Fighters of the Iron Cross Book Review

Fighters of the Iron Cross: Men and Machines of the Jagdwaffe

Written by Jerry Crandall, Illustrated by James Bently and Thomas A. Tullis

Hardcover in dustjacket, 360 pages, bibliography, and index

Published by Eagle Editions Ltd, 2021

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0-9761034-7-8

ISBN-13: 978-0-9761034-7-9

Dimensions: 9.3 x 12.3 x1.2 inches

Jerry Crandal is well known to scale modelers and aviation enthusiasts as the publisher of Eagle Editions books and EagleCals decals.  This book contains much material which will be familiar to anyone who has purchased his Jagdwaffe decals, as the pilots profiled here also flew many of the subject aircraft.  This is no coincidence, as the author has fostered personal relationships with many Jagdwaffe pilots over the years.  He has conducted extensive interviews and preserved documents and photographs, several of which have not been published previously.

This is collection of the stories of twelve Luftwaffe pilots, much of them told in their own words.  Included in each are copies or transcripts of original documents, along with several photographs from the personal collections of the Experten.  These are reproduced clearly on glossy paper, making them especially valuable for modelers.  The real prizes of this work are the full-color aircraft side profiles which accompany each chapter and the detailed notes which explain them.

The binding is in a large format, and is well-printed on glossy paper.  The layout and quality of the artwork will be familiar to anyone who has purchased Crandall’s previous publications.  While not cheap, this is a substantial book and a top-quality work all around, so you get what you pay for.  If you are a Jagdwaffe enthusiast you will be delighted by this book, highly recommended.

Pilots profiled:

Hauptmann Karl Leonhard

Major Diethelm von Eichel-Streiber

Feldwebel Horst Petzschler

Oberleutnant Manfred Dieterle

Leutnant Herbert Schlüter

Leutnant Karl Albert Helm

Major Rolf-Günther Hermichen

Oberleutnant Gerhard Thyben

Leutnant Elias Paul Kühlein

Feldwebel Hans Langer

Feldwebel Oskar Bösch

Leutnant Willi Unger

Major Wilhelm Moritz

Major Georg-Peder Eder

Regrettably, Jerry Crandall passed away on 12JUN22.

Hasegawa Focke-Wulf 190A-8 of Leutnant Rudi Linz in 1/72 Scale

One of the least known theaters of the airwar was the Arctic Front.  JG 5 was stationed there throughout the war, flying out of bases in Norway.  Rudi Linz was one of the more successful JG 5 Experten, claiming a total of 70 victories.

On 09FEB45 RAF Coastal Command launched a strike on German warships in Førde Fjord, Norway, including the destroyer Z33.  Linz led his Staffel to intercept the strike which consisted of more than 30 Beaufighters escorted by a dozen Mustangs.  In the ensuing action 9 Beaufighters and 1 Mustang were shot down, while the Germans lost 4 (some accounts say 5) Fw 190’s.  One of the pilots killed that day was Rudi Linz.

The model represents the Fw 190A-8 of Rudi Linz, Staffelkapitän of 12./JG 5 in Norway 1945.  Kit markings were used, but they should include a green heart on the port side along with the name “Gretel”.  Also it is unlikely that JG 5 aircraft carried the underwing rocket launchers.

Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 of Anton Hackl in 1/72 Scale

Anton Hackl flew throughout the war, his final tally was 192 confirmed victories.  He was one of the seeming rare Experten who was able to successfully transition from the East to the West, claiming 105 victories against the Soviets and another 93 against the Western Allies.  He claimed 34 four-engined bombers, making him the Jagdwaffe’s most successful pilot against the “heavies”.  He was himself shot down eight times and wounded four. The model depicts Anton Hackl’s Bf 109F-4 of 5. / JG77, flying from Oktoberfeld, Crimea, during JUN42. 

Hasegawa Focke-Wulf 190A-6 of Oberfeldwebel Fritz Tegtmeier in 1/72 Scale

Fritz Tegtmeier opened his account on the first day of Operation Barbarossa.  His score built up slowly, and he was sidelined for several months due to injuries sustained in a collision with a Bf 110.  Returning to duty in April 1942 he scored steadily until May 1943 when he was posted to instructor duty with 53 victories.  In September he returned to the front with 3./JG 54.  He was awarded the Knight’s Cross for 99 victories in March 1944, and was subsequently promoted to Leutnant and made Staffelkapitän of 3./JG 54.  He was undertaking conversion training on the Me 262 with JG 7 at the end of the war.  He was credited with 146 aerial victories.

This is the Fw 190A-6 of Fritz Tegtmeier of 3./JG 54, stationed at Wesenberg, Estonia, March 1944.

Tamiya Bf 109E-3 of Hauptman Adolf Galland in 1/72 Scale

Adolf Galland was posted as Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26 “Schlageter” in June 1940, just prior to the beginning of the Battle of Britain.  He would hold this position until the end of August, when he was given command of the entire Geschwader.  While with III./JG 26 he increased his personal score to 22 and was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

The model depicts the Bf 109E-3 of Major Adolf Galland while Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 26 in June, 1940.

Hasegawa Focke-Wulf 190A-5 of Leutnant Albin Wolf in 1/72 Scale

One of the lesser-known Luftwaffe Experten, Albin Wolf was transferred to JG 54 Grünherz (Green Hearts) in May 1942, then fighting the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front.  He did not score his first victory until August, when he downed an Il-2 Sturmovik.  After that he scored steadily, being awarded the Knight’s Cross for 117 victories on 22NOV43.  He was shot down and killed on 02APR44, his final score was 144.

The model depicts the Fw 190A-5 piloted by Albin Wolf of 3. /JG54 in Russia. The camo is a field-applied scheme of RLM 71 / 02 / 79 over 76.

Fine Molds Messerschmitt Bf 109F-4 of Oberleutnant Hans Philipp in 1/72 Scale

Hans Philipp was credited with his first victory on the fifth day of WWII, a Polish PZL P.24 near Radomsko.  He continued to score during the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross on 20OCT40 for 20 victories.  He then flew in the Balkan Campaign, where he added two Yugoslavian-flown Bf 109’s to his total.

JG 54 was re-equipped with the improved Bf 109F-2 for Operation Barbarossa.  Philipp continued to score steadily against the Soviets, who were overmatched in both equipment and in training.  In March 1942 he was presented with the Swords and had achieved his 100th victory, the fourth Luftwaffe pilot to do so.  A year later he had achieved 200 victories.

Philipp was transferred to the West to command JG 1 in April 1943 to combat the ever-growing streams of American heavy bombers.  Like many Luftwaffe fighter pilots, Philipp found the transition from fighting small groups of Soviet tactical aircraft to large formations of American heavy bombers and their escorts difficult.  On 08OCT43 he led his Geschwader against a formation of B-17 Flying Fortresses escorted by P-47 Thunderbolts.  His Fw 190A-6 was hit by defensive fire from a B-17, Philipp bailed out but was too low for his parachute to open and he was killed.  Some sources credit LCOL Robert Johnson, an ace with the 56th FG with downing him.  Philipp was credited with 206 victories.

The model depicts Philipp’s Bf 109F-2 of 6./JG 54 in Russia, July 1941. RLM 74 / 75 / 76 camo with 70 squiggles on the fuselage sides.

Hasegawa Focke-Wulf 190A-6 of Hauptman Joachim Brendel in 1/72 Scale

Joachim Brendel claimed his first victory a week after Operation Barbarossa began.  His score grew slowly as he was assigned a number of ground attack sorties, but was promoted to Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 51 in May 1943.  The Staffel was heavily committed to the Battle of Kursk, where Brendal was credited with five victories in one day on 12JUL43 bringing his score to 57.  Two weeks later he was shot down and wounded by anti-aircraft fire, but managed to make his way back to German lines.  He was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of III./JG 51 in September 1944, and awarded the Oak Leaves in January.  Brendal survived the war with a total of 189 victories to his credit.

The model represents the Fw 190A-6 of Joachim Brendel of 1. / JG51 at Orel, Russia, December 1943. Camouflage is the standard RLM 74 / 75 / 76.

Hasegawa Focke-Wulf 190A-8 of Oberleutnant Otto Kittel in 1/72 Scale

Otto Kittel spent the war flying against the Soviets on the Eastern Front.  He claimed his first two victories during the first days of Barbarossa, a pair of SB-2 bombers.  He achieved his 100th victory in September 1943, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross a month later.  He was presented with the Oak Leaves in May 1944, credited with his 200th victory in August, and received the Swords in November.  On 14 February 1945 (some sources say the 16th) he was intercepting a flight of Il-2’s when his Fw 190A-8 was hit by return fire and crashed.  Kittel was the fourth-highest scoring fighter pilot in history, and has the dubious honor of being the highest-scoring fighter pilot to be killed in combat.  He was credited with 267 victories, all in the East, including 94 Il-2 Sturmoviks.

The model represents Kittel’s Fw 190A-8 assigned to 3./JG 54 at Riga-Skulte Latvia, June 1944.

Tamiya Focke-Wulf 190A-2 of Oberleutnant Egon Mayer in 1/72 Scale

Egon Mayer fought entirely in the West.  He was credited with his first victory, an MS 406, during the Battle of France.  His JG 2 “Richthofen” fought in the Battle of Britain and remained on the Channel Front.  Mayer scored steadily against the RAF, and was awarded the Knight’s Cross in August 1941 after his 21st victory.

As the American presence grew, Mayer was promoted to Hauptman and commanded III./JG 2 as Gruppenkommandeur.  He identified the nose armament of the American heavies as a defensive weak point, and developed the head-on attack which became the preferred Luftwaffe interception tactic.  On 23NOV42 he was credited with two B-17’s and a B-24 using these tactics.

On 01JUL43 Meyer was appointed Geschwaderkommodore of JG 2.  He continued to lead his pilots on interceptions of American heavy bomber raids and was able to score consistently.  On 02MAR44 he was leading an attack on a B-17 formation when he was shot down and killed by an escorting P-47.  His final tally reached a total of 102, and included 51 Spitfires and 26 heavy bombers.

The model represents the Fw 190A-2 of Oberleutnant Egon Mayer of 7./ JG 2, at  Theville France, June 1942.