Book review: Eagle in Flames

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“For all their technical sophistication the Germans were still misusing air power at the end of the war, having treated it like children playing marbles with diamonds.”
That is author ER Hooton`s final judgment on Hermann Göring`s Luftwaffe. In Eagle in Flames – The fall of the Luftwaffe, he completes a two-part history of the German Air Force covering the period 1918-1944.
“My intention, as with my earlier book Phoenix Triumphant, which covers the period from 1918-1940, is to clear away the undergrowth of mythology and to attempt a re-evaluation of the Luftwaffe`s development and effectiveness in order to challenge many of the comfortable assumptions with regard to the Battle of Britain, the Blitz (which had a crucial, if largely ignored, influence upon Bomber Command`s much criticised area bombing policy) and the battle for the sea-lanes. Such a re-evaluation, for example, of the British victory during the Battle of Britain, shows it was a psychological rather than a physical one, due to the curious half-heartedness displayed by a Luftwaffe High Command increasingly preoccupied with preparations for other theatres.”                  
By war`s end the Luftwaffe had used jet fighters and bombers and had pioneered and fielded air-to-air, air-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles. Yet they also frittered away the opportunity these technical advances offered and chose to ignore some of the leaps made by their enemies – notably electronic warfare and centimetric radar.     
Hooton adds it “has been fashionable to blame this misuse upon the Nazis, but the roots are to be found in an earlier generation. The German Empire`s General Staff lost the Great War because they sought to chain twentieth century technology to nineteenth century philosophy, and their misuse of air power through the failure to concentrate forces, the inability to persevere with worthwhile strategies and persistent interference with industrial organisation was repeated by the Nazis with even more devastating results. Ultimately the Germans could not beat their own history…”       
Hard words and it is worth reading the mass of data Hooton accumulates to support his argument. As such the book is a must for air power apostles and air power critics. It is, however, a dry read and NOT a book for light readers. It presumes some prior knowledge. It can also serve a handy reference book when reading other, more popular, histories of the Luftwaffe.           
ER Hooton
Eagle in Flames – The fall of the Luftwaffe
Brockhampton Press
London
1999