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Posted November 27, 2005
For an excrutiatingly detailed examination of every aspect of the German war machine in WWII look no further than the Schiffer Military Histories (which include many volumes on other Allied and Axis nations too.) Most of these volumes have oddities about them (more soon), but also contain amazing and unique photos you haven't seen before (drawn from public and private collections) and the kind of detailed information and technical specs that are very hard, if not impossible, to come by elsewhere. The $9.95 books in the series typically run around 50 pages. 'The Aircraft Carrier: Graf Zeppelin' is a fine example. It details the Germans' stumbling and ultimately futile attempt to add an aircraft carrier to their Navy, something other nations did with ease many times over (141 aircraft carriers produced by America 1941-45), and illustrates not only the Nazis' ambition and technical prowess but also a kind of fatal indecisiveness and incompetence that underlay their proud veneer of 'Prussian efficiency'. The Graf Zeppelin, an impressive-looking ship that actually represented an inferior design, occupied the Nazis through almost their entire government existence, from preliminary planning in late 1933/early 1934 to the final seizure by the Soviets at the end of the war (ending up partly scrapped, partly used for torpedo practice). Yet the ship never saw a day of battle, and in fact was never quite completed, though work on it proceeded in fits and starts from 1936 to 1943. The several dozen photos here range from the vividly detailed to bleary snapshots, but have real immediacy, plus a kind of interesting period flavor, and cover everything from early work and a visit by Hitler to an Allied recon shot to final photographs taken by the Soviets before breakup. There are ship diagrams both for the Graf Zeppelin and other planned German aircraft carriers, with 2 pages of specs for all of them, specs for all the world's aircraft carriers in September 1939, and a text that not only tells the ship's story but covers all the technical details-- power system, planes, armament and the rest. The book packs a lot of information into its small space. Oh, and those Schiffer oddities I mentioned? All the Schiffers I've read are translations of postwar German originals, and sometimes the translations may be awkward, even comically so. But this one's fine. And some individual Histories have strange emphases or gaps. But this one's well-balanced. However, it seems no Schiffer comes without some sort of quirk, and here you'll find it in the form of a 'bonus' section of miscellaneous, totally irrelevant information about some postwar French, German and Rumanian vessels! (Were these originally magazine articles?) No matter. That's part of the charm of Schiffer, not your average everyday publisher. Overall, this is a fascinating look at a sidebranch of the World War II story, which fortunately for the Allies remained a sidebranch.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.