Share This Article

Aces of the Condor Legion by Robert Forsyth, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2011, $22.95

Although Robert Forsyth’s book certainly describes all the German aces involved in the Spanish Civil War—with a breakdown of their claims in an appendix worthy of Luftwaffe account-keeping—he goes a few steps further. With a brief summary of the underlying politics and events leading to the conflict in Spain, he shows how the Germans came to be there.

Forsyth points out that the Spanish Civil War was an important training ground for the world conflict to come. When they arrived in July 1936, German fighter pilots were supremely confident in their training and their Heinkel He-51B biplanes, but their complacency was shaken during their first encounters with Soviet-built and -flown Polikarpov I-15 biplanes and I-16 monoplanes, which outperformed the Heinkels. Spain became the crucible in which more-modern fighters, such as Heinkel’s He-112 and Messerschmitt’s Bf-109, were tested and refined. Arguably just as important was the evolution of tactics to deal with the new fighters’ higher speeds, from the tight V formation to the more flexible “finger four” that relative latecomer Werner Mölders may not have invented, but certainly put to its first practical use, becoming the highest-scoring German ace of the war.

Combining in-depth and comprehensive treatment of the Spanish Civil War with a string of firsthand accounts from the participants, Aces of the Legion Condor makes an ideal companion to its previous sister works in the Osprey “Aircraft of the Aces” series, Fiat CR.32 Aces of the Spanish Civil War and Polikarpov I-15, I-16 and I-153 Aces. And for the painter and modeler looking for something different, the 24 profiles included provide a variety of He-51 and He- 112 color schemes, along with the Bf-109s dubbed “Bertha,”“Dora” and “Emil.”


Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.