The book has the usual handy Osprey format and I noticed no printing issues. The photos (87 in total) are all black and white and of various quality. 48 of them are more or less portraits of German pilots and some pictures of wreckage or allied bombers are also included. This means only 20 photos actually depicts Bf 109's and they are almost all rather small and blurry. For the modeler, 36 color profiles will compensate the small number and poor quality of the reference pictures. They are all nicely done by the author himself.
The book is focused on Bf 109 Aces only and do not mention the other planes used by the Reich Defense such as the FW 190 ("Stürmbock" and "Rammjäger"), Nightfighters or Me 163 "Komet" for example. But by reading the book, one can still understand the global situation of the Luftwaffe in the final years of the war. The Me 109 pilots are perhaps the most representative of the deliquescence of what was the most powerful Air Force of the world.
Starting with Bf 109D equipped home Defense units in 1939, chasing small numbers of French and British medium bombers, the book ends with BF 109G or K "Reichsverteidigung" units struggling against sometimes more than thousand heavy bombers and almost the same number of escort fighters. Meanwhile, a lot of "Experten" have been shot down one after another, sometimes only few days after arriving from the Russian Front, leaving the place to inexperienced pilots with survival chances of only few days. However, some veterans or younger pilots managed to score an impressive amount of kills during this apocalyptic battle. These Defense of the Reich Aces sometimes used rather uncommon tactics such as Air/Air Bombing or Rockets.
All this can be found in the book accompanied with lots of anecdotes and pilots reports. The Reich's home Defense tactics are also thoroughly explained but sadly without any map! It would have been nice to have the locations of the fighter units, the main targets and the bomber's routes drawn on several plans. Sometimes it is not easy to mentally visualize one particular mission, in particular when the bomber's stream is split in two or if some are coming from England (west) and the others from Italy (south). But in all, the text is very interesting and even the monotonous report of the Mighty Eight's missions gives an accurate account of the inescapable exit of the events.
At the end of the book, a table lists all the pilots who received awards: Swords, Oak Leaves and Knight's Crosses. An order of battle of all Bf 109 "Defense of the Reich" units is also present, starting from May 1943 and ending in April 1945. A commentary of the 36 color profiles can also be found here (why not under them?) as well as a Selected Bibliography and an Index.
Osprey's "Bf 109 Defense of the Reich aces" is a nice informative book, which depicts in an austere but effective way the combat of Messerchmitt pilots against an overwhelming force of heavy bombers and escort fighters. The fact that some managed to become Aces by downing "Viermots" (four engine aircraft) is even more extraordinary. I recommend this book for all wanting to know a little bit more about the men behind the machines. The Bf 109, especially in "Reichsverteidigung" markings, is one of the most popular subject in aircraft modeling and even if this book is not strictly aimed at modelers, they will find in it a source of historical background for their models.
Thank you to Osprey Publishing for kindly supplying the review sample.
The Bf 109 is an emblematic aircraft and a lot of German WW2 pilots became experten(Aces) while mounting Willy Messerschmitt's famous fighter. Many of them achieved incredible scores during the early years of the war and during operation Barbarossa. But at that time, the Luftwaffe was the master of the skies. However, this changed around 1943 mainly because more and more British and U.S. bombers flew their missions routinely over the Third Reich. The Germans were forced to adopt a defensive attitude and several Jagdverbände became Home Defense units. From now on, the hunters became the hunted...