The small red-covered book was the only personal memento that pilot Heiner Kilcher kept of his pilot training. After completing his pilot training in 1939, Heiner was assigned to pilot the Bf 109 fighter. Heiner decided to preserve this memento of his pilot training by adding it to his pilot’s log book. It contained many memories, including that of the invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, where he downed his first aircraft. Heiner would not be able to keep his pilot’s log book with him during the Battle of Britain, so he used the small red-covered book to record memories of his pilot training.
I’ll never forget the day I was given this book. It was an act of kindness that was reciprocated by the act of writing in it. With it, I was able to preserve memories that I would otherwise have forgotten. It’s an old book, by the way.
As a part of the German Air Force, members of the Luftwaffe were required to fill out a monthly diary, similar to a report card, which documented their monthly activities and personal achievements. This diary, which is now kept as a collection at the German War Collection of the Imperial War Museum, London, provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of some of the Luftwaffe’s members during the war.
The book Wir von der Luftwaffe (We of the Luftwaffe) is chock-full of photographs and signature pages, allowing owners to reminisce about their time flying with the Wehrmacht.
Q: This book was presented to me as a senior in high school in 1964 by Edmund V. Gillis, a World War II veteran who claimed he got it while stationed in Europe during the war. I was informed it was a Luftwaffe recruitment piece; do you have any more information?
—Elk Grove Village, Illinois resident Herb Lambrechts
A: We von der Luftwaffe (We of the Luftwaffe), an 80-page book, is one of many similar books published for personnel of the German air force. It includes pictures of Luftwaffe commanders as well as information about the military branch’s history and structure. The Luftgaukommando—the district administrative air command—in Hanover and Münster created this book in 1938, which contains pictures unique to Luftwaffe operations in that northwest German area. Other versions exist for the Berlin, Dresden, and Vienna commands, among others. The book was meant to be a memory book, a souvenir album through which one could interpret and frame one’s experience in the Luftwaffe. Its first page—which is blank in our copy—allows you to fill in your name, birthday, birthplace, and military information. There are also blank pages for jotting down notes or reminiscing. More than 3.4 million people fought in the Luftwaffe during World War II. Although it is unlikely that 3.4 million copies of this book were produced, numerous instances can still be found for sale on the internet.
—Kim Guise, Curatorial Services Assistant Director
(Photos by Guy Aceto; item courtesy of Herb Lambrechts)
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This story appeared in the World War II magazine in June 2022.
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