Top critical review
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on 15 May 2007
Don Caldwell is well known for his excellent JG 26 unit history and if you enjoyed that I should think this would be an automatic purchase...
However an overview of the air battles that raged over Germany during the strategic bombing offensive in only 320 pages was always going to be a hard task- as it is this book only covers the day battles - no mention at all of the RAF's campaign. The book is relatively large format, 320 pages, and the narrative scope attempts to cover a wide range of themes while relating the main events chronologically. The material is well organised with any number of different themes cropping up throughout. Chapters 1 & 2 cover the period 1914-1941, while other chapters deal with the 'Oil campaign', 'The big 'blow' that never fell' and 'The final desperate expedients'. The text is detailed, very readable and well written, with most 'big' dates (7 July 44, 27 Sept, 2 November, 14 January 45, 24 March 45) given reasonable treatment within the space allowed - however the style of treatment probably makes it a little difficult to pick out certain themes that might be of interest, eg the bomber destroyer activities of the Bf 110G-2 and Me 410 ZG Gruppen, or the Sturmgruppen. That said there is an index..
Photographic content is OK, but you wouldn't buy this for the pictures.. There are of course a number of portraits of JG 26 personalities (perhaps too many portraits, but I guess they were easier to lay out) .. Otherwise the text has a good number of pilot accounts - although some of these are severely curtailed no doubt for reasons of space, eg Ernst Schroeder's long account from 17 December 1944, which in the JG 300 history published by Eagle Editions runs to over five pages of text and is much more thrilling than the truncated version presented here... Elsewhere Caldwell's map and diagrams are good as is the lengthy discussion of fighter command and control techniques and organisation, fighter doctrine, morale and motivation and the summing up. A little irritatingly perhaps the authors use their own term 'RLV' throughout - standing for Reichsluftverteidigung or Reichs Air Defence - but I've never seen that abbreviation in any German language text...but probably a useful shorthand I guess..
One criticism - the authors have used some old and unreliable sources such as Jung, Hennig & Bethke & Dahl when dealing with JG 300 the leading Reich's Defence Geschwader..In fact there is no sense of JG 300 as the leading German air defence unit of 1944/45 - III./JG 300 had specifically been charged with the defence of Berlin - possibly because the authors have done little original research on the subject. Bretschneider downed by flak on 24 December 44 ? .. from Hennig & Bethke's fanciful account ..the Kommandeur of the 'newly-formed' IV./JG 300 lost on 17 December..? ...Maj. Heino Offterdinger survived the war - pictures of his 'Green 45' taken in March 1945 feature in the JG 300 book. Elsewhere the account of Walfeld's II./JG 300 ramming on 11 September is taken from Walther Dahl's largely discredited memoirs - unfortunately Wahlfeld (spelling) was a Sturmstaffel pilot and this incident occured in January 1944 and featured on the cover of an edition of the Berlin Illustrierte Zeitung. Similarly the G-6 photo taken from Jung on P234 is not 'Yellow 2' in the fall of 1944 but 'Red 12' in the summer of 43 at Hangelar.. in the author's defence it has to be said that he has minimised coverage of JG 300 so that it is only a small part of the work ..
That said, this is probably the best we could have hoped for between one set of covers...so recommended without hesitation...