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.
War Graves at Whicham Churchyard, Cumbria
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