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Captured Eagles: Secrets of the Luftwaffe

Captured Eagles: Secrets of the Luftwaffe Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review December 2014 Title Captured Eagles: Secrets of the Luftwaffe
Author Frederick A. Johnsen Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2014 ISBN 9781782003687
Format 256 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $25.95


Teams of American intelligence personnel combed defeated Nazi Germany for the latest in enemy aircraft technology – aircraft, missiles, documents, plans.

Now Frederick A. Johnsen tells their spellbinding story in his enormously enthralling Captured Eagles: Secrets of the Luftwaffe.

Resist temptation to rush ahead.  The first chapter includes absolutely fascinating notes on American intelligence efforts before WWII – especially by USAAC air attaché in Berlin, Col Truman Smith and, the author hints, Charles Lindbergh.

And don't skip the appendices, either.  Appendix 3 provides a transcribed copy of Hermann Göring's May 1945 interrogation.  And Appendix 2 includes an illuminating Aug 1945 commentary by Heinkel He 162 test pilot Gerhard Gleuwitz.  Had the Volksjäger achieved widespread operational service, Gleuwitz contends, it "would have developed into a major catastrophe unprecedented in the German aircraft industry as well as in the German Air Force."

In between, Johnsen's catalog of German research & development efforts reads like excerpts from today's front-page news.  Anti-radar coatings.  Night-vision devices.  ICBMs.  Weaponry miniaturization.  Even shale-oil distillation!

Those of us familiar with the craft of intelligence analysis will also recognize the wide range of resources Western Allies employed – including insurance records – to execute attacks.

Still, "Germany was unable to leverage its technological edge as effective force multiplier."  With Hitler's defeat came a treasure trove of equipment and documentation.  And Johnsen superbly summarizes efforts to cull all.

In the end, however, captured enemy warplanes and documents proved less important than the personnel accompanying them.  The "far greater benefit to the United States occurred," Johnsen concludes, "with the successful engagement of hundreds of German scientists and aeronautical specialists."

Wernher von Braun, in short, proved far more valuable than several dozen captured V-2s.  And the fruits of America's intelligence, analytical and recruitment efforts arguably culminated in the 1969 Apollo moon landing.

Most of us are familiar with "Watsons Whizzers" and Operation Paperclip.  Johnsen outlines many more valuable efforts – and, in doing so, pays oblique homage to the work of 9,000 American intelligence officers trained during World War II.

Color and B&W photos illustrate Johnsen's annotated account.  Late-war Luftwaffe enthusiast?  Get this book.  You'll really enjoy it.

Roundly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!