/ Published November 22, 2011
Storming the Bombers: A Chronicle of JG 4, the Luftwaffe’s 4th Fighter Wing, vol. 1, 1942–1944 by Erik Mombeeck, translated by Neil Page. ASBL la Porte d’Hoves, 2009, 242 pp.
At the start of World War II, the German Luftwaffe undoubtedly was the world’s preeminent air force. Its pilots and leaders effectively refined the skills and tactics they had used in the Spanish civil war, developing and applying them a few years later against the armed forces of Western and Central Europe.
Erik Mombeeck, a Belgian author of several internationally acclaimed books on the history and operations of German fighter wings, took up the challenge to document the history of the Luftwaffe’s 4th Jagdgeschwader (Fighter Wing) (JG 4). This first volume examines the wing’s activities from its formation in 1942 through its involvement in the US Army Air Forces’ week-long operation against German oil refineries in mid-September 1944, after which JG 4 faced reconstitution after losing a significant number of pilots and aircraft.
By all accounts, JG 4 was a relatively young unit, its first Gruppe standing up in Romania in 1942 to defend the Ploesti oil complexes. By the end of the next year, the Gruppe had the dubious honor of having flown only one combat mission—probably the only Luftwaffe unit to have done so. To the Gruppe’s credit, the mission had an honorable outcome (pp. 5–6).
Mombeeck also documents the creation of the Sturmstaffel, a concept that Maj Hans-Günter von Kornatzki championed to the German General of Fighters. The pilots of this elite group flew specially modified Fw 190s that attacked bomber formations from the rear en masse, using cannon fire at close range to tear into a bomber and, if all else failed, ramming the aircraft to bring it down. A viable concept, the Sturmstaffel soon found a place at squadron strength in some German fighter wings.
I consider Storming the Bombers a very good account of JG 4 during this time. The personal reminiscences of the few surviving pilots, as well as extracts from letters and diaries of other pilots in the wing, bring faces and depth of feeling to this history. Moreover, the book is awash with black-and-white pictures of crews and aircraft that thoroughly illustrate the two-year segment.
However, a few missteps intrude themselves upon the narrative. For example, despite Mombeeck’s effective introduction of the Sturmstaffel, he does not immediately clarify its place in JG 4’s history, waiting until the following chapter to do so. Furthermore, a few charts and diagrams explaining tactics would have been helpful. Finally, British spelling aside, some minor errors in translation occur but are not so serious that they impair the reader’s understanding.
In sum, Storming the Bombers is an enlightening history of JG 4 during its first two years of existence. Luftwaffe aficionados will find it a valuable addition to their collections. Mombeeck’s extensive research and comparisons of both German and Allied mission records add validity to the many battles he recounts. I can’t wait to read the second volume.
Maj Paul Niesen, USAF, Retired
Scott AFB, Illinois
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."