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The German Aces Speak: World War II Through the Eyes of Four of the Luftwaffe's Most Important Commandersby Colin D. Heaton
Synopses & Reviews
Few stories epitomize the sheer drama and sacrifice of combat more perfectly than those of the fighter pilots of World War II. As romanticized as any soldier in history, the WWII fighter pilot was viewed as larger than life—dashing souls waging war amongst the clouds.
From 1939-1945, thousands of Allied fighter pilots took to the skies above Europe and North Africa with the common goal of ending Adolf Hitler's dream of European domination. In the 65+ years since the Allied victory in World War II, stories of these pilots' heroics have never been in short supply.
But what about their adversaries? What about the highly skilled German aviators who pushed the Allies to the very brink of defeat?
During World War II, the Third Reich’s fighter pilots destroyed some 70,000 enemy aircraft during the war, with approximately 45,000 destroyed on the Eastern Front. For example, JG.52 alone is credited with more than 10,000 enemy planes shot down. Of these Luftwaffe aces, 103 pilots scored more than 100 victories, while of this number, fifteen pilots scored more than 200, and with two men, Erich Hartmann and Gerhard Barkhorn, shooting down 352 and 301 aircraft, respectively.
Of all of the Luftwaffe’s fighter aces, the stories of Walter Krupinski, Adolf Galland, Eduard Neumann, and Wolfgang Falck shine particularly bright.
For the first time in any book, these four prominent and influential Luftwaffe fighter pilots reminisce candidly about their service in World War II in The German Aces Speak. Although all were decorated by the Third Reich for their exemplary performance, this is not to say they followed the Nazi Party without question—indeed, none of them were card-carrying National Socialists. Between their duty to serve their country in war and the erratic and immoral leadership of Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, these men elected to follow their own code of honor in combat. Although true to their oaths as German warriors, in the end they felt they and their countrymen had been betrayed by Hitler and the Nazis.
Author Colin Heaton personally interviewed these air combat leaders, aces all, gathering their unique perspective on World War II and the Nazi leadership. From thrilling air battles to battles on the ground with their own commanders, these stories bring the past to life in the aces’ own words. Features forewords by historian Jon Guttman, Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, USAF (Ret.), and Luftwaffe pilot Oberleutnant Kurt Schulze.
In The German Aces Speak, for the first time in any book, four prominent and influential Luftwaffe fighter pilots reminisce candidly about their service in World War II.
For the first time, four German WWII pilots share their side of the story.
Few perspectives epitomize the sheer drama and sacrifice of combat more perfectly than those of the fighter pilots of World War II. As romanticized as any soldier in history, the WWII fighter pilot was viewed as larger than life: a dashing soul waging war amongst the clouds. In the sixty-five-plus years since the Allied victory, stories of these pilots’ heroics have never been in short supply. But what about their adversaries—the highly skilled German aviators who pushed the Allies to the very brink of defeat?
Of all of the Luftwaffe’s fighter aces, the stories of Walter Krupinski, Adolf Galland, Eduard Neumann, and Wolfgang Falck shine particularly bright. In The German Aces Speak, for the first time in any book, these four prominent and influential Luftwaffe fighter pilots reminisce candidly about their service in World War II. Personally interviewed by author and military historian Colin Heaton, they bring the past to life as they tell their stories about the war, their battles, their lives, and, perhaps most importantly, how they felt about serving under the Nazi leadership of Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler. From thrilling air battles to conflicts on the ground with their own commanders, the aces’ memories disclose a side of World War II that has gone largely unseen by the American public: the experience of the German pilot.
I tried to bail out, but the canopy was jammed shut from enemy bullets. So I tried to stand in the cockpit, forcing the canopy open with my back as the plane screamed toward earth. . . . I finally opened it . . . and I almost cleared the 109 when my parachute harness on my back became entangled on the radio aerial just behind the cockpit. I fought it with everything I had as the fighter rolled over, inverted, and I could see the ground quite clearly. . . .
I finally decided to relax and accept death. It was actually a very peaceful decision. There was not any stress or regret, just peace. As the slipstream continued to beat me against the fighter, which was now nose down and had rolled over again so I could see the sky, . . . I finally broke free, my parachute opening just before I hit the ground. I was bleeding from my head and arm, plus I had damaged my ankle on landing. I was taken to safety by some Frenchmen, who could just as easily have finished me off. They placed me in their horse-drawn cart and carried me to a nearby aid station. I was very grateful and I paid them for the taxi ride.
About the Author
Professor Colin D. Heaton served in the U.S. Army and later the U.S. Marines. He was a guest historian on the History Channel program Dogfights: “Secret Weapons,” and he has authored several books of military history, including German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe 1939–1945 and Night Fighters: The Luftwaffe and RAF Air Combat over Europe, 1939–1945, which he coauthored with Anne-Marie Lewis. He has taught history and military history at American Military University.
Anne-Marie Lewis received her BA with honors and MA from American Military University in international relations and is also a professional photographer. She coauthored Night Fighters: The Luftwaffe and RAF Air Combat over Europe 1939–1945 with Colin Heaton, and also Noble Warrior: The Story of Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston, USMC (Ret.), Medal of Honor with Colin Heaton and Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston.
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