The Sky My Kingdom Book Review
|Date of Review||November 2009||Title||The Sky My Kingdom|
|Author||Hanna Reitsch||Publisher||Casemate Publishing|
|Format||265 pages, hardbound||MSRP (USD)||$29.95|
Many aviators and aviation historians have heard the name of Hanna Reitsch, Germany's most famous female test pilot during World War 2. Some might have even seen the creative depictions of Reitsch in Hollywood war movies, but we all know they never take 'creative license' in their 'facts'. But at the end of World War 2, many high-profile Germans were imprisoned including Hanna Reitsch for simply being a part of the German wartime infrastructure. After spending around 18 months in an American prison camp after the war, she was released to resume what was left of her life. But who was Hanna Reitsch?
Many aviation historians know that women in aviation were still a novelty in the years leading up to World War 2 and those that did have the 'right stuff' gained media notoriety in their accomplishments. As a girl, Hanna Reitsch was bitten with the flying bug and learned to fly gliders at a local flight school in the early 1930s. Her father was a doctor and wanted Hanna to study medicine at university, though she had other plans. She'd convinced her parents that she wanted to be a frontier doctor in Africa, but to do so she'd need to learn to fly powered aircraft to move around the country. Her parently reluctantly agreed and so launched her flying career. Within a few years she was assigned to a Luftwaffe flight test center and test flying the Ju 87 and Do 17.
Reitsch was the first woman helicopter pilot in the world. She flew the Focke Achgelis Fa 61 as part of her test duties and skyrocketed into the limelight with her daily flights of the Fa 61 inside the Deutschlandhalle during the 1938 Berlin Motor Show. I've attended a few concerts inside the Deutschlandhalle while I was stationed in Berlin and each time I would look around in amazement and admire this woman's flying skills as the inside of that hall isn't very big and that wasn't the world's most advanced helicopter - okay, it WAS the world's most advanced helicopter of the day, but you'd have to see the inside of that hall yourself! This flying prowess gained Reitsch opportunities to fly many other advanced aircraft during the war.
This title is an autobiography written by Hanna Reitsch 30 years ago, originally published in German. This title is available for the first time in English thanks to the translation skills of Lawrence Wilson and Casemate. Hanna wrote this book after being released from the POW camp to try and put her life and accomplishments into perspective and set some of the misconceptions about her politics and the events at the end of the war straight.
Coverage of this title includes:
- The Child that Watched the Sky
- I Take to the Air
- From Gliding to Powered Flight
- Medical Student at Kiel University
- My First Flight in a Storm Cloud
- I Become a Gliding Instructor
- The Rhön Soaring Contests
- Stunt Flying for the Films
- Soaring in Brazil and the Argentine
- The German Institute for Glider Research
- Training Glider Pilots in Finland
- Pupil at a Civil Airways Training School
- Flying at Night
- Across Europe to Lisbon
- Test Gliding
- A Bird Soars over the Alps
- First Flights for the 'Luftwaffe'
- Flying Indoors
- A Visit to the USA
- Adventures in Africa
- My Home
- Test Pilot in Wartime
- The Iron Cross
- I Crash in a Rocket Plane
- Conversations with Himmler
- With the Troops on the Russian Front
- I Fly the V1
- The Last Journey to Berlin
- I Live to Fly Again
Whether you've read the exploits of other German wartime aviators or not, this title is an interesting look at the life of an accomplished pilot, test pilot, and witness of wartime Germany. While the old adage is true that the victor writes the history, here is another look at the distinctive accomplishments of this famous aviator.
My sincere thanks to Casemate Publishing for this review sample!