Defenders of the Reich

Jagdgeschwader 1, Vol. 3, 1944-1945

by Eric Mombeek

Book review by Steve Jantscher


Defenders of the Reich is an intimate and highly detailed portrait of one fighter group (jagdgeschwader) throughout the war. In this case, the treatment covers the famous JG 1. This book represents the last of three volumes which covers the last two years of World War II, and the most trying times for any Luftwaffe unit. By this time the unit was flying mostly Fw 190s against the growing Allied air threat. The heart of this book details a month by month attrition of the group, all the while flying desperate missions in defense of their homeland. I personally found the air battles with the Eight Air Force to be most interesting, as step by step the better trained and more numerous USAF fighters wear down and finally break the back of the Luftwaffe. My favorite character in the book must be Major Heinz Bar. I've always had a fondness for this fighter pilot, and his skill and leadership. He plays an important part in the history of JG 1, eventually leaving the group to join Galland's group of aces, JV 44, flying Me-262s.

I have the original (long out of print) English translated hard cover version of Mombeek's JG1 history called Defending the Reich : The History of Jagdgeschwader 1 "Oesau". After a bit of checking, I believe that for the most part the text is the same, and most (but not all) of the black and white photographs are to be found in both editions. What makes this newer three volume edition better than the older book is both its availability and the extra color illustrations that accompany the text and photos. The artwork is done by the rising star, Thomas Tullis, who provides 23 full color aircraft profiles. These are always shown next to at least one supporting photograph of the aircraft in question. My favorite profile is of an interesting Fw 190 A-8 "Black 2" on which the spinner spiral was extended out onto the blades. this makes for one unusual looking bird, and a sure fire hit to model, especially with the prominent red fuselage band of JG 1.

The vast majority of the book consists of hard to find black and white photographs of the aircraft and people of JG 1. The text tells the story of the unit covering the facts of actions and movements, but in a close up and personal way. The pilots and ground crew tell their stories supported by snap shots of the pilots next to their mounts. This is a very good general history reference and especially well received for the modeler of WWII Luftwaffe.

This book measures 12x9 inches, and has about 100 pages. Included are 23 full color profiles and over 200 black and white photographs. I might add also that the quality of the photographs are better than in the earlier published hard cover. That book has greater contrast in the photographs while this new version has more detail in the darker (shadow) areas. The pages are a semi-gloss heavy stock paper making the book feel heavier than most 100 page books. This volume continues the excellent production qualities of the Classic Publications' Air War Classic soft cover series of aviation related books.

sample page

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I'm sorry, but since the review has been published that product appears to have gone out of production.