I am tempted to re-title this book "Albatros D.I - D.Va: Legendary Polish Fighter" because it really takes a more Eastern European perspective on this iconic family of aircraft. This is refreshing because too often books on WWI German aircraft present a Western Front perspective. The Eastern Front was a different theater with differing imperatives, challenges and solutions. Complicating the war effort was the polyglot force that made up the Austrian-Hungarian military forces, of which Poland was a part.
The book takes a narrative approach to the subject, being more about the stories than technical specifications while still including the latter. It covers all of the Albatros fighters including: D.1, D.II, D.III, D.III Oeffag, D.V, D.Va, Dr.II and W.4. But the emphasis really is on the most successful aircraft - the D.III (including the Oeffag built version) and the D.V. The chapter organization is as follows:
- The Graceful Fighter
- Naval Aviation
- Better Than the Original
- Albatros D.III Design
- The Albatros in Combat
- In the Polish Air Force
- The Albatros D.III (Oef) in the Polish Air Force
- Colors and Markings
- Polish Albatros Colors
One emphasis of this volume is the importance that the Albatros played in the Great War and the fact that it faded in history thanks to Fokker's better marketing; interesting premise even if it is not true. The chapter "Albatros in Combat" provides some interesting statistics:
- The number of fighter aircraft manufactured in 1916-1918 on all sides by type
- Albatros killers (Aces)
- The number of Albatros by type at the front
- Eastern Front Albatros aces
Where this book differs from others that I have read is the emphasis on the D.III Oeffag and its use by Poland. This emphasis starts with "Better than the Original" which chronicles the Oeffag built aircraft, notable the D.III, crediting Oeffag with many design improvements over the Albatros built variant. These improvements significantly improved the effectiveness of an already effective aircraft and allowed it to soldier on into the postwar period. Later chapters discuss Polish use of Albatros fighters in the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1918 and the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1921. Highlighted is the 7th Escadrille, the "Kosciuszko" Squadron, which included a good number of American volunteers who fought the Bolsheviks. The squadron name later conveyed to the famous 303 squadron of Polish volunteers during WWII.
This book is also a good visual reference for the WWI model. While the order of the photos is a bit confusing, Kagero provides a lot of unique photos from the Eastern Front including the post war Polish service. It also provides a description of the color and markings of the family of aircraft. But the best references are in the appendices including several pages of period drawings of the Albatros III and color profiles of Albatros from D.I to D.V. The best ones are the profiles of the aircraft from the Eastern Front and the post war period. I have included a scan of the profile of a D.III (Oef) from the back cover and I have to say the swirl camouflage is very eye-catching
This book really grew on me and I found it more compelling as I read. So if you have numerous references on Albatros aircraft, you might want to consider this volume and the fresh perspective it brings to the aircraft.
A thank-you goes out to Kagero and IPMS for the chance to review this publication.