Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No 17:

German Jet Aces of World War 2 by Hugh Morgan and John Weal

reviewed by Paul Mahoney


While issued some years ago, this book is part of a series that constantly has new releases, and with the announcement of the new Tamiya Me262, seemed worth having a look.

Like all books in the Osprey series, this is a softcover book with interesting text, a decent selection of photos, and numerous pages of color artwork (profiles and some sketches of uniforms).

The text itself makes for a pretty interesting read. A good history of the development of the jet fighter in Germany is provided, as well as coverage of the competition between the Heinkel and Messerschmitt aircraft designs. Lots of quotes, and text of official documents such as Milch's letter to Ernst Heinkel informing him of the decision to drop the He280 project in favor of the Messerschmitt 262, provide good background to this contest. Some of Germany's internal politics are discussed, as they affected the decision not to build the He280 (and later how they affected Me262 fighter, or bomber, production).

The majority of the work discusses the operational development of the Me262 units, and the men who staffed them. While one cannot discuss the pilots of the aircraft without discussing the units in which they flew, at times the emphasis seems more on unit logistics than on the individual aces. This is a difficult task given the chaos that ruled in late-war Germany, and the authors have done a commendable job.

The last part of the book is dedicated to discussing 'other' operational jet aircraft and their pilots, including the Ar234 (nightfighter), He162, and the rocket-powered Me163. Again, the operational logistics and pilots are covered. This section's development history is very abbreviated, especially in comparison to the early sections on the Me262. Although these aircraft did not participate nearly to the degree of the Me262, we might have been better served leaving this book exclusively to the Me262, and issuing a second volume covering the 'others.'

The color artwork is extremely well-done, and as with all other Osprey titles, there is a one-line description under each profile, with more detailed information tabulated in the back pages of the book. My concern with this, and many other Osprey titles, is that often the photos supporting these profiles are not present in the book. While I very much appreciate the effort and skill that has gone into creating this art, and like the fact that they attempt to provide profiles not previously depicted, I would like to see the photos from which they were created.

I will illustrate one example of my concern. I have been using this book, among others, to do research for the Italeri Me262 kit in 1/48 scale. I have a set of decals from ADS for JV44, and their instructions are sketchy at best. In looking through this book, I noticed they have a profile of 'red S' from JV44 that is also included on my decal sheet. The problem is, the decal sheet provides some markings labeled 'A4' in red, and the rough drawing included with them is not too exact as to their placement. The decal sheet mentions that they do not know the significance of these markings, nor do they know if they were applied symmetrically. Obviously, they are working from a photo showing only one side of the a/c. The profile in the Osprey book does not show these stencils. However (and here is part of the problem I have with the Osprey series), the text provided in the book for 'red S' mentions that 'the significance of the other stenciling on various fuselage and cowling panels is unknown.' What stenciling?? The profile does not show any stenciling, and no photo is provided to see this unknown stenciling. Clearly there is some, as the ADS decal sheet makes reference to it. I am not meaning to turn this review into an analysis of the stenciling on 'red S,' but want to point out some of the inconsistencies, or perhaps omissions, present in the book.

Bottom line: Informative text, nice looking profiles, and at around $16, a decent reference. Not the definitive source, but most of the problems stem from omission of data or photos, rather than outright erroneous information.

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