The 'Blue Squadrons': The Spanish in the Luftwaffe, 1941-1944

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Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Authors: Juan Arráez Cerdá, Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez
Illustrators: Jose Fernandez, Teodor Liviu Morosanu, Claes Sundin
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Soft Square Bound; 8.3” x 11.8”, 152 pages
Product / Stock #
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
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Helion is a UK-based company that produces books on many aspects of Military History from the Late Medieval period through to the present day. Helion was established in 1996, and since then they have published over 1,200 books, with 100 or more new titles coming out every year, for readers around the world.

Juan Arráez Cerdá is a Spanish Aviation expert and owner of one of the best pictures’ collections of Spanish Aviation. He is the author of many books and articles about Aviation (in French and Spanish).

Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez has been interested in history for many years, particularly the Second World War. Determined to write about the little known stories, he is the author of several books including 'Breslau 1945: El último bastión del Reich', 'Fuerzas acorazadas húngaras 1939-45', 'The Spanish in the SS and Wehrmacht.1944-45', 'The Bulgarian Air Force in World War II', 'Aeronautica Nazionale Repubblicana 1943-45' and 'Romanian Armored Forces in World War II'.

The black and white photograph on the cover features a 2md Blue Squadron Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2, Werk N.5423, based at Orel Airfield in August 1942. The logo on the engine cowling is “CABO MECHANICO ZARO ¡Presente! This is a tribute to Tomas Zaro Rubio, a mechanic who lost a battle with the aircraft’s propeller on July 28, 1942. This aircraft, Black 7, also carries the Falangist symbol, “yoke and arrows”, on the rear fuselage between the yellow band and German cross insignia. The rear cover features a black and white photograph of 4th Squadron Blue members as they await the arrival of Kommodore Nordmann, the head of JG 51 at Seschtschinskaja field during the summer of 1942. I counted 159 black and white photographs and no color photographs. There are 6 tables along and 3 color maps. There are also 32 aircraft color profiles by Jose Fernandez, Teodor Liviu Morosanu, and Claes Sundin.

Juan Arráez Cerdá and Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez kick off this tome with a one-page preface on the Spanish Blue Squadrons (Escuadrilla Azul). The Blue Squadrons consisted of Spanish volunteer pilots that fought on the Russian front in five rotations. General Franco was eager to support Germany due to their support during the Spanish Civil War and doubly eager to fight against the communists in Russia. The Blue Squadrons fought with Luftwaffe fighter wings Jagdgeschwader 27 and 51 from September 1941 through May 1943 and participated in 4,944 combat missions. That time period saw the Spanish credited with 164 Russian aircraft shot down against the loss of 19 Blue Squadron pilots killed in action. Among the Blue Squadrons, there were 13 aces despite flying on the Eastern Front for six-month rotations. Each of the five chapters covers a rotation of the Blue Squadron and details the daily operations in a narrative format. A bonus is the many first person accounts.

Chapter One covers 1st Squadron’s rotation on the Russian front at the start of Operation Typhoon, September 30, 1941. Their Squadron emblem is clearly shown on Page 26 at the top of the page. This emblem features three birds, a falcon, a bustard, and a blackbird, along with the Roman numeral, II. The Spanish motto along the bottom of the emblem is: “Vista, Suerte, y al Toro” [Sight, Luck, and the Bull, a reference to Spanish bullfighting.] The bottom of the page depicts Lt Demetrio Zorita’s Bf 109 in white-wash for the Russian front. The 1st Squadron operated from forward bases from the start, meaning that often the landing fields were barely serviceable. It also meant that their ground crews had to occasionally fight off Russian tanks.

2nd Squadron arrived in theatre and received a fighter upgrade to the Bf 109F-2 variant. What really excited the pilots though was they were assigned to work with JG 51 Molders which was a fighter squadron, not an assault role that 1st Squadron was assigned. The Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 at the top of the page 47 served with 2nd Squadron and 3rd Squadron. Note the mechanic working underneath the instrument panel with his legs sticking out of the cockpit. The Germans were happy the Spaniards were flying with them and were popular in the German media as shown in the bottom photograph.

Chapter Three covers 3rd Squadron which would transition from the Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2 fighters to the Focke Wulf Fw 190A-2 and Fw 190A-3 machines. While not the state-of-the-art Fw 190A-4 and Fw 190A-5 their German companions were flying, they were well received by the Spaniards. Page 77 shows off White 24, a Fw 190A-3 of 3rd Squadron flown by Ensign Aldecoa. Note the battle damage it received after being hit by Soviet anti-aircraft artillery while on a mission over Orel on August 6, 1943. 4th Squadron began replacing 3rd Squadron at the beginning of Operation Citadel with the German offensive on Kursk. The tide began to change a bit as the Russians were fielding greater numbers of aircraft as well as newer aircraft. The Yak-9 was arguably a better mount than the Fw 190A-2 or A-3. 4th Squadron was successful due to more experienced pilots, but the margin was becoming tighter.

The final chapter covers the 5th Squadron. Starting with the Fw 190A-2 and Fw 190A-3 aircraft, they received the news that they would soon receive delivery of new aircraft. The surprise was instead of the latest variant of the Fw 190, they received the Messerschmitt Me 109G-6. The impact was that no one in the 5th Squadron had any experience flying or maintaining the Me 109 series. The top of Page 119 shows 5th Squadron members posing with a Fw 190 used in their training. A Messerschmitt Me 109G-6 that 5th Squadron went to war with can be seen in the bottom of the page. Flying the Me 109G-6 was short-lived and only lasted a few months as Spain decided to withdraw the 5th Squadron and bring them home.

The sections include:

  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • General Employment of the Squadrons in the Luftwaffe
  • Chapter 1: 1st Squadron [Page 26]
    • GCE Shootdowns of the 1st Blue Squadron Pilots [Table]
  • Chapter 2: 2nd Squadron [Page 49]
  • Chapter 3: 3rd Squadron [Page 77]
    • Color Profiles and Maps [Page 68 x]
  • Chapter 4: 4th Squadron
  • Chapter 5: 5th Squadron [Page 119]
  • Appendices
    • Air Victories of the Blue Squadrons
    • Shootdowns Achieved by the Blue Squadron Pilots [Table]
    • The Blue Squadrons [Table]
    • Types of Aircraft Shot Down by the Blue Squadrons [Table]
    • Ranks and Equivalences of the Spanish Air Force
    • EdA Ranks in the Luftwaffe [Table]
  • Emblems
    • Aircraft Used by the Expeditionary Squadrons
    • Aircraft Used by the Blue Squadrons [Table]
    • Bibliography
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources

Since the Blue Squadrons were flying German aircraft in German markings, there are no shortage of kits to represent the Blue Squadrons. The only issue is finding the Squadron insignias, and even then, not all Blue Squadron aircraft carried them. The Blue Squadrons flew Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3, Bf 109E-4, Bf 109E-7, Bf 109F-2, Bf 109F-4, Me 109G-6, Fw 190A-2, Fw 190A-3, and Fw 190A-4 aircraft.

I really enjoyed this book, especially since I had no awareness of the Spanish involvement with the Germans in World War II fighting Russia. Although there are a few interesting translation choices, they do not detract from the reader’s understanding. Juan Arráez Cerdá and Eduardo Manuel Gil Martínez provide an easy-to-read tale that I found intriguing and hard to put down.

My thanks to Helion & Company, Casemate Publishing, and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!

Frank Landrus, IPMS# 35035


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