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LUFTWAFFE: A History by Harold--Ed. Faber



Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Times Books

How not to run an air force""--as Telford Taylor put it in the introduction to twelve US government-commissioned volumes on the Luftwaffe's WW II performance produced by former German air force staff generals in the Fifties and Sixties. Faber's smooth, very readable condensation of their verdicts focuses on the personnel and structure of the leadership and its key failures of judgment, with about a fourth of the compact book allotted to overviews of major battles. What emerges is a Luftwaffe that even before the Nazis' WW II setbacks was never a fierce, full-blown war machine, but an improvised muddle fit only for quick blitzkrieg operations. Hitler's early-1939 order to beef it up could not be carried out ""in depth"" for lack of raw materials, gasoline, and skilled manpower, so key programs were progressively abandoned--including pilot training, air transport, jets, and heavy bombers. Luftwaffe chief Goering toadied fearfully to Hitler while two of his top staff generals killed themselves after the Battle of Britain and Stalingrad respectively; Milch, the only senior figure with organizational drive, was edged out by Goering and the Army effectively took over air force decisions. This, the writers protest, meant squandering resources on futile airlifts and Eastern front troop support. The calm, military tone of the book, however, is only rarely punctured by bitter what-ifs. Above all, there is something more than self-serving bias toward the past or the NATO future in these criticisms of the decentralized chaos behind the Nazis' unitary facade. Along with Taylor's introduction, Faber provides a brief preface which might have discussed his method of summary at greater length; but this is a unique and valuable contribution.