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Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005

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November ... , 1974


THE RISE AND FALL OF THE LUFTWAFFE: TheLife of Field Marsha1 Erhard Milch (David Irving: Little, Brown, $12.95)

By Don Smith

HERMANN Goering is a name almost everyone knows if he lived through World War II or has done any reading about that era.

But Erhard Milch? Now, that's another matter. Most probably never heard of Milch or don't remember his name. And to those who do, he probably exists primarily as one of those "other characters" who populated the German hierarchy during the time of the Third Reich.

AUTHOR David Irving a British historian who has specialized in World War II Germany, has another idea about Milch.

The stocky round-faced, dynamic man -- basically a civilian who rose to become senior field marshal in the Luftwaffe behind Goering -- was the true architect of the German air force.

The book is a biography of Milch, written from personal interviews with the field marshal after his release from 20 years in prison as a war criminal, from official documents of the time, from Milch's diary notes made at the time and from interviews with associates.

Irving describes Milch's early life, including his service as a fighter-squadron commander during World War I, and his emergence as a business tycoon after, at age 33, he became a director (and eventually the driving force) behind the state airline Lufthansa.

His organizational skills and drive rescued the airline as it faltered toward collapse, and attracted the attention of Goering and his political god, Adolf Hitler.

In 1933, when the Nazis took over power in Germany, Milch was plucked from his job as head of Lufthansa and made Goering's state secretary for air.

From that post, he was responsible for the creation and growth of the Luftwaffe into its position as the world's premiere air force.

But men of Milch's drive and talent draw opposition; and in the fratricidal atmosphere of the Nazi party, the jealousies and efforts to seize power behind Hitler were particularly vicious. Despite these handicaps, and the problem of a boss, Goering, who as time went by became more and more withdrawn from actual direction of the Luftwaffe, Milch built the air force. Despite having an incompetent, misguided peer in charge of the Luftwaffe's armament branch, Milch turned the Luftwaffe into a great air arm.

AND DESPITE the overwhelming air attacks by Allied bombers during the war, and internal opposition, Milch more than tripled aircraft production.

Milch in conferenceEventually, however, the internal fighting became too much for him to handle and Milch fell from grace; his friend, Albert Speer, absorbed Milch's Luftwaffe production into his overall armaments and war production ministry (and, incidentally, according to author Irving, reaped the credit for increased production that truthfully belonged to Milch).

Throughout it all, Milch remained a true Nazi. He adopted party methods; he spoke the parity language at times, he ruled his ministry in the party way, by bluster and fear and threat. Even as he stood in the dock at Nuremberg, he spoke of his continuing unabated loyalty to the Fuehrer.

AUTHOR IRVING deals with all of these aspects of Milch's life, and more, with great care and in great detail. He combines a scholarly approach with an easy-to-read, pleasant style. The book moves swiftly through .the amazing maze of Nazi Germany. And, even though he hints at sensational disclosures about Milch's past and never makes them, the book is wonderfully complete.

It's an outstanding effort, a must book for historians and World War II-minded readers alike.

Free download of David Irving: The Rise & Fall of the Luftwaffe

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