Black Tulip

Being there . . . . to meet, greet, and strap yourself in for cockpit flight directly behind one of
the most accomplished fighter aces in aviation history, the iron-nerved, skillful Luftwaffe pilot,
Major Erich Hartmann, World War II’s highest-scoring pilot on either side. I won’t do it because
he claimed 351 Allied aircraft shot down, and although most had to have been Russian and
Soviet bloc over the Eastern Front, we’ll never know precisely how many were British and how
many were American. Official Allied sources credited him 263 kills, still a remarkable record.
Flying up to four missions a day, Hartman rarely missed. So, while he’s active over Kursk and
Belorussia doing his thing, ask the German aerial star how it was that he rose to be the top ace
of both sides – what was his Number 1, his favorite tactic. He’ll answer, “My tactic is to let the
other plane feel the full effect of my guns. If I wait until his plane fills the whole window of this
cockpit, I won’t miss.” Yes, grudgingly, nay, somewhat sullenly the Allied high command quietly
showed a bit of respect for his bravery, his creative combat, his indefatigability, and willingness
to risk all for his beloved Germany, as Churchill did Rommel and other true, nonpolitical
adversaries who fought fairly and legally. Yes, I have mixed emotions about this complex flying
legend, and, if introduced, would have reluctantly shaken his hand, then, for my own deeply
felt emotional issues, turned away, a tear in my eye for what all wars cause . . .
TIME” – – although hard pages to read, Thanks, Casemate Publishing for sharing. . .
Reviewed and highly recommended by Don DeNevi
“BLACK TULIP – – The Life and Myth of Erich Hartmann, The World’s Top Fighter Pilot”, by Erik
Schmidt. Casemate Publishing, Military History/World War II: first published in Germany, 2020,
republished for the first time in the U.S., 2023; 212 pages, 6” x 9”, softcover, $19.95. Visit,
The most accomplished fighter ace in history remains an enigma. Erich Hartman, perhaps the
greatest combat pilot in aviation history was both a dutiful servant of the Third Reich and an
unabashed celebrated Western war hero after the war. Author Erik Schmidt’s meticulous
research, extensive interviews of still-living WWII aerial survivors who flew with Major
Hartmann, we have in hand a rare, taut and thorough, explosive, but even-handed biography,
the best yet published, that follows Erich from “the middle rungs of Hitler Youth leadership to
the frozen expanses of the Eastern Front, in and out of the vast and corrupt prison system of
the Soviet Union, and through a postwar career with the West German military where his
idolization took hold. Schmidt’s serious, no-nonsense writing is a deadly serious penetration
and exploration work that finally acknowledges the ambiguity in Hartmann’s life, analyzing him,
not as a one-dimensional hero or a full-blown Nazi advocate, but as the complex and
captivating man that he was. Writes Jay Stout, author of “Vanished Hero” and “Unsung Eagles”,
“I am jealous. This is a wonderfully different, wonderfully written, work. Schmidt is no fawning
fanboy of the ‘Greatest Ace of All Time’. Instead, he is a sympathetic and insightful researcher
who has produced an engrossing and thoughtfully wandering analysis of the multi-dimensional
Hartman that is unlike, and better than anything ever done. Buy this one, it’s that good.”

In their equally readable book, “Myth of the Eastern Front”, Ronald Smelser and Edward J.
Davies II write on page 2, “After all, if the Germans were not only to be our friends, but also our
armed allies, it was important to erase at least some aspects of the recent war from public
memory and to revise the terms of discussions.”
In short, general reader or serious buff, each of us must read, become informed, and decide
whether to forgive and forget, forgive and remember, or just forgive, adding “oh, to hell with it
. . .” Thank God, my decisions regarding Leni Riefenstahl, Hanna Reitsch, Colonel Count Claus
Schenk von Stauffenberg, every single member of the German resistance movements,
especially the White Rose, formed in Munich in 1942, and the July 20, 1944, assassination
plotters in Berlin. Such true heroes are easily identified. But others . . .?

Leave a Comment

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.