Now the seventy or so remaining Buffs are scheduled for an upgrade to keep them flying until 2050, 104 years after it was conceived, and 95 years after the first B-52 went into service. New engines, new avionics, and a new bomb bay will modernize an incredibly tough airframe. No other warplane has ever served as long.
Dragonslayer sounds like the title of sci-fi romance, but the subtitle sets us straight: The Legend of Erich Ludendorff in the Weimar Republic and Third Reich. It's serious history, rather than a pop-boiler promising the Untold Story of something that Changed the World Forever. The author is Jay Lockenour, who teaches courses on World War One, Nazi Germany, and Blut und Eisen (Blood and Iron) at Temple University. Far from telling us something Untold, he makes a point of citing all previous biographies of Ludendorf, who in August 1914 became the hero of Liège and, a few weeks later on the other side of Europe, the hero of Tannenberg, so that Germany began the First World War with punishing blows on both the Western and the Eastern Front. Nevertheless, it lost the war, to the astonishment of just about every German including Ludendorff, who was the first to advance the "stab in the back" theory so eagerly exploited by an Austrian corporal named Adolf Hitler. In November 1923, the two men marched together in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch that ended with 18 dead and Hitler in prison, with the leisure to write Mein Kampf. The two men parted company thereafter, in part because Ludendorff thought Hitler's antisemitism too mild, and also didn't pay attention to the other "supranational" forces that were conspiring to keep Germany down, namely the Masons and the Catholic church. (He didn't live to see the Final Solution, however.) "Dragonslayer" is a reference to Germany's first stab in the back, that of Siegfried in the Nibelungenlied, and Mr Lockenour introduces each chapter with a quote from the 12th/13th century epic poem that later inspired Wagner to write The Ring, which in turn became Hitler's favorite opera. By no coincidence, three of Germany's campaigns in the Second World War were named Operation Siegfried, Hagen, and Alberich, each a character from both the poem and the opera.
Also reviewed this month: Malaya & Dutch East Indies 1941-42: Japan's air power shocks the world, whose cover features the hapless Brewster Buffalo fleeing from fixed-gear Nakajima Ki-27 Nate fighters on the first day of the war; and Imperial Japan and Defeat in the Second World War: The Collapse of an Empire, which examines the questions of Hirohito's war guilt and whether the kamikaze "human bullets" really volunteered to die. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings: