Shadow Over the Atlantic: Fernaufklärungsgruppe 5 'Atlantik'

Published: August 10th, 2017     
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Author: Robert Forsyth
Reviewed by: 
Paul Mahoney, IPMS# 8943
Company: Osprey Publishing
ISBN #: 9781472820457
E-Book ISBN #: 9781472820471
Other Publication Information: Hard cover, 312 pages, 60+ photos, 3 pages of color plates
Price: $30.00
Product / Stock #: GNM

When I first inquired about reviewing "Shadow Over the Atlantic", I assumed it would be of a similar format many of Osprey's "Combat Aircraft" or "Aircraft of the Aces" softcover series of books. It turned out this is a hardback book, and is a much more in-depth volume than those from the standard Osprey series. I am a huge fan of those softcover books, but they always leave me wanting more!

"Shadow Over the Atlantic" is a detailed history of Fernaufklarungsgruppe (FAGr) 5, which operated Ju290 aircraft on long-range reconnaissance missions over the Atlantic

To fully appreciate the lengths to which the author went in researching this book, I highly suggest one reads the introduction and author's notes sections in the first several pages. Forsyth obtained an account of FAGr5 written by the former chief of the "staff company" of the Group, based on his records and memories. Starting with this unique and somewhat arcane source, the author spent several years conducting further research, the result of which is this title.

This book provides a complete background story, detailing the efforts that were (and were not) put into reconnaissance over the Atlantic by the Germans during WW2. The rivalry between the German Navy and Airforce over which service should be in control, and to what extent, is very well laid-out in the first chapter. The second chapter is devoted to describing the main aircraft used by FAGr5, the Junkers Ju290.

The next eight chapters are devoted to the creation, deployment and operations of the Ju290s of Fernaufklarungsgruppe 5. These chapters are broken up into time periods covering specific months throughout 1943-44. Details of some individual missions are present, along with individual veterans' recollections and official log books. Within this section lies the photo section comprising over 60 black and white photos of the aircraft and machines of the unit. Immediately following the photos are 4 beautifully rendered side profiles of four Ju290s, as well as 2 color plates showing the unit emblems (a "Flying Dutchman" sailing ship).

Chapter 12 takes a brief segue (and is written by Nick Beale, not the main author) for a few pages to discuss 4./FAGr5, a specialist unit within FAGr5 responsible for various forms of electronic warfare against RAF Costal Command. An interesting read within an overall interesting story.

The monthly accounting of the overall unit resumes with the next Chapter, and we watch the rapid decline of the unit's personnel and machines as their mission begins to evaporate. Some are folded into KG200, others pressed into service flying Arado 234 jet bombers, and still others take different paths. Chapter 16 wraps up the final stories of the unit as the war finally ends.

Despite this being the last chapter, there are still over 40 pages of useful information to follow. This highlights again just how thorough the author's efforts are. There are 5 appendices listing:

  • Technical specs for every variant of the Ju290
  • All known aircraft (and losses) attached to FAGr5
  • All officers assigned to FAGr5
  • Monthly aircraft strength listing for FAGr5
  • Detailed navigational methods employed by FAGr5

Forsyth has his documentation notes broken down by each chapter following the appendices. Finally, there is a very helpful (for those wanting even more) Bibliography and Sources listing taking up 6 pages!

To me, this was an extremely well-written (and documented) narrative of one of the more obscure groups of the Luftwaffe. A worthwhile read for anyone with interest in this aspect of the War. Highly recommend!

Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy and images, and to IPMS for allowing me to review it!

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