Oberst Mölders ‘recieves’ a report.
The Journal of Military History.
Jan 2009. Vol. 73, Iss. 1; pg. 231, 19 pgs
Schmider reviews four books edited by Kurt Braatz. These are: Feindberuhrung. Erinnerungen 1939-1945 by Julius Meimberg; Falkenjahre. Erinnerungen 1910-2003 by Wolfgang Falck; Mein Flugbuch. Erinnerungen 1938-2004 by Gunther Rall, and Nachte im Bomberstrom. Erinnerungen 1920-1950 by Paul Zorner.
Feindberßhrung. Erinnerungen 1939-1945. By Julius Meimberg. Ed. Kurt Braatz. Wang, Germany: Verlag NeunundzwanzigSechs, 2002. ISBN 3-980-7935-1-6. Photographs. Bibliography. Source notes. Pp. 352. euro39.80.
Falkenjahre. Erinnerungen 1910-2003. By Wolfgang Falck. Ed. Kurt Braatz. Wang, Germany: Verlag NeunundzwanzigSechs, 2003. ISBN 3-980-7935-2-4. Photographs. Bibliography. Source notes. Pp. 351. euro39.80.
Mein Flugbuch. Erinnerungen 1938-2004. By Günther Rail. Ed. Kurt Braatz. Wang, Germany: Verlag NeunundzwanzigSechs, 2004. ISBN 3-980-7935-3-2. Photographs. Bibliography. Source notes. Pp. 375. euro39. 80. 1
Nächte im Bomberstrom. Erinnerungen 1920-1950. By Paul Zorner. Ed. Kurt Braatz. Wang, Germany: Verlag NeuundzwanzigSechs, 2007. ISBN 978-3-980-7935-9-9. Photographs. Bibliography. Source notes. Pp. 335. euro39.80.
Abschuß! Von der Me 109 zur Me 262. Erinnerungen an die Luftkämpfe beim Jagdgeschwader 5 und 7. By Walter Schuck. Aachen: Helios, 2007. ISBN 978-3938208-44-1. Photographs. Bibliography. Pp. 248. euro38.50.
Fighter pilots are warriors with a difference. Members of a select and highly trained caste, they wage their war physically removed from the battlefields on the ground and the squalor and horror prevailing there. Their mission is as much about surviving in an environment alien to the human presence as it is about taking the fight to the enemy. When the latter does occur, only in the rarest of cases with they experience the killing of an enemy in the same traumatic way as an infantryman or even a tanker. The elite characteristics of this fraternity are replicated many times over among those individuals who make up their inner circle: those who by common consent have reached the degree of proficiency which makes them deserving of the label “ace”. Historians and publicists writing up the air power side of almost any twentieth century conflict have rarely been able to extricate themselves from the “pull” emanating from this group. This may have as much to do with (often deceptive) notions of chivalrous one-on-one combat among the clouds, which tend to be more appealing to our imagination than the realties of total war2, as with the fact that in their case the specific impact a single individual has had on the course of a campaign or war can actually be assessed with an accuracy normally not found in other fields of modern war. Looking back on nearly 100 years of organised air warfare, it is not difficult to identify the national subchapter of this elite fraternity which has formed the image of the successful fighter pilot in the popular imagination to a greater degree than any other: while “The Few” of the RAF’s Fighter Command are certainly unique insofar as their association with one specific historic event is concerned, a select number of their brothers in arms of the Jagdwaffe – the Luftwaffe’s fighter arm – would go on to a place in history buttressed by feats dwarfing those of any other air force before or since. Aided by a unique set of circumstances (on the job training in Spain and Poland; lack of a rotation system; the sheer number of aircraft churned out by the Allies after 1941; as well as – initially – superior tactics), they achieved scores which by far outstripped those of their Allied adversaries.3 A scrupulously thorough system of bookkeeping ensured that most of these claims would stand the test of time remarkably well. Once the war had ended, the survivors were able to carve out for themselves a niche in post-war German society which even the most vociferously anti-Wehrmacht critics had until very recently not attempted to assail.4 This was partly due to the collective self-immolation of the Jagdwaffe in attempting to defend German cities from the Allied bombing offensive in the last two years of the war. Just as important, unlike other German veterans (especially U-boat sailors or members of the Waffen SS) they were never compelled by choice or force of circumstance to rally round individuals closely associated with the defunct regime in order to preserve or establish their corporate identity.5 Once the number two man of the regime and Luftwaffe commander-in-chief Hermann Göring – whose claim to being a member of the military profession had always been a very tenuous one anyway6 – had committed suicide in his Nuremberg cell, the Jagdwaffe’s potentially most compromising link with the recent past was to all intents and purposes effectively severed. It would, however, be disingenuous to ignore the fact that this process was not substantially aided by the wholesale torching of the Luftwaffe’s operational records in April 1945. 7 As a result, the public image of the Jagdwaffe was very much set in stone by a couple of early accounts penned by veterans as well as a number of sympathetic Western historians and publicists who followed suit in the 1960s and 1970s. Among the former the trailblazer was Adolf “Dolfo” Galland, Inspector General8 of the Jagdwaffe from November 1941 to January 1945, whose Die Ersten und die Letzten (The First and the Last)9 very much set the tone for future publications. He was closely followed by Gerd Gaiser ‘s fictionalised memoirs of his time with a fighter wing in the West10 which is best described as the Luftwaffe’s equivalent of (and precursor to) Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s Das Boot, which would take the bestseller charts by storm in the 1970s.11 In different ways, both Galland and Gaiser stressed the desperate plight of a force caught in a vice between Anglo-American air superiority in 1943/45, on the one hand, and its own incompetent leadership on the other.12 Proverbially speaking, the history of the German fighter force was best summed up in the adage “there was a bitch (Göring) in the chorus, but the show had to go on.” The group of sympathetic outsiders referred to above was made up of publicists whose admiration would occasionally tip over into out-and-out hero-worship13; some of these books, such as the valuable work done in recent times by John Weal for Osprey14, as well as the two biographies produced by Peter Hinchliffe15 are obviously the result of painstaking research in family archives and interviews with veterans; their main flaw resides in the authors’ (or publishers’16) refusal to provide even a skeleton of source notes.
In view of the general dearth of primary sources on the rise and fall of the wartime Luftwaffe, it is hardly surprising that the close to 40 or so memoirs by veterans of the Jagdwaffe already published17 to date have been mined quite consistently by popular historians for the contribution they might make towards filling in holes left by missing records. It has to be said, however, that academic historians have been rather slow to follow this lead18, a fact which can no doubt be traced back to the failings usually associated with this kind of source: highly idiosyncratic focus; excessive use of literal speech when the conversation described took place half a century ago; a certain unreliability when it comes to timings and locations; too large a time gap between the events at the centre of the narrative and the process of actually committing them to paper. Most German scholars in particular have shown a reluctance bordering at times on aversion when it comes to tapping memoirs in general and those of Wehrmacht veterans in particular. This is no doubt a consequence of the realisation that the accounts penned by senior-ranking POWs for the U.S. Army’s Historical Division in the early years of the Cold War, and which had a major impact on the writings of the first post-war generation of historians, had been aimed not so much at prettifying as at distorting the historical record.19 Even so, there are indications that the resulting dependence on official records as the only source to be trusted may have gone a little too far in recent years. After all, it’s well worth remembering that other historians faced with a similar dearth of primary sources as historians of the Luftwaffe, have been much less squeamish about tapping memoirs written either by military leaders or common soldiers.20
The books under review here go a long way towards reducing any lingering inhibitions on the part of readers weaned on scholarly treatises. Kurt Braatz, in particular, has gone to remarkable lengths in providing aids which will allow the reader to put the author’s story in a meaningful context. Each volume boasts more than a hundred footnotes (a large part of which refer back to primary sources) provided by the editor and a similar number of photographs. Towards the back of the book, the reader will find a bibliography, the author’s wartime résumé and a table giving the location and date of each air combat kill. Last but not least, paper and binding are of a quality which puts the finished products of most major publishing houses to shame.
The volume penned by Julius “JuIe” Meimberg struck this reviewer as the one which comes closest to communicating to his readers the raw emotions unleashed by war. This is probably due to three reasons. First, unlike the other authors in the series, he devotes only a few pages to his life prior to joining the Luftwaffe and none at all to his post-war career, thus allowing him to focus almost exclusively on wartime events. In addition, his flying career was interrupted by two lengthy hospital stays (July 1941-April 1942, February 1943-August 1943) brought about by serious injuries sustained in the course of his duties. The changed circumstances he encountered on each of his returns to active duty throw into stark relief for the reader the way in which the air war over Europe had been evolving and make for an even sharper focus.
Finally, he shows a slightly greater inclination than some of the other authors to free himself from the shackles of old loyalties and give the reader a warts and all picture of the war in the air: his depiction of some of his superiors’ actions in particular show that Hermann Göring was by no means the only “bitch in the chorus” of the wartime Jagdwaffe (pp. 210-212, 278-279). His genuine affection for his squadron leader Hans “Assi” Hahn is tempered by the realisation that the latter had a truly callous side and was not above acting the part of a triple-bully if it suited him. Readers of Len Deighton will probably find themselves reminded of the main character of his short story “Winter’s Morning.”21 As far as Meimberg’s own feelings are concerned, he allows the reader deeper insights than many other veterans. Both the intoxicating exhilaration of the first kill (p. 91), as well as the consequences of the stress of finding himself in command of a unit perpetually on the brink of extinction, are described with brutal clarity (p. 264). Even conscious decisions to avoid combat when facing hopeless odds are freely admitted to (pp. 299-300).
Meimberg joined Jagdgeschwader (JG) 222 just in time to take part in the lightning campaign that saw Western Europe come under German occupation. He subsequently served both in the Battle of Britain and during the initial phase of the RAF’s “non-stop” offensive against the Luftwaffe in France. At the time of his first, near-fatal crash he had already achieved a total of 14 kills. In the nine months between his return to JG 2 and his second confinement in hospital, he accounted for a further 20 Allied planes in the skies of Western Europe and Tunisia. During this phase, veterans of the Jagdwaffe such as himself, while slowly realising that they were fighting an enemy endowed with seemingly unlimited industrial resources, could still take to the skies in the knowledge that in terms of training, tactics and (since the advent of the Focke-Wulf 190 A) technology, they still enjoyed an appreciable edge over both the USAAF and the RAF. By the late summer/early autumn of 1943 this phase of the war was but a receding memory, with the. Jagdwaffe not just giving way as it lost its bases on the ground, but increasingly coming off second best in terms of air combat, too. The part of the book in which he deals with his impressions of the last 20 months of the war in Europe (pp. 249-339) is by far the most gripping. After a brief interlude in Italy, where his injuries still limited his combat sorties to a minimum, he soon found himself in command of a Gruppe (three squadrons) of Jagdgeschwader 53 tasked with giving air cover to the German armies awaiting the Allied invasion in Normandy. The story of the Luftwaffe’s role in this campaign will no doubt be perpetually associated in the public imagination of the Anglo-American world with Colonel Priller’s lone strafing attack on Sword Beach23 to the exclusion of anything else, recent publications on the subject24 not- withstanding. Meimberg gives a brutally vivid account of how a German fighter Gruppe tried to interpose itself between the German troops on the ground and the might of Allied air power. The successes they achieved had to be weighed against the fact that by early September the unit in question had been decimated not once, but twice. This process was then repeated over the Ardennes and during the last battles over Germany. Throughout that time, the Kommandeur and a couple of veteran fellow pilots proved that they had lost none of their fighting skills (caught taxiing on the ground by low-flying Thunderbolts on a December morning in 1944, Meimberg took off and in quick succession dispatched three of them), but with their unit collapsing around them, these victories counted for little. The pressure on what remained of the Jagdwaffe increased sharply in the spring of 1944 as the USAAF undertook a deliberate campaign to destroy the Luftwaffe fighter arm. One of the most provocative elements of Meimberg’s memoir is his charge (pp. 283, 287-290, 294) that this campaign featured the deliberate machine-gunning of German pilots parachuting from their disintegrating aircraft. He would not be the only German airman to suggest that the shooting of Luftwaffe aircrew was a result of a deliberate policy adopted by the Eighth and Ninth (U.K.-based) and Fifteenth (Italy-based) U.S. Army Air Forces.25 Until now, many U.S. accounts of the European air war have given scant attention to the USAAF’s campaign to destroy the Jagdwaffe, much less address the claim by some German airmen that there was a deliberate targeting of parachuting Luftwaffe aircrew and that this practice raises the question of to what extent this escalation was directed or at least condoned by some of the senior or medium-ranking commanding officers of the three U.S. Army Air Forces.26 The fact that similar charges have not been levelled at British pilots is also noteworthy in this context.27 Until now, our knowledge of how the German side reacted to the belief that its pilots were being deliberately targeted has been limited to recollections from some German veterans who admit that the idea of retaliation was discussed amongst the pilots either privately28 or at the level of sub-units.29 Meimberg now allows us a unique glimpse into how the Luftwaffe’s leadership reacted to this perceived escalation. According to him, Generalleutnant Josef “Beppo” Schmid30, during a whirlwind tour of several fighter groups, gave a pep talk in which he incited the men to retaliate in kind, without however, making clear whether this statement was to be treated as an order or not.31 Meimberg’s attempt to dissuade his men from taking their cue from this was met with open insubordination by one of his pilots, another prominent ace. It is the unprecedented honesty of vignettes like these and Meimberg’s refusal to follow the consensus established between old comrades and cemented by the politics of the Cold War which should earn his book a well-deserved place among the minority of World War Two memoirs which are held in equally high regard by both historians and literary critics.32
Wolfgang Falck is very much the odd man out in this collection on account of a career path which at a deceptive first glance will probably appear downright boring to many air power buffs raised on a diet of constant dog fights and three-digit kill figures. Already promoted to Kommandeur of a Gruppe of Bf 110s during the Phoney War of 1939-40, Falck was soon shunted off to a number of assignments which first reduced his operational sorties to a minimum and then terminated them altogether: wing commander of the Luftwaffe’s first night fighter wing, a task which amounted to creating the Luftwaffe’s night fighter arm from scratch (1940/42); heading a provisional command tasked with setting up the fighter defense of the Ploesti oilfields in Romania (1943); deputy to the general officer commanding the night fighter arm (1943), and finally, operations officer on the staff of Air Fleet Reich (1943/44). In view of the high-level tidbits somebody in senior staff positions will always be privy to, the air power historians of World War II owe Kurt Braatz a major debt for talking Falck into putting pen to paper notwithstanding the fact he was well into his nineties at the time. With the caveat in mind that even the most well rounded memoir will always be a poor substitute for the Lufwaffe’s documentary record, Falck’s attempt to retrace steps taken 60 years ago has by and large succeeded. The book reads extremely well and even readers unfamiliar with, say, the meticulous training process a German army officer cadet aspiring to be a flier had to go through in the early 1930s never feel left behind. It goes without saying that the author covers a lot of ground already analysed by others and thus anyone familiar with the works of Horst Boog and Gebhard Adders will find little that is genuinely new in the chapters on the creation and inner workings of the German night fighter arm (pp. 157-235). Having said that, there are some real gems. The chapter on his flight training in the Soviet Union in 1932 (pp. 23-41) has real flavour and puts a question mark against the supposed secrecy of this project. His eyewitness report of the dissolution of a Czech air force unit in March 1939 (pp. 99-100) is priceless and reminded this reviewer of a similar scene reproduced in the feature film “Dark Blue World” (directed by Jan Sverak, 2001). A genuinely new addition to the scholarship on the July plot should be his account of how Stauffenberg quizzed him on the likely reaction of Air Fleet Reich to the implementation of “Plan Walküre” on the eve of the attempted coup, without, however, letting him in on the secret; his account of how events unfolded at Air Fleet Reich’s HQ in the hours and days after the count’s bomb went off is equally riveting (pp. 279-285). On the human side, Falck’s treatment of his immediate superior, General Josef Kammhuber, is remarkably fair, notwithstanding a major falling out between the two in 1944 which lasted well into the 1980s.
The only criticism which could be made of this fine book is one which applies to many memoirs: this concerns events which either at the time or today may have seemed only marginally relevant to the author and are accordingly given short shrift, without realising that 50 years in the future a reader lacking his background knowledge but bringing with him a different set of priorities would tend to see it rather differently. In this case, rather oblique references to the set of circumstances which allegedly led the Luftwaffe to choose the Me 109 over the Heinkel 112 (pp. 94-95), to hour-long debates with his brother-in-arms Adolf Galland about the Luftwaffe’s general crisis (p. 258) or to Wolfram von Richthofen “cunningly avoiding” being appointed Luftwaffe chief of staff in August 1943 (p. 262) belong in this category.
Of the five authors under review here, Günther Rail is easily the best known. Finishing his active career as a Gruppenkommandeur and the third ranking ace with 275 confirmed kills, he then went on to a second career as a wing commander, staff officer and C-in-C of the post-war Luftwaffe. In 2002, journalist Jill Amadio published a book on his life purporting to be both a memoir and an “authorized” biography; it appeared to have been based on a series of interviews. Its lack of footnotes, moreover, made it difficult to discern whether any crosschecking against primary or secondary sources had taken place.33 The memoirs are considerably more extensive, much better structured and supported by more than a hundred footnotes. In view of the relevance which his post-war experiences would obviously have for historians of the Cold War, Rall has devoted about a third of the book (pp. 222-334) to his time with the Bundeswehr’s air force.
Even though he never says so in so many words, it would appear that the future general belonged to the rarest breed of World War II fighter aces: rather than having to nerve himself to close with his target until a collision seemed inevitable, he had both the eyesight and the situational awareness to use deflection shooting, which enabled him to calculate the spot where his quarry and his shells would meet in airspace even while twisting and turning in a gut-wrenching dogfight. In addition, flying against the Russian air force when it was at its most vulnerable in terms of tactics and training (1941/42)34 certainly helps to explain a score which was sensational by even the most exacting standards. He spent the last year of the war back in Germany, fighting the USAAF, even though a combination of old and new injuries was to limit him mainly to command and training assignments. Luckily for the reader, Rail knows better than to treat him to a litany of aerial victories. He is obviously blessed with a good sense of observation, and much of the book is taken up by describing some of the fascinating encounters he had throughout his career: these feature a captured Soviet fighter pilot, future top ace Erich “Bubi” Hartmann as an overconfident rookie, a Gruppenkommandeur not above depriving his wingman of a kill so he could get a shortcut to the Iron Cross; Adolf Hider on the brink of realising the war may no longer be winnable; or post-war encounters with the survivors of the flight of Thunderbolts who deprived him of his left thumb during his last dogfight.
In taking stock of his life as a soldier and flier, Rail faced a peculiar challenge. While the other authors reviewed here went back into civilian fife after 1945, he chose not just to resume his military career in 1955, but did so together with a sizable group of fellow veterans of his own unit (Jagdgeschwader 52)35, thus extending the old ties of loyalty into the post-war world. In addition, his senior rank and diplomatic position as a member of NATO’s Supreme Council in 1974-75 must have posed an additional check on any desires to write the unvarnished truth, warts and all. While his attempt to give an honest account while still protecting the innocent is essentially a balancing act, it would be churlish to deny that it is gracefully executed. Unlike Meimberg, he does not raise the issue of German pilots being killed in their parachutes and he is not entirely comfortable discussing the professional demise of two fellow JG 52 veterans: the ostracism suffered by top ace Hermann Graf on his return to Germany36 and the refusal of the Bundeswehr to accept him as one of its pilots are discussed so briefly as to be virtually unintelligible to outsiders, while the sacking of General Herman Krupinski in 1976 (in circumstances not entirely dissimilar to his own fall from power) is not mentioned at all.37 Having said that, the account he gives of the Luftwaffe’s handling of the Starfighter crisis in the 1960s is thorough, balanced and fair and not devoid of some harsh criticism (pp. 265-291). Back in the world of World War II, aviation enthusiasts used to the Erich Hartmann hagiography of Toliver and Constable will be in for a minor shock. In just a couple of paragraphs, Rail paints a much more nuanced picture of the world’s most successful fighter pilot than they did in 300 pages. A truly exceptional pilot and fighter, he also comes across as a somewhat tragic figure who was propelled by his success into roles he didn’t seek and only rarely managed to fill out – a classic example, perhaps, of the wartime Luftwaffe’s policy of giving accelerated promotion to those officers who had shown themselves to be gifted dogfighters, rather than inspiring leaders or good administrators. Last but not least, Rail is also honest enough to admit that the Jagdwaffe was not an institution where flying, fighting and comradeship were the only factors determining pilots’ lives: the presence of a minority (small or not) of dyed-in-the-wool National Socialists in his unit does not seem to have constituted a source of friction, but the same cannot be said of the Nazi Party’s harassing of his wife for aiding Viennese friends in their flight abroad in 1938 (pp. 150-151, 154, 180).
The second night fighter pilot of this group regales us with an account from the trenches of the struggle for control of Germany’s night-time skies. Paul Zorner joined Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 in July of 1942, and though rising to command a Gruppe (three squadrons) of night fighters, flew against RAF Bomber Command until the last day of the war. His 59 confirmed kills were achieved in just over 100 combat sorties, making him and his radar operator one of the most cost-effective teams of the entire Wehrmacht. He quite freely admits that he was privileged both in being teamed up with a radar operator endowed with above-average skills as well as being given the chance to fine-tune his flying skills in the 16 months he spent as an instructor and a transport pilot after finishing his basic training in June 1940. The account of how he gained his fighter wings (pp. 118-140) is a real eye-opener just for the insight it gives the reader into the degree to which fuel shortage had crippled Luftwaffe pilot training as early as the winter of 1941/42. The chapters on his time with four different front-line night fighter wings (pp. 143-299) are a vivid reminder of the improvised, even hopscotch, affair which the Luftwaffe’s attempt to ward off night-time raiders essentially was. The main fighter used, the Messerschmitt 110, was barely capable of catching a Lancaster in level flight once the latter had jettisoned its ordnance; in the lumbering Dornier 217, Zorner once found himself in the peculiar position of being challenged to a veritable dogfight by the bomber – a Vickers Wellington – he had just intercepted, only emerging as the victor by the narrowest of margins. It is at this point that any reader more or less familiar with the subject would expect the author to dwell at length on the subject of the Heinkel 219 “Uhu” (Night Owl), which, though far superior to any of the other planes used by the Luftwaffe at night, was never built in large numbers because of the policy of Erhard Milch, State Secretary of the Reich Air Ministry, of sticking with tried and trusted models. This omission on his part is a puzzling one, since he must at least have had an inkling from other pilot’s reports of the Night Owl’s performance. The same could be said of the threat posed (or lack thereof) by British night fighters attempting to provide Bomber Command’s heavies with close escort in 1943-45. Although he makes occasional references to comrades in arms falling prey to these, he never indicates whether this played an appreciable role in reducing his own or his unit’s fighting effectiveness. Given the technological limitations of the period, it is fairly obvious that the attempt at night-time bomber escort would always have a more limited impact than the same tactic by day, but since this is still a topic debated among air power historians, a word or two on it from “the other side” would have been useful.
The author’s skills in bringing the past alive shine through on a number of occasions, but especially so when he has to bring home to a generation of readers used to night-time air travel across countries lit up like Christmas trees, the horror of finding oneself over a blacked-out countryside with no working navigational aids and fuel-starved engines and weighing the relative pros and cons of taking to one’s parachute or attempting a blind crash landing (esp. pp. 83-90, 227-229). Other more mundane conflicts such as covering up for a subordinate’s negligence (pp. 230-232), dealing with the Luftwaffe’s equivalent of the “Lack of Moral Fibre” categorization (pp. 265-267) or conflicts with superior officers (pp. 267-268), are also competently treated, thus giving the reader a well-rounded impression not just of air combat, but also of the daily problems associated with command of a small front-line unit in the Luftwaffe in the last two years of the war.
Walter Schuck’s account of his career as Jagdgeschwader 5′s top scorer offers a slightly different perspective on life in the wartime Luftwaffe to that offered in the four previous books. Unlike his peers, Schuck entered wartime training as a lowly Gefreiter (corporal) and went on to fight for two full years as an NCO pilot with Jagdgeschwader 5. Even though the Luftwaffe (unlike many Western air forces) was enlightened enough to give flight training to corporals who showed aptitude, this needs to be set against the fact that the author only got his commission after having proven himself in the most spectacular fashion (i.e., by accounting for 125 enemy aircraft). This makes for an interesting contrast with the rapid promotion given to many officers who had shown themselves to be successful dogfighters.
Ably assisted in this endeavour by aviation enthusiast Horst Kube, Schuck takes the reader on a journey to what was arguably the most self-contained theater of air warfare in Europe: the extreme northern tip of the Nordic peninsula, where the borders of Norway, Finland and the USSR abutted each other and where following the repulse of a German attempt to take Murmansk in the summer of 1941, the front soon became fairly static. Potentially neuralgic objectives on both sides of the frontline (the port of Murmansk and the nickel mines of Kolosjoki) forced both sides to retain a strong military presence in the area until the capitulation of Finland and the retreat of the German 20. Gebirgsarmee (Mountain Army) into Norway in September 1944. In the air, the Jagdwaffes contribution was limited most of the time to one or two Gruppen of Jagdgeschwader 5. Their pilots had to fly aircraft which, more often than not, were hand-me-downs from units flying and fighting in the Eastern Front’s main theater down south. Their duties included providing air cover for the ground troops, intercepting incoming air raids, as well as escorting or attacking coastal convoys the arrival of which was key to maintaining large bodies of troops in an area largely devoid of all-weather roads. In addition to this, almost from the very beginning they were dwarfed in terms of sheer numbers by their Soviet adversaries. The one thing they had going for them was the significant edge they enjoyed over their adversaries in training and tactics as well as – initially – a degree of technological superiority. Even though something of a backwater by the standards of the Eastern front, Russian attempts to force Finland out of the war before the final push for Berlin led to a maximum effort on the part of the Red Air Force throughout the summer months of 1944. It was during this time that the freshly minted lieutenant really came into his own, claiming more than 80 kills over a 12-week period. Shortly after leaving Petsamo and retreating with his unit into northwestern Norway, Schuck was asked to join one of the new jet units currently under training in Germany. In this capacity he went on to score a further eight kills, taking him to a total of 206. He finished his war when he flew into British-occupied Fassberg on 9 May 1945 from a Czech airfield.38
The author’s disarming honesty manifests itself in a number of places, whether it is the vivid description of his first dogfight, where he made every mistake in the book (pp. 48-49), a violent confrontation with another pilot over a mistake he had made in combat (p. 90) or his problems in adjusting to new responsibilities upon his promotion to squadron commander in July 1944 (pp. 164-167). His description of the circumstances which led to the sinking of the German battleship Tirpitz in a Norwegian fjord by the RAF are of special interest since he is in all likelihood the last surviving witness to the aftermath of this controversial affair. At the time, attention centred on the sins of omission allegedly perpetrated by JG 5′s wing commander, Major Heinrich Ehrler, who was subsequently court-martialed and found guilty of dereliction of duty. Schucks account gives added plausibility to a version of events already well established over the last few decades: in this scenario it is the notoriously poor liaison between the local Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine commands39 which brings about a sequence of events which allows the British bomber force to slip through.
Last but not least, there is also room in Schucks chronicles for a brief appearance by one of the Luftwaffe’s political commissars (the Nationalsozialistische Führungsoffizier, or National Socialist leadership officer). Endowed with much more limited functions and less authority than their Soviet counterparts, the NSFOs usually had to rely on their own war records to earn the respect of the men they were supposed to advise. In this particular instance, a hapless NSFO who fails to pass the test ends up being tossed out of a window after he had unwisely questioned JG 5′s recent combat record – it is to the author’s credit that he does not attempt to picture this incident as being a reflection of anything more transcendental, like a disagreement over politics.
Thanks to the book’s high-quality paper, the reader can make the most of the well over 250 photographs and eight excellent maps supplied by the author. The latter in particular are a major bonus to anyone not already thoroughly familiar with the geography of the northern reaches of the Nordic countries. The former give a vivid impression of what it must have been like to fly operationally in a region where geography and climate could pose a greater challenge than fighting the enemy.
An agenda for future research
Reading these five books left the reviewer with a lingering wish for more of the same. Kurt Braatz, for one, should feel encouraged to cast his net a little wider and maybe include in his gallery the recollections of a type of pilot much more representative of the 1943/45 Luftwaffe: substantially younger than a Rall or Schuck, trained in barely half the time given to them only one or two years earlier, cast into the furnace of air warfare in 1944 and a survivor against all statistical odds. In addition, many ideas for future avenues of scholarly research suggested themselves, with a comparison of the criteria used for promotion by the major air forces of World War II and an experiential military history of the Luftwaffe40 being just two of them. While the latter would essentially have to be started from scratch and would be a daunting undertaking to say the least, the gems to be found in the recently released minutes of MI-19′s systematic eavesdropping on German POWs should certainly be enough to give the idea a major boost.41
The startling contrast between Rall’s and Meimberg’s accounts on the subject of German aircrew being machine-gunned in their parachutes, together with the scant research undertaken on this subject so far42, should make this an interesting field of research. While it is important to emphasise that according to the existing international conventions of the 1940s, machine-gunning a parachuting pilot did not constitute a war crime43, we now have some indication that, technically aboveboard or not, at least some USAAF senior officers were both aware of and uncomfortable with it.44 The sheer number of cases also suggest that this phenomenon cannot be explained away simply by referring to the “heat of combat.”45 How and why this state of affairs was arrived at, and whether it originated from the lower ranks (possibly as retaliation for the first reports of Allied airmen being lynched by German civilians)46 or as a suggestion/oral order47 from higher command, should be a subject well worth exploring.
Finally, it is well worth remembering that the debate of the last 15-20 years over the degree to which the German armed forces were in the grip of National Socialist ideology has so far essentially been limited to the army and (to a lesser extent) the Kriegsmarine. Hitler’s saying that he had “a monarchist navy, reactionary army and National Socialist Luftwaffe,” while an obvious oversimplification seems hardly surprising, since the air force was the only service with a service chief who himself hailed from the ranks of the NSDAP’s “alte Kämpfer” (old fighters). The extent to which the elite among the Luftwaffe’s ground forces (especially the Hermann Göring division and some of the Fallschirmjäger units) perceived themselves as political soldiers and were prepared to display a particular ruthlessness in combat48 seems to suggest that Göring’s endeavours in this regard might have enjoyed at least a modicum of success.49 In the case of the fighter arm, a similar trend may well have been favored by the extent to which successful aces were given the VIP treatment and enrolled in the German propaganda machinery the moment they returned from the front. At the same time, the arbitrary and increasingly hysterical accusations from a commander in chief quite obviously out of his depth may well have gone a long way towards halting or reversing such a process after 1941. In any case, further research into the subject would appear to be a worthwhile endeavour.
1. Available in English as My Logbook: Reminiscences, 1918-2006 (Wang, Germany: Editions Twenty-nine Six, 2007). ISBN 978-3-980-7935-8-2. Photographs. Bibliography. Source notes. Pp. 373. US$55.00.
2. For examples of how fragile the spirit of chivalry could sometimes turn out to be, see the order given to Fighter Command in August 1940 to shoot down German air-sea rescue planes marked with the Red Cross, as well as the attack by German fighter bombers on the RAF Officers’ Hospital in Torquay on 25 October 1942. Unlike the first case, which can be traced back to Winston Churchill, the origins of the Torquay mission and how the pilots who carried it out were briefed has remained a mystery due to the loss of the war diaries of the commands which were likely to have been involved in the operation Jagdgeschwader 2, Jagdfliegerführer 3, Höherer Jagdfliegerführer West, Luftflotte 3). The known facts have been summarised by FC. Rexford Welsh, “RAF Officers’ Hospital Torquay, “After the Battle Magazine, Nr. 1 18: 34-43.
3. A total often pilots achieved more than 100 kills against the Western air forces, while in Russia nine reached or exceeded a score of 200. The most successful pilot of each group (Hans Joachim Marseille with 158, Erich Hartmann with 352 kills) took just over two years to attain his respective score. On the Allied side, the top British and U.S. aces who flew against the Luftwaffe achieved 34 and 28 “kills” respectively, with their Soviet peer claiming 62. The very nature of Second World War fighter combat made it all but inevitable that overclaiming would occur on all sides; in order to insure against this, the paperwork relating to each claim (especially reports by witnesses) had to be passed on to the Reichsluftfahrtministerium in Berlin, which retained the right to deny confirmation. For an interesting discussion of how some aces showed a greater tendency to overclaim than others and even managed to hoodwink the system, see the recent exchange in the discussion board ofwww.ww2.dk.
4. In 2004, a minority of Bundestag deputies belonging to the Green and Socialist (i.e., the former ruling party in East Germany) parties submitted a motion calling for the name of Second World War ace Werner Mölders to be removed as the honorific title of the Bundeswehr’s Jagdgeschwader 74. The outcome of the issue came to hinge on the verdict of an expert opinion Gutachten) to be produced by Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Wolfgang Schmidt of the Historical Research Institute of the German Armed Forces (the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, or MGFA). In the MGFA’s 50 years of existence, it has gone a long way towards redeeming the idea of an officially sponsored, but independent, military history in Germany capable of resisting – unlike its predecessor in the inter-war years – attempts at political manipulation. Schmidt’s recommendation (still accessible on www.mgfa.de in August 2008) that Mölders was indeed not representative of the Bundeswehr’s spiritual core values was essentially arrived at by, on the one hand, accepting every accusation at face value while routinely dismissing positive testimony as “unproven” or “partisan”. In addition, the document was so littered with omissions and half-truths that the idea of a politically motivated hatchet job cannot be dismissed out of hand. Without a doubt, the Molders-Gutachten will remain a truly unique blot on the otherwise exemplary record of the MGFA in promoting the study of scholarly military history in post-war Germany. Readers of the Journal wishing to acquaint themselves with all the aspects of this affair should turn to Hermann Hagena, Jagdflieger Werner Mölders. Die Wërde des Menschen gehtßber den Tod hinaus (Aachen: Helios, 2008).
5. The loyalty shown by the survivors of the U-boat arm to their former C-in-C, Admiral Karl Dönitz, can be traced back to a number of factors. Quite apart from the fact that at the beginning of the war he was still a fairly junior commander (his rank was the equivalent of a colonel), his sentencing at Nuremberg drew heavy criticism not just from his own men but naval commanders of other – including former enemy – countries as well. In addition, though his failures in leadership in the second half of the war contributed to the horrific losses among U-boat crews during that time, unlike Göring, he never berated his men for failing to achieve the impossible. The best known case of veterans rallying to defend “their” admiral occurred in the wake of the publication of Lothar-Günther-Buchheim’s Das Boot (Munich: R. Piper &c Co. Verlag, 1973) and the screening of the feature film (1981) based on it. See Michael L. Hadley, Count Not the Dead: the Popular Image of the German Submarine (Montreal Sc Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995), 140-171. On the question of the reinsertion of German veterans into post-war civil society in general, see James Diehl, Thanks of the Fatherland: German Veterans after the Second World War (Chapel HiU: University of North Carolina Press, 1993).
6. On joining Hider’s government as Reichskommissar für die Luftfahrt, Göring still held his post-1918 military rank of Hauptmann (captain) in the reserves. In order to provide him with some political muscle in the upcoming struggle with the army over the control of the newly created Luftwaffe, he was promoted to General der Infanterie (i.e., full general) on 30 August 1933. Such a blatant act of political favoritism was without precedent in the entire history of Prussia and Germany.
7. The only war diaries of operational Geschwader-size units available to researchers in the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv (Freiburg) are fragments of the records of Jagdgeschwaders 3 and 77.
8. Until 1 September 1943, this was inclusive of the Schlachtflieger (Stukas and other close air support aircraft).
9. Adolf Galland, Die Ersten und die Letzten. Die Jagdflieger im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Munich: Schneekluth Verlag, 1953; numerous reprints). The book’s cult status was once again brought home to this reviewer during a recent virtual shopping trip at a second-hand book shop on the World Wide Web. The asking price for the one paperback copy available (an unsigned reprint) was 205 UK ($310).
10. Gerd Gaiser, Die sterbende Jagd (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1955). The author did his best to obfuscate the identity of the fighter wing in question by providing characters and geographical locations with fictional names, but the available evidence points very strongly either to Jagdgeschwader 1 or Jagdgeschwader 11 (the former being the parent unit of the latter).
11 . Even though the paperback edition alone sold a respectable 100,000 copies in five years, today Gaiser’s book is mostly remembered by scholars of post-1945 German literature. The main reason for its limited impact may well lay in the profusion of 1940s Luftwaffe jargon which makes it a challenging read for all uninitiated readers.
12. Even though for more than 30 years Göring’s image as an incompetent buffoon rested largely on Galland’s self-serving memoirs, recent scholarship has gone a long way towards confirming his devastating judgement. See for instance Horst Boog, Die deutsche Luftwaffenführung 1 9351945. Führungsprobleme, Spitzengliederung, Generalstabausbildung (Stuttgart: Schöningh, 1982); Kurt Braatz, Gott oder ein Flugzeug. Leben und Sterben des Jagdfliegers Günther Lützow (Moosburg: NeunundzwanzigSechs, 2005), esp. pp 269-369; Ernst Stilla, “Die Luftwaffe im Kampf um die Luftherrschaft. Entscheidende Einflußgrifen bei der Niederlage der Luftwaffe im Abwehrkampf im Westen und öber Deutschland im Zweiten Weltkrieg unter besonderer Berßcksichtigung der Faktoren Luftröstung, Forschung und Entwicklung und Human-Ressourcen” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Bonn, 2005), esp. chapter 11.2.
13. For obvious examples, see Raymond F. Toliver and Trevor J. Constable, Horrido! (London: Arthur Barker Ltd., 1968) on the Jagdwaffe aces in general, as well as the biography of Erich Hartmann produced by the same authors: The Blond Knight of Germany (London: Arthur Barker, 1970). It has to be said that the first book in particular still has its uses as an introduction to the general subject area.
14. For a complete list of Mr. Weal’s work, the reader is referred to his publishers’ website:www.ospreypublishing.com.
15. Peter Hinchliffe, Schnaufer, Ace of Diamonds: the Biography of Heinz Wolfgang Schnaufer, Germany’s Top-Scoring Night Fighter of World War Il (Stroud, U.K., and Charleston, S.C.: Tempus Publishing, 1999) as well as Peter Hinchliffe, The Lent Papers (Bristol, U.K. : Cerberus Publishing, 2003).
16. For a particularly scandalous instance of a publisher literally eviscerating a piece of promising scholarship, see Ulf Balke, Der Luftkrieg in Europa. Die Einsätze des Kampfgeschwaders 2 (Koblenz: Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1990/91).
17. Only a handful of these have so far been translated into English. Apart from Galland, there are: Heinz Knoke, / Flew for the Führer (London: Evans Brothers, 1953); Ulrich Steinhilper, Spitfire on My Tail: a View from the Other Side (London: Independent Books, 1987); Adolf Dickfeld, Footsteps of the Hunter (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: JJ. Fedorowicz, 1992); Norbert Hannig, Luftwaffe Fighter Ace: From the Eastern Front to the Defence of the Homeland (London: Grub Street, 2004).
18. An important exception was made by Ernst Stilla in his recent Ph.D. dissertation on the defeat of the Jagdwaffe in the last two years of the war. While the bulk of his sources are of primary nature (whether private papers or surviving official documentation), many of his key points, which address the Luftwaffe’s lackadaisical approach to the management of human resources, are effectively supported by the written testimony of surviving veterans of the fighter arm. Stilla, “Kampf um die Luftherrschaft.” Stilla’s work complements Horst Boog’s account of the strategic dimension of the bombing campaign against Germany in volume 7 of the MGFAs multi-volume history of the Second World War. The best account so far of the tactical dimension of the big air battles of 1943X45 from a German point of view is that offered by Donald Caldwell & Richard Müller, The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich (London: Greenhill, 2007).
19. Bernd Wegner, “Erschriebene Siege. Franz Haider, die Historical Division und die Rekonstruktion des Zweiten Weltkrieges im Geiste des deutschen Generalstabes”, in Ernst Willi Hansen, Gerhard Schreiber and Bernd Wegner, eds., Politischer Wandel, organisierte Gewalt und nationale Sicherheit. Beiträge zur neueren Geschichte Deutschlands und Frankreichs. Festschrift für Klaus-Jürgen Müller (Munich: DVA, 1995): 287-302.
20. For an excellent analysis of the uses memoirs can have for historians of both early and late modern military history, see Yuval Noah Harari, “Military Memoirs: A historical overview of the genre from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern era”, War in History 14, 3 (2007): 289-309.
21.In his short story collection Declarations of War (London: Jonathan Cape, 1971; numerous reprints).
22. A fighter Geschwader had a nominal strength of around 120 aircraft and was the equivalent of the USAAF’s Group or the RAF’s Wing.
23. As immortalized in the feature film, “The Longest Day” (20th Century Fox, 1961).
24. According to Donald Caldwell, The JG 26 War Diary, Vol. II, 1943-1945 (London: Grub Street, 1998), 296, the fighter units of Luftflotte 3 opposed the establishment of the Allied bridgehead with more than 10,000 sorties in the first three weeks alone. It goes without saying that this number was dwarfed many times over by Anglo-American air power.
25. For several instances where Slovak, Bulgarian and Hungarian fliers were killed in this manner by pilots subordinate to the Fifteenth Army Air Force, see Hans-Werner Neulen, Am Himmel Europas. Lufttreitkräfte an deutscher Seite 1939-1945 (Munich: Universitas, 1998), 143, 146, 173-174, 200.
26. Stephen L. McFarland and Wesley Phillips Newton, To Command the Sky: the Battle for Air Superiority over Germany, 1942-1944 (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press; rev. ed., 2002), is probably the best account of how the leadership of the USAAF in early 1944 shifted its operational focus from strategic bombing to inflicting wholesale attrition on the Luftwaffe’s fighter arm. Despite the obvious relevance of this aspect of U.S. fighter tactics to their chosen subject, the authors fail to address it even in passing.
27. Despite the savagery of the fighting there, few such incidents were reported from the Russian front. One German fighter ace who had faced both Americans and Soviets in the air even made a point of dwelling at some length on this remarkable discrepancy in his memoirs: Heinz Ewald, Esau (privately published, 1990), 63. It needs to be borne in mind, however that in view of the average altitude at which most air combat in the East (2,000-2,500 m) took place, the victorious pilot usually had much less time in which to target his vanquished adversary.
28. See Robert Jung, Auf verlorenem Posten. Die Geschichte eines jungen Jagdfliegers (Mainz: Self-published, 1993): 65-66, 80-81 for the recollections on the subject of a veteran of Jagdgeschwader 300.
29. At some point in late 1944, the pilots of the I. Gruppe of Jagdgeschwader 26 even appear to have held a vote to decide their future course of action in the matter. According to testimony collected by the author of JG 26′ s unit history, the notion was rejected. See Caldwell,/G 26 War Diary, Vol. 2: 465.
30. From September 1943 to November 1944, General Officer Commanding of I. Jagdkorps, i.e. the subcommand of Luftflotte Reich tasked with countering the Eighth AAF’s raids into western and central Germany. Schmid’s name is usually associated with the abysmally poor intelligence he supplied on the RAF before and during the Battle of Britain, while employed as head of intelligence in the 5th Abteilung of the Luftwaffe’s General Staff.
31. Meimberg’s account is supported by the manner in which the regime around the same time “encouraged” the murder of Allied air crew who had parachuted from their aircraft: rather than issue an unambiguous directive, the different police organisations of the Reich were told not to “interfere” with any altercations that might ensue between Allied air crew and German civilians. This subject still awaits scholarly treatment. The evidence so far gathered by the authors of www.flieger-lynchmorde.de would seem to indicate, however, that in the majority of cases (about 300), the perpetrators were not civilians traumatised by the recent destruction of their homes, but police and party officials.
32. Among the titles that come to mind are Milovan Djilas, Wartime (New York and London: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977); as well as Samuel Hynes, Flights of Passage: Reflections of a World War II Aviator (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1988); and George MacDonald Fraser, Quartered Safe Out Here (London: Harper & Collins, 1992).
33. Jill Amadio, Günther Rail : a Memoir: Luftwaffe Ace and NATO General: the Authorized Biography (Santa Ana, Calif.: Tangmere Productions, 2002)
34. One hundred of Rail’s 275 victories were achieved during this time period.
35. The quite disproportionate number of JG 52 veterans holding key positions in the 1960s and 1970s Luftwaffe would make for a worthy subject of research in itself.
36. The propaganda machine of the Nazi regime had used Hermann Graff to great effect at the peak of his career (in October 1942, he was the first pilot to reach the magical mark of 200 confirmed kills), with his working-class background being seen as a major bonus. Released from captivity in the USSR in 1949, he was denounced three years later by Hans Hahn for supposedly having collaborated with the Soviets.
37. Rall lost his position in 1974 as a result of a private trip he had taken to South Africa being misrepresented in the media. Krupinski found himself caught up in the frenzy of the “Rudel Affair” two years later. In attempting to make light of a social visit to the “Immelman” wing by top Stuka ace and neo-nazi sympathiser Hans-Ulrich-Rudel, he drew a comparison between Rudel on the one hand, and the communist past of Herbert Wehner (Social Democratic Party leader in the Bundestag) on the other. His assumption that he was talking off the record was to prove sadly mistaken. For more details, see Donald Abenheim, Reforging the Iron Cross: the Search for Tradition in the West German Armed Forces (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988), 256-263.
38. Anyone wishing to take up the story from this point can refer to the memoirs of one of his Allied hosts, French Flight Lieutenant Pierre Clostermann, The Big Show: the Greatest Pilot’s Story of World War II (London: Cassell, 2005), 309-311.
39. Throughout most of the war, the slipshod cooperation between Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe stood in stark contrast to the much better track record of the Luftwaffe and the army. For an analysis of the reasons behind this, see Sönke Neitzel, Der Einsatz der Luftwaffe öber dem Atlantik und der Nordsee 1939-1945 (Bonn: Bernard Sc Graefe, 1995).
40. A genre already well established for aircrew on the Allied side. For the British experience, see Edward Smithies, War in the Air: the Men and Women Who Built, Serviced and Flew Warplanes Remember the Second World War (London: Viking, 1990), while John C. McManus, Deadly Sky: the American Combat Airman in World War II (Novato, Calif: Presidio Press, 2000) has provided many valuable insights for the U.S. side. The seminal Mark K. Wells, Courage and Air Warfare: the Allied Aircrew Experience in the Second World War (London: Frank Cass Co., 1995) makes copious use of interviews and memoirs to elucidate how the RAF and USAAF tackled the problem of upholding morale in the face of mounting losses in 1942-44.
41. Sönke Neitzel, ed., Tapping Hitler’s Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations, 1942-45 (Barnsley, U.K.: Pen 6c Sword, 2007) is the first study to fully exploit the potential of this new type of primary source. MI-19 was the branch of British Intelligence specifically charged with obtaining information from enemy POWs.
42. The only half-hearted attempt at analysis made so far are the memoirs of Luftwaffe interrogator Hans-Joachim Scharff. See Raymond F. Toliver, ed., The Interrogator: the Story of Hans-Joachim Scharff Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe (Atglen,Pa..: Schiffer, 1997),200-228.They are remarkable as much for what they reveal as for what they obviously try to hide, a fact made understandable by the author having emigrated to the U.S. in 1954 and taking up American citizenship soon after.
43. The few ineffectual attempts made in the interwar years to provide a framework of international law for the new arena of air power had mainly concerned themselves with limiting the bombing of civilian dwellings and never even got round to addressing the combatant status of a pilot parachuting into territory where he was likely to be rescued by his own side. The ambiguities of this issue are nicely highlighted by an attempt on the part of Generaloberst Alfred Jodl of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht in June 1944 to limit the scope of reprisals threatened against Allied air crew who had parachuted or crash-landed after having been “caught in the act” of perpetrating alleged war crimes. While he admitted that strafing civilians and killing parachuting Germans constituted cases which warranted reprisals, the strafing of Luftwaffe air crew who were in the process of emerging from their crash-landed aircraft was deemed to be perfectly legal and above aboard.
See Helmut Schnatz, Tiefangriffe, Propaganda und Lynchjustiz (unpublished manuscript, 2003).
44. See the appended Luftwaffe intelligence report.
45. Starting with the killing of Unteroffizier Heinz Willert on 26 November 1943 and culminating with the machine-gunning of at least three German fighter pilots in their parachutes on 7 April 1945 (during the Sonderkommando Elbe operation), this author has arrived at a preliminary minimum figure of 65 German, 2 Hungarian, 2 Bulgarian and 1 Slovak pilots/ aircrew who were killed or wounded in this fashion. Apart from some records kindly provided by a Luftwaffe veteran, the following little-known works by local historians were of particular use during my research : Gerhard Bracke, Gegen vielfache öbermacht. Aspekte der Luftkriegswirklichkeit 1942-1945 (Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag, 1977), 201; Heinz Meyer, Luftangriffe zwischen Nordsee und Heide (Hamelin: Bucherverlag Sfinteltal, 1983), 53, 83; Werner Held, Reichsverteidigung. Die deutsche Tagjagd 1943/45 (Friedberg: Podzun-Pallas Verlag, 1988), 167; Peter Huber, Als der Himmel Feuer spie. Der Luftkrieg öber Kraichgau, Hardt und Bruhrain (Bruchsal: Self-published, 1996), 100-101; Peter Huber, Vor 50 Jahren. 1945 in Zeitzeugenberichten und Dokumenten (Bruchsal: Self- published, 1996), 145; Dietrich Alsdorf, Rammjäger. Auf den Spuren des ‘Elbe Kommandos . Schicksale-Schauplütze-Funde (Wölfersheim: Podzun-Pallas Verlag, 2001), 51-79; Hans Willibold, Der Luftkrieg zwischen Donau und Bodensee. Vorbereitungen. Flugplütze und deren Belegungen. Luftangriffe. Abstärze (Bad Buchau: Federsee-Verlag, 2002), 188-189; Rainer Klug, Der Luftkrieg im Dillgebiet (Geschichtsverein Herborn: Giessen, 2005), 316-317; Heinz Leiwig, Flieger über Rheinhessen Der Luftkrieg ?ber Rheinhessen 1939 bis 1 945 ( Alzey : Verlag der Rheinhessischen Druckerwerkstötte, rev. ed., 2006), 134-139.
46. A possibility already suggested by a German wing commander in his post-war memoirs; Walther Dahl, Rammjäger: Das letzte Aufgebot (Heusenstamm: Orion Verlag, 1962), 136.
47. The explanation suggested in Scharff, p. 228. He neglects, however, to give a date and qualifies it by claiming that “99″ percent of US fighter pilots refused to follow it.
48. Peter Lieb, Konventioneller Krieg oder NS- Weltanschauungskrieg fur Kriegführung und Partisanenbekämpfung in Frankreich 1943/44 (Munich: Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007), 102-104, 453, 483, 506-507 on the Fallschirmjäger during the barde for Normandy. Martin Stimpel and Günter Roth, Die deutsche Fallschirmtruppe 1936-1945. Band 4: Führung in der deutschen Fallschirmtruppe und das Selbstverst?ndnis der Fallschirmjäger (Hamburg: Koehler & Mittler, forthcoming) is expected to provide a comprehensive analysis of the German paratrooper’s combat motivation. On the atrocities record of the Hermann Göring division, see the forthcoming work by Carlo Gentile (University of Cologne).
49. For a sceptical assessment of Göring’s success in “Nazifying” the Luftwaffe, see Andreas Haggenwiller,”Das Offizierskorps der Luftwaffe im Zweiten Weltkrieg – eine nationalsozialistische Elite?”, paper given at the Potsdam conference on “Die Luftwaffe der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Hintergründe – Perzeptionen – Perspektiven,” on 29-31 May 2008. The author is much obliged to Mr. Haggenwiller for providing him with a copy of his paper.
Klaus Schmider received a Ph.D. in history from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, in 2001. His doctoral dissertation, “Der Partisanenkrieg in Jugoslawien 1941-1944″ (Partisan Warfare in Yugoslavia, 1941-1944), was published by Mittler &. Sohn of Hamburg in 2002. Since 1999, Dr. Schmider has lectured in the War Studies Department at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. In 2000, he co-authored Volume 8 of the semi-official History of Germany in the Second World War published by the Bundesweh’s Historical Research Institute Milit?rgeschichtliches Forschungsamt). Dr. Schmider can be contacted through The Journal of Military History or via email@example.com
Note: This is a translation by the author of an intelligence report found in Luftwaffe general staff files. A copy of the original is in the possession of the author.
Luftwaffenfuehrungsstab lc HQ 30th October, 1944
Fremde Luftwaffen West
Nr. 59 264/44 geheim
Ic Loose minute
Re: Attacks on parachuting German pilots
A prisoner of war (operations officer of a fighter group) admits that the machine-gunning of German pilots who were in the act either of parachuting or emerging from crash-landed planes by U.S. fighters has occurred quite frequently. The stance taken by these pilots is that short of shooting their adversaries, these would otherwise be in a position to fly and fight again in a new plane the very next day.
In order not to give Germany an advantage in the propaganda war, the men tasked with developing the gun camera films of returning aircraft have been sworn to secrecy and instructed to cut any footage showing such acts. This is to avoid these acts becoming known to all pilots of the squadron who might then reveal them to the enemy in case of capture.
Major im Generalstab