Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Heike Umbach, Motorbuchverlag, Stuttgart, Deutschland, 2010, ISBN 978-3-613-03223-1. Illustrated, hardcover, 235 x 300 mm, 120 printed pages, published in German.
Cover image © by Motorbuchverlag, 2010.
What a beautiful, magnificent book this is. Moreover, it's nice to see that such an utterly unspectacular and unglamorous aircraft is the subject of such detailed attention and such a lavish publication. For in spite of being a drastically basic - even primitive - design, the Schulgleiter 38 (or SG 38) was also a crucially important aircraft. One wonders whether it is even possible to determine the number of German pilots who learned to fly on the Schulgleiter 38 in the 1930s and 1940s.
The existence of this publication was entirely unexpected to me, and I learned about it by accident. Its concept is slightly different from most other specialist books on pre-war and wartime German aircraft. Heike Umbach's Schulgleiter 38 [Training Glider 38] is more reminiscent of a typical coffee table photo book, but it still provides sufficient serious historical research and technical details to also render it an expert reference. In addition, the book's heavy focus on high-quality images (the vast majority of them in color) mean that it is a valuable source of information even for a reader unable to understand German. It is for the same reason that Schulgleiter 38 is an ideal one-stop source for the modeler.
Umbach begins with a narrative on the SG 38's history. The chapter is sumptuously illustrated, a hallmark which applies to the whole book. There is, for example, a beautiful fold out page which provides profile illustrations of the main training gliders of the era, starting with the Hardt/Messerschmitt glider and ending with the SG 38. This is completed by three-view drawings and size comparisons of these gliders as well as photos of their designers.
The next chapter details the SG 38's technical configuration. There are numerous fantastic detail photos of restored SG 38s, three-dimensional computer renderings, drawings, and photos of original documents. The extent of the photographic coverage is astonishing, there are even photos showing the inside of the wing or the complex rigging.
A further chapter provides a historical report on what it was like to fly the SG 38. This is subsequently expanded upon by tracing current SG 38 flying activities and detailing launch procedures for the aircraft. A brief additional chapter provides proof that the SG 38 was, astoundingly, also flown as an improvised two-seater.
And as if there hadn't already been an amazing wealth of photographs up to this point, the book ends with yet another photo gallery which also includes further detail shots. Schulgleiter 38's landscape format means that it was possible to print many of these photos to a sufficient size, which enhances the visual impact tremendously.
All in all a delightful book that can be recommended without any reservations.
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
E-Stelle See - Die Geschichte der Seeflug-Erprobungsstelle Travemünde und der daraus hervorgegangenen E-Stelle für Flugzeugbewaffnung in Tarnewitz
Edited by Heinrich Wollé, Dr. H.A. Caspari & Oskar Passoth, Luftfahrt-Verlag Axel Zuerl, Steinebach-Wörthsee, Germany, 1972. Illustrated, hardcover, 130 x 200 mm, 312 printed pages, published in German.
E-Stelle See Travemünde - Die Geschichte der Seeflug-Erprobungsstelle Travemünde und der daraus hervorgegangenen E-Stelle für Flugzeugbewaffnung in Tarnewitz - Band 2
Edited by Heinrich Wollé, Dr. H.A. Caspari & Oskar Passoth, Luftfahrt-Verlag Axel Zuerl, Steinebach-Wörthsee, Germany, [year?], ISBN 3-87500-024-2. Illustrated, hardcover, 130 x 200 mm, 336 printed pages, published in German.
E-Stelle See - Die Geschichte der Seeflug-Erprobungsstelle Travemünde und der daraus hervorgegangenen E-Stelle für Flugzeugbewaffnung in Tarnewitz - Band 3
Edited by Heinrich Wollé, Dr. H.A. Caspari & Oskar Passoth, Luftfahrt-Verlag Axel Zuerl, Steinebach-Wörthsee, Germany, [year?]. Illustrated, hardcover, 130 x 200 mm, 320 printed pages, published in German.
Cover images © by Luftfahrt-Verlag Axel Zuerl.
These three books constitute one of the most comprehensive series of publications on a specific topic related to the Luftwaffe. And in spite of having been published decades ago, their contents are still relevant. Some of the information contained in the three volumes of E-Stelle See has in the meantime found its way into more recent magazine articles or books, but the combined 968 pages of this study still make it an undisputed and excellent single source reference on the seaplane testing center Travemünde and the affiliated aircraft armament testing center in Tarnewitz.
I first found out about E-Stelle See when, as a teenager, I read glowing reviews about these books in German specialist magazines Modell Magazin and Modell Fan in 1976 and 1980. It took until the early 2000s until I finally managed to track down pristine second hand copies of what had by then become collector's items. They were well worth the patience and persistence, however. Incidentally, a small address sticker in my copy of volume 2 shows that this book was once owned by one of the editors of Modell Fan magazine!
The three volumes of E-Stelle See are a collection of accounts, records, and archive material by former members of the Travemünde and Tarnewitz testing centers. Over a dozen authors thus contributed to make this a very wide-ranging compilation of facts and images, although the introduction states explicitly that there are inevitable gaps in the information thus compiled.
E-Stelle See opens with a brief history of German seaplane aviation and the inception of the Travemünde testing center. Even from the very beginning, there are remarkable photographs showing, for example, the testing center, the Dornier Do X in the dry dock, and Junkers, Heinkel, Dornier, and Rohrbach aircraft of the period. A frequent drawback is that the photos are often printed to a rather small size due to the fairly small dimensions of these books. In addition to the plentiful photo content of E-Stelle See, the text is also supported by tables, original documents, and drawings.
The narrative then describes the massive development of the testing center undertaken after 1933 and following the official establishment of the Luftwaffe. More modern aircraft types soon enter the picture, such as the Heinkel He 59, Blohm & Voss BV 138, Arado Ar 195, or Fieseler Fi 168. Also intriguing are the trials conducted with the Focke Achgelis Fa 330. The text continues to be generously illustrated with photos which are at times so specialized that one is unlikely to find them in any other, more generalized publication.
The wealth of material is simply far too extensive to be listed in full here. A few examples:
- engine and armament evaluation
- weapons testing in Tarnewitz, including, for example, turret development, or the various cannon fitted to the Henschel Hs 123
- Rohrbach flying boats
- sea trials in various conditions and involving the He 115, Ha 140, and Ar 196
- catapults and catapult testing with the Fi 168, Ar 197, Bf 109, Ju 87, and even the Ar 96
- landing trials with a Fieseler Fi 156 on board of the ship "Greif"
- evaluation of the Bf 109, Fw 159, Ar 80 and He 112
- helicopter testing
- evaluation of navigation and radio equipment
- tests involving flotation gear in aircraft
- supply flights to Narvik with BV 138 and Do 24
- organization of the RLM testing centers
- aircraft carrier-based version of the Ju 87
- a large section dedicated to affiliated ships and boats
- an illustrated list of German seaplanes and flying boats from 1920 to 1945
and much more.
One of the most intriguing sections reveals just how many aircraft carriers Germany was planning to build. Next to the well-known "Graf Zeppelin", which is covered in somewhat greater detail, drawings illustrate the projected (and, in some instances, commenced) "Flugzeugträger B" (a.k.a. "Peter Strasser"), "Weser I", "De Grasse", "Europa", "Elbe I", "Elbe II", and the converted "Gneisenau".
Newer publications - such as, for example, Flugerprobungsstellen bis 1945 (Heinrich Bauvais, Karl Kössler, Max Mayer & Christoph Regel, Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Germany, 1998) - have since also covered this topic and included newer research. But E-Stelle See remains an essential and utterly abounding three-volume study on a most fascinating aspect of past German military aviation.
Monday, 28 November 2011
Dornier Do 215 advertising by Dornier Werke GmbH, Friedrichshafen, as featured in the Flugzeugbau periodical, volume 1, issue 10, October 15, 1941, Verlag der Deutschen Arbeitsfront, Berlin, Germany. (Fischer collection)
Sunday, 27 November 2011
Design and mode of operation of Junkers variable pitch propeller (based on the Hamilton principle), as featured in Das Flugzeug - Dritte Auflage [The Aircraft - Third Edition], edited by Theo E. Sönnichsen, published by Richard Carl Schmidt & Co., Berlin, Germany, 1942. (Fischer collection)
Saturday, 26 November 2011
M. Maslov, ExPrint NV Ltd., Moscow, Russia, 1995. Illustrated, softcover, published in Russian and English.
Cover image © by ExPrint NV Ltd., 1995.
It’s blatantly obvious, the entries in this blog frequently feature what one could term "obscure publications". The reason for this is simple. It is often an obscure, underground publication which turns out to be a hidden treasure. It is one of the privileges of running such a blog (and doing it entirely without being restrained by the fetters of commercial demands) that one is not necessarily required to bow to the preferences of a wider audience but instead is granted the complete freedom to also cover such little known gems
This little booklet is a prime example of the above. At 26 printed pages and a format of 200 x 290 mm, it certainly seems insignificant enough. In fact, it comes across like a thin magazine. But in reality, Maslov’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-1 is an extremely detailed walk-around type publication, revealing amazing details of an otherwise rather poorly covered variant (simply due to lower production numbers and its absence from front line units during World War II) of Messerschmitt’s Bf 109.
On December 4, 1937, during German operations with the Legion Condor as part of the Spanish Civil War, Feldwebel Otto Polenz landed his early model Bf 109, coded 6●15, on Republican-held territory after running out of fuel. The then state-of-the-art fighter aircraft was of course a priced possession. While still in Spain, it was thoroughly tested by the French. Subsequently, the aircraft was shipped to the Soviet Union for further evaluation at the NII VVS air force research institute. The NII VVS prepared a comprehensive and exhaustively illustrated report, the photos of which now constitute this fantastic booklet.
Following a brief introduction in Russian and English, Maslov’s Messerschmitt Bf 109 B-1 is basically a photo album with compact captions. The photos show incredible detail and cover most parts of the aircraft. They are hugely interesting, not least because there still exists a dearth of reference material on early Bf 109s (as opposed to the abundance available on later versions of the aircraft). Included in the coverage are the Jumo 210 engine, the cockpit and its components, the landing gear, interior details, armament, and much more. The booklet is thus also an excellent modeler's reference.
In closing, a couple of points should perhaps be addressed. In my humble opinion, the modern four-view drawing on page 12 might be slightly questionable in some areas, e.g. the Bf 109's nose section. Moreover, Maslov (and much of the available literature on German military aviation in the Spanish Civil War) refers to this aircraft as a Bf 109 B-1. In his excellent The Messerschmitt Bf 109 - Part 1: Prototype To "E" Variants (SAM Publications, England, 2005), Lynn Ritger proposes that it was, in fact, a Bf 109 A. Ritger backs this assertion by means of a number of intriguing observations.
Friday, 25 November 2011
Kurt Petsch, Preußischer Militär-Verlag, Reutlingen, Germany, 1988; ISBN 3-927292-00-1. Illustrated, hardcover, 215 x 150 mm, 212 printed pages, published in German.
Cover image © by Preußischer Militär-Verlag, 1988.
NJL Togo (NJL = Nachtjagdleitschiff = night fighter guide ship) was quite a unique ship, and its significance with regard to the Luftwaffe’s night fighter operations warrants the inclusion of this book within the scope of this blog.
NJL Togo was the last night fighter guide ship of the German Kriegsmarine (navy) and Luftwaffe in World War II. Launched as a merchant vessel (M/S Togo) in 1938, it was absorbed into the Kriegsmarine after the commencement of hostilities and initially converted into a minelayer and then into an auxiliary cruiser. It also served as a minesweeper, and as a merchant harassment cruiser. In late 1943, after the loss of the Kriegsmarine’s first night fighter guide ship, NJL Kreta, the vessel was converted to a radar ship. It subsequently served as a night fighter guide ship until the end of the war, although its final missions also included refugee evacuation in the Bay of Danzig.
The operations of NJL Togo were directed by the Luftwaffe. Intended to close gaps in the German radar network, the ship was stationed in the Baltic Sea. It carried a Freya long-range radar and a Würzburg-Riese medium-range radar. The large parabolic dish of the Würzburg-Riese radar was a prominent feature of the ship’s silhouette after its conversion to a radar ship. NJL Togo was also fitted with significant flak artillery. The ship was operated jointly by two crews. A Kriegsmarine crew ran the ship, while 74 Luftwaffe radar specialists were in charge of the night fighter guide equipment.
This little known but highly fascinating component of the World War II Luftwaffe is covered in great detail in Kurt Petsch's Nachtjagdleitschiff Togo. The book is a veritable treasure trove of information and illustrations. While it contains a number of photos of the actual NJL Togo, there are also numerous drawings, cross-sections, maps, and original documents. The text itself first details the ship and its installations and then reproduces the contents of the ship's log, from October 1943 to March 16, 1945. An assortment of brief reports of various incidents during NJL Togo's operations completes the narrative.
It is impossible, however, to review this book without voicing a number of serious reservations. Even though Nachtjagdleitschiff Togo was published by what seems to be a proper publishing house, the book's layout is somewhat deficient and often even amateurish. Moreover, a good number of illustrations were either created freehand or captioned by hand, which makes much intriguing content look rather unprofessional. Most puzzling, however, is that the entire text of the book, including all photo captions, has been printed in the old Fraktur [blackletter] script. This renders the text very tedious to read for modern eyes. What a shame.
Thursday, 24 November 2011
Replacement of main wheels and tail wheel of a Fieseler Fi 156 Storch with articulated skis for winter operations.
These drawings were originally featured in Das Flugzeug - Dritte Auflage [The Aircraft - Third Edition], edited by Theo E. Sönnichsen, published by Richard Carl Schmidt & Co., Berlin, Germany, 1942. Das Flugzeug was a heavily illustrated, 944 page (!) handbook on technical, mechanical, and operational aspects of aviation.
Das Flugzeg also included an additional illustrated booklet detailing the design and configuration of the Focke-Wulf Fw 58 Weihe, a large German aircraft identification wall poster, and various fold-out color plates. (Fischer collection)
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Heinkel He 70 D, D-UBIN, Falke, Werknummer 709, operated by Deutsche Lufthansa, photographed approximately 1936. Photo was originally featured in Transaer 1937 - Handbuch des internationalen Luftverkehrs [Handbook Of International Air Transport], edited by Fischer von Poturzyn, Dr. Heinz Orlovius, and August Dresel, 538 pages, published as an edition of 2000 copies, by Richard Pflaum Verlag, Munich, Germany, 1937. (Fischer collection)
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Monday, 14 November 2011
Stephen Ransom, Stedinger Verlag, Lemwerder, Germany, 1996, ISBN 3-927697-09-5. Illustrated, softcover, published in German.
Cover image © by Stedinger Verlag, 1996.
This remarkable little book (112 pages, format 240 x 170mm, 90 illustrations) managed to turn quite a few heads in the Luftwaffe research community upon its release in the second half of the 1990s. There are quite a number of publications dealing with the airfields used by the Luftwaffe in World War II, most of them released in Germany. This is a very specialized field of interest, and most of these publications thus see only very small print-runs and are generally overlooked by the larger World War II aviation enthusiast audience, in favor of books on far more popular topics, such as Focke-Wulf Fw 190s, Messerschmitt Bf 109s, et al.
Many of these airfield publications are compiled by local historians in an effort to preserve parts of their town's history. They are typically created on a shoe-string budget (and sometimes without a professional design staff), they are frequently hampered by a lack of available/surviving photographic material, and they are often either published by small local publishing houses or even self-published. And yet they are a crucial part of Luftwaffe research, and they sometimes contain surprising new bits of information or unexpected photographic treasures. Typical examples of the above are, perhaps, Uwe-Rolf Hinze's Start und Ziel Neuruppin (Edition Rieger, Germany, 1996), Tony Haderer's Der Militärflugplatz Zerbst (Extrapost Verlag für Heimatliteratur, Germany, 2002), or Heiner Wittrock's Fliegerhorst Wunstorf - Teil 1: Der Fliegerhorst des Dritten Reichs: 1934 - 1945 (Libri Books/Heiner Wittrock, Germany, 1995). There are literally uncounted more.
One could thus be forgiven for assuming that Stephen Ransom's Zwischen Leipzig und der Mulde is simply another interesting yet unspectacular such release. But it isn't; the book's contents were simply breathtaking at the time of its publication, and, to some extent, they still are today. To begin with, not only is Zwischen Leipzig und der Mulde a very professionally made book, released by a well-known publishing house specialized in works of outstanding quality, but Brandis ranks among the Luftwaffe's most fascinating airfields. This is not least due to its use as a location of aircraft trials and test flights by Junkers and others.
In his introduction, Ransom writes that this book basically came into existence as a byproduct of information uncovered during his extensive studies of the Junkers Ju 287 forward-swept wing jet bomber. Zwischen Leipzig und der Mulde is thus filled with well-researched, solid information, augmented by often spectacular pictures. This begins already with the book's very cover which depicts the wrecks of Messerschmitt Me 163 B V45 rocket fighter prototype and a Henschel Hs 130 A high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.
Focusing on the final events of the war at Brandis, Ransom details the Allied reconnaissance over and the subsequent advances towards the airfield. Many of the most poignant photos reproduced in the book were taken by the US troops occupying Brandis in 1945. Interspersed for historical context are photos and illustrations depicting the earlier history of the airfield, such as Luftwaffe staff and aircraft in the second half of the 1930s und during the initial years of the war. While many of these photos are superb and fascinatingly detailed (such as the two hangar shots on pages 42 and 43, for example), it is probably the picture content from the final phase of the war which is most captivating. This includes German anti-aircraft guns, Jumo 004 jet engines on rail cars, as well as advanced and/or unusual aircraft such as the Me 262, Me 163, Ho 229 V1, or AS 6.
Most interesting, however, is the series of photos depicting the Ju 287. To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time an author was able to publish a number of remarkable and conclusive images (as well as the associated analysis) of both initial Ju 287 prototypes, the V1 and V2. Stephen Ransom has in the meantime of course expanded on that topic, by writing, together with Peter Korrell and Peter D. Evans, his milestone study Junkers Ju 287 - Germany's Forward Swept Wing Bomber (Classic Publications/Ian Allan Publishing Ltd., England, 2008).
Zwischen Leipzig und der Mulde is thus a truly noteworthy and important book, even if it has since become slightly outclassed by its author's own subsequent work. There are only a few nitpicks to note. In my humble opinion, for example, the photo on page 23 does not depict the wreckage of a Junkers Ju 88 in the foreground but rather that of a Heinkel He 177. Also, my copy of the book, purchased in March 1997, now shows signs of pages coming loose where they were glued to the spine. This in spite of explicitly careful handling over the years.
Friday, 11 November 2011
[Full title: "Focke-Wulf Fw 191 Kampfflugzeug und das Bomber B-Programm - Focke-Wulf im Wettbewerb mit den Entwicklungen der Arado Ar 340, Dornier Do 317 und Junkers Ju 288"] Hans-Peter Dabrowski & Peter Achs, Stedinger Verlag, Lemwerder, Germany, 2011, ISBN 978-3-927697-61-4. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German.
Cover image © by Stedinger Verlag, 2011.
The existence of the Luftwaffe's "Bomber B" program is common knowledge for anyone seriously interested in German military aviation of World War II. It has been referred to in uncounted books on the Luftwaffe, and it is perceived as a major and very costly (and ultimately failed) weapons program. Nonetheless, no comprehensive history of the "Bomber B" program had so far been published. We were left with brief glimpses and fragments at best and unsubstantiated assertions at worst, many of them perpetually repeated.
Passably competent but, by necessity, fragmentary information about the Bomber B program can be found, for example, in Thomas H. Hitchcock's Close-Up 2: Junkers 288 (Monogram Aviation Publications, USA, 1974), or in Manfred Griehl's Dornier Do 217-317-417 (Airlife Publishing Ltd., England, 1991). Moreover, political, technical, and industrial implications of the Bomber B program are illuminated in greater detail as part of Lutz Budrass' phenomenal 976-page study Flugzeugindustrie und Luftrüstung in Deutschland 1918 - 1945 (Droste Verlag, Germany, 1998). Updated information was also published in recent years in specialist magazines, namely in Germany's Flugzeug Classic.
But now we are presented for the first time with a publication entirely dedicated to the Bomber B program and the resulting aircraft designs. And what an absolutely spectacular book it is, packed with information and rare and detailed photos. At 344 pages, a format of 205 x 285mm, and some 420 illustrations, it is a sizeable publication by any means. Moreover, it's perhaps most surprising that it is still possible to publish such an astonishingly comprehensive study in this day and age of economic-commercial challenges and massive competition by means of countless multi-media platforms.
Still, Germany's Stedinger Verlag has a long history of publishing well-researched, landmark-type books on Luftwaffe-related topics. Publications such as Hans-Peter Dabrowski's own Focke-Wulf Nahaufklärer Fw 189 A Uhu (2008), Stephen Ransom's astounding Zwischen Leipzig und der Mulde - Flugplatz Brandis 1935 - 1945 (1996), or F.-Herbert Wenz' Chronik des Lemwerder Flugzeugwerkes 1935 - 1963 (1995) and Flughafen Tempelhof 1939 - 1945: Chronik des Berliner Werkes der Weser Flugzeugbau GmbH (2000) are but a few examples of this publishing house's commitment to provide ground-breaking, quality releases.
Focke-Wulf Fw 191 Kampfflugzeug und das Bomber B-Programm is no exception. If anything, it represents a new pinnacle in both Stedinger Verlag's catalog of titles and the work of Hans-Peter Dabrowski and Peter Achs. The book's sheer opulence and attention to detail, along with its careful, fact-based approach, render it a magnificent one-stop source for the program in question and the aircraft involved.
On the back cover of the book, and at various points in the text, Dabrowski and Achs are at pains to explain that there exist significant gaps with regard to surviving original documents relating to diverse aspects the Bomber B program. It will thus probably remain impossible to ever compile a truly definite history of the program. And yet, taking into consideration such insurmountable obstacles, Dabrowski and Achs have achieved exactly that - the most complete history of this topic ever released. In doing so, they are able to address and correct many assumptions and much erroneous information previously published.
Starting with a background on the situation which gave rise to the Bomber B idea, the book then details the early designs for Focke-Wulf's response to the call for proposals, leading to the actual Fw 191. The text is supported by numerous drawings, tables, and original documents, along with photos of contemporary display and windtunnel models, mock-ups, static tests, technical and powerplant details, and prototype aircraft. The political and industrial context is continuously highlighted in the narrative, as are changes to design and engines, as well as problems during design, construction, and test flights. Also covered are the individual prototypes, and planned further developments (such as the Fw 491, or the Ta 400, and many more).
A nice and very helpful touch are loosely interspersed brief biographies of significant personalities involved, such as engineers, political brass, Luftwaffe staff, or test pilots. The wealth of photos uncovered (many of them previously unpublished) is simply astounding, particularly if one takes into account the loss of much such material due to the ravages of the war.
A significant component of the story of the Bomber B program is of course the question of the powerplant. The associated problems and changes, seemingly perpetual, played a major part in eventually dooming this entire weapons program, and they are well documented here by the authors.
One of the most stunning (and, to me, most unexpected) aspects of the book is that it doesn't just stop at the aircraft which is the subject of its title. Focke-Wulf Fw 191 Kampfflugzeug und das Bomber B-Programm also contains what is probably the most comprehensive history yet written on Junkers' Bomber B entry, the utterly fascinating Ju 288. At 75 pages, and again heavily illustrated, the section on the Ju 288 is basically a book within the book. A further section of 18 pages details the usually elusive Dornier Do 317 entry, another 11 pages are dedicated to the even more obscure Arado Ar 340 entry. A final page discusses what potentially also was a Bomber B contender, the Henschel Hs 130 C.
The book's appendix contains four color profiles of the Fw 191, Ju 288, Do 317, and Ar 340, along with two color facsimiles of original Fw 191 documents, and a listing of sources and materials used in the completion of the book
A minor point of contention could perhaps be that a number of photos have been printed at a relatively small size. This is undoubtedly the result of the sheer number of photos contained in the book as well as the eventual limitations of page-count and associated (and entirely understandable) commercial confines. While this is sometimes a bit of a shame, I wouldn't want to trade the existing book for one with fewer but larger photos. In addition to the massive amount of information presented, it is not least the aforementioned wealth of illustrations which serves to make this publication such a treasure.