The Habsburgs' Wings 1914: From the Balkans and the Adriatic to Galicia--Austro-Hungarian Aviation in The First Campaigns of the Great War, vol.
The Habsburgs' Wings 1914: From the Balkans and the Adriatic to Galicia--Austro-Hungarian Aviation in The First Campaigns of the Great War, vol. 1. By Andrzej Olejko. Lublin, Poland: Kagero, 2018. Tables. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Pp. 154. 24 Euros. ISBN: 978-83-65437-79-2
Very rarely are serious historical aviation studies translated from eastern European languages (in this case, Polish) to English. Here in the west, students of early World War I aviation on the Eastern Front will benefit from the exceptional research conducted by Andrzej Artur Olejko. A prolific author and producer of historic radio and television series, Olejko rightly points out that compared to the Western Front, much less is available on the Eastern Front (especially in English).
Olejko's attention to detail is almost overwhelming, making this work a challenging read. It probably is best used as a reference guide for a number of important topics. In fact, the title is somewhat misleading, as a significant portion is devoted to the events leading up to the beginning of the Great War. One shortcoming with the book is the unfortunate absence of any maps. These would be of great use for those of us far less familiar with the geography of eastern Europe. A map clearly defining the Austro-Hungarian Empire's borders and its subordinate states would have been most helpful.
Besides the geopolitical developments including the First and Second Balkan Wars, Olejko's extensive research reveals the state of aviation in the Empire before the Great War. For example, one table details the disposition of balloon units associated with various fortresses, while another outlines the aviation order of battle before the outbreak of hostilities. Also included are tables listing the Empire's pilots (both heavier- and lighter-than-air) on the eve of the conflict. In addition, another table includes details concerning the commander, mobilization date, type of aircraft, and flying personnel for each of 15 flying units.
Both German and Russian aviation also receive attention as doe that of the French in terms of imported aircraft. Maritime aviation in the Adriatic also is covered.
The book's apparently brief length is somewhat misleading as perhaps its greatest strength can be found in the very extensive end notes. Not only does this additional commentary add depth to the discussion, but also the end notes reflect the multitude of sources used, both primary and secondary. Examples include the mining of various archives and excerpts from personal journals. Finally, the extensive illustrations and photographs nicely complement the text.
Students of the air war on the Eastern Front in World War I will find this work very much worth the price. World War I generalists should consider it a useful reference.
Steven D. Ellis, Lt Col, USAFR (Ret), docent, Museum of Flight, Seattle