Messerschmitt Bf-109A-E: Development, Testing and Production.


Willy Radinger & Walter Schick


Schiffer  Military History
1999: $35.00


Scott Van Aken




It seems that I cannot get enough of the Bf-109. I am the kind of person that is always looking for something new and interesting about this aircraft. It was with great anticipation that I ordered this book on the early Bf-109. I was hoping for a similar book to the superb effort done by Prien on the later marks. I didn't get it.

Not to say that this isn't a very nice book, as it is. It just isn't great. The authors have done a fine job of going through the history of the aircraft from the initial design work up through production of the various subtypes. I found a lot of interesting information. For instance, I was unaware that there was ever a Bf-109A, but according to the authors there were a number of them with several sent to Spain. Apparently the only difference to the B series was the lack of any equipment for the engine mounted cannon.

There is also a number of very good photos of early and prototype aircraft as well as a description of what the prototypes were used for. A section is also given to the Bf-109T as this is a development of the Bf-109E.

As nice as the book is, there are a number of glitches. It is unfortunate that these are there, however, I can only blame the publishers for this. Schiffer has a reputation for hurrying products to market without doing a concise job of editing and this seems to be one of those. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the publishers have some requirement to ensure that their products are properly edited and free from error and erroneous info before printing. 

Here is an example of what I mean: the Contents Page is in German (!), where all the sections are in English as is most of the rest of the book. Every once in a while you will find a picture captioned in German as well. 

It also seems that the person who did some of the images did not fully read the book, or the images were an afterthought. For example, the authors state that "Despite claims to the contrary, company records clearly reveal that the B-1 was the only variant of the B series."  Yet a photo on the previous page is captioned "Bf-109B-2 at Zurich-Dubendorf". There are also several pages similar to this one where there are images inserted just to fill space. These pages have print that is MUCH LARGER than the rest of the book and the images add little or nothing to the content. Many of these are washed out color images that have been published many, many times before.

 There is also a very large, two-page image of a Bf-109E-0 which is captioned as being a "Bf-109D-1 serving with a fighter training school in 1939-40". This is a perpetration of the error that William Green made back in the 60's concerning this aircraft type. The werke number 1784 is clearly visible on the fin and that clearly identifies it as one of the ten Bf-109E-0 pre-production airframes.  This is a further example of someone (and I must blame the publisher on this) just adding pictures to the book to fill it out without taking the time to check to see if the information is correct. 

Overall, I must say that this book deserves a mixed review. Most of the book is interesting and informative. I for one appreciate the new information and insights presented in its pages. However, the many glitches and mistakes that are obviously not the fault of the authors degrades the work. Were I the authors, I'd be pretty ticked about what was done to my book. I'd also have liked to have seen more information on the various subtypes with images of operational aircraft in various schemes as per the Prien book. However, the title does state that it is more along the lines of development, testing and production, and not a rundown of operational aircraft so I can live with that. 

Recommended with reservations.

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