Review An absorbing account of Luftwaffe's triumph and tragedy in World War II . The author expatiates on operations of German airforce in different theatres of war -Poland ,Norway ,France and Low countries ,Balkans ,Russia- when Hitlers's conquest was at its height .The principal credit for making "Blitzkrieg' a success must go to Luftwaffe. Its support of ground forces -direct ,indirect -brought the Polish campaign to a swift conclusion .Later it helped the German armour to breach French defences at Sedan on May 13,1940.Allied airforces intervened ,made a desperate attempt to block Guderian's tanks from crossing river Meuse which was repulsed by the Luftwaffe fighters.Once the breakthrough was effected, panzers rattled and rumbled towards the English channel. In the process they outran infantry cover, consequently the Luftwaffe was assigned the task of protecting vulnerable flanks of armoured thrust which it did brilliantly.On May 21-22 ,1941 ,Royal Navy in Cretan waters was exposed to the full fury of German airforce.This led to the first air-sea battle in the history of war .After suffering crippling losses the English fleet had to retreat having paid the penalty of operating without aircover Then it was largely responsible for the triumphant German advance upto the gates of Moscow. The book has exploded a few myths. The strength of German airforce during the beginning of hostilities was grossly exaggerated by Anglo-American historians of the war.During German invasion of Poland, Luftwaffe had at its disposal only 1302 first-line aircraft. Anglo-Saxon media has reviled the German bombing of Warsaw,Rotterdam. The author ,however, has given different interpretation on what caused this bombing,.Both cities were barricaded and bitterly defended. Repeated attempts to make them surrender through negotiations failed The book has a few drawbacks. The section dealing with ' Battle of Britain ' appears outdated. Ever since the publication of group capatain F.W.Winterbotham's book 'Ultra Secret" hitherto accepted history of world war needed re-interpretation . But the author can be absolved of this lapse since he wrote the book at a time when Ultra was still a top secret.Author never had the privilege to know that Luffwaffe ciphers had been broken and its operational orders read by the British intelligence.
Also ignored are developments in the field of electronics .Just as the Battle of Atlantic, technical progress made a deep impact on the fortunes of airwar.Germans had radars like Freya, Wurzburg to detect the approach of Allied bomber formations.British countered by deploying jammers (Mandrel,Carpet) on aircraft accompanying bomber formations helping them to penetrate German airspace, Then there were devices like Liechtenstein SN2.RWR(radar warning receiver) called Naxos, The former was an airborne interception radar, Latter a passive device capable of picking radar emisssions from Allied bombers which were picked up at double the distance at which bombers radars were able to detect German fighters. This gave fighters ample time to plan manoeuvres . Naxos picked up emisssions from H2's radar installed on RAF pathfinder force ( PFF) which were assigned the task of marking targets to be bombed by dropping phosphorous flares.Naxos guided the fighters directly to this aircraft.The second German RWR was Flensburg which received emissions from British airborne radar Monica fitted on to the tail of RAF bombers.Thanks to progress in the field of electronics total destruction of Berlin in the spring of 1944 was averted.
Upon reading the book I had a feeling that HerrBekker wrote it with the intention of extolling the achievments of Luftwaffe. No doubt Germans had superior planes at their disposal. Till the advent of American P-51 Mustang fighters Luftwaffe's FW-190 was the best air superiority fighter.This was amply demonstrated during the dogfights with the British Spitfires in 1941,42,43 above the English channel. Much before the outbreak of war Germans had experimented rocket,turbo-jet powered planes (HE-176,HE-178) However the lead was not exploited and the advantage squandered due to myopia of Luftwaffe General Staff. Reason for the decline of Luftwaffe is not difficult to seek. Being predominantly tactical airforce whose mission was to support the army in its blitz campaigns, it lacked strategic offensive and operational level defensive capabilities. Conceived for short-term campaigns the changing nature of war forced Luftwaffe to embark on number of tasks and its weakness was soon exposed .The belief that Germany had won the war led to curtailment in long-term planning and development.As a result the airforce was saddled with obsolete aircraft.Finally Hitler's insistence on offensive air operation meant that the potentialities of Germany's first operational jet fighter (ME-262) could not be fully exploited.