The First and the Last

The First and the Last (1953) by Adolf Galland is an account of Luftwaffe fighter arm from the perspective of a man who was both a highly successful pilot with 104 kills and a General of the fighter arm who was very familiar with Hitler, Goering, Speer and other senior German politicians and commanders. The book has been sufficiently influential that a number of the points that Galland makes have become popular wisdom.

Galland flew in Spain and then flew in the Luftwaffe in France and during the Battle of Britain, he then became a General and was finally demoted at the end of the war and flew ME-262s so he was both a first and last flyer in WWII.

The book is really very interesting. It discusses the technical attributes of WWII fighter aircraft, the men who flew them and how they were organised. Galland makes many interesting points about bomber warfare and how it was ineffective for the Germans in the Battle of Britain while for the allies it did become effective but with German defences German industrial war production actually peaked in September 1944. Galland says that Hitler disliked fighters and discounted their importance and critically slowed the ME-262 program that Galland believes could have crippled the allied bomber campaign. He makes Hitler out to be a commander whose interests were dominated by the Army and who put too much faith in himself. There is also quantitative analysis of how effective the bombing campaign was. Speer is seen as a man who appreciated the importance of air defence and fighters in order to keep German industrial production going.

For anyone interested in WWII the book is definitely worth reading. It’s the most interesting wartime flying and air warfare book I’ve read.

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