JG 52 has bragging rights as being the most successful fighter wing in history, accounting for 10,000 victories in World War II. Its story is excitingly told in this Osprey 'Aviation Elite Units' volume by John Weal.
JG 52's initial combats in 1940 showed little promise of the great victories to come. By December 1940 the wing had claimed 177 kills, losing 53 pilots in the Battle of Britain alone. The invasion of Russia in June 1941 was the catalyst that transformed JG 52 from second-stringers to topguns. Flying the superlative Bf 109F, JG 52 pilots like Adolf Dickfeld, Gunther Rall, Hermann Graf, 'Macki' Steinhoff and Gerhard Koppen decimated their poorly-trained, -equipped and -led opponents, scores mounting at incredible rates.
In May 1942 Graf became the first JG 52 flier to score 100 kills. By September he had downed 150. In December Gerhard Barkhorn scored his 100th; JG 52's cumulative total topping 4,000 kills! Almost unnoticed was the arrival, in October, of a skinny, blond-haired replacement named Erich Hartmann, destined to be the world's most successful fighter ace.
As the tide turned against Germany in Russia, scores continued to climb. Though the wing was awash in high-scoring Experten, the Rall-Barkhorn-Hartmann trio assumed the catbird seat in late 1943 and dominated the wing's final years on the Eastern Front. The high scores came at a cost with Experten and tyros alike falling to a resurgent Russian Air Force. By war's end JG 52 downed almost 1/4 of ALL Russian aircraft lost to Luftwaffe fighters, an incredible accomplishment yet one supported by documentation.
Given the huge canvas of JG 52 operations and space limitations, Weal's history can only provide an overview. The amount of detail provided is nevertheless impressive, Weal touching upon on the exploits of many of JG 52's topguns. He also contributes 10 pages of color profiles. One hundred and twenty photographs depict personnel and aircraft.
Weal's book is a great introduction to some of history's deadliest fighter pilots!