This book is a challenging but rewarding read. Helmut Mahlke details out his career as a Stuka pilot, and was clearly proud of his war record, his unit and his technical professionalism as a leader. The reader may be left uneasy at the Stuka’s use in WW2 as a terror weapon in the early part of the war. Mahlke was part of a naval squadron and trained initially to attack shipping, but went on to fight in the Battle of Britain, North Afrika and the Eastern Front.
There is a wealth of detail in the employment of the Stuka, and it is perhaps surprising that the pilots considered their aircraft to be robust and reliable, had high morale and took great pride in completing their missions. Mahlke’s views on Germany’s Italian allies may come as a surprise to those who have hitherto formed their opinions from only RAF accounts.
At its heart is the conundrum that faces any reader of a WW2 bomber pilot’s memoirs, particularly those of a pilot unquestioningly serving a totalitarian regime. The Dambusters were celebrated, yet the allied bombing campaign caused far greater civilian casualties, returning the Nazis early efforts over Holland with interest. On both sides, civilians bore the brunt of the war.
My review copy was provided by Pen and Sword Ltd and was published by Frontline Books, London (2013)