German Aircraft in Russian and Soviet Service 1941-1951

by Andrei Alexandrov & Genadi Petrov

a Schiffer Military History Book

a review by Paul Mahoney

 

First, let me note that this is volume II of a two-volume set, and I have not read the first volume. The text and photo captions have been translated quite well from Russian. (Well, I can't attest to the accuracy of the text, but it certainly is much more readable than some other foreign-originating publications!). As with many Schiffer publications, this is coverage of an interesting subject that is slightly marred by some annoying glitches. To start with, the cover proclaims the title as 1941-1951, with no mention of a volume two. Yet the title page lists the true title as 1914-1951, and calls this volume 2 (1941-51). Not a major problem, but a little confusing! (Text on the back cover does mention that this is volume II).

Most of this 280 page volume is comprised of clear, half-page (some full-page) black and white photos. It is broken into two sections, with some appendices. At the beginning of each section is some brief text, followed by pages and pages of photos with captions. Unfortunately another editorial goof occurs, as both sections are entitled 1941-45. It's pretty clear that the second section is really 1945-51. Not really a crisis, but for the cost of a nice hardcover book these small errors shouldn't occur. With lack of attention to this sort of minor thing it becomes harder to trust the overall accuracy of the book.

Editorial blunders notwithstanding, there are loads of good photos, many of which probably have never been published prior to this book. There are many pictures of German aircraft that were sold to the USSR prior to the war, primarily for evaluation purposes. During the 'Great Patriotic War' there was an ongoing need to obtain examples of the latest Luftwaffe warplanes, and these efforts are documented through photos here. Pictures of Ju52s, FW190s, Bf109s, FW189s, FW200s, Ar196s and many more (often repainted with Red Stars) abound.

The postwar section is primarily focused on the various 'cutting edge' German aircraft that were brought back to the USSR for evaluation and development. Despite the lack of proper text, the photo captions are a wealth of information and give some glimpse into Soviet aircraft development in the immediate postwar era.

The appendix section leaves a little to be desired. The appendices appear to be the culmination of the two-volume set, not just for this book, yet there appears to be some odd lack of comprehensiveness to this area. The first appendix is a comparison of German and Russian aircraft production from 1910-17, the second lists German aircraft in Soviet Arctic Service (primarily Dornier Wals and FW 200s), while the third covers Junkers F-13s with Russian registration. That's it. With a title like this, one would expect to find an appendix listing German types operating with Soviet forces, or a list of all German types captured by the Soviets, or something more all-encompassing that German aircraft in Soviet Arctic service!!

Equally disappointing are the line drawings and color profiles that follow. There are 14 pages of line drawings with absolutely no text. All the drawings seem to be of German aircraft from the 1920s and 30s (I can recognize many), with the exception of the final one (I identified this as the DFS 346 by looking back at some of the pictures in the main part of the book). What is the point of including drawings of this nature with no descriptions? If these were interspersed in the text next to photos of the aircraft, then this lack of identification might not be so bad, but by themselves it is a waste of pages. In addition, almost all of the aircraft depicted in the line drawings are not represented in the book! I can excuse this is this is meant to be an appendix for the set, but then shouldn't there also be aircraft from the 1941-51 period included?

The color profiles immediately following the line drawings are interesting subjects, but a bit muddy. I am going to assume that again this is meant to be the profile section for the two-volume set, since about half of the aircraft depicted are from a period previous to 1941. The captions of the color profiles run the gamut from a full description (ie FW 190A-4 W.Nr. 2310 from JG54 captured on 16 January 1943 after forced landing on Lake Ladoga.) to simply the aircraft name (ie Messerschmitt Bf110C). Some consistency here would be nice. I enjoy seeing a color profile of a Messerschmitt 110 in Red Stars, but it's frustrating to not know any more about it (identifying it as a Bf110C is not enough!).

Bottom line: Interesting subject, great photos. What could have been a great reference book is marred by what appears to be editorial indifference. As with so many of the Schiffer titles, it looks promising but disappoints to some extent. Still, worthwhile having for the photos alone.


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