The Luftwaffe – A History
By John Killen
Pen and Sword (www.pen-and-sword.co.uk )
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The author has produced an outstanding review of the history of the Nazi German air force called the Luftwaffe. Its origins lie in the fields of France and Flanders during the early days of the First World War.
Many of the key personnel of the Luftwaffe served in World War 1 and when World War 2 started they were often in the most important and powerful positions. One cannot separate the history of the Luftwaffe from its First World War origins. The book recounts the history of the Imperial German Air Force and their aircraft and aces.
The end of the First World War saw Germany handing over its flying machines to the Allies and the Treaty of Versailles limited post-war German air power. In the inter-war period airships were popular and after 1933 the Luftwaffe was an embryonic organisation.
This excellent review shows how the Luftwaffe gained vital combat experience in Spain during the Civil War and how this feedback influenced developments. The Luftwaffe also helped the Heers (the German Army) in the pre-war campaigns such as Austria and Czechoslovakia.
In the Polish campaign the Luftwaffe became prominent due to the Blitzkrieg style of warfare and these successes then lead to similar strategies being used in France in 1940. An excellent account of the Battle of Britain is given and it indicates how the Germans made their fatal mistake of stopping their offensive against the British airfields and Royal Air Force.
Other campaigns are described such as Crete (1941), Russia (1941), Malta (1942) and Stalingrad (1943). The destruction of Nazi Germany by the massive Allied heavy bomber campaigns is narrated and the “round the clock” bombing effectively caused the Luftwaffe to disintegrate as a fighting force.
Numerous key personalities are mentioned in the volume and it tells how they influenced the development of the Luftwaffe. These include the First World War aces of Immelmann, Boelke and Richtofen who effectively developed the Imperial Air Power. Other personalities from World War 2 include Hermann Goering, Udet, Kesselring, Jeschonnek, Adolf Galland, Werner Molders, Joachim Marseille and the test-pilot Hanna Reitsch.
The Luftwaffe cannot be divorced from the personal history of Herman Goering. He commanded the Richtofen squadron in World War 1 and he gained the highest honour for gallantry (the Pour le Merit) in the Imperial German Forces. The Luftwaffe can be considered his “baby” but as the war progressed he lost more and more interest in it and its activities. The book shows how he eventually lost all interest in the Luftwaffe and how he ended the war a broken man. It does say how he never wanted a war but it was forced upon him.
If you are looking for an outstanding and entertaining account of the development of the Luftwaffe, its key personalities and the developments of its aircraft then there is no need to look any further – you have just found it. This volume is highly recommended and it deserves shelf space on any serious student of aeronautical history.