Wolfram von Richthofen
Master of the German Air War
James S. Corum
Luftwaffe commander Wolfram von Richthofen was a brilliant master of the tactical and operational air war and one of the key catalysts in the resurrection of Germany's air force. Long overshadowed in history by his cousin, World War I's famous "Red Baron," von Richthofen served in seven major air campaigns from 1936 to 1944, and as senior air commander he was always at the center of the action.
For this first full-length biography of von Richthofen, James Corum has mined the field marshal's extensive diaries, which provide a detailed record of military campaigns, tactical and operational problems, interactions with other commanders, and his assessment of methods and weaponry. He has also drawn on interviews with former Luftwaffe members and on his unparalleled access to von Richthofen family papers and photos.
“An outstanding work, not only for the excellent, nuanced picture it gives us of the life and work of Wolfram von Richthofen, but also as an account of the complexities of air power and air warfare in the twentieth century.”
—The NYMAS Review
“A long overdue biography of one of the most eminent airmen of the Luftwaffe.”
—Journal of Military HistorySee all reviews...
“With his open access to the von Richthofen family records, papers, letters, and journals, Corum was able to combine these resources into a comprehensive, balanced account of the life of a leading air commander. . . . The book is as much a history of the Luftwaffe as it is the history of von Richthofen.”
“Corum’s superb analysis is welcome. It will aid both the specialist and the general reader in gaining a broader and deeper understanding of this influential Luftwaffe commander and of precisely what airpower contributed to the practice of Blitzkrieg.”
“The first full length biography of von Richthofen vividly portrays his role as a fighter pilot, engineer, aircraft developer, tactician, and senior air commander in seven major air campaigns from 12936 to 1944. . . . An essential book for students of the air forces of World War II.”
—The Past in Review
“Von Richthofen was the Luftwaffe’s ground-attack commander par excellence and the techniques and principles of air-land cooperation he established are still worthy of analysis today. . . . von Richthofen was not just an important operational commander; his experiences encompassed the whole spectrum of the development of military aviation in the first half of the twentieth century, and the reader will learn as much about the evolution of air power—particularly its employment in joint operations—as he or she will about von Richthofen himself. . . . A useful book ... in broadening understanding of how and why the Luftwaffe developed in the way it did and why its operational conception of operations, delivered within the framework of a joint campaign, was initially successful but because of its strategic flaws, resulted in ultimate failure.”
—Air Power Review
“A work of high quality [that] sheds light on several unknown aspects of the Luftwaffe, including political infighting, while dispelling several popular myths about some of its leaders.”
“Field Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen was one of the major figures within the German Luftwaffe, the ground-attack commander par excellence. Corum’s book is the first scholarly biography of this crucial figure, and an essential addition to any library on the war.”
—Robert M. Citino, author of Death of the Wehrmacht
“An excellent biography on the Luftwaffe’s top field commander and his amazing career. Like George Patton, Richthofen was a demanding and difficult leader but he helped build the tactical air power of the Luftwaffe, especially through its use in close support of armor. . . . One of the most important books on the Luftwaffe to appear in recent years.”
—Edward Homze, author of Arming the LuftwaffeSee fewer reviews...
Corum reveals how, before World War II, von Richthofen played a central role in developing and building the Luftwaffe and such famous aircraft as the Me 109 fighter and He 111 bomber. He then delivered tactical and operational successes in the Spanish Civil War, where he established the close air support tactics that became an essential trademark of the German blitzkrieg. As commander of the Special Air Division in the invasion of Poland, he demonstrated the effectiveness of massed airpower and in 1940 helped produce a dramatic German victory in France by providing close air support for Von Kleist's panzer divisions as they raced to the English Channel. Later he also led the Luftwaffe's Second Air Fleet against the Allied landings in Sicily, Salerno, and Anzio.
Providing a fully rounded portrait, Corum also cites von Richthofen's signal defeats in the Battle of Britain and around Stalingrad; depicts his arrogant and ruthless tendencies; and reveals his loyal but naive belief in Hitler.
Cutting through the myths that have grown around von Richthofen's life, Corum's study fills a major gap in the literature and offers new insight into German military culture, Hitler's strategic thinking, and their impact on the German way of war.