Phoenix: A Complete History of the Luftwaffe. The Genesis of Air Power 1935 – 1937

Phoenix: A Complete History of the Luftwaffe. The Genesis of Air Power 1935 – 1937

Richard Meredith
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4.5 Mushroom Heads
This is the second volume of a multi-volume history of the Luftwaffe. The first volume covers the years 1918 – 1934, when the German Air Force was a clandestine organisation, forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The current volume covers the years 1935 – 1937, after the existence of the Luftwaffe was formally announced. The next volume, scheduled for release in the Spring of 2018, will cover the years 1937 - 1939.

These volumes are immensely detailed; the book being reviewed runs to over 800 pages to cover 2 years. Although billed as a history of the Luftwaffe, it is more properly a reference work as it does not contain any analysis of the information in the volume. For example, the infamous attack on Guernica is covered in some detail; the author does not make on comment on the morality or international impact of the attack.

That said, when completed, these volumes are likely to become the standard reference work on the Luftwaffe. The author has collated information from a vast number of sources; the level of detail is impressive. For example, one of the appendixes details the production for every single type of aircraft delivered to the Luftwaffe for the period covered by this volume; the bulk of these were training aircraft as the Luftwaffe needed a vast number of pilots to achieve its planned expansion over the next few years.

This volume is split into six sections; Strategy and Command, Ministerial Activity, Technology and Production, Infrastructure and Training, Operational Activity and Operations in Spain. The first section of this book covers the structure of the German Air Ministry and the Luftwaffe General Staff. The second section is more concerned with the personnel side of the senior echelons of the Luftwaffe. The next section covers the aircraft production facilities and programs used to equip the Luftwaffe. This information is complemented by a wealth of information on the training program needed to generate the large numbers of personnel required for a rapidly expanding Luftwaffe.

The next section details the formation of the actual units that formed the initial incarnation of the Luftwaffe, and its role in deterring a Franco-British response when Hitler reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936. The final section covers the first part of the Luftwaffe’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War. This was very much a learning period for the Luftwaffe as it initially went to war with biplane fighters and the Ju 52 as a bomber.

Unlike a lot of the other histories of the Luftwaffe, this history also focuses on the Luftwaffe’s ground forces; all anti-aircraft artillery being transferred to the German Air Force not long after its official formation.

The book also comes with an extensive collection of photographs, many of which have not appeared in other books on the Luftwaffe. Each photograph is accompanied with a detailed commentary which gives some context to the photograph. The book finishes with three appendixes; the two most useful covering aircraft and aero engine production summaries and pre-war unit histories.
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A word of caution; the author uses many German technical terms through the book. There is an extensive glossary and list of abbreviations, and reference will have to be made to it as the reader progresses through the book. To give an idea of the level of detail, I had no idea that Aufbewahrungskasten was a storage rack for ammunition drums.

As stated earlier, this book is more a reference work than a history of the Luftwaffe. As such, it is not really suitable for the casual reader; it is far too detailed and technical. That said, anyone with an interest in the detail of the Second World War is going to find this book invaluable; the information contained within it is very comprehensive. As such, it comes highly recommended for anyone interested in the detail of the Luftwaffe.
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