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CAPTURED EAGLES: Secrets of the Luftwaffe

by Frederick A. Johnsen, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2014, $25.95.


Ace historian Fred Johnsen appears to have gotten his hands on every report by an Allied pilot who tested a captured German aircraft during and after WWII. He also found reports of Allied interrogations of German pilots and engineers. And perhaps best of all, Johnsen has traced the whereabouts of just about every Axis flying machine that fell into U.S. hands.

This is the place to read about the American retrieval, flight-testing and evaluation of German aircraft. The distinctive voices of those who flew captured Messerschmitts and Focke Wulfs help convey the findings about how Germany’s best compared with Allied warplanes.

Sadly, after these war prizes served their purpose as sources of intelligence and technology data, most were scrapped. Aviation museums were few and far between when the war in Europe ended 70 years ago. As Johnsen reminds us, “The entire concept of air museums hosting vast collections of full-sized aircraft was in its infancy at the end of World War II.” Several Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighters were captured and brought across the Atlantic, only to be discarded after testing. An Me-109 once held by an American owner seems to have disappeared. Many German aircraft (as well as the priceless B-32 Dominator, no examples of which survive today) earmarked for eventual museum display were instead scrapped. Ever the optimist, Johnsen writes encouragingly about the rare aircraft that were saved, including the world’s only Arado Ar-234 jet bomber at the Udvar-Hazy Center in northern Virginia.

Many of the 106 images in Captured Eagles have never been seen before, including an intriguing color photo of Hermann Göring being interrogated by American officers in a collegial setting. The selection of pictures is excellent, though an editorial decision to separate photos from their captions makes the content difficult to follow.

This book is an essential reference work as well as an entertaining read and a real bargain.

Robert F. Dorr