Most of us are familiar with the names of Galland, Hartmann, and Barkhorn;
but what about Resnak, Kovarik, and Stoyanov.
The latter three are just some of the pilots you will read about in Osprey’s
latest in the “Aircraft of the Aces” series. This 96-page book concentrates on
the Slovakian and Bulgarian aces that took to the air in the lead up to and
during World War II.
Slovakian Air Force
The story begins with the Hungarians crossing over the Slovak eastern border
on 23 March 1939. The fledgling Slovakian Air Force took to the air but suffered
as a result of accurate Hungarian anti-aircraft fire. They lost aircraft that
day and on the 24th, the Avia B 534’s first encounter with Fiat CR.32 fighters
also resulted in Slovakian losses. Such was the Slovakian Air Force’s
introduction to combat.
The 28th March saw peace between these two combatants and the next action seen
by the Slovaks was supporting the Germans at the beginning of WWII. Here they
gained their first confirmed kill on the 6th September.
A re organized Slovak Air Force took to the air during the battles on the
Eastern Front against the Soviet Union, ironically fighting along side the
Hungarians. In 1942 the Germans introduced them to the Bf 109E and later the F
and G models. For operational purposes they were assigned to II./JG 52,
appearing in German records as 13(slow)./JG 52.
Circumstances did see some defections and it is for this reason that some of the
aces are seen flying Soviet aircraft later in the war.
The authors take the reader through informative descriptions of these battles
and the style of writing is very easy to digest. Narratives by the pilots
themselves are spread throughout the text and their inclusion is most welcome.
The result is not a text that reads like a “who shot whom” but one that lets the
reader into the mind of the pilots concerned.
Although not as well known as airmen of other nations, it certainly was not
through any lack of bravery. Take for example an action that occurred when three
Slovak B 534 biplanes of 13 Squadron were escorting a Henschel Hs126 during a
Catnik Frantisek Brezina’s aircraft was hit by flak and he had to make an
emergency landing deep inside Russian territory. Brezina’s aircraft was soon
under heavy Soviet arms fire so Catnik Stefan Martis, one of the other B 534
pilots, started to strafe the Soviet soldiers in an attempt to save his friend.
He then landed his aircraft allowing Brezina to jump on the lower wing and
immediately tried to take off. The Soviets continued to fire at the fleeing
aircraft and despite Martis receiving a wound in the leg, was able to get his
aircraft airborne. Brezina however could not hold his balance and was left
hanging onto the strut until it was safe enough for Martis to throttle back for
Brezina to regain his footing.
Stirring stuff indeed!
Bulgarian Air Force
Bulgaria was neutral during the early years of WWII but pressure soon saw her
sign the Tripartite Pact with Germany, Italy and Japan. When the latter attacked
Pearl Harbour in December 1941, Bulgaria was obliged to declare war on the USA
The fate of the Vazdushni Vojski (Bulgarian Air Force) and the highest scoring
pilots that represented her is covered from chapter five. Again we read some
very insightful first hand accounts that not only describe the actions in
question but also give a run down on the tactics used.
An example of bravery in this organization comes in the form of Dimitar
Spisarevski. Immediately after shooting down one B-24 he deliberately rammed
another at full speed cutting off its tail. Here we read about the account from
not only the combat diary, but also a gunner from the stricken bomber and an
escorting P-38 pilot!
John Weal does a good job of the colour section with 39 aircraft portrayed.
There are quite a variety of machines illustrated including Avia B 534 biplanes,
an La 5, La 7s, D.520s and the expected Bf 109 E and Gs.
The captions to these profiles are very informative and compliment the text
The book is interspersed with a nice selection of photos showing the men and
their aircraft. Although generally well reproduced, the quality will depend on
the original print.
An appendix provides a list of all the Slovak Aces including details of their
victory claims. The top scoring Bulgarian fighter pilots are also recorded as
well as the “points” system they used for aircraft attacked.
This is an interesting book about aviators that are not generally known
outside of their native lands. The authors have done a fine job of relating
their exploits in a colourful and easy to read manner.
Osprey Publishing for the review
|Slovakian and Bulgarian
Aces of World War 2
(Aircraft of the Aces 58)
Author: Jiri Rajlich
Illustrator: John Weal
US Price: $19.95
UK Price: £12.99
Publish Date: February 25, 2004
Details: 96 pages; ISBN: 1 84176 652 6
Review Copyright © 2004 by
Page Created 25 March, 2004
Last updated 25 March, 2004
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