This book, originally written in 1931 by “Vigilant” (the pen name for Claude Sykes), tells the dramatic tales of air combat as fought by the best German pilots of the First World War. Manfred von Richthofen, Max Immelmann, Oswald Boelcke and other famous daredevil flyers are joined by the lesser-known but equally resourceful colleagues such as Rudolph von Eschwege and Hand Shuz, taking part in furious battles in the sky and close escapes on the ground when brought down on the wrong side of the lines. German War Birds contains some of the earliest information to appear after the war about air combat in the Middle East and Russia, as well as the Western Front, and about the significance of observation balloons as targets that were viciously attacked. The author focuses on the heart of the action and recreates the experiences of the airborne war with immediacy, excitement and a vivid turn of phrase, drawing the reader into events as they happen.
When the Luftwaffe entered World War 2, its nightfighter force was virtually nonexistent thanks to its leader, Reichmarschall Hermann Göring, who boasted that bombs would never fall on Germany. By mid-1940 his folly was evident; the first night fighter wing was hastily formed with Bf 110s. Initially capable of detecting targets by visual acquisition only, the force greatly improved its effectiveness with the creation of the 'Giant Würzburg' radar chain. By the end of 1942, the night fighter force controlled some 389 fighters and had destroyed 1,291 RAF bombers in that year alone. Complete with first-hand accounts and detailed colour illustrations, this book profiles the many variations of night fighters, and the men who made ace flying them.
Fighter ace Col. Johannes Steinhoff commanded an elite group of pilots trained to fly the first jet aircraft employed in combat, the famous Messerschmitt Me-262, at a time when Reich Marshal Hermann Goring, by then out of favor with Hitler for his failure to stop the Allied bombing raids, denounced his own pilots as cowards. After Goring refused to deploy the Me-262 as a fighter, the role for which it was designed, and instead ordered its use as a bomber, Steinhoff and other senior air leaders devised a plot to depose Goring from his command of the Luftwaffe in the futile hope of staving off final defeat in the air. The pilots’ long-standing disgust with their Reich Marshal’s military incompetence and technical dilettantism led to their dangerous intrigue in the fall of 1944. There was an added element of risk as their desperate gamble came in the wake of the July 20 plot against Hitler, the onrushing Allied onslaught, and the general disintegration of the German military and its war effort.
Steinhoff crashed while trying to take off in a heavily laden Me-262. The explosion left him badly burned and still in the hospital when the war ended. From his hospital bed in the summer of 1945, he dictated to a fellow wounded German soldier the account that became The Final Hours. His memories are vivid, painful, and gripping. Free from the years of recrimination and reflection so common in similar works, his tale recounts the pressure of fighting for a lost cause and the intrigue fostered by an unstable command. His account reveals every facet of a remarkable fighter pilot’s struggle for survival and provides an excellent case study of the plodding bureaucracy and scheming obscurantism so characteristic of the Third Reich.
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In this exciting book Mike Spick shows how the Luftwaffe's leading fighter pilots were able to outscore their allied counterparts so effectively and completely during the Second World War. When the records of the Jagdflieger pilots became available after the war, they were initially greeted with incredulity – the highest claim was for 352 kills, and more than 100 pilots had recorded more than 100 victories. However postwar research proved that these claims had in fact been made in good faith and confirmation had only been given after rigorous checking.
To discover the secret of this success, aviation history expert Mike Spick examines the exploits of these aces and sets out the context in which it took place. Every major theater is covered in detail including the conditions peculiar to each: climate, relative numerical and qualitative strengths, the presence or absence of radar and other measures, and the relative merits of the planes being flown.
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