JG54 Green Heart Fighters
Kagero Units series #2
by Marek Murawski
This is the second in Kagero's new Units series, but part of their well established and ever increasing book empire. The premise is simple: rather than focus on a particular aircraft or campaign, we now see things at unit level, and in this case, the subject is Jagdgeschwader 54. JG 54, whose most enduring emblem was a green heart - hence the 'grun herz' nickname - were formed in 1939, and fought in the Battle of Britain, the Balkans, and then in Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Russia. By 1943, elements of the unit were fighting on both Western an Eastern Fronts, with the last JG54 kill credited on 8th May 1945 over the Baltic, so this unit truly fought from beginning to end.
The book is 32 pages long, in soft back landscape format, so as a unit history it is nothing if not brief. Some of the most significant battles and indeed entire campaigns in modern history are distilled into a few paragraphs, even I the perspective is always a very narrow unit level one. I have no real complaints about this - if you want serious historical research or day by day accounts of the say, the Siege of Leningrad, there is plenty of material a available. The narrative that is here provides useful colour and background.
What sets Kagero apart from their competitors is the addition of decals with pretty much all of their books in this field. There are decals for four aircraft, in all three main scales of 1/32, 1/48 and 1/72. The subjects covered are:
Messerschmitt Bf109 G-2 'Blue 5' 7./JG 54 Isotscha airfield, Smolensk, Winter 1942-43 Complete winter whitewash, heavy exhaust staining; undercarriage gear covers removed.
Focke-Wulf Fw190 A-5 W.Nr.1501 'White 4' 1./JG 54 Flown by JG54's most famous son, Walter Nowotny, Russia Summer 1943 White bull outline drawing and inscription "Rammbock" under canopy on port side.
Bucker Bu131 D-2 W.Nr.1683 KG+GB 2./JG 54 Krasnogvardeysk airfield, Russia March 1942
RLM70/71/65 with wavy winter whitewash; "Lili Marlen" inscription on port fuselage, kill bars on port rudder (unit score, not pilot or aircraft)
Messerschmitt Bf109 F-2 'White 9' 4./JG 54 Mal. Owsischtischi 10th August 1941 Pilot Oblt. Hans Philipp, Staffelkapitan; standard RLM74/75/76 but with RLM70 lines on fuselage, with patches of RLM75 within.
What can we say about the aircraft choices? Well, any book covering JG54 will be spoilt for choice with some of the most colourful Bf109s and Fw190s you could wish for. That also makes the subjects to pick out of the bunch a little more difficult perhaps? That one of Novotny's aircraft has been chosen is no surprise, and I like that we have close up pictures of the man himself with the Rammbock logo in clear view. The aircraft also gets a full four view profile so, although you have to source your own national markings, you're pretty much there and won't want for anything else.
The whitewashed 109 only has a two side profiles, but since it is depicted in a full winter scheme, I'm not sure the lack of top / bottom views are that great a loss. Similarly, the 'crazy paving' schemes are well documented, and Hans Philip is a relatively well known pilot. The choice of the Bucker is perplexing: most casual modellers will have not even heard of this aircraft, let alone know what it looks like; but the main point is a lack of injection mould kit in ANY of the scales that decals are provided for. This is a bit of a misguided attempt to 'be different' and a waste of one of only four options.
Two final comments on the decal side of things. One, Novotny's bird aside, the featured aircraft are not shown in any of the many photos in the book. I would much prefer to have photographic confirmation of what I am modelling - so why not show these pictures, or chose different but similar subjects? Two, there is no detailed commentary on the features of each bird, as provided by EagleCals. I mention them because they are the industry benchmark in WWII decals.
So what we have here is an interesting and I think very effective combination of elements of a regular decal set, together with a 'Unit History lite' (I hope I'll be forgiven for the American terminology here, but it seems particularly appropriate). If you could put an Osprey Aircraft of the Aces book and an EagleCals deca sheet in the blender, this is probably what you would get. Price also needs to be mentioned here: I think it's a fairly good value proposition. No real complaints apart from the odd choice of the Bucker. Looking forward to more of this series!
With thanks to Kagero for the review sample.