With this book, author Donald Caldwell completes his unique, comprehensive history of JG 26, the Luftwaffe unit most respected by the Western Allies. This volume takes JG 26 from the beginning of 1943, when the American 8th Air Force first began to make its presence felt over occupied Europe, until the end of the war. Although always outnumbered, JG 26 had managed to dominate the airspace over northern France in 1941 and 1942 by skillfully choosing the time and place for its battles with the Royal Air Force. But in 1943 the destructive potential of the American B-17s and B-24s took away that option; they had to be attacked under any circumstances. The American fighter escorts, which were bested easily by JG 26 in their early encounters, grew rapidly in numbers and experience. Trapped in a war of attrition that it could not win, the Luftwaffe, and with it JG26, began an inexorable decline. The men of JG 26 fought on, scoring some spectacular, if isolated, successes over Normandy, Arnhem, and the Ardennes. The unit's replacement pilots were so poorly trained and badly outnumbered that most were killed before their fifth mission, but the survivors continued their struggle until the bitter end. The interviews with these men, who describe their secrets of survival in the bluntest of terms and struggle to explain why they continued to fight for a lost, and evil, cause, are among the unique aspects of the book.

The main body of the book is a daily account of the wing's activities—similar in format to a war diary, but one which takes full advantage of Allied records and post-war research to give an accurate, well-balanced presentation. As only two of the thirty volumes of the unit's official diary survived the war, the creation of a daily combat log was not simply a matter of transcribing records, but required careful comparison of Allied documents, especially those derived from radio intelligence, with the limited material available from Germany. The book is based largely on primary documentation obtained from the unit's veterans and on material from the national archives of Germany and the UK and from the USAF Historical Research Agency. The unit's veterans granted Don unprecedented access to their personal documents and photo collections. The book is thus new in every respect. In common with the author's previous works, it is both an unbiased, scholarly history and an interesting, highly readable book. It is fully illustrated and annotated. It contains 200 photos of JG 26 personalities, scenes, and aircraft; theater maps; mission maps; and a complete bibliography. Lists of JG 26 casualties (with Allied victors) and JG 26 aerial victories (with Allied victims) are included in the text. Don is the first to publish compilations of this scope. These tables will be of great value for enthusiasts and historical researchers, and of great interest to Allied and Luftwaffe veterans. The appendices contain lists of the unit's bases and commanders from 1943-1945, lists of 1939-1945 air victories for every JG 26 pilot, and an alphabetized list of JG 26 pilot casualties for 1939-1945.


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