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View Full Version : Req. views on 'Messerschmitts over Sicily' by Johannes Steinhoff



Xiolablu3
02-22-2009, 09:36 AM
Anyone read this book, what do you think?

Thanks http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

Xiolablu3
02-22-2009, 09:36 AM
Anyone read this book, what do you think?

Thanks http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

ultraHun
02-22-2009, 10:21 AM
Now first of all, I haven't been in Sicily in 1943, I wasn't even born. Yet I still hear a faint echo of the German post-war dicussion on what the place of its armed forces should be in a free, democratic society.

Does your edition of the book contain Steinhoff's essay "25 years later"? In the German edition it is the last chapter and the whole book culminates in it. It lays down Steinhoff's idea on what a modern, contemporary air-force should be. The war-stories before neatly illustrate aspects of it, most obvious in the description of his vist to the Italian commander. Note that the book was published in 1969, at the height of Germany's extra parliamentarian opposition movement, written for a German audience concerned with the political issues of that time.

The book will give you an idea of what it was to be in a Messerschmitt over Sicily, but not so a sound picture of life in the Wehrmacht, fighter tactics, and so on. Probably you are disappointened. In the end it instead provides more an impression of the self-understanding of Germany's NATO air-force 25 years later, of which Steinhoff was commander-in-chief.

Xiolablu3
02-22-2009, 11:33 AM
I havent got it yet, mate. I just won it on Ebay and wondered if I done the right thing by buying it?

Thanks for your reply http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

b2spirita
02-22-2009, 11:38 AM
Just looking at this on amazon- prices range from 4-114!!

JG52Uther
02-22-2009, 12:26 PM
Its a pretty good book.

Xiolablu3
02-22-2009, 01:28 PM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by b2spirita:
Just looking at this on amazon- prices range from 4-114!! </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I got it for 4.99 off ebay http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

TX-Gunslinger
02-22-2009, 01:48 PM
I think it's one of the very best diaries of the war, and I've read or own many.

It's very dark, almost hopeless. Seen through the eyes of one of the longest serving, fighting air leaders in service.

I lived and worked in Sicily from 1981 to 1984. This book was particularly rich for me in the descriptions of the area, people, towns and such - which I found well described.

If you're looking for a "pick me up" (I'm pretty sure your not) - this is not the book. Compared with Helmut Lipfert, Heinz Knonke and Norbert Hannig's accounts - Stienoff's diary is deeper, broader and much more poignant.

I don't want to take away from the others (Knonke's is quite tragic, particularly in the end), but Sicily in the summer of 1943 for a fighter pilot, was the equivalent of late 1944 through the end of the war in other theaters.

JG77 should have been retired for refit after it's horrendous sacrifices in North Africa, and Sicily should have been evacuated by the Axis. 5000 Allied front line aircraft vs 320 operational Luftwaffe aircraft - of which only 130 were Me-109 fighters (all 190's on the island were Jabo's) could only have one outcome.

Well documented in this book is what it feels like to struggle against impossible odds, in a tactically and operationally forlorn mission, while being accused of cowardice by the wonderful folks in Berlin.

Set against the dust, heat and scrub brush of Sicily in the summer - it's rings to me is of truth and honesty.

Steinoff, could have been just at home in the RAF as in the Luftwaffe. He was a man of strong moral convictions, and opposed to National Socialist politics and policy.

He'd stood up to Goring and like Heinz Bar - found himself exiled to North Africa and Sicily.

Could not recommend this book any higher....

Awesome price by the way, I paid $17.99 for mine, which is softcover. Perhaps I'll luck upon a hardcover version one day at Half-Price Books, were I recently found a hardcover copy of "Panzer Battles" by Von Mellinthin. The paperback copy I had was worn out long ago.

Enjoy

S~

Gunny

Burckhardt
02-24-2009, 01:57 PM
The stories of his sorties in this book are very good as well as his portrayal of the absolute hopelessness of stopping the allied advance. He doesn't use anyones real name in this book but it is fun trying to figure out who the other pilots are in his stories. I did not find it to be as good as I hoped but it is a must have to get the whole picture of aviation in WWII. A must for a serious student of the Luftwaffe history in the 1940's.

carts
02-24-2009, 02:55 PM
You should enjoy it,as others have noted,its not a barrel of laughs,but the comradeship comes through nicly,if you get a chance try to pick up "The last chance" also by Steinoff,that tells the tale of the pilots revolt against Goring and J.V.44.

Xiolablu3
02-24-2009, 03:32 PM
Thanks guys, from what you have said I will enjoy it http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

SUPERAEREO
02-24-2009, 05:45 PM
You will definitely enjoy it. And "The Final Hours" is perhaps even better.

Phas3e
02-24-2009, 09:35 PM
Im working up a campaign based on 'Straits of Messina' the original title of this book at the mo

I fully recommend it http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v164/Phas3e/Sicily_2.jpg

Buzzsaw-
02-25-2009, 10:39 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by TX-Gunslinger:
I think it's one of the very best diaries of the war, and I've read or own many.

It's very dark, almost hopeless. Seen through the eyes of one of the longest serving, fighting air leaders in service.

I lived and worked in Sicily from 1981 to 1984. This book was particularly rich for me in the descriptions of the area, people, towns and such - which I found well described.

If you're looking for a "pick me up" (I'm pretty sure your not) - this is not the book. Compared with Helmut Lipfert, Heinz Knonke and Norbert Hannig's accounts - Stienoff's diary is deeper, broader and much more poignant.

I don't want to take away from the others (Knonke's is quite tragic, particularly in the end), but Sicily in the summer of 1943 for a fighter pilot, was the equivalent of late 1944 through the end of the war in other theaters.

JG77 should have been retired for refit after it's horrendous sacrifices in North Africa, and Sicily should have been evacuated by the Axis. 5000 Allied front line aircraft vs 320 operational Luftwaffe aircraft - of which only 130 were Me-109 fighters (all 190's on the island were Jabo's) could only have one outcome.

Well documented in this book is what it feels like to struggle against impossible odds, in a tactically and operationally forlorn mission, while being accused of cowardice by the wonderful folks in Berlin.

Set against the dust, heat and scrub brush of Sicily in the summer - it's rings to me is of truth and honesty.

Steinoff, could have been just at home in the RAF as in the Luftwaffe. He was a man of strong moral convictions, and opposed to National Socialist politics and policy.

He'd stood up to Goring and like Heinz Bar - found himself exiled to North Africa and Sicily.

Could not recommend this book any higher....

Awesome price by the way, I paid $17.99 for mine, which is softcover. Perhaps I'll luck upon a hardcover version one day at Half-Price Books, were I recently found a hardcover copy of "Panzer Battles" by Von Mellinthin. The paperback copy I had was worn out long ago.

Enjoy

S~

Gunny </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

I agree with most of your comments, this is a very good book.

However your suggestion that the Allies had 5000 aircraft in the air in the Med versus the Germans is nonsense.

1/3 of that number is more accurate, that would include bombers, recon, etc. and you also need to count the Regia Aeronautica into the equation. They were far from being a spent force in 1943. The Axis had over 1000 aircraft in the Med.

In addition, the Allies had to fly very long distances over water to get to their targets, most of their fighters did not have the range, this wasn't 1944, the P-40 was still the workhorse of the USAAF, the Spitfire had very short range, and the P-38 was the only long distance escort.

In addition, your suggestion for evacuating Sicily was not a good idea, that would have caused the immediate surrender of Italy, and given the Allies a base there from which they could seize southern Italy. Give up southern Italy and the Allies have bases they can bomb Ploesti from, with escorts.

Kesselring's strategy was the correct one. Delay the whole process as long as possible, and cause the Allies as many losses as possible.

baronWastelan
02-25-2009, 11:09 AM
I'll be looking for this campaign! I'm gonna re-read Macky's book in preparation!

<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Phas3e:
Im working up a campaign based on 'Straits of Messina' the original title of this book at the mo

I fully recommend it http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

</div></BLOCKQUOTE>

TX-Gunslinger
02-26-2009, 12:29 AM
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Buzzsaw-:
I agree with most of your comments, this is a very good book.

However your suggestion that the Allies had 5000 aircraft in the air in the Med versus the Germans is nonsense.

1/3 of that number is more accurate, that would include bombers, recon, etc. and you also need to count the Regia Aeronautica into the equation. They were far from being a spent force in 1943. The Axis had over 1000 aircraft in the Med.

In addition, the Allies had to fly very long distances over water to get to their targets, most of their fighters did not have the range, this wasn't 1944, the P-40 was still the workhorse of the USAAF, the Spitfire had very short range, and the P-38 was the only long distance escort.

In addition, your suggestion for evacuating Sicily was not a good idea, that would have caused the immediate surrender of Italy, and given the Allies a base there from which they could seize southern Italy. Give up southern Italy and the Allies have bases they can bomb Ploesti from, with escorts.

Kesselring's strategy was the correct one. Delay the whole process as long as possible, and cause the Allies as many losses as possible. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>

Buzz, all I did was take a quote from the front of the book, page 1 and recycle it with no time to check numbers on my part. I suspected that they might be a little "hyped", but was really only thinking about the "mood" of the book.

The quote was,

"The Allied air forces, estimated at 5,000 first-line aircraft, were opposed by no more than 1250 Axis machines, of which roughly half were German and half Italian. Of this number 320 German aircraft were available for operations, among them 130 fighters of the Messerschmitt 109 type. - Franz Kurowski, Das Tour zur Festung Europa. "

I was thinking at the time that I should do some research (all sources) in order to verify the statement (obviously put there by an editor), but I just did not have the time and wanted to help Xio. I do not stand by that number.

What I do believe is that the Allied forces did have overwhelming superiority, particularly in medium bombers - which the 109 is just not the optimum platform to combat. That's my sense of it. It would also be interesting to see what the Reggia Aeronautica contributed in mission kills.

While I have a great respect for Kesselring too, in many things, everyone makes mistakes, which I don't hold Kesselring (in my mind) totally accountable for. There is some merit in what you say, I believe, tactically in that defending Sicily - under the limits imposed by Hitler's orders - was about all they could do. Sacrificial war, when you've a small force is kind of lame, however.

This was a situation developed and compounded by the failure and stubborness to realize that Tunisia was lost, early on. It was reactionary and planless.

From a purely military perspective, choosing to make a stand on an island of limited vegatation, (read cover and concealment) - while opening the Allies attack corridors to 240 degrees is inviting defeat.

The reason that the Italian mainland defense was easier - is the funneling effect of the topography. You can go up the "boot" or "down the boot". Only so many ground attack avenues.

Sicily can be accessed via the Trapani - Catania - Sircusa - or Agrigento corridors and more.... meaning that if you're the defender you have to spread forces around the Western, Southern and Eastern portions of the Island. If you screw up, and don't pick the correct landing locations to concentrate defenders in - you loose.

I'll go further than that, however - and of course again, the fault has nothing to do with Kesselring.

Summer 1943, Kursk offensive is underway - in full swing. Why was it stopped? To transfer forces to Sicily and Italy. Considering the enormous waste of manpower and material that had just occured in Tunisia - the German's could not afford to defend it. The Italian's had decided (at the high levels) that they did not want any more, and in fact revolted against the Germans to take their country back - not too much later.

What if - Hitler had abandoned Tunisa early - and Italy almost completely, moving defensive forces to the Italian Alps, transferring the bulk of these forces to the Eastern Front? While Kursk was probably still an idiotic operation, at the time it began - it was just after Kursk that the Red Army started their overwhelming offensive that never ended.

Given that you've lost the 6th Army at Stalingrad, the Afrika Korps including 15th, 21st Panzer and 90th Light - the losses sustained at Kursk - after the 1942 failures at El Alamein and Von Kleist's decimation in almost reaching the Caucauses - a sacrifical - "yard by yard" approach is destined to fail.

This is the context in which I belive Sicily was a fools errand - but not because of Kesselring.

S~

Gunny

Enforcer572005
02-26-2009, 06:03 PM
I had the extreme pleasure of hearing Stienhoff speak at a symposium in 83, along wiht Rall, Galland, and Krupinski. Heck, even George Gay was in the audiance along wiht a very suntanned Cliff Robertson sitting in front of me.

Stienhoff's accounts were amazing, ,mainly concerning the revolt against hitler, how much of an idiot Georing was, and his crash in an Me-262 where he was severely burned.

His tale about Sicily concerned a fight right after he was transferred there from the eastern front. As I remember it, They were in a dogfight with Spits and he had latched onto one, noting out of the corner of his eye that "my wingman was in an excellent position to cover me". At that point his 109 came apart around him and he had to bail, noticing that his "wingman" was a Spitfire.

He landed safely and as he was getting out of his chute, he noticed what looked like FW-189s flying overhead. He then realized that there were not that many of those AC in one place, as there was a large number of them. He recognized them as P-38s, an impressively large number of them.

His squadron had done incredibly well in the East, scoring heavily, and this was very soon after his transfer. He said "I realized then that this was a very different kind of war". He commented on the better quality of the western pilots and their superior tactics. He was truly an incredibly good speaker on the subject.

CRSutton
02-27-2009, 08:04 AM
It has been 15 years since I listened to it on a "books of tape" It was entertaining if not a little lacking in details.

The most important thing that I came away with from the book is his remarks on dogfighting. Basically, he said that by 1943 dogfighting as a tactic was totally obsolete and the only way to fight and survive in the air was with solid group formation tactics. This stayed with me and gave me a better understanding of airplanes and how they were used in the war. It also explains why the boom and zoom type of fighter became more important as the war progressed and the significance of the turn and burn plane less so.