The author portrays his subject as a self promoting, shameless, yet charming individual who, although undoubtedly a courageous man, made his way to success through exaggeration and misrepresentation of his exploits. From early childhood Herman Göring contrived to be a leader, hero, and the center of attention in his endeavors through a dare devil and at times bullying demeanor. He carried these character traits through adolescence and into his mature years as a military officer.
Göring's early childhood was spent in a dysfunctional environment where he was mainly raised by a mature aunt and developed a deep resentment of his biological parents. He is described as an impossible student and neighborhood bully with deep and fantasy like delusions of grandeur. He assimilated well into his later placement back with his mother due to her situation of living with a very wealthy and prominent doctor whose position in society young Herman respected and admired.
Still a loner and completely rebellious student in adolescence he found his niche in life when, as a last resort, he was placed in a Military School of the Prussian Cadet Corps. He generally excelled at his military studies and on graduation with honors was commissioned to an infantry unit where he began his war time service soon after.
After a very brief period of service on the Western Front he developed severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and was hospitalized. Ever the opportunist he cultivated a close friendship with a former fellow officer from his infantry unit, Bruno Loerzer, whose successful career as an aviator he used to advance his own ambitions. Göring first served as Loerzer’s observer in two seaters, was sponsored into pilot training by his friend, and later was posted to Loerzer’s Jasta as a fighter pilot. Göring eventually rose to the top of the German Fighter Pilot cadre ending the war in command of JG1 Richthofen.
As a leader Göring proved tough and demanding though often self promoting. Although respected by his subordinates he was aloof, not well liked, and merciless with any not to his liking. The book describes his persecution and transferring out of a Jewish pilot based apparently on his strong anti Semite views which he had formed in early childhood. Misrepresentation of his personal affairs apparently led to numerous absences from his command and, in one instance, fraud.
Herman Göring rose to deputy leader of Germany’s Third Reich. When viewed in the context of his earlier exploits as a fighter pilot in World War One, emerges as an egocentric, ambitious, and disturbingly flawed individual. Despite that assessment he will remain an historically significant person, if only as a study in the triumph of limitless ambition and deceit over public vulnerability.
The book is well bound and organized, is printed in clear and easy to read font and on high quality paper. The Text is illustrated by 75 maps and photographs, a number of the latter, in the author’s words, previously unpublished and from Göring’s private collection. The dust jacket is well done and has three very nice profiles of Göring’s Halberstadt DII, Fokker Dr.I, and Fokker D.VII 294/18F by Ronnie Bar on the back leaf.
Author Peter Kilduff explores the life of his subject with emphasis on his World War I exploits in192 pages divided into 12 Chapters, 3 Appendices and a comprehensive foot or end notes section.
The book follows the life of the infamous Hermann Göring from his birth to a successful Civil Servant and his second wife, a troubled, neglected, and disturbed early childhood, and his education in the Prussian Cadet Corps. It then follows his military career as an Infantry Officer, Aerial Observer, Fighter Pilot and finally leader of Jagdgeschwader Nr. 1 “Richthofen” in the final days of World War One. In the foregoing chronicle the Author delves into this notorious individuals somewhat flawed psyche and provides an informed insight into the roots of his character traits. Additionally the chronological accounts of Göring’s actions both in the air and on the ground are well supported and referenced. Of particular note the author does not disguise his assessment of Göring as a self promoting, narcissistic, disturbed, and at times devious man which, given the information presented, most readers will agree with.
In summary it’s all here, from birth to death by his own hand one step ahead of the executioner at Nuremberg. This book proved a valuable historical reference, insight into a flyer's life at the front, and an informed study of how such a man worked his way to the top of the system through a curious mix of determination, bravery, and unfortunately mis-representation, deceit, and manipulation of the many influential people he cultivated as well.
The book in 12 Chapters:
Chapter 1 A Shining Image
Provides a brief family history, anecdotal accounts of Göring’s early childhood until age five, and his somewhat disturbingly unstable environment. It begins with an indictment of Göring’s honesty, or lack thereof, in relating at length his exaggeration of an early victory claim which I believe caused initial confusion in the “thread” of the story. The remainder of the text is in sound chronological order.
Chapter 2 From the Fortress to the Frontlines
His early life, schooling, ultimate assignment to a Military School, and graduation to an Officer’s assignment with the Infantry. The author also provides several episodes that apparently formed the roots of Görings’ anti Semitism.
Chapter 3 Into the Air
Göring suffers with severe rheumatoid arthritis, transfer to the flying corps with the active assistance of one of his very close friends, Bruno Loerzer, who he became an Observer for, his first exposures to air combat, and the beginnings of his self perpetuated reputation for bravery and excellence through hard won associations and support from high ranking Officers and members of royalty.
Chapter 4 Early Aerial Combats
Goring’s early pilot training at the Aviatik Flying School in Freiburg, his assignment as a two seat pilot, and his first aerial victory.
Chapter 5 Air War over Verdun.
He is assigned to AEG GII’s, his second kill, and some harrowing experiences flying bombers.
Capter 6 A Fighter Pilot at Last.
He flys the Halberstadt DII and continues to follow the fortunes of Loerzer, is awarded his third kill, and is wounded in air combat.
Chapter 7 A Dream Come True
Loerzer takes Command of JG 26 and has Göring posted to his unit to fly Albatros DIII’s. His reputation is boosted by his shooting down of 5 more aircraft and leads to his command of Jasta 27.
Chapter 8 The Test of Combat
Göring’s star rises further with his successful air combat record and talent for connecting with and gaining support from Senior Officers.
Chapter 9 In Flanders Skies
Göring raises his score to 15 while lobbying unashamedly. for the Blue Max.
Chapter 10 Shifting Winds
He flies the Fokker Triplane and then the Fokker D.VII. Jasta 27 slumps as the tide of the War turns and Germany starts to collapse.
Chapter 11 Rising to the Top
Göring’s lobbying efforts with senior commanders to receive the Pour le Merite are successful despite his not having the requisite 20 kills to his record. This is followed by his appointment to command JG 1.
Chapter 12 End of the Beginning
Göring proves to be a skilled, motivating, and courageous Leader of JG I Richthofen as it struggles through the trials of the surrender and demobilization process as the War ends.
This is a well presented and interesting biography of an historically significant individual. For those who, as have I, wondered about the contradictory personality and "Great War" exploits of the ultimate deputy leader of Germany’s Third Reich and how he gained that position it answers many of the questions. A thought provoking and interesting insight into the personality and Great War flying exploits of Herman Göring.
When contacting manufacturers and publishers please mention you saw this review at AEROSCALE
Highs: It has lots of new details and information on the subject .Lows: It would have benefited from more third party / archival inputs from the records at Carlisle Barracks records and perspectives versus the author’s judgments and assessments.Verdict: A good read and well worth the investment for anyone interested in the men who flew in the first great Air War and particularly its fascinating subject.