Saturday, 9 January 2010
Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber -
The Luftwaffe's Lost Transatlantic Bomber
Robert Forsyth & Eddie J. Creek, Classic Publications/Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., Hersham, England, 2006, ISBN 978-1-903223-65-9. Illustrated, hardcover, published in English.
Cover image © by Classic Publications/Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., 2006.
Much more than just a book about the aircraft mentioned in its title, Robert Forsyth and Eddie J. Creek's Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber is a chronicle of the drama that was the Luftwaffe's development effort for a long-range bomber. The existence of the Me 264 is of course utterly inseparable from such context, and the authors have succeeded in producing a book comprehensive enough to meld a detailed background story with a thorough analysis of the actual aircraft.
Beginning their account even before the German airship bombing raids against England in World War I, Forsyth and Creek subsequently describe the rise of the Luftwaffe in the Third Reich, including erstwhile efforts to add a strategic bomber to the new air force's inventory. After a brief look at other German long-range aircraft of the period, the focus shifts to the actual Amerikabomber project. Supported by uncounted rare and often astonishingly clear photos as well as numerous original drawings, the Me 264's development, flight trials, and fate are presented in unprecedented depth.
Whereas one previously had to make do with brief and entirely incomplete glimpses at the story of the Me 264 in books dedicated to other topics or rely on Manfred Griehl's inevitably incomplete development history as published in Germany's Flugzeug magazine in 1996 (issues 2, 3, and 4, 1996), Messerschmitt Me 264 Amerika Bomber merges the many scraps of information in a coherent and skilled manner to yield an amazingly riveting and visually delightful book. Every aspect of the aircraft is covered, from technical details to the armament to the construction of the prototype to the various evolved versions of the bomber as projected by its designers. Equally revealed are the political and industrial machinations without which the gestation and demise of this aesthetically pleasing aircraft cannot be properly understood. A number of sidebars provide additional information, such as on technical minutiae or people involved. Also included are beautiful color drawings of the Me 264 and some of the projects derived from its design.
There are only very few minor amendments one could offer. The caption regarding the jettisonable additional main wheel on page 46 could be slightly clearer, for example. The description of "the ... single main wheel" is a bit confusing; the actual installation as auxiliary main gear in case of a higher take-off weight can be seen on the next page. Also on said next page, the lower drawing has been erroneously captioned as showing additional flaps, when the wartime German caption clearly refers to additional ailerons. But such corrections really amount to being finicky in the face of what is actually a magnificent publication (as is fortunately so often the case with Classic Publications' output).
This is a truly remarkable book, and its absolutely stunning photo content renders it even more indispensable for both the serious Luftwaffe enthusiast and the modeler.