Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
The Women who Flew for Hitler II
With the looking glass of the actions of Reitsch, Mulley underscores the strategic futility of the V1 and V2 programme, and rightly affirms that Werner von Braun was completely aware that his weapons were manufactured using extensive slave labour. Given the recent furore about gender pay disparity (in the BBC and across the corporate world) it is ironical that the two heroines were at the forefront of fighting for equal pay (and endemic misogyny) eighty years ago.
Perhaps the most worthwhile part of the book to me was the highlighting of the personal trauma that the failure of Operation Valkyrie (Stauffenburg’s attempted assassination of Hitler) caused to his extended family. If only his briefcase had been planted a few feet to one side, world history would have been very, very different. Melitta’s struggle to sustain the life of her husband (and other relatives) is very moving.
In the book’s final chapters, underlining their skill, both heroines managed to make flights into Berlin in conditions when it is surprising any Axis aircraft could survive a minute in those hostile skies. The final chapters and epilogue make very valid points but are somewhat laboured.
So overall a great human interest story, but one where one cannot help but feel that opportunities have been missed in explaining the technical and piloting skill of these two remarkable ladies.
I took this book with me to read on an extended flying trip to Austria (it was not a holiday!), and I always think reading a book in its local context adds to one’s enjoyment. Due to some especially awful weather I had to deviate from my planned route and went within 40 miles of the Stauffenburg’s family estate at Lautlingen. I flew over many places mentioned in the book. On my return journey I deviated only 5 miles from my direct route to fly over Strasskirche, the (then) little village outside Straubing where Melitta met her maker. I saluted this great aviator.
There was no geographical cover for her to escape the P47 Thunderbolt that was pursuing her. If she had only been 15 miles to the East, woods and small mountains would have given her hope.
Strasskirche this August