Thursday, 25 November 2010

LO+ST - Snapshots Of The Wrecked/Captured Luftwaffe Aircraft Taken By GIs From 1944 To The Defeat Of Germany

Hideki Noro, Dai Nippon Kaiga Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan, 2009, ISBN 978-4-499-22992-0. Illustrated, softcover (with dust jacket), published in Japanese, photo captions in Japanese and English.

Cover image © by Dai Nippon Kaiga Co., 2009.

This truly astonishing softcover book is among the most recent exponents of what is by now a well-established and highly engaging category of Luftwaffe-related releases: the photo album-type publication. The pioneer of this concept was probably Karl Ries, whose legendary Dora Kurfürst und die rote 13 photo books (published by Verlag Dieter Hoffmann, Germany) revolutionized the presentation of the results of Luftwaffe research in the 1960s. Although obviously primitive and utterly imperfect by today's standards, the photo captions contained in Ries' books provided the reader perhaps for the first time with unprecedented photo interpretation detail.

Uwe Feist's Luftwaffe in Action series of landscape-format softcovers (published by Squadron/Signal Publications in the US), continued the concept, beginning in 1971. But it was really the distinguished Heinz Birkholz who took it to the next level. In 1974, he launched PM-Foto Revue as an offspring to Germany's Plastik Modell magazine, of which he was the editor. PM-Foto Revue featured photos submitted from the private collections of the writers and readers of Plastik Modell. Unfortunately, the publisher, G. Schmidt-Verlag, ceased operations just as PM-Foto Revue was released.

But Birkholz and his editorial team went on to found the new periodical Modell Magazin, which, starting in 1975, covered both scale models and aviation history, and subsequently became one of the most important and influential publications within the growing Luftwaffe research community. In 1976, following the example set by Plastik Modell, Modell Magazin introduced Modell Magazin Foto Archiv, its own offspring softcover photo album. Published sporadically until the early 1980s, Modell Magazin Foto Archiv again featured photos submitted by the writers and readers of the magazine and thus exposed uncounted previously unseen photographic treasures to a wider audience.

When Modell Magazin changed direction and content in the mid-1980s, Birkholz left and established a new magazine, Flugzeug, dedicated entirely to aviation, both in scale and history. In 1988, Flugzeug continued the tradition of its predecessors by launching an infrequently published offspring softcover photo album, Flugzeug Archiv. One final time, history repeated itself when Birkholz left Flugzeug to establish Jet & Prop in 1991. The by now inevitable offspring periodical, Jet & Prop Foto Archiv, was first published in 1992 and continues, sporadically, up to today.

Recent decades have seen an outright proliferation of Luftwaffe-related photo album-type publications. From Alfred Price's The Luftwaffe 1939-1945 volumes (in the Warbirds Illustrated series by Arms and Armour Press, England, 1981), for example, or the various Luftwaffe Warbirds Photo Albums (Tank Magazine special issues by Delta Publishing Co. Ltd., Japan, 1992 to 1994), to current releases such as Eagle Editions' outstanding Wings of the Black Cross or Axel Urbanke's exceptional Luftwaffe im Focus series (by Luftfahrtverlag-Start, Germany). There are many others, the concept thriving not least due to the existence of uncounted astounding photos once taken by victorious allied troops during their advance through late-war Germany.

Hideki Noro's LO+ST focuses on such late-war and post-war photos. Sized a modest 257 x 210mm, the book still feels substantial. Consisting of 192 pages, its 272 black & white photos are printed on semi-matt, high-quality paper, the book is clearly laid out and nicely designed and also features a glossy dust jacket. Its five chapters are divided by geographic location: Northern Germany, Central Germany, Southern Germany, neighboring nations, and unknown locations.

The photos presented are truly engrossing and of great interest to any student of the late-war German Luftwaffe; at times they are outright stunning due to the subject and detail contained therein. Even the very first photos of the book, one of a damaged Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-14/AS "Black 10", in Regensburg in 1945, and one of a light blue Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6/AS nightfighter with antennae, are absolutely striking. A great number of the photos have either never been published before or have only very rarely been seen.

LO+ST focuses almost exclusively on fighter aircraft. Among the aircraft covered are Fw 190 V65 CS+IA, numerous Fw 190 D-9s, JG 301 aircraft at Stendal (such as Ta 152 H-0, Werknummer 150007), Ar 234, Me 262, Ta 152 H, Ta 152 E, Bf 109 K-4, Ta 154, Fw 190 D-11 at Bad Wörishofen, He 111, and uncounted Bf 109 Gs and Fw 190 As and Fs. It will take many hours to seriously absorb and digest the wealth of photographic material presented here.

If there exists a drawback to LO+ST, it might be that the majority of the book is written in Japanese. This includes the (limited) text as well as all photo captions. Brief English translations are provided for all photo captions, but these are limited to the most crucial data (such as the aircraft type and location) and are nowhere near as detailed as the extensive Japanese captions seem to be. This is of course a pity, and it will undoubtedly keep many of those interested in the German Luftwaffe but unable to read Japanese from buying the book.

A decision to pass on LO+ST would be an utter shame, however, as is the case for many Luftwaffe-related specialist publications produced in Japan. It is my firm opinion that the professionalism and attention to detail which characterizes so many Luftwaffe books from Japan makes it readily possible to ignore the language barrier for any serious researcher or student of the Luftwaffe. In fact, the abundance of vital information available by means of the visual content of these publications is simply indispensable and easily offsets any inconvenience caused by an inability to understand the Japanese text.

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