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An Eagle's Odyssey (Hardback)

My Decade as a Pilot in Hitler's Luftwaffe

Military > Greenhill Books > Greenhill: WWII WWII > Hitler & the Third Reich

By Johannes Kaufmann, Foreword by Prof Richard Overy, Translated by John Weal
Greenhill Books
Pages: 233
ISBN: 9781784382537
Published: 30th May 2019



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‘I realised that this brief but abortive sortie was to be the final mission of my Luftwaffe flying career.’

Johannes Kaufmann’s career was an exciting one. He may have been an ordinary Luftwaffe pilot, but he served during an extraordinary time, with distinction. Serving for a decade through both peacetime and wartime, his memoir sheds light on the immense pressures of the job.

In this never-before-seen translation of a rare account of life in the Luftwaffe, Kaufmann takes the reader through his time in service, from his involvement in the annexation of the Rhineland, the attack on Poland, fighting against American heavy bombers in the Defence of the Reich campaign. He also covers his role in the battles of Arnhem, the Ardennes, and the D-Day landings, detailing the intricacies of military tactics, flying fighter planes and the challenges of war.

His graphic descriptions of being hopelessly lost in thick cloud above the Alps, and of following a line of telegraph poles half-buried in deep snow while searching for a place to land on the Stalingrad front are proof that the enemy was not the only danger he had to face during his long flying career.

Kaufmann saw out the war from the early beginnings of German expansion right through to surrender to the British in 1945. An Eagle’s Odyssey is a compelling and enlightening read, Kaufmann’s account offers a rarely heard perspective on one of the core experiences of the Second World War.

Featured on WW2 Today

WW2 Today

Featured in the 'new and noteworthy' section

WWII History, Summer 2020

Not many memoirs get my full attention, I tend to get bored with them. But this… WOW… It’s a griping read, a true page-turner. A highly recommended read for anyone, not just the aviation or WWII enthusiast.

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Vintage Airfix

Luftwaffe pilot memoirs are not rare but An Eagle´s Odyssey by Johannes Kaufman deserves special attention. Kaufmann was an extremely experienced pilot when the war ended and tells his story with precision.

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Lars Gyllenhaal

Kaufmann’s memoir, translated and edited by John Weal, is a vigorous story of a combat pilot whose skill and discipline made him more than a survivor but an accomplished fighter pilot. He kept meticulous records in his logbook from his earliest days of training so that his account carries that air of authenticity missing from many other memoirs. We do not get to know much about Kaufmann, however, and in particular his political views are ambiguous; deliberately so given who he was fighting for and when he was writing. Nevertheless, for those interested in what it was like to fight for the Luftwaffe, this is a very informative and enjoyable read.

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GoodReads, Robert Neil Smith

As featured in

Battle of Britain Historical Society, Autumn/ Winter 2019

...one of the more absorbing, varied and enjoyable Luftwaffe memoirs. Recommended.

The Aviation Historian, issue no.9 – reviewed by Robert Forsyth

This is an English language translation of a book first published in Germany in 1989. It is rare in that it is the story of an ordinary airman who joined the newly formed Luftwaffe and worked his way to Captain by the end of the war, commanding a Staffell of Bf 109 fighters – Very Highly Recommended

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The result is a good insight into the life of an ‘ordinary’ Luftwaffe pilot.


A fascinating record of one man's distinguished flying career as a pilot in the Luftwaffe. Nice to read about the second world war from the opposite perspective.

Books Monthly

I think this book provides an insight into one of the members of the Axis forces’ side of the War, it shows the issues that they faced and the daily struggles they went through. It also shows the training and challenges a new pilot had to face to join the Luftwaffe. I always enjoy reading memoirs of people who were actually involved in the war, but this one ranks quite high on my list. Even though it’s translated from German it has comes across well and makes for an excellent read.

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This is a very enjoyable and enlightening book. I thoroughly recommend it.

Guy Warner, Ulster Aviation Society

This is a very enjoyable and enlightening book... I thoroughly recommend it.

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Flying in Ireland

A really good detailed account, very interesting... a really important title.

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Scale Modelling Now

Weal's writing is always a pleasure to read and if you have any of his previous translated personal accounts such as Hanning's 'Luftwaffe Fighter Ace' then this is worthy and interesting book.

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FalkeEins - The Luftwaffe blog

About Johannes Kaufmann

Born in 1915, Johannes Kaufmann left school early to work as an apprentice in an aircraft factory. In 1934 he volunteered in the newly-formed Luftwaffe, working through the ranks to become a Hauptmann by the end of the war, commanding a Staffel of Bf 109 fighters.
Kaufmann’s book, Meine Flugberichte, was published in Germany in 1989. The English translation, a never-before-seen version, has been updated to enhance his story and add greater chronological and contextual detail for the English author.

About Prof Richard Overy

Professor Richard Overy is a British historian and a Professor of History at the University of Exeter. He has published several books on Nazi Germany and World War II including a biography of Hermann Göring, Goering: Hitler’s Iron Knight. In 2001, he was awarded the Samuel Elliot Morison Prize of the Society of Military History for his contribution to the history of warfare. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, the British Academy, and of King’s College London.

About John Weal

John Weal is an aviation illustrator and historian of many years standing. Specialising in the German Luftwaffe of World War II, he has also translated the memoirs of eight former Luftwaffe combat pilots for the English-speaking market.

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