MESSERSCHMITTS over SICILY
Diary of a Fighter Commander
Signed by General Johannes Steinhoff KC
Inscribed by Johannes Steinhoff on the Half Title Page
‘To Sandy. With best wishes Johannes 1992’
The Nautical and Aviation Publishing Co. USA 1987. 267 pages
Fine condition hardback book in red boards with a similar condition bright, unclipped dustjacket. The book is clean, tight and feels unread.
This book was originally published by Andre Deutsch in 1971 with the less catchy title ‘The Straits of Messina’. One can understand the title change but it is a mystery why the American publishers decided to feature the Junkers 87 Stuka on the cover!
Johannes Steinhoff was the commander of JG77 during the Sicilian campaign and this book provides a vivid account of the defence of Sicily before the Allied landings on the island. Steinhoff, an ace with over 100 victories, recounts the psychological strain and physical perils that the pilots faced – a similar experience to those faced a few months earlier by the RAF fighter pilots on Malta.
He tells of the humiliation felt by his men when the inept, amateurish Goering called them cowards for failing to stem the tide, yet the pilots flew their Messerschmitts into hopeless situations as a matter of personal vindication. The author conveys the intensity of a fighter pilot’s experience in war and reveals the thoughts of men trying to retrieve an impossible strategic situation with their skill and bravery.
‘Macky’ Steinhoff was one of very few Luftwaffe pilots who survived to fly operationally during most of WWII, crashing on take off in an Me262 in April 1945 and suffering horrific burns which kept him in hospital for 2 years. He was an ace with 176 victories and post-war played a significant role in rebuilding the German Air Force and then serving as Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee from 1971-74.
This is a very collectable book and signature and is a fascinating read too.