The Luftwaffe 1933-45
By Chris McNab
This profusely illustrated volume traces the history of the Luftwaffe from its inception in 1933, until its demise in 1945. The author has divided the book up into eight chapters. The first of these, The Rise and Fall of the Luftwaffe, traces the history of the German Air service from its inception as a clandestine organization in defiance of the Versailles treaty. The Luftwaffe began its life as the sport gliding clubs of the interwar years. The designs of aircraft began as “commercial” designs for the German Air Line, Lufthansa, while fighter designs began life in factories in Russia and Sweden. In 1933, when he became Chancellor, Adolf Hitler brought the German Air Force, out of the closet and proceeded to re-arm Germany in violation of that same Versailles treaty.
The second chapter examines the Organization and Manpower of the Luftwaffe and where it fit into the scheme of things. Due much to the insatiable grab for power amongst the Nazi leaders the Luftwaffe became Hermann Goring’s private army. The development of the aircraft in the Luftwaffe stable was dictated by the principles that the Air Force was to act as a support unit for the ground forces. Any other voices were silenced. The development of a strategic, four-engined bomber was cancelled due to the death of one of the Nazi leaders, as most other believed that dive-bombing and medium bombers were sufficient to act in conjunction with the Wehrmacht.
The next five sections cover the individual forces of the Luftwaffe. The first covers the Bombers. This section covers the selection and training of the Aircrews, their specialized training and so forth. The uniforms for the Aircrews and Ground Crews are covered in this section. Each of the principle aircraft are covered in detail giving the pros and cons of each and especially their deficiencies during the Battle of Britain. Famous fliers and famous aircraft are included as photographs and as artist renderings throughout the chapter.
The chapter on fighters covers much of the same ground as the bomber section, giving the uniforms, training and equipment for this arm of the service. Fighter planes are covered from the pre-war biplanes through to the jet and rocket fighters utilized in the latter stages of the war. Again famous aircraft and fliers are illustrated in artist renderings showing markings and uniforms employed during the war.
The next section covers the ground Attack Forces utilizing the Henschel Eine-Zwei-Drei (123) as the earliest of the dive bombers. The development of the Stuka (JU-87) brought that force into its own during the early stages of the conflict, although the Henschel’s were used throughout the war. The movement to the He 111 as a dive bomber later in the was is also documented, as is the arming of Stuka’s and Henschel”s with cannon as tank busters.
Next comes the “Sea Eagles”, the maritime reconnaissance forces and the maritime bombers used to destroy merchant ships and warships. The most famous of these scout planes was the Focke-Wulf FW-200 “Condor”, which was used to spot convoys off the European and Scandinavian coast and to drop bombs on those convoys.
The last section covers the Luftwaffe Ground Forces including the Paratroopers and the capture of Eben-Emal and Crete. As the war progressed, large number of Luftwaffe personnel were left with nothing to do due to fuel shortages not allowing planes to go aloft. These troops were turned out as Infantry Units, still under the command of the Luftwaffe, but now fighting as grunts.
All-in-all this book it worth its cost if for nothing else than the great collection of photographs and artist renderings. This volume is capsule history of the Air Forces of the Third Reich and should be brought to the attention of Modelers and Wargamers, as well as those who love to read about history. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War II aviation and the War in Europe.