There is no doubt but that Hugo Junkers is a major figure in the history of aviation in the first third of the twentieth century. He pioneered much of the efforts in Germany before World War II in the construction of all-metal, single-wing airplanes. His ideas found expression in the firm he founded, Junkers Flugzeug-und Motorenwerke AG, and he served as a counterbalance to such ideas as those of Count von Zeppelin who advocated light-than-air aviation. The Junkers trimotor passenger and freight airliners helped to advance air transportation with Lufthansa through Europe. Never a Nazi, he was ousted from leadership of his firm by Hitler’s henchmen in 1934 and died the next year.
Notwithstanding his significance, there is not much serious historical work in English concerning Junkers and his company. Accordingly, this new book by Richard Byers is a most welcome corrective to that dearth of knowledge. The author notes that his objective is to advance understanding beyond the specialists of early twentieth century Germany of Jugo Junkers’s life and work. For those of us who specialize in in aerospace history, what we know about Junkers is filtered through a few translated works, basic journalistic accounts of aviation, and nothing that might be characterized as scholarship. Byers has researched deeply in German sources, and presents here a fine analysis that is well-written, easy to comprehend, and sophisticated in analysis.
The author does a good job of placing Junkers in the context of other works in the field—none of them compete with this study—and this is a useful expansion of what was previously known about Hugo Junkers and his aviation company. Byer’s does much to rescue his protagonist from obscurity in the English-speaking world. It does for Junkers what Marc Dierikx did for Antony Fokker in Fokker: A Transatlantic Biography (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997).
This book is a fine addition to historical literature and a welcome study of an important but little-known topic.