriegsende ab April 1945 langsame Schulmaschinen vom Typ Bücker Bü 181 als Schlachtflugzeuge gegen die Bodentruppen der Alliierten eingesetzt hat - very few know that shortly before the end of the war the German Luftwaffe was employing in a ground-attack role slow training types such as the Bücker Bü 181 against Allied ground forces” .

Of course in his inimitable style – his Nachtschlacht book featured well over a 1,000 footnotes - author Möller then provides a footnote detailing a lengthy list of references which prove if anything that there has, on the contrary, been a decent amount of (mostly German-language) coverage, including magazine and web articles, devoted to the late-war combat role of the Bücker Bü 181. I will be covering a few of these over the course of some forthcoming blog posts.

Cover illustration from Christian Möller's “ Das letzte Aufgebot..”  - click on the image to go direct to publisher Helios

Of course I'm being a little unfair to Christian and  I guess the point is nonetheless worth making again for those Luftwaffe 'enthusiasts' who cannot see past the jets and other so-called Wunderwaffen; the reality of late-war collapse was that for every single advanced jet fighter or bomber being put into service by March/April 1945, the Luftwaffe in its death throes was hurriedly deploying antiquated biplanes or obsolescent ab initio type trainers in a combat role- either night ground attack Nachtschlächter or 'tank-hunting' Panzerknacker. With training schools closed and the Luftwaffe starved of fuel - these types did not demand much in the way of piloting skills or even require much gasolene - Bückers and Arados were thus hastily formed into a host of Kommandos and “attack” Staffeln in the forlorn hope of being able to continue the fight to the bitter end. Inexperienced ex-instructors were being ordered to launch perilous early-morning or late-evening ground attack missions against Allied supply columns or tank spearheads with the most derisory of means - the Bü 181 Schulflugzeug (trainer) mounting Panzerfauste rocket launchers on and under the wings. These Panzerfauste bomb-toting Bückers – aerobatic-capable, low-wing, unarmoured monoplanes- were barely able to manage 150 km/h and featured side-by-side seating and dual control columns. It was even planned to re-equip the III. Gruppe of the famed Junkers Ju 87-equipped Schlachtgeschwader 2 with these machines.

In a last-ditch attempt to stem the flow of Allied armour pouring into southern Germany 3. Panzerjagdstaffel was just one such ad-hoc tank-hunting Staffel deployed in the Panzerbekämpfung (tank hunting) role from mid-April 1945 - it was planned to establish some fourteen similar anti-tank units comprising twelve aircraft and some twenty pilots with the units divided between east and western fronts. Established at Kaufbeuren in early March 1945, the Bü 181 trainers of 3. Panzerjagdstaffel were crewed (pilot/observer) by qualified flying instructors from Flugschule A/B 23 under Staffelsfuehrer Oberleutnant Karl-Heinz Dragenscheck. Some details of this unit's exploits - one of the few to actually see service - were given in an issue of Flugzeug classic magazine during 2006. Boring in at low level at barely 150 kph, the intrepid pilots had trained to close to within 500 m of enemy tanks before pulling up to around 20-30 metres altitude and then diving on their targets, unleashing the rockets at a distance of only some 100 metres before banking sharply away in order to escape the blast wave from the exploding rocket. To nullify Allied air supremacy, sorties were to be flown at the crack of dawn or as darkness was falling.

"....Die Bü 181 der 3. Panzerjagdstaffel erhielten am 19. April 1945 ihre Feuertaufe. Sechs Bestmann starteten um 20.20 Uhr vom Flugplatz Ringingen aus in den Raum Tübingen. Zwar entdeckten die Besatzungen keine Panzer, konnten aber einige alliierte Lastkraftwagen zerstören. Einen Tag später, an Adolf Hitlers letztem Geburtstag, wiederholten die Bücker ihre Angriffe. Im Morgengrauen des 24. April startete die 3. Panzerjagdstaffel zum vermutlich letzten Kampfeinsatz...."

Airborne from Ringingen six Bü 181s of 3. Panzerjagdstaffel (tank hunting squadron) underwent their baptism of fire against Allied armour at 20h20 in the vicinity of Tübingen on 19 April 1945. Although the crews (pilot and navigator) failed to locate any tanks, a number of Allied trucks were destroyed. The sortie was repeated on the following day. 3. Panzerjagdstaffel flew what was probably their last sortie of the war at dawn on the 24th. In this instance the targets were not even Allied tanks but abandoned German aircraft left on the field at Memmingen. After this the unit fell back via a number of different airfields to the Bavarian Alps before the personnel surrendered to the Americans at Reit im Winkl on 9 May 1945.... As can be seen in the photo (bottom) the Panzerfaust rockets were fired by means of Bowden cables laid across the wings from the cockpit and the engine cowl mounted a crude aiming device. In practise the upper wing mounted rockets were only rarely fitted - the exhaust gases at launch had a tendency to set the wooden wing surfaces on fire!
Prior to the unit's first sortie there was an event of some note - one of the unit's Bü 181 was stolen by two defectors - former flying instructors Unteroffiziere Hans Ficker and Werner Diermeyer. The two 24-year old officers appropriated one of the light trainers at dawn on 19 April 45 and flew off to Switzerland at the controls of the machine illustrated. Ficker had lost his brother during the Battle of Britain and had himself been badly injured in a crash during October 1944. By January 1945 the lack of fuel for training had effectively ended the careers of the two flying instructors, both now likely candidates to be re-mustered as infantry or as flak crews. Dying a heroes' death for Volk und Vaterland in some muddy trench was not for Unteroffizier Diermeyer. Diermeyer had at one point been offered a chance to re-train on the Me 262 but in the chaos of the last months of the war nothing had come of this. At some stage during the story Diermayer had got wind of the aerial activities taking place at Kaufbeuren. So instead of reporting to barracks in Hoersching, Ostmark (Austria) for infantry service, Diermayer made his way to Munich where he met up with Ficker. The two men carefully prepared their flight and on the evening of 18 April 1945 made their way out to the airfield. Luck was on their side. Training for the first anti-tank missions had just been completed and the following day the tank hunting Bü 181s were to fly their first combat sorties. At that moment an air-raid alarm sent everyone to the bunkers and the two men were able to enter a hangar where the Bü 181 assigned to the Staffelkapitän of 3. PzJgSt was being serviced. Ficker managed to get the engine started, taxiied out onto the field and quickly getting airborne the two men headed for Bregrenz and the Swiss border, touching down at Duebendorf some ninety minutes later. Post war this particular machine served - along with five others - in the Swiss Air Force before being retired in the mid-fifties. 

Wednesday 1 August 2012

new Luftwaffe books - Jagdwaffe emblems, David Isby's 'The Decisive Duel', Me 262 bomber and recce units Osprey, Valiant Wings Heinkel He 219 Uhu 'Airframe Album'

There has never been any doubt that the fighter arm was pivotal in introduction of the unit emblems with the Luftwaffe. Since, however, the Luftwaffe developed no classification system to register or even monitor its emblems, the emblem motifs and the motivations behind their introduction were to a great degree lost following the collapse of the Third Reich. The Emblems of Jagdwaffe 1936-1945: A More Complete History by Sinisa Sestanovic offers a plausible theory on the emblems' motifs and origins, and establishes the existence of some previously unknown emblems. The centrepiece of the book is the artwork of more than 300 emblems restored to their former glory, a step beyond Karl Ries's groundbreaking design from the 1960s. The said artwork is complemented by 27 photographs and 12 scale-drawings that illustrate the emblem positions on the fighter aircraft in use by the Jagdwaffe between 1936 and 1945. The book is aimed at the enthusiasts and serious researchers alike. Self published, approx 280 large format pages 


Chris Simmonds writes;

"..I have personally checked a number of the book's emblem artwork against known and clear emblem photographs and can only applaud Sestanovic for his unswerving accuracy and attention to detail. His artwork is both clear and of a size at least three times bigger then that of the artwork in Ketley's new book "Luftwaffe Emblems". For scale modellers this, I am sure, will be big bonus. Lastly, at the end the book is a welcome selection of very clear and well produced period images of aircraft carrying some of the emblems previously discussed.
Highlights for me must be probably the best and fullest pre-war selection of emblems published so far. Second must be potted history of each unit and it's relation to past units and its subsequent evolution, whilst this information is available elsewhere such as Holm's website, having it in conjunction with the emblem is very helpful when trying to identify the unit of an image. Lastly must be the emblem artwork themselves easily the most accurate of any Luftwaffe book publish before or present..."

Read the full review at amazon.co.uk

Got my copy today. Let's face it, anything Me 262-related with the names Forsyth and Creek plastered over the cover is an essential purchase. While I don't really care for the Osprey format - the pics are especially small and dark here - I have to say that Jim Laurier's photo-realistic artwork is superb! In addition this volume presents the best English-language coverage of KG 51's jet operations I've read anywhere. Other units covered include  Sonderkommando Braunegg, NAG 1 and NAG 6.  Sources include Jan Horn's magisterial 'Das Flurschaden Geschwader' and Nick Beale's account of KG 51's early disastrous Western Front deployments as featured on http://www.ghostbombers.com

Chapter headings; 1/ 'That Answers the Fuhrer's Question...'; 2/ Kommando Schenk; 3/ Hitting Back; 4/ High-Speed intelligence; 5/ Bodenplatte To the Banks of the Rhine; 6/ Too little, Too Late

An appendix covers 'Unit Structure and Bases - Me262 Operational Period Mid-1944 to May 1945' and the heart of the work is the fantastic fully annotated colour plate section by Jim Laurier.

Chris Simmonds writes; Anything by these two authors has to be taken seriously, and this is no different. All late war Luftwaffe enthusiasts will enjoy this book which features the misguided attempts to use the Me 262 as a bomber and the superb effective reconnaissance machine it also became. I have given five stars because the content is so well written, the profiles very well done. But I dislike all the Osprey books for their pathetically small format which result in small photos and cramped pages.."


A 'dual biography' of two of the most significant fighter aircraft in the history of aviation. Isby's latest is a very worthwhile work that considers both the technology and the people and the interaction of the two. The book traces the story of the Spitfire and the Me 109 from their origins through the race to get them into service and the early decisive battles of WWII to their final combats over the Middle East in 1948-49. First deployed in anger over Spain during the Civil War the Me 109 enjoyed the early advantageIn many respects the technology on both sides was on a par during the early years of this story - the Emil and the Spitfire I were pretty evenly matched. But the men and the organisations, and, above all, the regimes, were different and eventually a 'technology gap' did appear  - the two stage supercharged Spit IX was - all else being equal - superior to the two speed supercharged German Gustav variant of the Bf 109 and the author explains how and why this was so. This is important for Isby's story because, as he explains, when the Spitfire finally achieved the upper hand over the 109 the Luftwaffe leadership were too incompetent, to in thrall to the leader's will, to act. The regime had largely through force of circumstance placed their hopes in new technologies that ultimately offered too few qualitative enhancements to overcome quantative differences. And while much of the 109's story is told by the 'charismatic' Fighter General or high-ranking ace, the author is aware that to fall back, for example, on Galland's memoirs, is too convenient, too much of the 'blame' is heaped on Göring, the story is too 'pat' and has suffered from too many re-tellings. So some of the Bf 109 story is told from the view point of the 16-year old forced labourer selected from among Auschwitz inmates for the Messerschmitt production line. Detailed and full of interesting facts; plenty of German-language source material has been consulted and exploited so you know that this is not some cheap catch-all rewrite of old texts but a serious mature work  - and one full of interesting facts; I for one did not know that Erhard Milch had a teenage daughter who had Downs Syndrome- Milch's 'motivation' is not just about personal enrichment or German success but to some extent simply keeping his daughter alive. The balance of the book is skewed towards the Battle of Britain of course, some 200 pages whereas only 10 are devoted to the war in the Mediterranean which is where - in addition to the Eastern Front- the Luftwaffe had most of its forces between 1941-44. Recommended.

Visit author David Isby's web site for more on this book and some interesting resources


Coming soon from Valiant Wings

Airframe Album No.1: The Heinkel He 219 'Uhu'
by Richard A. Franks
The first title in a new Airframe Album series (coming August 2012) will cover the Luftwaffe's ultimate nightfighter, the He 219 'Uhu':

  • Period diagrams
  • Data from flight manuals and spare parts catalogue
  • Walkaround images
  • A wealth of pictures of the recently restored NASM example before, during and after restoration
  • 3D isometric views of all variants by Jacek Jackiewicz
  • Colour profiles and camouflage detail by by Richard Caruana
  • 100 pages
  • Publication in advance of the Revell and Zoukei-Mura 1/32 scale kit releases