My Logbook: Reminiscences 1938-2006
by Günther Rall, Neunundzwanzigsechs Verlag MedienServices, Moosburg, Germany, $55.
Günther Rall could probably be content with being remembered as the third highest scoring fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare—and much has been written about that. But neither his life nor his aviation career ended with World War II, and in 2004 he finally published an autobiography, preserving his wartime memories along with his sometimes equally harrowing experiences in the genesis of the Bundesluftwaffe and the efforts to establish its place in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Two years later British Luftwaffe expert John Weal helped to translate his memoir into English.
Aside from its collector value—of which Herr Rall is well aware after all these decades—My Logbook provides a detailed and enthralling look into aspects of his career that are not often mentioned in his worldwide speaking engagements, where the emphasis is usually on World War II. Writing in the present tense, Rall recalls his thoughts as he joined the military and the Luftwaffe, compared to the later misgivings that he harbored as the war went on. He met Adolf Hitler, and his loyalty fell under suspicion because his wife had helped Jewish friends escape the country.
As Rall was putting his life back together in postwar Germany, he found himself being asked by old comrades to return to Luftwaffe service, in which he entered the jet age and found an aircraft as challenging to fly as his old Messerschmitt Me-109 in the form of the Lockheed F-104. Rall devotes a fair share of My Logbook to the “Crisis,” a time when a disturbing series of crashes killed a total of 108 German F-104F and G pilots, and explains how the German military, including Rall himself, dealt with that problem.
While many readers may recall Rall’s opinion of the Me-109F as the best of the Messerschmitt fighters, the German ace’s personal retrospective appraisal of Lockheed’s Mach 2 fighter is less widely known: “In my 26 years as an active military pilot I have flown 44 different types of aircraft; I have spent some 2,840 hours in the air on them—but not one of these aircraft comes as close to my ideal of flying as does the F-104.”
Of equal interest are Rall’s frequent references to the current events that affected his military service. These play an integral role in the story, showing how he emerged from the narrow confines of his Nazi education to the global awareness of a well-traveled, ever-inquisitive man of the world. The highest-scoring fighter ace alive, Rall has often been called an aviation legend. As his 90th birthday approaches, however, he has done a commendable job of taking personal charge of portraying the man behind the myth in My Logbook.
Autographed copies of Rall’s book can be obtained by contacting the publisher via its Web site, www.twentyninesix.com.
Originally published in the March 2008 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.