German Anti-Aircraft Defenses, 1914-1945
Modern War Studies
Sales Date: November 12, 2001
432 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: November 2001
Air raid sirens wail, searchlight beams flash across the sky, and the night is aflame with tracer fire and aerial explosions, as Allied bombers and German anti-aircraft units duel in the thundering darkness. Such “cinematic” scenes, played out with increasing frequency as World War II ground to a close, were more than mere stock material for movie melodramas. As Edward Westermann reveals, they point to a key but largely unappreciated aspect of the German war effort that has yet to get its full due.
Long the neglected stepchild in studies of World War II air campaigns, German flak or anti-aircraft units have been frequently dismissed by American, British, and German historians (and by veterans of the European air war) as ineffective weapons that wasted valuable material and personnel resources desperately needed elsewhere by the Third Reich. Westermann emphatically disagrees with that view and makes a convincing case for the significant contributions made by the entire range of German anti-aircraft defenses.
During the Allied air campaigns against the Third Reich, well over a million tons of bombs were dropped upon the German homeland, killing nearly 300,000 civilians, wounding another 780,000, and destroying more than 3,500,000 industrial and residential structures. Not surprisingly, that aerial Armageddon has inspired countless studies of both the victorious Allied bombing offensive and the ultimately doomed Luftwaffe defense of its own skies. By contrast, flak units have virtually been ignored, despite the fact that they employed more than a million men and women, were responsible for more than half of all Allied aircraft losses, forced Allied bombers to fly far above high-accuracy altitudes, and thus allowed Germany to hold out far longer than it might have otherwise.
Westermann’s definitive study sheds new light on every facet of the development and organization of this vital defense arm, including its artillery, radar, searchlight, barrage balloon, decoy sites, and command components. Highlighting the convergence of technology, strategy, doctrine, politics, and economics, Flak also provides revealing insights into German strategic thought, Hitler’s obsession with micromanaging the war, and the lives of the members of the flak units themselves, including the large number of women, factory workers, and even POWs who participated.
“Makes a persuasive case that flak played a more important role than is reflected in the standard studies of the combined bomber offensive and the Luftwaffe. . . . The book reads well, tackles interpretations that have become generally accepted, and contains a wealth of information that will interest a broad audience.”—German Studies Review
“A major and convincing contribution to our knowledge of the German military and aerial warfare.”—International History Review
"A remarkable study that brilliantly fills one of the most glaring gaps in the coverage of the World War II Luftwaffe."—Richard R. Muller, author of The German Air War in Russia
"There is nothing comparable in analytical depth and breadth to Westermann’s account."—Horst Boog, author of Die Deutsche Luftwaffenführung, 1935–1945
"An exemplary work that captures the human as well as material aspects of total war and makes a convincing case for the importance of ground-based air defenses against the Combined Bomber Offensive."—Dennis Showalter, author of Tannenberg: Clash of Empires
"Well written and superbly researched, this is a major addition to the literature of air-power history. I give it my highest recommendation."—James Corum, author of The Luftwaffe
List of Tables and Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
1. The Great War and Ground-based Air Defenses, 1914-1918
2. A Theory for Air Defense, 1919-1932
3. Converting Theory into Practice, 1933-1938
4. First Lessons in the School of War, 1939-1940
5. Winning the Battle, 1941
6. Raising the Stakes, 1942
7. Bombing around the Clock, 1943
8. Escorts over the Reich, January-May 1944
9. Aerial Gotterdammerung, June 1944-May 1945