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The Final Hours: The Luftwaffe Plot Against Goring (Aviation Classics) [Kindle Edition]

Johannes Steinhoff

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Book Description

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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Product Description

About the Author

Johannes Steinhoff was a colonel in the Luftwaffe during World War II and a high-scoring fighter ace. After the war, he served as the chief of staff of the West German Air Force and as chairman of NATO's Military Committee. He died in 1994.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 423 KB
  • Print Length: 199 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1574888633
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (31 Aug. 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005CWJ81I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #509,330 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book capturing the love of flying combined with an incredible tale of mutiny 8 Mar. 2008
By Joel R. - Published on
"The Final Hours" by Johannes Steinhoff is a gripping account of the final months of the Luftwaffe, told by one of Germany's top fighter aces. This translation retains the very readable style Steinhoff used to recall his emotional roller-coaster ride from the highs of leading a group of Me-109's in combat; his frustrations with Hermann Goering, which were shared by other fighter aces; the lows of his punishment for his participation in this mutiny; the joys of redemption as he led the only Me-262 group in the Luftwaffe; and the mixed emotions of spending his final days of World War II as a prisoner of war.

Steinhoff begins the tale in the hospital as a guest of the Ami's (German slang for Americans) , following the crash of an Me-262 which left him permanently scarred. Readers immediately relate to Steinhoff, by feeling a sense of intense sorrow for this proud fighter pilot as he begins his recovery from horrific wounds. Along with two colleagues, these once-proud German soldiers, now feeling doubly depressed as both patients and prisoners, plan a bold breakout across the knee-high picket fence surrounding the hospital to go recover a type-writer to begin writing Steinhoff's memoirs. While sounding like a trivial excursion, this trek saved an incredible tale of the mutineers who tried to stop Hermann Goering.

Upon receipt of orders directing "Fighter Group 77 to proceed immediately to Schoenwald airfield where it will be engaged in Reich Defense," Steinhoff moved high fighter group from Transylvania, Romania to an area near Berlin in October 1944. The allies are enjoying near air supremacy over the Reich, and former allies such as the Romanians, are now flying Me-109's against the Luftwaffe. With the Reich collapsing, Steinhoff recalls the words of Hermann Goering from the Areopagus, where he blamed the Luftwaffe commander's failure to espouse the ideals of National Socialism as the cause of the failure to protect the Reich. The Luftwaffe commanders thought they knew better - the proper use of the Me-262, the first operational jet aircraft in combat, could help turn the tide of war.

Subsequent chapters recall the various paths the fighter pilots use to promote this taboo topic. The mutineers first try through the General of Fighter Pilots, General Galland; then through the SS; and finally through Hermann Goering himself. Surprisingly, rather than being executed, the mutineers are exiled to the four corners of the rapidly shrinking Reich. Finally faced with a dearth of experienced fighter pilots, Goering is forced to make Steinhoff's dream of leading the only group of Me-262 jet fighters into combat.

The fluid writing style accurately describes the love affair between pilot and aircraft, as he steps through his pre-flight inspection and through the thrills of combat. Steinhoff also recalls some of the operational testing of new equipment, like an electric gunsight that leads enemy aircraft (didn't work) and rockets that sometimes worked. The chapter tragically ends with the catastrophic crash of Steinhoff's Me-262, and his subsequent trip to the hospital.

"The Final Hours" is a truly engrossing book capturing the exhilaration of flying combat. Combined with the incredible plot to remove Goering as head of the Luftwaffe, you will be hard pressed to find a more interesting book on World War 2 aviation.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Man's Story of the End in Germany 20 Nov. 2005
By John Matlock - Published on
In the final hours (well really months) of World War II, the German military was still fighting to hope against hope taht something could turn the tied of Allied victory. This was the time when in Hitler's bunker the synchopants were still trying to durry Hitler's favor. This was the time when the Americans, British and Russian armies were reducing the amount of Germany that was left under Nazi control on a daily basis. During this time, units like that of Gen. Steinhoff were still fighting against all odds to try to turn things around.

By then, the Luftwaffe had better equipment in the rocket armed ME-262 jets than they had ever had before. But it was a time when a handfull of these superior planes were attacking thousands of bombers escorted by more thousands of fighters.

Mr. Steinhoff continued to fly in defense of Germany until his 262 crashed on take off and he was horribly burned.

This is a book about a war time hero (176 kills) watching his country fall apart. Then it becomes a story of a man, horribly burned struggling through months in hospitals getting his face put back into something not too horrible.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping at times 29 Oct. 2010
By Charles Hall - Published on
There are several types of books written by ex-military men of the 3rd Reich. Those like Guderian write a strictly military text about the ins and outs of each battle with an occasional tirade against the Fuhrer's incompentence. Others are clearly unrepentent Nazis, like Hans Rudel who is still upset that GI's took away his diamond studded military decorations when they captured him.

Steinhoff's book is different. Part of the book describes his life after the war, when he was coping with horrible injuries and also learning about the Nazi concentration camps. But he doesn't apologize, he admits that he could have known and should have known more.

The other parts of the book describe his military career during the last months of the way, when belatedly he and his comrades decided to try and have Goering fired. This is well after the July 20th bomb plot, so this goes nowhere and nearly gets them shot. Ultimately he and his friends are sent to join other outcasts in Galland's jet fighter squadron. His descriptions in this part of the book of aerial combat as a jet pilot are fascinating, but fairly brief.

The part I like best are his comments about Adolf Galland. It makes me want to go back and re-read Galland's book, "The First and the Last".

This is a well-written book about a fascinating phase of the war, and I recommend it to anyone interested in that period.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Final Hours 24 Dec. 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a must read for followers of the Luftwaffe pilots during WW2. The history of the backroom meetings as the upper-tier pilots tried to get Goering to allow them to use jets as fighters rather than bombers (as Hitler wanted) is enlightening. That the cream rises to the top is shown at the end of the book when a post-war head of the german Air Force is selected.
3.0 out of 5 stars Covering your own rear end. 16 Dec. 2014
By sba55 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This reads like a defense case for the author. He acts like he wasn't a part of the German war effort at all. Although he did participate in this ineffective "revolt" that consisted of just a handful of pilots what was he doing while he earned the Knight's Cross with Swords for being an eager participant in the German war machine? He spent years being a faithful follower of Goering and Hitler and only changed his tune after it was clear his side was going to lose. I thought he was covering his rear end most of the time.
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