Thursday, 27 November 2014

AGO-Flugzeugwerke. Vom Gitterrumpf zur Me 262

René Scheer, dr. ziethen verlag, Oschersleben, Germany, 2014, ISBN 978-3-86289-078-1. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German.

Cover image © by dr. ziethen verlag, 2014.

Reviewing books examining the histories of German aircraft manufacturers is unwittingly turning into a loose series among the articles published within this blog. Following books on Sablatnig (Seifert 2002), Weser Flugzeugbau GmbH (Wenz, 2000), Zeppelin (Meighörner, 2006), DKW And Erla Aircraft (Seifert, 2011), and REIMAHG (Gleichmann, 2013, and various other authors), this review focuses on René Scheer's newly released and highly anticipated AGO-Flugzeugwerke. Vom Gitterrumpf zur Me 262 [AGO Aircraft Plant. From Tube Truss Fuselage To The Me 262]. To make it short, Scheer's book is fantastic. It is a prime example for a thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated (including many rare black & white photographs and eight colour profiles) landmark publication.

AGO-Flugzeugwerke documents AGO's inception as a relatively small and obscure aircraft manufacturer in Oschersleben, its rise to a subcontractor producing aircraft for Heinkel, Arado, Henschel, Focke-Wulf, Gotha, and Messerschmitt, and its eventual association with REIHMAG. It is a highly intriguing account by any means, and it highlights not only the aviation-technical aspects typically associated with any German aircraft manufacturer of the period, but also the omnipresent repercussions arising from economic realities and political interference.

Among the most interesting parts of the book, however, is Scheer's detailed depiction of AGO's original aircraft designs (both produced and projected) as developed by Paul Klages and his team. The elegant lines of aircraft such as the Ao 192 or Ao 225 clearly illustrate Klages' unreservedly distinctive and aesthetic approach. As interesting and important as the subsequent license production of other companies' aircraft (e.g. Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190) was in AGO's history, it is a shame that AGO's own projects never received the attention and acknowledgment they would have rightfully deserved. Germany's inevitable path towards war essentially eliminated the possibility to realize any such ambitions AGO may have harboured.

Scheers' book subsequently sheds much light on AGO's wartime activities, including flight test activities, aircraft repair operations at the front, decentralisation efforts affecting manufacturing processes back in Germany, work conditions of AGO's workforce, employment of forced labour (a topic all too frequently conveniently excluded in such monographs), effects of the air war and Allied bombing, REIHMAG's appropriation of AGO's assets, and the establishment of the underground production of Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters at the near-mythical Walpersberg facilities. AGO-Flugzeugwerke finally concludes by describing the period of occupation after the war's end as well as the futile local efforts to preserve the industrial base against the realities of a collapsed Germany, resulting in the cessation of all activities in 1950.

René Scheer, a teacher by profession, has been gathering AGO-related information and material since the 1990s, resulting in a unique collection of knowledge, documents, photographs, and data. His dedication to meticulous research, paired with the obvious enthusiasm of his publisher, Harald Ziethen, have made AGO-Flugzeugwerke an utterly indispensable case study. In spite of the complexity of the story, the 312 pages of text are easy to read (the text is perhaps a tad small, due to a book format of 23 x 23 cm). Image reproduction is very good. The book is completed by footnotes, a list of sources, an overview of abbreviations, and a brief English summary.

AGO-Flugzeugwerke. Vom Gitterrumpf zur Me 262 simply cannot be recommended highly enough.

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