The JG 26 War Diary

Article excerpt

The JG 26 War Diary, vol. 2 (1943-45) by Donald Caldwell. Grub Street (http://www.grubstreet. co.uk), The Basement, 10 Chivalry Road, London SW11 1HT, United Kingdom, 1996, 576 pages, $49.95.

With this book, a follow-up of his JG 26.: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe (1991), Donald Caldwell has added another superb work on the Luftwaffe to the corpus of serious works on airpower history. In this volume, the author outlines the combat actions, victories, and losses of Germany's premier fighter wing on the Western Front. By following this micro view of history, Caldwell documents the decline and fall of the Luftwaffe against the Allied air forces during the height of the Allied bombing campaign against Germany.

The strength of the book lies in Caldwell's comprehensive approach to research. The Luftwaffe documents in the German Military Archives as well as the letters, log books, and personal diaries of Jagdgeschwader UG) 26 personnel were thoroughly examined by the author. In addition, the author interviewed dozens of surviving members of JG 26. While getting a comprehensive picture of the air war from the German side, Caldwell also conducted exhaustive research in the US and British archives for hundreds of specific instances of air combat in order to verify victory/loss claims and to carefully reconstruct the events of many of the aerial battles.

The author's technique is to link the actions of JG 26 with the operational-level air war. The primary Royal Air Force (RAF) and US bombing targets and air operations are briefly outlined on a daily basis to provide a context for JG 26's operations, which were primarily to defend Northern France, the Low Countries, and Northern Germany against Allied bombing raids. From there, the author provides an outline of JG 26's operations for each day of the war from 1943 to the surrender in 1945. Losses and victory claims are covered in great detail as well as some selected instances of fighter combat. …