Since 1996 Wings and Wheels Publications from the Czech Republic have published
a series of books, each labeled as a "Photo Manual for Modelers". With several
aircraft and military vehicle titles each containing from dozens
to several hundred photos, and covering subjects such as Willys MA & MB Jeeps,
Il-2/Il-10 Stormoviks, Israeli Armor, Avia S-199/CS-199 (Czech-built Bf 109's),
Steyr 1500 1.5 ton trucks, TBM/TBF Avengers, BMP-1 AFV's and Westland Sea Kings,
WWP have established themselves firmly alongside the likes of VP Publications
and Dai Nippon Kaiga.
Unlike most of the other titles which include shots of restored/museum pieces or currently operational types, Luftwaffe in Detail: Air War over the Czech Lands contains period photos and, appropriately, is the first in WWP's History Profile series. By the way, don't let the title fool you. Though the bulk of this volume deals with aircraft of the Luftwaffe, there are other air arms covered, specifically the Czech, Soviet and Romanian Air Forces and, naturally, the USAAF. Along with the better known types such as the Bf 109, Fw 190, B-17 and P-51 there are many less-well-known and downright obscure types illustrated, notably those of the Czech AF. A short list of the more obscure stuff; Avia B-71 (SB-2), Ba-122, B-534, Letov S-328 and Avia/Fokker F.IX. Two of my favorites are the less-obscure but not too popular Siebel Si 204 and the heretofore unknown (at least to this writer) Skoda-Kauba V-4 (SK 257). The latter was a training fighter and one of many unconventional designs to emerge from this small Prague design office during the war. It's also my current 'fave' in the world of aircraft that ya'll probably couldn't care less about. This little job looks neat as hell, but it ain't likely that anyone's gonna do a kit anytime soon (read millenium) 'cuz there were only five built. I guess I'm SOL. OH WELL. Anyhoo...
There are lots of crashed, wrecked, bent, destroyed, burnt and FUBAR airframes in this book and all I can say is that, from the look of it, one would gather that no one survived and therefore who could have actually won this war? I mean, there are literally more pics of twisted metal than there are of fully operable aircraft. There are some interesting shots of the wreckage of a few Soviet A-20's and an Il-2 Sturmovik. The Czechs are evidently not shy about what they put into print. This is illustrated by a sequence of photos that shows wreckage of a P-51B strewn about and being recovered followed by another such sequence of the Bf 109 which shot it down, complete with what was left of it's pilot still at the controls. Grim stuff, indeed, but a reminder that is sometimes needed to show that war is war and, as such, is a more than unpleasant business. As the Czech territories, in certain circles, are generally considered to be the deathbed of the Luftwaffe it's natural that so much carnage be represented here. This was the place ravaged by the USAAF towards the end of the war. (Illustrating American air power at this time is a nice sequence of four (4) photos showing a P-47 dive-bombing a railway station.) German airdromes would be overrun by US troops and put to use by the USAAF. Hundreds, if not thousands, of German aircraft littered the landscape. Some were left where they had been strafed by P-51's. Others merely sat idle owing to a lack of petrol, soon to be joined by others flown in by the airfields' former inhabitants wishing to surrender to the Americans rather than the Russians. Most of these were pushed aside to rot in small groups and sometimes into massive graveyards, awaiting their final fate. Looking back now, it's a shame that so many priceless relics were simply bulldozed into a large hole in the ground and covered over. But one has to take into account that back then they were not priceless relics, but rather worthless eyesores that had caused enough trouble and were to be disposed of in as expedient a manner as possible. It takes time to cut up thousands of airplanes and recycle them. Regardless, 'twas still a shame. It's a good thing that a photo record exists of many of these "eyesores" and even better that they exist in a form such as this book.
This book documents both the allied and axis sides of the battles which took place over the Czech territories not only in photographs but in the extensive captions which accompany them. It makes very interesting reading if you can deal with the broken English. The translations can be initially confusing, but if you've studied a foreign language of any sort you can easily make heads or tails of apparent jibberish. Also, going back to visual reference for modelers, in addition to the 300 photos (including two modern color shots of the cowling of a III./JG 4 Bf 109G-14) there are thirteen (13) very well done color profiles and one (1) decent color painting of a Ju 88G-6 Night Fighter. The profiles are of several late model Bf 109's (Gustav & Karl), an Fw 190F-8, an FW 190D-9, an Me 262B, a Ju 88G-6, an He 111H, a Yak-3, a B-24J & a B-17G. There is also an order of battle for Luftflottenkommando 6 units in the Czech territories as of May 3rd, 1945.
Retail on this puppy is $25. The exclusive distributor in North America is 4+ Publications. I got my copy at Ace Hobby in the Falls. If you are at all interested in the European Air War during WWII this is a must have. I'm gonna sit back, listen to The Shadow or maybe The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and soak in every page of this book.
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