Aviation Elite Luftwaffe Sturmgruppen Osprey Books

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Great Book by Osprey Publishing. 128 pages
By the spring of 1944, the Eighth Air Force's daylight bombing campaign was well and truly in full swing. Hundreds of heavy bombers were venturing deep into occupied Europe, escorted by ever increasing numbers of Mustangs, Thunderbolts and Lightnings. The beleaguered Jagdwaffe realised that a single knock-out blow had to be dealt to the massed ranks of Liberators and Fortresses now darkening the skies of the Fatherland. In an act of true desperation, Luftwaffe fighter pilots were organised into elite bomber destroyer units known as the Sturmgruppen, or 'assault wings'. Their task was simple - implement new tactics that had been devised to maximise Allied bomber losses. Only volunteers could serve within these elite units, and each pilot would be trained to close with the enemy and engage him in hand-to-hand, close-quarter, combat. In the air, this translated into heavily armed and armoured Fw 190s attacking the bombers from the front and the rear in a tight arrowhead formation, closing right in until a kill was assured. Only as a last resort, and in exceptional circumstances (if the fighter, despite its additional armour, was mortally damaged, for example) would a pilot be expected to ram the enemy, and then only if he had a chance to escape by parachute. The Sturmgruppe oath summed up the ethos of the men that served with this hand-picked units in 1944. 'We swear to fight in Defence of the Reich true to the principles and rules of engagement of the Sturmgruppe. We know that, as pilots of the Sturmgruppe, we are called upon in a special way to protect and defend to the utmost of our ability the population of our Homeland. We undertake that, on every sortie resulting in contact with four-engined bombers, we shall press home the attack to the shortest range and - if unsuccessful in shooting down the enemy by gunfire - we will destroy him by ramming'. This volume chronicles the brief, but violent, career of the Sturmgruppen during the dark days of 1944 through first-hand accounts and rare archival photography.