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Book Review – Fighting Hitler’s Jets: The Extraordinary Story of the American Airmen Who Beat the Luftwaffe and Defeated Nazi Germany

By Robert F. Dorr; Zenith Press; 304 pages

This new book, from the prolific expert Robert F. Dorr, offers an informed view of the opportunities and the difficulties the Luftwaffe had in producing and employing their new jet and rocket fighters. The Germans knew that only radical new technology could overcome ever increasing Allied numerical superiority. Fighting Hitler’s Jets is thus a very apt title, for the author also provides insight into the many steps the Allied nations took first to combat the enemy jets, and then to match them.

Books in this genre run the risk of becoming overly technical and thus daunting to the newcomer in the field. This is because every author knows that the International League of Nitpickers is out there waiting, ready to exploit any minor error they find in an indignant letter to the editor. Dorr finesses this danger by writing in a conversational, almost Socratic style in which he poses possibilities and then analyzes them before presenting the correct conclusions.  As a result, Fighting Hitler’s Jets is a treat for the well informed as well as the beginner.

Between these two air shows, Dorr tucks a concise, well developed and comprehensive presentation of the rise of all the German jet fighters, and the Allied steps taken to meet that challenge.  The author outlines all the possibilities available to the Germans to fight their various jet fighters against the allies. In an interesting parallel approach, he charts the alternative actions the Allies took to fight the German jets on their own terms.

Dorr chooses to open and close Fighting Hitler’s Jets with an air show. The first is at Insterburg, East Prussia, on Nov. 26, 1943, where an increasingly desperate Reichsmarschal Hermann Göring sought to impress Adolf Hitler with the promise of a revived Luftwaffe equipped with new aircraft. Göring’s premise was that advanced German technology, particularly the radical new jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, could stop the Allied aerial onslaught that was churning German cities into dust.

The second is at Wright Field, Ohio, on Oct. 13, 1945, an event where. the acquisition of top German technology was celebrated. Amazingly enough, videos of German aircraft on display and flying at this air show and one at Freeman Field, Ind., can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrXTHMtX5Nc and http://www.downvids.net/1945-freeman-field-airshow-214596.html.

Fighting Hitler’s Jets: The Extraordinary Story of the American Airmen Who Beat the Luftwaffe and Defeated Nazi Germany

Fighting Hitler’s Jets: The Extraordinary Story of the American Airmen Who Beat the Luftwaffe and Defeated Nazi Germany, by Robert F. Dorr; Zenith Press; 304 pages

The videos are a perfect complement to the book, and a great inducement to buy it and learn the behind the scenes story. Dominating the event, of course, was the sizzling performance of the arrow-shaped Messerschmitt Me 262.

If you pick up the book to see if you want to buy it, I suggest you go to Chapter 14, title “Marauder Man” and see what jet warfare meant to the crews flying the tough Martin B-26. It will convince you to buy on the spot.

Between these two air shows, Dorr tucks a concise, well developed and comprehensive presentation of the rise of all the German jet fighters, and the Allied steps taken to meet that challenge. The author outlines all the possibilities available to the Germans to fight their various jet fighters against the allies. In an interesting parallel approach, he charts the alternative actions the Allies took to fight the German jets on their own terms.

Me 163

A German Me 163 Komet is examined during the air show at Wright Field, Ohio, Oct. 13, 1945. National Archives photo

In his familiar and easy to read style, the author profiles the men leading this head-on technical charge on both sides. He also addresses what the real possibilities were on such lesser known weapons as the Heinkel He 280, and the Bachem Natter. Chapter by chapter he covers all aspects of the introduction of the new age in aviation, from the bright light of invention through the agony of developing entirely new manufacturing techniques to the creation of new tactics for their use.

This book is in many ways a grand tour of the introduction of the jet fighter to aviation, backing up the views of people who were there and engaged in the process with the results of another six decades of information.

This book is in many ways a grand tour of the introduction of the jet fighter to aviation, backing up the views of people who were there and engaged in the process with the results of another six decades of information. If you pick up the book to see if you want to buy it, I suggest you go to Chapter 14, title “Marauder Man” and see what jet warfare meant to the crews flying the tough Martin B-26. It will convince you to buy on the spot.

By

Walter J. Boyne is a retired United States Air Force officer, combat veteran, aviation historian,...