We don’t go to the trouble of reading too many books here if we can help it (They tend to get in the way of modelling) but this one was a special case, coming in at 232 pages – this title Storming The Bombers - A chronicle of JG4 - The Luftwaffe’s 4th fighter wing Vol. 2 1944-45 – is the second part of the history of the Luftwaffe’s JG4 and is written by Luftwaffe historian Erik Mombeeck .
Well bound on quality paper stock this tome promises thoughly researched pages packed with the accounts of this famous unit & great pictures of the aircraft and the pilots who flew them. Tempted? - well we just couldn't not say no – click the link below to see what we learned about the book.
Storming The Bombers - A chronicle of JG4 -
The Luftwaffe’s 4th fighter wing Vol. 2 1944-45
Written by: Erik Mombeeck
English text + available in German & French versions
Format: A4 format – hardcover -300 Photos, Colour Art work
RRP: €55 / US$74.95 + Postage
Available from: www.luftwaffe.be
This book is the second edition of acclaimed writer Erik Mombeeck’s tome about the history of the Luftwaffe’s 4th fighter wing. Part one in this series has been out for a while now and quite a few people have been waiting a while for the release of the conclusion of this famous fighter wings history. Crammed into the 232 page hard backed A4 book is a wealth of information, 300-odd black and white pictures and coloured illustrations which – I can say even this early in the review – this title lives up to the high expectations I had before reading it.
This book is funny as it starts at chapter 9! Although you pick up from the place where the first volume of JG4 left off you are never left feeling like you are reading half a book. The story goes from September 1944 right through to the war’s bitter end in the skies above Berlin and the capitulation of the Luftwaffe. There are eleven chapters of about fifteen pages each. Each chapter has a small introduction and explanation of the unit’s activities thought this period of the conflict. Then the chapters go into a day by day account of the unit’s activities which is told in an official type of overview and then chapters are further broken down into the pilot’s recollections of those actions. It is in these personal stories that this book shines. They are told with no fanfare and the honesty of the records is frank and sometimes quite eye-opening.
There are stories of cowardice and heroism on both sides of the conflict, of out numbering the enemy and being vastly outnumbered (2 Vs. 60 in one account) is told here equally and you get the feeling that no one is pushing an angle here as often the case in unit histories – especially of units that fought into the end of the war. Stories of bomber pilots fleeing their aircraft at the sight of the Sturm, of pilots all too frequently being shot by their opponents while in their parachutes, Of one pilot who fired into the ground to explain his expended ammunition - tales of mistreatment and good treatment when captured by the enemy are all here – pretty evenly balanced when you think most of the stories are coming from the German airmen.
The real hard work here in this book, and I take my hat off to Mr Mombeeck and his helpers here - has been in the research. All of the official war diaries of the unit and personnel records were destroyed after the war. So everything in this book needed to be gleaned from the Pilots family archives, kill/loss records and the contents of the pilots own dairies or “Flugbucher”.
The Glossary is helpful to have on hand in-case you forget terminology but i never felt like i was lost without it
One thing I notice when I read book on a particularly focussed part of a conflict or a unit is that they are very much like a club. If you are not in you aren’t welcome. This book starts off by welcoming you to understand where this book is coming from by including a helpful glossary in which common German and Luftwaffe terms are explained in brief as well as the Ranks and common functions of the fliers and their associate ranks in the allied forces. By keeping your bookmark here you never feel like you are lost in the jargon of the book when you can easily flick back to the front and check out the meaning of “erganzungsjagdgruppe” or to see what the Hauptfeldwebel does in his unit.
The notes in this book are few and only really included if necessary. I like this as often too many notes outside the actual story break up the flow - it’s a little thing but to me very important. The notes are on the page or as close to the page in which they are flagged on. There are only a few of them but one thing I find annoying in other titles is skipping forward and back to find out an often not very interesting fact. This goes as well for the pictures which are always very close to the text you are reading. There is no pointless skipping about here and I really like the way this book is laid out. The rare oral testimonies found here are backed up by excellent photographs from Pilots and crew’s private collections. Credit must go as well to Neil Page who has produced the translation of the text and has made sure the book is never just a dry account of history as many books are when translated into the English language.
The chapters of the book are broken up thus (also shown here with sample pages of each chapter):
Chapter 9 – The battle for Arnhem
The failed allied operation “Market Garden” is discussed here as is JG4’s response to it. The strafing of allied troop concentrations trying to link up with the Paratroops trying to take Arnhem Bridge and the attacks of allied transports to stem the flow of supplies and reinforcements is told here.
Chapter 10 – The last of the Sturmjäger
In this chapter the story of the heavily armed and armoured “Sturmjäger” is told – of the actions attacking the large four engined bombers is described in terrifying detail by some excellent pilot recollections.
Chapter 11 – JG 4 at full Establishment
The unit was reinforced to make a formidable force for the allied bomber fleets, horrifying losses on both sides are detailed here as is the eventual break down and lessening of the german's ability to carry out the massed attacks on these enemy bomber fleets.
Chapter 12 – Jabos
The switch to trying to attack the enemy ”Jabos” or ground attack aircraft - and the eventual switch by JG4 itself to the mission of ground attack is told. The inexperience of the pilot’s and unsuitability of some of their aircraft to this task really does make you wonder what the RLM was thinking.
Chapter 13 – The Ardennes Offensive
The last throw of the dice by the Wehrmacht in the west was supported heavily by JG4, in horrid weather conditions ever more inexperienced pilots and an increasingly thin number of “Alter Hasse” fought to make a difference in this attack that was doomed to failure on the ground as well as in the air.
Chapter 14 – Operation Baseplatte – Bodenplatte
This ill-fated and more accurately ill-conceived attack was described in the JG.I book by Mr Mombeeck, but covered here as well in detail with extra information and pictures. It is shameful to hear of some of the accounts of the attack as much as it is thought provoking. There are also some great pictures of downed aircraft from the attack - notably the Fw 190A/R8 which was captured and painted red by the Americans.
Chapter 15 – A turbulent Start to the New Year
The New Year started with a devastating attack and continued in the same way with many losses to the unit. This chapter – along with many others in this book are full of many pictures of Pilots either disfigured or injured in action, as well as others with several names with either “KIA 2/10/44” or “POW” next to them. This book holds nothing back and the human side of the flying sorties comes vividly to life in the pilot’s text.
Chapter 16 – JG 4 on the Eastern Front
While the Ardennes operation had failed the situation on the Eastern front was worse – The unit’s tale of the move east and the last desperate sorties flown on the Oder front against the Red Army are chronicled in this chapter. JG.IV was covering the approaches from Berlin’s south East and had the box seat in watching the capital’s death throes. There are some excellent photos in this chapter from what must be personal records as some of the shots are very close to and informal.
Chapter 17 – Headlong Retreat
As the allies approach from all sides unchecked by the resistance put up by the doomed Luftwaffe JG.IV was transferred to fight again on the Western front. Operations to stem the American armoured onslaught as is the “Operation Elbe” attacks and the units’ survival only to be squandered by the RLM commanders.
Chapter 18 – Kamikaze Attacks
German kamikaze attacks flown against the Oder bridges are discussed here. The accounts are riveting and make you wonder as to where these pilots found the quality that made them keep fighting let alone volunteer for such one way missions. Units were now assigned their own political offices to ensure pilots did as was ordered of them and to look for any signs of defeatism amongst the hard pressed airmen.
Chapter 19 – The bitter End
The final air battles over the ruins of Berlin are discussed here along with the last missions and break-up of the gruppe and capture by the allies is told here. The almost obligatory shots of allied soldiers with destroyed German aircraft are only a few here – along with some interesting shots of some Volksjaegers.
The last part of the book after the main text is broken up into several helpful sections for any reference needs - loss and victory listings are often inflated in conflict – they are researched properly here. The way in which the aircraft were lost is particularly chilling – many of them were caused by inexperienced pilots in accidents which seemed to me to be a real waste of life. Often the losses and victories are given great detail of who, what and where the situation of the aircraft’s demise was.
Great research is at your fingertips - the loss records are just one example of this
There is a table of Unit Commanders of the Gruppe and Thierry Dekker's superb full-colour profile artworks (more please) are all here to round out this excellent tome of all you need to know about JG.IV’s activities during this period. The Index of Names is a great addition to this book if you need to look up an individual pilot quickly – a great feature as often you cannot remember where you saw the info. Smart thinking.
I don’t want to say anymore as I will give away too much of the book - this book took me just over a day to read and now leaves me wanting to read the first part! It is a great foil to Mombeeck’s other Lu/Ga books which are much more picture orientated. The stories of the pilots make this book a winner – and a great book for anyone with an interest in WWII aviation.
The profiles are something special -I wish there were many more of them!
A chronicle of JG 4 – The Luftwaffe’s 4th Fighter Wing