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He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front

He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review September 2013 Title He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front
Author John Weal Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2013 ISBN 9781780963075
Format 96 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.95


During its September 1939 invasion of Poland, Germany boasted over 400 He 111s.  As the western Blitz began, the total reached nearly 650 in May 1940.  But roughly a year later, the Luftwaffe mustered just over 200 serviceable Heinkels during Hitler's attack on the Soviet Union.

That's the subject of John Weal's superb He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front – 100th installment in Osprey's popular "Combat Aircraft" series.

Operation Barbarossa gave the He 111 "a whole new lease on life" – until, in fact, the very end of World War II.  And Weal recaps the total tale in just 96 pages.  Contents include:

  • Chapter 1 Objective Moskau
  • Chapter 2 Indecision Time
  • Chapter 3 The Soviets Strike Back
  • Chapter 4 Stalingrad
  • Chapter 5 The Long Road To Defeat

Copiously seasoned with anecdotal accounts, Weal's précis recaps all major He 111 East-Front actions – including maritime and support operations.  Coverage spotlights, for instance, the Heinkel's role in the tragic Convoy PQ-17 attack and Stalingrad debacle – where the Soviet encirclement of desperate Nazi forces confirmed the aircraft's versatility in bombing, transport, supply and glider-towing roles.

The subsequent loss of 250,000 German personnel, though, signaled unstoppable Soviet ascendancy – and confirmed the inevitable Axis decline.  And Weal recaps, sector-by-sector, concluding He 111 operations in his final fascinating chapter.

That's when IV. Fliegerkorps, "an all-Heinkel force", launched "one of the single most successful strategic bombing raids ever to be mounted by the He 111 on the eastern front" – against USAAF 8th Air Force "shuttle" assets in Russia.  The 21-22 June 1944 raid left nearly 75 American and Soviet aircraft destroyed and damaged.  The Heinkels, Weal notes, left Soviet airspace "with a bang, not a whimper".

From that finale, many East-Front He 111 units shifted to close-support and train-busting roles – or switched equipment to single-engine fighters.  Some moved west, flying transport relief operations for besieged German troops in France.  And others converted to V1 carriers in revenge attacks against England.

By September 1944, just one Kampfgeschwader – KG 4 – flew He 111s in the east.  Fuel shortages, appalling weather and relentless Allied attacks eventually crippled operations.  Yet He 111s soldiered to the very end.

Dozens of photos and 30 profiles by the author illustrate this riveting read.  And the robustly indexed effort includes revealing charts summarizing the decay of Eastern Front He 111 strength through April 1945.

Highly informative.  And highly recommended.  Get this book.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!