JG26: Top Guns Of The Luftwaffe

Donald Caldwell

"Caldwell's book is a well written, riveting masterpiece of military history."
- Dale E. Amsbaugh, Amazon.com

This book has just been reprinted, and is now available from Pen and Sword Books in the UK and from Casemate Publishing Co. in the USA.

From the Foreword:

“Many authors have stressed the exploits of the Experten , or aces, while paying little attention to the day-to-day activities of the fighter units and their average pilots. Before you can claim a true understanding of the air war, you must know something of the accomplishments and sacrifices of the individual combat units. This book thus attempts to fill a real gap.
         “…The history of this one unit encompasses in microcosm the rise and fall of the entire German fighter arm, and it remains the Luftwaffe unit best known in the English-speaking world—although as the ‘Abbeville Kids’ …The official records of both sides were searched, and the true course of events in a number of air battles was re-established for the first time. In its quest for historical objectivity, the book does not gloss over unpleasant facts… I feel that this book, with its unique perspective on the air war, is a suitable memorial to the fallen men of
Jagdgeschwader 26 "Schlageter ".
“Thanks to Donald Caldwell, and success to his profound book, written in full fairness.” — Lt. Gen. Adolf Galland, GAF (ret)

Selected Reviews:

“I have now read your splendid work which is absolutely first class and contains much fascinating information about JG 26, some of which is quite new to me.” — AVM J. E. “Johnnie” Johnson, RAF (ret)

“I acknowledge receipt of the uncorrected proof of JG 26. In short, it is a masterpiece… Don Caldwell’s depth of research now brings to light many of the episodes that have remained hidden for years. His tie-ins from both sides of the conflict will clarify for history a much more rewarding story of what happened in those hectic days.
         “May I congratulate [Crown Publishers] on this venture and forecast its success.” — Col. Hubert “Hub” Zemke. USAF (ret)

 “Jagdgeschwader 26, the German elite fighter unit, was more feared by the Allies than any other Luftwaffe group. Based on extensive archival research in Europe, personal combat diaries and interviews with more than 50 surviving pilots, Caldwell here assembles a superb day-to-day chronicle of JG 26 operations, from its first air victory in 1949 to its final combat patrol in 1945…. The scales tipped in favor of the Allies in 1943 with the arrival of the Eighth U.S. Air Force and its peerless P-51 Mustang. In his first book Caldwell, a research chemist, describes how the German pilots’ morale remained high even after It was obvious to all but the youngest and most naïve that the war was lost. The ultimate recommendation comes from Adolf Galland, legendary Messerschmitt pilot and commanding officer of Fighter Wing 26, who in the foreword calls JG 26 ‘a profound book, written in full fairness.’” — Publishers Weekly

 “…All aviation and World War II buffs will want this book.” — Library Journal

“During a period when the Royal Air Force had nothing but hate in its heart for everything wearing a cross and swastika, its pilots bestowed the respectful title ‘the Abbeville Kids’ on the yellow-nosed fighters of Jagdgeschwader 26.
         “Author Donald Caldwell tells exactly why the Abbeville Kids gained the respect and admiration they did in
JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe , an authoritative account from its origins in 1936… to the last hard days of May 1945, when it fought its last battles in the north of Germany…
         “Caldwell combines a flair for anecdotal detail… with an excellent, dispassionate overview of the changing tactical and strategic situation. Using the unit history as a primary source, he read voluminously and interviewed many veterans, taking care to corroborate first-person stories from independent sources. The result is a history filled with drama and satisfying detail, one that does honor to JG 26 and, in doing so, to its opponents in the Royal Air Force, the US Army Air Forces and the Soviet Air Force.” — Walter J. Boyne,

“…The fascinating operational history of World War II’s famed Jagdgeschwader 26 ‘Schlageter’ (named for a German nationalist martyr) is told for the first time by an American author. Based on earlier German unit histories, memoirs, and records of the German and Allied air forces, [the book] offers one of the few balanced portrayals of the German side of the air war.
         “The author’s analysis is impressive…
JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe is an engrossing and worthy contribution to the history of the air war.” — Edward L. Homze, Air & Space

“Author Caldwell does a splendid job not only of describing combat operations and the wing’s ever-changing aircraft… but the human factors as well. Leadership, the bedrock of any military organization, was uniformly high. The Experten of JG 26 are portrayed at their pinnacle in 1941-42 when, as the most experienced fighter pilots on earth, they also flew the finest fighter aircraft then available—the Fw 190. But personality conflicts and the inevitable decline under crushing Allied air assault make this volume all the more valuable.
         “…Donald Caldwell has produced a volume by which other unit histories will be measured.” — Barrett Tillman,
Bulletin of the American Fighter Aces Association.

“Caldwell’s book is a well-written, riveting masterpiece of military history. From the humble beginnings as merely another fighter formation in an air force made illegal by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, to a gaggle of half-trained boys and shell-shocked veterans stunned that they have survived as long as they have, Caldwell leaves no stone unturned. He chronicles the buildup and training of the Jagdwaffe, the fighting over Poland, France and the Low Countries, the Battle of Britain, transition to the Fw 190 aircraft, and its slow death at the hands of the Allied air forces. The reader becomes engrossed with the personalities, and experiences loss as one by one these brave men fail to return home. By the end of the book, a reader is left almost as empty and dazed as the Schlageter Geschwader in April 1945. For anyone wanting intimate knowledge of the best fighter unit during the Battle of Britain, the only German aircraft above Normandy on D-Day [morning], the only unit that Allied airmen were truly afraid of during the air offensive over Germany, this is the book that shall deliver in full.” — Dale E. Amsbaugh, amazon.com

“I echo the sentiments of all the other reviewers in lauding this book. this is AN ABSOLUTE GEM for anyone with an interest in World War II aerial combat. Comprehensive, well-researched, and highly readable, JG 26: Top Guns of the Luftwaffe should be considered as the standard work about one of the premiere German fighter units…” — W. Montgomery, amazon.com

This book has just been reprinted, and is now available from Pen and Sword Books in the UK and from Casemate Publishing Co. in the USA.

return to main page