Captured Eagles - Secrets of the Luftwaffe, Frederick A. Johnsen

Captured Eagles - Secrets of the Luftwaffe, Frederick A. Johnsen

This book covers quite a large topic - the American efforts to understand and then exploit the capabilities and technology of the Luftwaffe. We start with war-time intelligence gathering operations, undertaken with the aim of understanding the enemy. This period includes the first analysis of captured German aircraft, many provided by the RAF, and some interesting material on the debate about whether to rush American jet fighters into production. We then  move on to the late-war and post-war hunt for Luftwaffe assets in occupied Europe and Germany, carried out partly in order to disarm the Luftwaffe and partly to gather in any valuable assets or examples of advanced technology. This led to a short period in which German scientific advances were analysed and applied to American projects, before existing American projects overtook them.

After that we look at the post-war contributions of German scientists to American research over a wide range of topics from parachute research to the space programme. We finish with a look at post-war preservation efforts and the differing level of interest shown in wartime aircraft over the intervening years.

The text is supported by some great photos of German aircraft, spoilt only by the decision to place all of the captions in a section between the main text and the appendices where it is always awkward to find.

The chapter on the German scientists makes the point that their post-war research was more valuable than the captured German wartime technology, which was quickly outdated. However this chapter does rather ignore the biggest question here - the morality of employing a group that included a number of clear war criminals (von Brauns' involvement in the slave labour programme being the best known example). The appendices give an idea of the scale of this human movement, listing 250+ scientists with known locations in 1947, from a total of some 1,600 then in the United States!

The appendices also include some fascinating interviews with captured German commanders and scientists, many of show the usual post-war desire to pass the buck for Germany's defeat to someone else.

This is a fascinating look at the American approach to Luftwaffe technology, from the period when it posed an active threat to American airman to the post-war rush to exploit it.

1 - Early observations
2 - Mid-war understanding
3 - Attrition versus technology
4 - Postwar spoils
5 - Evaluating the technologies
6 - Jet age and space age refinements
7 - Dusty jewels rediscovered
Epilogue - German technology in retrospect

The 1945 von Braun negotiations with the United States
He 162 German pilot commentary, August 16, 1945
Interrogation of German Göring, May 10, 1945
'German Aviation' - July 20, 1945
Interrogation of Gen Karl Koller, 1945
Interrogation of Lippisch and von Latscher, 1945
List of German and Austrian scientists in the Unites States, January 2, 1947
Interrogation of von Doepp and Frengl, June 11, 1945
Description of Wasserfall
German single-jet fighter projects
Messerschmitt Me 328B Light High-Speed Bomber
Museum aircraft identified for preservation, May 9, 1946

Author: Frederick A. Johnsen
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 306
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2014

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