Phoenix. A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 by Richard Meredith. A review.

Diskutiere Phoenix. A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 by Richard Meredith. A review. im Bücher u. Fachzeitschriften Forum im Bereich Literatur u. Medien; Phoenix. A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945. Volume 1. The Phoenix is Reborn (Helion & Co, 2016). The first 650-page volume of this...
L Andersson

L Andersson

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08.11.2009
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Phoenix. A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945. Volume 1. The Phoenix is Reborn (Helion & Co, 2016). The first 650-page volume of this mammoth work is about the period 1918-1934. The first impression is that it is a vey ambitious tome. The style is scientific with numbered sections, illustrations and tables and there is a copious amount of footnotes, in fact often 50% of the page area. There are 54 introductory pages of content listings, abbreviations and explanations before the main text begins, and a 25-page index at the end. That is all good. At a glance it looks very impressive, but there are serious problems with this book.

“Inevitably massive use has been made of secondary sources”. This sentence in the Introduction sets the first alarm bell ringing. It soon transpires that the author has not done any original research at all of his own and that is the main flaw with the book! This is astonishing and almost unbelievable, considering the volume of work laid down and the publisher’s commitment.

What about secondary sources then? A wealth of good and well researched articles and books have appeared, mostly in German, during the last 20 years or so, but, incredibly, the only “modern” literature in this category that appear in the footnotes are one of Volker Koos’ Heinkel books (but strangely not his other books) and the book on Erprobungsstellen in the Deutsche Luftfahrt series. That Bruno Lange and Karl-Heinz Völker appear in the literature list is of course no surprise, but to find William Green (1970) and eight books by Heinz Nowarra (1963, etc) sets the big alarm bell in motion.

Books by Green, Nowarra, Vajda & Dancey and similar authors, many now up to fifty years old, would not be used by any serious author as sources today, because the well-established fact that they are full of self-invented “facts” that have distorted German aviation history for years. This means that the text of this book contains the same type of “facts” that are found in those books. This discovery is quite depressing and also means that there is no use in making a full review of the book.

A few examples will suffice. On pages 516 to 522 the author deals with airframe production. Let us have a look at what is said about the Heinkel He 51: The HD 51a, which was D-ILGY, was the version that was ordered into production, first nine pre-production He 51A-0s that were delivered from July 1934. Deliveries of the He 51A-1 started in April 1935. He 51A-2 D-IFTI was the production prototype for 14 He 51W naval fighters delivered in 1934.

Not a single item of this information is correct! D-ILGY was the He 51 V7 (c/n 1485), the habit of ordering pre-production batches had not yet been invented in 1933, the versions mentioned (A-0, A-1 and A-2) never existed, in fact the sub-version number suffixes was not introduced until much later, the first production He 51s were of the He 51C and He 51D (floatplane) versions and first deliveries started in February 1935. The floatplane version had the alternative designation He 51S (or See) and 32 were built. In addition, the registrations given for the nine “pre-production” aircraft are all from random production He 51C aircraft. So what are the “sources” for this? William Greens Warplanes of the Third Reich from 1970, Nowarra’s books and Vajda & Dancy’s German Aircraft Industry and Production - all three veritable fairy tale books.

Some statements, for example that the Junkers K 45 was the military form of the A 25 (!) and was known as the R 41 in Sweden (page 382), are utter rubbish. There were two J 45/K 45s, first (project only) a military variant of the J 46, which was a development of the A 35, the second one was the military version of the Ju 52. The J 25, or H 25, was a projected development of the J 21/H 21, and the J 41/W 41, later called the F 24 was the single-engined variant of the G 24. No “A 25” or “R 41” ever existed.

There are endless examples of this sort, but this will suffice.

Of course, the only way to find the true facts about aircraft and aviation in Germany is to use original sources in the form of documents, many of which have been available in the archives in Berlin, Freiburg and elsewhere for many years. That a publisher has decided to embark upon such an ambitious and costly publication plan, without making a knowledgeable fact assessment is almost unbelievable. Another sad circumstance is that books of this type will inevitably drain the market for better-researched books.

Final assessment: I am sorry to say that this book can be characterised as a well-written compilation of outdated and often erroneous other books, which probably has its merits in some respects, but if you are looking for “the truth” about German military aviation you must look elsewhere.


Lennart Andersson
 
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Phoenix. A Complete History of the Luftwaffe 1918-1945 by Richard Meredith. A review.

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