Saturday, January 13

Erik Mombeeck's new book preview- A "Special" Luftwaffe Gallery No III JG 54 'The Green Hearts'.

We got to reading straight away when we received our copy of the latest Luftwaffe Gallery book - this one features a special on the famous "Greenhearts" of JG 54 from the Luftwaffe of WWII. This famous unit always has always attracted aficionados and now with the promise of new and unpublished material. See what Mr. Mombeeck & Mr. Góralczyk have to offer in our JG 54 'The Green Hearts' book review...

Luftwaffe "Special" Gallery No III: JG 54 'The Green Hearts'.

by Erik Mombeeck & Maciej Góralczyk
96 pages

Softcover Landscape Format (30cm X 20cm)
200+ historical photos & 32 colour illustrations by Thierry Dekker
Product Link

There are only a few people in the military history field that I would actually call a historian, Erik Mombeeck is one of those people, He has teamed up this time with another guy whose opinion on WWII aviation I admire, Mr Maciej Góralczyk, to create the third in the "Special" editions of the Luftwaffe Gallery series.

This edition features the aircraft and men of the Jagdeschwader 54, the famous "Green Hearts" The combination of these two men and years of researching and writing books on Luftwaffe subjects peaked my interest and left me with high hopes on this title.

This book is the latest in the series from Erik Mombeeck that offers a photographically-heavy, with text that is light in volume, but informative stories that provide not only a history of a unit – this time the 'Grünherz' or "Greenhearts". The book also offers new of unseen or rarely seen photographs that bring new evidence to the conversation about these men and their machines from WWII.
Physically, this book is ninety-six pages, laid out in a landscape format that is friendly to the large format pictures this book features more often than not which is good because there are over two hundred mostly black and white photographs in the book. The writing in English flows and is easy to read, while in addition to that there are thirty-two full-colour artworks by the very talented Thierry Dekker, whose polished work in this and other series you may already have had some experience with, you will see some of his profiles throughout this review. 

After a brief introduction and explanation of the subject of this book, we get straight into the action at the start of the war. Immediately at the outbreak of World War Two, we start to see personal accounts of the men who served in the unit (at that early stage called 1./JG 21) the author explains the three Staffeln crests and colours. At this early stage, and right throughout the book, we start to see Thierry Dekker's artwork in profiles of the aircraft already features in the pictures next to them. Thierry's illustrations add a lot to the book as the colour which just isn't there in the photographs brings these machines to life in shades which we are more accustomed to than in black and white. It offers a lot of guidance to modellers looking for an interesting scheme or modelling inspiration also.

Through the early Polish and French campaigns, we follow the newly named JG 54 in plenty of smaller close-up photos of the machines, mostly of two, then three blade propelled driven Bf 109's, but here and there other aircraft like He 51's. The aircraft in the pictures and profiles move with the development of the war from an all over RLM 02 to a mostly light blue camo with only camouflaged top-sides, to a mottled aircraft which had to hide from enemy aircraft attacks on forward airstrips in the conquest of France and the English Channel actions. Aircraft in various conditions of repair, crashed and being fixed, maintained or manned by pilots. The crews and pilots of these aircraft are never far away in these pictures.

By May 1940 we see all three of the Stafeln together to form a full unit for the campaign in the West, the attack on the retreating Allies in Northern France are talked through in not only the captions explaining the pictures, but the block text detailing the actions and movements of the units, but also the excellent recallections of the men who flew and commanded these machines from their diaries of accounts. This part of the book is just so valuable and my eyes prick up when i see more of these accounts in the pages. By this time we are seeing the aircraft more camouflaged to blend into temporary airfields with mottles and stripes.

By April 1941 parts of JG 54 were reposted to the Balkans to fight over the skies of Yugoslavia and Greece. Yellow nose, rudder, wingtip and tail easy recognition stripes are applied to many of these Bf 109's and gee don't they look beautiful in the artwork that replicates a machine right next to it. It is a great feature to combine these two mediums together (of course along with the writing). It brings you right into the real colours that you are not seeing the photos.

By May 1941 JG 54 re-equipped with the newer Bf 109F, just in time for Operation "Barbarossa" the invasion of the Soviet Union. By the first Winter of that campaign we see the adoption now of the tat famous "Green Heart" and learn the reason for its adoption by the unit in the block text, with not only artwork to support it but in the aircraft now porting the German green heart before we go into more excellent first-hand accounts by pilots in these lead in days to the invasion of the East.

We follow the actions of the Grouppe through the Russian winter, with the white distemper covered aircraft being started in the cold, serviced and guarded. The good thing here is that if you get tired of reading the text the pictures are just as engrossing - and then back the other way if you want to go deeper than photos, you can get into the story through the text. Ane example of the text section bringing something new is the guide to survival for flight crew after ditching of bailing out of their aircraft. Great stuff that isn't dry or boring (not to this reader anyway).

As the tide of the war in general changed against the Germans, the stories of actions such as the failed attempt to break the encirclement of the "kessel" around Velikije Luki are told in terms of straight history and again in first hand accounts (including a grizzly account retold after the war of a pilot who went into a lake in his plane). It is in late 1942 when we start to see the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 appear in the unit history.

A two-page story fo the amazing tale of Emil Koppelberg makes for some enthralling (and funny mixed with tragic) in parts read. His son relayed some of the story, with propaganda material showing his capture at the time. The story tells not only his actions as a pilot in brief at the time just before being shot down, but as a POW of the Russians that went all the way to the Gulags of the Far East, an amazing tale well told.

By page seventy-five we are already seeing the Fw 190's of the unit in a brown and green with white camouflage in a very interesting camouflage, and as we progress in 1943 the white disappears and we see the Wurgers in "Jabo" role with bombs underslung and the names of Nowotny are becoming more commonplace as losses occur and new aces come to the fore. There is less block text by this time in the book, and we see the progression of time and theatres of war moving from east to west.
The unit moved into the A-8 version of the Fw 190 as the unit faced the invasion in the west and the increasing attacks of the Allies in massive bombing raids over German skies. Several pictures of the aircraft and profiles with text give way tot he late war actions of the unit over the Courland Pocket and eventual surrender in 1945.

I could have really gone to town in the review of this book and told you a lot more about all of the actions of these airmen. That would kind of ruin the surprise I think - as there are so many great stories waiting to be uncovered in the text, great pictures and the matching illustrations that it seems cruel to ruin them in a review - I think you have understood that I like this special edition very much, and the authors and contributors should be really happy with the results here in print.

A great book of good quality well illustrated and packed with rare or new photos - it's another great addition to the series by this publisher...

Adam Norenberg
If you are interested in buying this book: If you have any interest in acquiring this volume you will need to email your request to Eric at to let him know. Email to reserve your copy at  
Check his other books on his website - website