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German Aces Speak II

28 March 2014

German Aces Speak II

The German Aces Speak II: World War II through the eyes of four more of the Luftwaffe’s most important commanders, Colin D. Heaton & Anne-Marie Lewis, 2014, ISBN 9780760345900, 304 pp.

The German Aces Speak II: World War II through the eyes of four more of the Luftwaffe's most important commanders by Colin D. Heaton & Anne-Marie Lewis (layout by Helena Shimizu)

The German Aces Speak II: World War II through the eyes of four more of the Luftwaffe’s most important commanders by Colin D. Heaton & Anne-Marie Lewis (layout by Helena Shimizu)

Heaton and Lewis’s sequel to The German Aces Speak is as good as the original since it compliments and reinforces but does not repeat or rehash the Luftwaffe’s perspective of World War II by four additional aces — as well as the Luftwaffe’s rebirth due to the onset of the Cold War. The four aces treated in The German Aces Speak II are: Erich Hartmann (most successful fighter ace in history), Johannes Steinhoff (high scoring ace who served in the entire war as well as remarkably after WW II), Dietrich Anton Hrabak (known for his abilities in command and leadership as well as superior career in NATO) and Günther Rall (super high scoring ace with all victories obtained in a Bf 109 and distinguished NATO career) .

  • The material regarding Erich Hartmann comprise half of the book and well it should, given his wartime experiences in Russia and Romania, his post war Russian captivity of nearly a decade as well as Cold War Luftwaffe career. The reader learns that most of his front line combat was living in the field with lice as well as the incredibly gifted, brave and faithful mechanic Crew Chief Heinz “Bimmel” Mertens. His story of survival and resistance to his Russian captors until well after the end of World War II is a lesson both in endurance as well as integrity. Hartmann’s post World War II career in the Luftwaffe is also fascinating to read as is his opinion on an inadvertent penetration into East German airspace by Luftwaffe F-84s — here, again, the reader witnesses Hartmann’s integrity and the long view as opposed to being a successful bureaucrat.
  • Approximately one third of the book’s pages are on Johannes Steinhoff’s experiences and insight from the Battle of Britain, the Eastern Front (i.e., Russia) as well as in North Africa. The experiences detail early victories, flying night fighters and tactics with respect to attacking bomber boxes. His discussion regarding RAF and USAAF fighters (he was able to fly captured Allied aircraft) is interesting as is his opinion on Hermann Göring’s orders regarding the German Forces defense of Sicily. Steinhoff does not polish his recollections as evidenced by his description of a poorly planned and executed fighter intercept mission with 100 Luftwaffe fighters attempting to chase down 100 Allied bombers low over Italian waters.
  • Dietrich Hrabac talks of flying combat in France, the Battle of Britain, Yugoslavia as well as over Russia. His description of Luftwaffe pilots flying at the front until severely wounded or killed is gripping — describing especially his two years as Kommodore of JG 52 with a tactical situation so fluid they flew from 47 different airfields as the amorphous front was continuously reshaped.
  • Günther Rall completed World War II assigned to Home Defense but only after surviving both the Eastern Front (including Romania) and the Western Front. His descriptions are also accurate as well as vivid describing, for example, dogfights against elite Russian Red Star unit Spitfires as well as intercepting 800 Allied bombers escorted by over 1000 fighters while leading his 75 fighters.

Heaton and Lewis should be commended for addressing, through the first person experiences of these pilots, aspects of World War II, as well as the Cold War, which are too often left silent. World War II in Eastern Europe (where nearly half of the war’s effort was expended) is addressed, as are the USAAF strafing of Me 262 pilots while helplessly suspended under parachutes (though there is no report of Luftwaffe pilots strafing Allied pilots in the same circumstance), as well as the Cold War Luftwaffe’s Lockheed F-104 Starfighter controversy (three of these men were and still are against the choice to purchase the F-104 but one supports that decision).

The reader will enjoy this book for its setting of historical perspective, since it is not history written by the victors, as well as the rebirth of the Luftwaffe due to Cold War necessities. German Aces Speak II is well indexed, well written, as well as remarkably clear.


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press and On-line Bookstore provided a copy of this book for an objective review.


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