Das Vergessene As: Der Jagdflieger Gerhard Barkhorn Book Review

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Das Vergessene As: Der Jagdflieger Gerhard Barkhorn

(The Forgotten Ace: The Fighter Pilot Gerhard Barkhorn)

by Bernd Barbas, fifteen color profiles by Claes Sundin

Hardcover in dustjacket, 208 pages, heavily illustrated, maps, color profiles

Published by Luftfahrtverlag—Start January 2014

Languages: German and English

ISBN-13: 978-3-941437-22-7

Dimensions: 9.5 x 11.2 x 0.9 inches

With 301 credited victories, Gerhard Barkhorn is the second most successful fighter pilot in history, surpassed only by Erich Hartmann with 352 victories.  To think he has been “forgotten” is a bit of a stretch, but the point that the person who sets the record achieves higher fame and recognition than those who don’t is valid, even if their achievements are also noteworthy.

This book is impressive for several reasons.  It follows Barkhorn’s career from flight school, service in Jagdgeschwader 52, and eventually finishing the war flying the Me 262 as part of Galland’s JV 44.  Much of the information comes from Barkhorn’s own combat reports or those of his wingmen – at least for the first part.  After his 172nd victory on 08SEP43 subsequent records were lost and the narrative relies on other authoritative sources.  This results in less detail going forward but continuity is maintained.

Jagdgeschwader 52 was the most successful fighter group in history.  Barkhorn’s story reads like a who’s who of Luftwaffe Experten.  Many had over one hundred victories themselves and flew as wingmen to the likes of Barkhorn or Hartmann.  Several of these pilots better fit the description of “forgotten aces” as portions of their records or photographs of their aircraft do not survive today.

While Barkhorn’s story is fascinating, the major strength of this book is the photographs.  Many of these were taken by Barkhorn himself, and many are in color.  The publishers have gone to great pains to reproduce these photographs from the original negatives and present them in full-page landscape format on quality paper.  These are supplemented by black and white photographs from various other sources, most of which are sharp and equally well presented.  These provide the basis for Claes Sundin’s superb profiles, and often the reader is treated to both the profile and an original photograph of the subject aircraft in the same page spread.

This is a fascinating package, and one is left with a sense of wonder that the records and photographs survived the war and the chaos of post-war Germany.  The color photographs alone make this book invaluable to the Luftwaffe enthusiast, even more so when you realize the photographer in many cases was Barkhorn himself.  Sundin’s profiles are the icing on the cake.  This book is getting somewhat hard to find, but well worth the effort.  Highly recommended.

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