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The Legion Condor: A History of the Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

The Legion Condor: A History of the Luftwaffe in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939
Autor: Karl Ries, David Johnston (Translator), Hans Ring
Data publikacji: 2004-09
ISBN: 9780887403392
Wydawca: Schiffer Publishing
Język: angielski
Wymiary: 27.7 x 22.1 x 2.3 cm
Oprawa: twarda
Liczba stron: 288
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Opis produktu:

This classic book now makes its first appearance in English. Long out-of-print this study is one of the few books dedicated to the history of the infamous Legion Condor, the German volunteer unit that fought with pro-Franco forces during the Spanish Civil War from 1936-1939. Many of the tactics and strategies of the Luftwaffe were first formulated and used during operations in Spain. Also, various aircraft were tested and used, such as the famous Ju 87, Do 17, He 111 and Bf 109 - all stalwarts of the later Luftwaffe during World War II. Many Luftwaffe pilots received combat training in Spain; Werner Molders and Adolf Galland first earned their wings as members of the Legion Condor. Renowned Luftwaffe experts Karl Ries and Hans Ring have brought together over 480 photographs, including aerial reconnaissance photos, detailed unit insignia, and action shots. The history of the Legion Condor is discussed in great detail, including the many personalities, thorough battle analysis, and technical aspects of the weaponry. The result is a superb historical study of the early Luftwaffe. Karl Ries is the author of many books on the Luftwaffe including Luftwaffe Rudder Markings 1936-1945 with Ernst Obermaier, available from Schiffer Military History. Hans Ring is co-author with Werner Girbig of a unit history of JG 27.

 

This is a delightful book to look at, beautifully produced on glossy paper and featuring hundreds of atmospheric photographs; they depict the aircraft, personalities, airfields, wrecked planes and scenes of destruction that remind us how grim and nasty that civil war really was.

There is a careful approach to the politics, with the comment that 'Historically, it is not justifiable to blame the fascists alone for the fact that the civil war became two and a half years of torture for the Spanish people' - pointing to the efforts of the French, Russians and commercial British interests in supporting the other side. The observation that a Republican victory would almost certainly have resulted in a communist regime scarcely more benevolent than Franco's is justifiable, though continual reference to the enemy as 'reds' is rather jarring since many non- communist idealists, misguided or otherwise, were also involved on that side.

The book provides a fascinating insight into the early German involvement, some months before the Condor Legion- proper was formed, the 'volunteers' being kitted out in white uniforms that were anything but inconspicuous! A campaign by campaign, blow by blow account of the Legion's war is provided and this includes fascinating extracts from the diaries of several of the pilots. It seems quite remarkable to me that those young men fought with such dedication in a war that was not really theirs and for 'ideals' that many of them did not really believe in. We meet along the way famous WW2 personalities, including Werner Molders and Adolf Galland, though the latter spent much of this war in a rather thankless ground attack role flying the poor performing HE 51. The ultimate return to Germany of the Condor Legions brave men was not particularly happy- the very existence of the Legion was not even acknowledged until the war was all over. The survivors had to endure an uncomfortable parade in front of Hitler, with nothing but World War Two to look forward to.

With a few reservations the commentary is tolerably fair, but the impression is given that the Legion took a much more prominent 'lead' in the various campaigns than Spanish accounts, notably the major one by Jesus Larrazabal (who lived through the war), would have one believe. I tend to side with Larraazabal here, if only because the small size of the Legion inevitably restricted its role. In reality the Russians and Italians were much bigger 'players' and the much- maligned Italians deserve far more credit (or, if you prefer, blame) for the eventual Nationalist victory than it is usual to give them. It's clear that neither the authors nor the Germans of the time were much enamoured with the Legion's allies, there being a great cultural 'gulf' between the thoroughly disciplined, rather unimaginative Germans and their chaotic, somewhat vainglorious Latin compatriots- amongst other things both the Spanish and Italians were accused of greatly inflating combat victory claims: the Germans, of course, had strict rules about that!

There is only one map in the whole book and few of the places mantioneed in the text are marked on it. All the many German aircraft types used are photographed and described- there were 33 of them- but some similar coverage of the most significant allied and enemy machines would have been welcome.

This account is particularly fascinating because the authors are German and there are not many 'modern' German books that delve into both the the politics and combat operations of the Fascist period. Disputable topics cannot be avoided and despite some understandable bias towards the efforts of their own countrymen (as noted above) overall quite a good job has been done. As an example, although the two air raids on Guernica resulted in many fewer casualties than was claimed at the time, the authors do not hesitate in condemning those Attacks.



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