Bodenplatte: The Luftwaffe's Last Hope


John Manthro & Ron Pütz




$49.95 from Specialty Press


Scott Van Aken

Notes: ISBN 1-902109-40-6  Hardbound, 304 pages

By the time late 1944 came around, it was obvious to the majority of Germans that the war was not only going poorly, but that the end was quickly coming up. Regardless of how bleak the situation looked, the Luftwaffe was still a respectable fighting force and thanks to the extended supply lines of the Allies, the juggernaut had slowed considerably by the fall and winter of 1944.

Thinking that the tide could still be turned, a plan was hatched which envisioned an all-out ground attack mission by aircraft of the Jagdwaffe against Allied airfields in the West. Planned in great secrecy, only a very few individuals, including Geschwader commanders were told of the mission; and then only as the day drew near. It was planned to launch the attack in the early morning during late December with Ju-88s to act as pathfinders. Problems getting the Ju-88s together postponed the event until New Year's Day of 1945. Then aircraft of every fighter unit in Germany was sent at low level over the front lines to perform surprise attacks on Allied bases, mostly those of the 2nd TAF in Belgium and the Netherlands.

As you can imagine, there were problems. No one told the German AA gunners who shot at everything flying and destroyed a sizeable chunk of those units before they even arrived at their target. Some of the Ju-88 pathfinder aircraft never arrived and some left early. Those fighters that did get through generally surprised the Allies and were able to wreak a lot of destruction at those bases, especially during the first pass. Others had the misfortune of running into Allied air defenses including planes that were taking off for their own missions against German targets. The end result was not as was planned and basically decimated the German fighter forces.

The authors have done extensive research into this day of disaster for the Jagdwaffe. Inside the pages are the stories from both sides of the conflict as to what took place during that day. In order to make sense out of what was a huge operation entailing over 900 aircraft, the book is divided into sections, each comprising of a unit's experiences during that day. It starts with JG 1 and continues on through JG 77 and also included KG 51 and KG 76 with their jets and air-launched V-1s.

The book is well illustrated with over 350 photos, many from the survivors and families of other pilots lost. Most of them published here for the first time. There is also an extensive set of appendices that only add to the experience.

If you are looking for a nice picture book, look elsewhere. If you are seeking what is undoubtedly the finest reference on the subject, then this is a book you have to own.

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