Fokker D.XXI Aces of World War 2
Series: Aircraft of the Aces 112
Authors: Kari Stenman & Peter de Jong
Illustrators: Chris Davey & Mark Postlethwaite
Format: Softcover, ePub, PDF
When I learned that Osprey was issuing this Aircraft of the Aces title I was immensely interested. My interest fits into my fascination with eclipsed combatants in neglected theaters. Fokker D.XXI Aces of World War 2
may be a surprising title for those who focus on ho-hum Spitfires and Mustangs and Messerschmitts. While early-war aerial combat included three of the aforementioned fighters with Fokkers engaging Messerschmitts, Anthony Fokker’s grandson of the Eindekker executed yet another “Fokker Scourge” almost 1,000 miles northeast of Flander’s fields with the Finnish Air Force (Ilmavoimat
). There during the Winter War (The Soviet intimidation and subsequent brutal attack against Finland on 30 November, 1939.) Fokkers were the bulwark of Ilmavoimat’s
incredible defense of Finnish airspace. When the VVS (Soviet Air Force) commenced their air attacks against Finland with 3,253 aircraft, Ilmavoimat
had only 36 Fokker D.XXIs and 10 Bristol Bulldogs to oppose the totalitarian tidal wave! Yet by the cease-fire on 13 March 1940, a Finnish David inflicted 261 to 579 Soviet-acknowledged losses upon Stalin’s Goliath, 207 claimed air-to-air. Their LLv's lost just 23 fighters in action. D.XXI pilot 1Lt Jorma Sarvanto shot down six Ilyushin DB-3 bombers on 6 January 1940 to become WWII’s first single sortie ace! Fokkers soldiered through the cease-fire and into the subsequent "Continuation War" of 1941-44. Extraordinarily, recent research into Russian archives reveals the Soviets credited 1,855 of their losses to Finnish fighter pilots. Consistent with statistics from World War I to the present, the vast majority of Havittajalentolaivue
D.XXI kills were scored by the minority of pilots who made ace.
Over their homeland of Holland D.XXIs fought only 5 days against the German invasion on 10 May 1940. Fighting uneven odds they managed to down several superior Luftwaffe craft. Denmark also had the D.XXI.
Anthony Fokker’s D.XXI was the last of his successful line of fighters. The good looking airframe was designed for a customer far removed from Scandinavia and northern Europe. Authors Kari Stenman & Peter de Jong detail the background, concept, design, testing and combat history of the D.XXI through 96 pages in eight sections:
1. Chapter 1 Origins
2. Chapter 2 Into Service
3. Chapter 3 Winter War
4. Chapter 4 War In The West
5. Chapter 5 Obsolescence
7. Colour Plates Commentary
Fokkers have the lion’s share of combat and thus most of the text is from that theater. Finnish commanders had their pilots write down details of their fights and this has provided the authors with a great deal of archival and personal history. This includes plenty of personal accounts, many which are quite lengthy. Finland produced the war’s first “ace-in-a-mission,” ILt Sarvanto, who recalled
'Twenty-three bullet holes were counted in my aeroplane, including some caused by exploding ammunition. Most of the holes were in the wings, but my propeller had been hit in two of its three blades. Holes were also found in the engine, the underside of the fuselage and the radio cover behind the canopy. The engine had protected the instrument panel and cockpit from being hit.'
The authors discuss the reason for the performance, recounting Finnish preparation against attack against and design of their fighter arm. Their stunning performance against the VVS was due not to equity in numbers or even quality of equipment, but in ground breaking tactics and doctrine employed.
Dutch fighter pilots are not lacking in personal stories. A Dutch airline pilot volunteered to bolster the ranks of the fighter pilots. A portion of his recount of his first dogfight includes
'When I fired my four machine guns I jumped out of my skin. Tracer bullets flashed straight in front of me and I thought I was being shot at from behind. I had never fired tracer ammo in my life. I circled around briefly, and saw Me 109s at a higher altitude than my own. Me 109s to the left and to the right - a neat Kette, high above me. I remember my exact thoughts at that moment. "Look, that's a professional job". What I was doing myself appeared highly amateurish and awkward to me, and unreal in particular.'
Nonetheless, Steensma went on to shoot down two Bf 109s, or so he believed, and in classic fashion then forgot to 'check his six';
'Surprised at how quick and easy it was actually done, I climbed with my engine roaring to regain altitude, and was completely surprised by a crackling racket. Fire seemed to shoot between my legs, and I literally froze with fright. Looking inside the cockpit I saw that my dashboard was destroyed. Oil dripped on my feet, loose rags were dangling from the right wing and my right leg felt odd. I felt it and immediately had a bloody hand.'
A fire in his aircraft died spontaneously, and he was able to land at Schiphol without flaps or brakes. The heavily damaged D.XXI was a write-off, but Steensma was only lightly wounded, and even continued his voluntary service.
The text is well written and easy to follow. The lives of many pilots are included as prominently as the fate of individual aircraft.
Photographs, artwork and graphics
Dozens of photographs fortify almost every page in the book, including a color photo. The Finns must have had no problem getting cameras and film! This is great because it provides good modeling source material for scrutinizing details for building models. Most of the photos are high quality. The emphasis is on the men who flew this fighter, yet a fascinating aspect of the numerous photos is the documenting of various personal markings and kill markings – bars and silhouettes.
Artist Chris Davey created 28 excellent color profiles of the D.XXI. With their camouflage and markings these aircraft are colorful. The back of the book contains the commentary on the profiles.
Three tables present supportive material:
1. Finnish Fokker D.XXI Aces by name, rank, unit, Fokker score, total score, and remarks
2. Finnish Aces with Fokker D.XXI victories by name, rank, unit, Fokker score, total score, and remarks
3. Dutch D.XXI aerial victories: Date & area of the claim; Pilot, unit and aircraft number; Victim listing type, unit, crew; Status; Remarks
Conclusion Fokker D.XXI Aces of World War 2
was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It brings to life the exploits of the men who took the Fokker into combat as well as the performance of their mount.
Ultimately I believe that this book is an essential title for students of air warfare, Fokker fighters, the Finnish-Soviet Wars, Barbarossa, minor belligerents and Hitler’s allies. This is an excellent book. I very much enjoyed Fokker D.XXI Aces of World War 2
and recommend it!
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