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The Bulgarian Air Force in the Second World War

The Bulgarian Air Force in the Second World War Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review April 2019 Title The Bulgarian Air Force in the Second World War
Author Alexander Mladenov, Krassimir Grozev, Evgeni Andonov Publisher Helion
Published 2019 ISBN 9781912390649
Format 148 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $49.95


Alexander Mladenov, Krassimir Grozev, and Evgeni Andonov survey a long-neglected topic in The Bulgarian Air Force in the Second World War from Helion and Company.

Available in North America from Casemate, the lavishly illustrated account chronologically courses through Bulgarian aircraft, units, and operations during the conflict.

After background notes, coverage chronicles the nation's role as an Axis co-belligerent and in late-war actions against Nazi Germany.

Initially operating obsolescent Polish, German, and Czech designs, Bulgaria chiefly relied on cast-off and captured warplanes from its Nazi ally and conquered neighbors. Only in 1943 did it finally receive relatively modern machines in quantity – Messerschmitt Bf 109 Gs and ex-Vichy Dewoitine D-520s.

Combat also exposed serious deficiencies in air defense and operational readiness. During Hitler's attack on Yugoslavia and Greece, for instance, enemy aircraft conducted several unchallenged attacks on Bulgarian territory – portents of events to come.

In short, Bulgaria – technically, numerically, and consistently – failed to match enemy resources. Only the dedication and bravery of its airmen helped mitigate Bulgaria's meager means.

Helion's team of authors scan the whole saga – including some intriguing possibilities.

What if, for instance, Bulgaria had accepted the 1940 Soviet offer of Polikarpov I-16s and Tupolev SBs? And what if it actually converted Dornier Do 17s into night fighters – which it lacked "until the end of the war"?

Hundreds of illustrations – photos and profiles – season the study. Modelers will find plenty of project inspiration here.

Action accounts and extended captions also complement commentary. And tables, rank equivalents, and references further augment the account. Just don't expect annotations.

But did Bulgaria really operate 50 PZL.43 Tchaikas? That doesn't look like a variable-pitch propeller on the Bf 108, page 16. Artist Peter Penev's "Bravery Cross" insigne proportions look suspect. And his D.520 profile should show a Chauvièr – not Ratier – prop spinner.

Comments on Bf 109 Es also conflict with Dénes Bernád's authoritative research, which indicates that Bulgaria exclusively received upgraded E-3s – not a mix of "E-1, E-3, E-4 and E-7 versions". And, of course, that's "Bloch" – not "Block".

Nitpicks notwithstanding, this informative, illuminating effort recaps a long-neglected topic. Thank you, Helion, for filling a void.

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!