7 Jan 2009

Osprey's "Jagdflieger- Luftwaffe Fighter 39-45"

Over Christmas my interest in all things "WW2" meant I received a copy of the new Osprey book "Jagdfleiger : Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot 1939-35" which turned out to be surprisingly interesting - so I thought I'd review it here (Click the title of this link for a full review if you are looking at this from www.madaxeman.com).

The book is a standard Osprey-sized tome, 64 pages with black & white photos on nearly every page and a number of full colour plates as well, but unlike many older Osprey books, it's much much more than just some fairly lightweight historical background text designed only to wrap around the pretty colour pictures.

The book covers all aspects of a Luftwaffe fighter pilot's life. This starts at their recruitment, and covers life on base, how "kills" were awarded, dogfighting and bomber interception tactics and how the esprit-du-corps of the Luftwaffe was maintained through the punishing final stages of the war when flying against astounding odds.

Reading it I found myself increasingly drawn into the myriad of interesting details and first-hand accounts of day-to-day stories that unfolded from the exceptionally well written text - in many ways it reminded me of the style of authors like Max Hastings who can add journalistic flourishes to historical record to bring it to life.

Tales of how a rare deserting pilot was disappointed not be then allowed to join the RAF share space with evocative black and white images of newly decorated pilots - followed by footnotes showing how they were killed in action only months later. In each case these details are neatly woven into the text, illustrating the dry facts in a way which succeeds time and time again throughout the book - and any book that can achieve making Luftwaffe mechanics diets sound interesting must be doing something right.

The colour pictures - still the mainstay of any Osprey book - are mostly in the style of detailed "uniform painting-guides" useful to the modeller (of Luftwaffe crew... which must surely mean those with an attention to detail far beyond the call of duty!) to a couple of "artistic" combat sequences which add both literal and metaphorical colour to the book.

But for once the colour plates are outshone by the many highly evocative black and white photos mixing detailed aircraft & unit insignia identification shots with pictures of young men (some with faces showing an age beyond their years) displaying the same emotions we have all seen in photos of RAF or USAF fliers from the same era.

So, a surprisingly absorbing and interesting book that hooked me from the off - and on a subject that I had little previous interest in, but which I found thoroughly fascinating. Highly recommended to anyone wishing to get a feel for an aspect of WW2 which is often overlooked.

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