Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lela Presse on Facebook - new Luftwaffe books, JG 53 history Vol III

Catch up with all the latest news and publications from Lela Presse on their new Facebook page

Please note your blog author will be taking time out over the next few months to work on various new publications for Lela Presse, VDM Heinz Nickel and Erik Mombeek. Lela Presse currently have Luftwaffe Seaplanes Vol III and a history of the Focke Wulf 190 in French service (with English captions) in preparation.  Part III of Jean-Louis Roba's excellent history of JG 53 is due on 20 July. (French language only); A-4 softback, 96 pages, 200 photos, Thierry Dekker artwork. Order your copy here, highly recommended at only 12 Euros..

Summary of contents:
-  II. and III./JG 53 over Malta (1 – 20 May 1942)
-  III./JG 53 in north Africa (June – October 1942)
-  Stab and II./JG 53 alone against Malta (May - June 1942)
-  Stab and II./JG 53 over Malta (July – October 1942)
-  Final assault against Malta
-  I. and II./JG 53 (October 1942)
-  The 'Pik As' in Tunisia (November 1942 – May 1943)
-  The 'Pik As' on Sicily (13 May – 9 July 1943)

Read my extensive review of part 2 of this series elsewhere on this blog

Elsewhere I am currently proofing my contribution to Part 5 of the hugely impressive Stipdonk/Meyer  "Die Deutsche Luftwaffe - Zerstörer- und Nachtjagdverbände" series published through VDM Heinz Nickel, Zweibrücken, Germany. No news on publication yet though.

As the title suggests this series is primarily concerned with Luftwaffe Zerstörer (‘destroyer’ or heavy fighters) and Nachtjagd (nightfighting) operations. The books are essentially photo journals with extensive German and English captions. The authors have released one book per year over the past four years with each volume featuring around 400-500 images over 200 pages in an A4 soft-back format. Most of the photos in each volume are previously unpublished and well printed. They are captioned in German and English except for Volume 4, which is German-language only.

More info here

A review of Colin Heaton's new 'Me 262 Stormbird' title 

from the publisher's blurb;

" The Me 262 was the first of its kind, the first jet-powered aircraft. Although conceived before the war, with the initial plans being drawn in April 1939, the Stormbird was beset with technological (particularly the revolutionary engines) and political difficulties, resulting in it not entering combat until August 1944, with claims of nineteen downed Allied aircraft. The performance of the Me 262 so far exceeded that of Allied aircraft that on 1 Sepember 1944, USAAF General Carl Spaatz remarked that if greater numbers of German jets appeared, they could inflict losses heavy enough to force cancellation of the Allied daylight bombing offensive. The story of how the Stormbird came to be is fascinating history, and it comes to life in the hands noted historian Colin Heaton. Told largely in the words of the German aces who flew it, The Me 262 Stormbird provides the complete history of this remarkable airplane from the drawing boards to combat in the skies over the Third Reich..."

I had fairly low expectations for this book when I ordered it, certainly Amazon's blurb is not a good start: "The Me 262 was the first of its kind, the first jet-powered aircraft." Joe Peterburs assessment, 'an interesting and informative account of the significance and development of the Me 262' features on the front cover blurb. The dust-jacket and the general design though is first class - the jacket has a marvellous velvety feel to it as well. As for the contents, it is mostly of interest for the numerous first-person accounts furnished via author interviews or quoted directly from articles and books - " from the pilots who flew, fought and survived it..". A number of Heaton's interviewees especially Galland, Steinhoff, Herrmann etc have of course published their own memoirs, usually good translations from the original German. Here they are 'interviewed' in English so don't offer much more than " ..and there I was at 20,000 ft.." or Georg-Peter Eder's " my first kill in the Me 262 was fantastic!" or Herrmann's " the Me 262 was not a great night fighter as high speeds made accuracy an issue.."  . It is easy to come away with the impression that Heaton is somewhat in awe of these high-ranking and highly decorated veteran Luftwaffe pilots - he may have shot down lots of (mostly) poor quality Russian pilots on the Eastern Front, but to describe Nowotny as a tactical innovator is well wide of the mark - see Manfred Boehme's benchmark history of JG 7 (Schiffer Publishing) for Messerschmitt's own deep concerns about Nowotny's 'qualities' to be entrusted with the Me 262 trials unit. The relative unknowns, pilots like Georg Czypionka (10./ NJG 11) unfortunately get only brief - and not terribly insightful - passages.

" I remember my introduction to the Me 262 fondly. I had arrived at Burg airfield on a March afternoon...after my first two flights at dusk I flew my first Me 262 combat sortie that night. I was returning from my sortie, ten or fifteen minutes from the airfield, when all of a sudden a Mosquito crossed my way (sic). It was pure coincidence, I just decided to fire a burst into him as he came into the Revi. With a very strong armament of four cannons (sic) he went down..."

The author also fills his text with cringe-worthy 'colloquialisms' too - sentences such as "the Me 262 was a potential game-changer for the Germans" make me wince every time. These criticisms aside, while the Me 262 was technologically very impressive, its shortcomings and teething problems rendered much of its impact more psychological than anything else, so the human aspects - the focus of Heaton's take on the story - make for an interesting read. If a little repetitive - the high speeds, the poor low speed performance, engine flame outs, the difficulties in juggling the throttle controls - all these aspects of flying the Me 262 were a given for every Me 262 pilot. A proportion of the interview material originally appeared in magazine interviews such as 'Aviation History' - there is for example a lengthy description of Nowotny's last moments which is well recounted over three pages from the observers on the ground and the successful P-51 pilots. The extensive bibliography and chapter notes are notable for some curious omissions but do indicate though that a fair amount of research went into the book - Heaton has spent time in the archives and put together an organisational framework on which to build a supporting structure for his personal accounts - while the collection of personal letters, data, information, and documents was accumulated from an impressively lengthy list of (not exclusively) German participants. Rather mysteriously though the Classic Smith/Creek/Forsyth four-volume history of the Me 262 isn't listed. Neither is Manfred Boehme's benchmark JG 7 opus. Of the cited 336 pages, at least 100 of these comprise the usual lists of aces, 8th AF jet claims, Me 262 losses and technical appendices.Overall Heaton's work is a decent enough angle on a well-trodden story and while this title won't replace any of the standard texts we have for the 262, you may find that it complements them quite nicely.

Visit author Colin Heaton's website for news of his forthcoming Luftwaffe books