Foreign Planes in the Service of the Luftwaffe
By Jean-Louis Roba
Published by Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk)
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This book has a most unusual title and topic. Covering a subject that has had very little treatment, if any, since World War 2 (WW2) the author has produced a superb account. He has broken into an area that has been massively overlooked and it has surprising results for WW2 historians and followers. Given the high standard of research it is a welcomed addition to the literature available in English – it has just been translated into English.
No air force in WW2 made as much use of captured (enemy) planes as the Luftwaffe. The author has conducted intricate research in tracing hundreds of aircraft utilised by the Germans. Detailed consideration is given to the full history of foreign planes such as their uses, careers and eventual fates. The research is primarily photographic and there are outstanding photos that support the text. These photographs give an excellent opportunity to see rare images of British and American planes repainted in German colours and symbols.
The book shatters myths about how well the Luftwaffe was prepared for the start of World War 2. It shows how the Germans used captured planes as an important source of equipment and indicates how dependent they were on such unreliable sources of material.
The first chapter sets the scene before the war. The origins of the Luftwaffe using foreign planes can be traced to the Austrian Air Force’s usage of Italian (Fiat) machines. The Austrian forces were integrated with the Germans after the ‘Austrian Anschluss’. Before the war Czech planes were also used and there are some excellent photos of Bloch 200s.
The capture of French and Scandinavian planes early on in the war is discussed and the merits of these “acquisitions” for the Germans are evaluated. The campaign against the British Expeditionary Force and the great deal of plunder obtained by the Wehrmacht during the Battle of France is noted. The important capture of the Fokker and Aviolanda factories is also commented upon.
The Battle of Britain and the Blitz is given a full chapter. There are photos of Spitfires, Hurricanes and Wellingtons to name but a few. Some of these aircraft were integrated into the Luftwaffe and the author has discovered photographic evidence to prove this.
Operations Marita and Barbarossa are commented upon. Marita was the invasion of Yugoslavia & Greece but not a single enemy plane could be saved for the Luftwaffe during this campaign. At the start of Barbarossa the Germans overwhelmed many Soviet airfields and captured numerous planes of differing value. Modern MiGs were found alongside obsolete Polikarpovs. Although hundreds of planes were captured only a few of them entered service with the Luftwaffe – many were sold to the Finnish Air Force.
The author progresses through the war years and covers the invasion of Vichy France and Operation Torch (the Allied landing in North Africa). He details how many planes were captured but large numbers of them were not airworthy. Then he moves onto the Allied bombing campaign of the Reich and the aircraft captured during these raids. The effects of the Italian Surrender in September 1943 saw the Germans obtaining many Italian planes – estimated at 1,300 but about half of them were not fit to fly.
Then there is a discussion about the post D-Day situation as more and more USAAF planes were captured or crashing behind the German lines. Finally, the tide of the war changed and it was the Luftwaffe’s planes that were being captured by the Allies. The book then discusses their surrender and the victory for the Allies.
This is an interesting account of how the Germans obtained plunder and how they utilised it to their advantage. No other nation in the war used their plunder to the same extent and the book is an exceptional account of this. There is significant photographic evidence to support the text - it is a gripping read and very enjoyable.