/ Published August 20, 2014
In the Skies of France: A Chronicle of JG 2 "Richthofen" by Erik Mombeeck and Jean-Louis Roba with Chris Gross. Self-published, 2009, 316 pp.
Erik Mombeeck and Jean-Louis Roba’s book In the Skies of France provides the first in-depth history of Jagdgeschwader 2 (JG 2), the storied World War II Luftwaffe fighter wing formed more than 70 years ago. A quick Internet search of multiple book vendors verifies that only two other books about JG 2 have been published since 2000. Mombeeck and Roba trace the origins of JG 2 from the end of World War I, through the founding of the new Luftwaffe in 1933, to the unit’s creation in 1934 and its service until the end of 1940.
Early on, JG 2 appeared destined to become a significant part of the Luftwaffe. Shortly after its creation, the unit received the distinctive title “Richthofen,” thus linking it to Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”), Germany’s top ace during World War I. Accordingly, the unit’s aircraft sported a badge with red script “R” on the fuselage. Although most Luftwaffe units saw time on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, JG 2 remained primarily in the West (deploying in 1942 to Africa) throughout the war to face the Allies. Of particular note, JG 2 played a key role in the attack on England during the Battle of Britain, conducting daily attacks against the Royal Air Force in the skies over southern England.
The authors choose to begin their book at the conclusion of World War I, giving readers a valuable understanding of the formation of the Luftwaffe and the German flight experience entering World War II. They then methodically chronicle JG 2’s activities and combat action, offering a day-by-day account and highlighting individual victories in daily tables.
Mombeeck and Roba make extensive use of JG 2 veterans’ photographs and their personal recounting of events (gleaned from interviews and diaries). Because the text lacks a bibliography, the exact number of veterans contacted is difficult to determine, but a casual count reveals more than 25. Indeed, 30-40 percent of the text consists of excerpts from JG 2 veterans. The remainder focuses on providing both an overview of events and stitching the personal passages into a single coherent story. In addition to the numerous personal recollections, In the Skies of France boasts over 400 photographs, each of which includes a detailed caption. For each photograph, the authors identify not only the people, places, events, and times but also the aircraft, their markings, and any unique variations in the paint scheme.
Mombeeck and Roba have published several earlier volumes relating the activities of other German flying units. As in those books, they intend to tell the story of JG 2 in multiple volumes, thus providing a thorough look at the unit’s combat activities without sacrificing depth of coverage. As of this writing, volume 2, 1941–1945, has not yet appeared.
Although an appendix of the cumulative totals of kills and aircraft losses would have proven beneficial, the book does include appendixes that detail every air-to-air victory and aircraft loss that JG 2 recorded from 1934 to 1940. To supplement their text and its extensive collection of black and white photographs, the authors supply an appendix of color artwork depicting JG 2’s early aircraft and various Me 109 models and paint schemes.
Aviation buffs will find In the Skies of France a valuable look into the actions and combat exploits of a German fighter wing. The photos add considerable value to the book and help bring to life both the authors’ and the veterans’ discussions. The extensive use of original source material in the form of diaries, personal logbooks, and interviews will interest historians and researchers; however, the lack of reference data (notes and a bibliography) reduces the text’s usefulness to researchers. More detailed appendixes with detailed lists of commanders, bases, total victories, and losses (to name a few topics) would have been helpful, but their absence is not a fatal flaw. In the Skies of France remains a valuable contribution to the study of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hopefully, the authors will publish volume 2 in the near future. The rest of JG 2’s story waits to be told.
Lt Col Daniel J. Simonsen, USAF, Retired
Bossier City, Louisiana
"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."