Jagdegeschwader 53 - or as it was better known, the "Pik As" (Ace of Spades) Geschwader - was one of the oldest German fighter units of World War II with its origins going back to the year 1937. This first volume, of a planned three volume set, covers the early years of the Geschwader from its founding in the spring of 1937 up to May of 1942. This book appears here for the first time in English, and contains over 200 additional photos not published in the original German language edition. The book also contains revised text and maps, and aircraft line drawings, as well as updated aerial victory and loss listings. The service record of JG53 can undoubtedly be regarded as uniquely representative for the rise and fall of the Luftwaffe, with the unit seeing action on every major war front. JG53 had a considerable share in the successes achieved by the Luftwaffe in the early stages of the war in the West, and at the outset of the war in the East until mid-1942, and through the tough battles fought over the Mediterranean fronts and suffering bitter losses in the vain attempt to stop the Allied bomber-offensive against the Reich.
Equipped exclusivedly with the legendary Messerschmitt Bf 109, JG 53 "Pik-As" first saw front line action in the southwest of the German Reich, where at that time the only direct border line with France was the stage for some of the first clashes with the French Armee de'l Air as well as parts of the Royal Air Force's BEF, and became the Luftwaffe's most successful unit during the so called "Phony War." When on May 10, 1940, the Wehrmacht invaded France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the "Pik-As" Geschwader was in the center of the action and during the six weeks of fighting in the West the Geschwader continued to prove its outstanding fighting qualities, and ranked highly amongst the top scoring Luftwaffe units when the cease-fire became effective on June 25, 1940. JG 53 later took part in the Luftwaff's foreseeably futile attempt to subdue Great Britain by ways of a strategic aerial campaign in the summer and autumn of 1940 which, although the pilots of JG 53 gave their utmost and took a heavy toll from the defending British Spitfires and Hurricanes, cost the Geschwader sad and irreplaceable losses.
Given only a short time to recover and re-equip in the Reich at the beginning of 1941, and after another short period of action on the Channel Coast between April and early June 1941, the "Pik-As" Geschwader along with a majority of the Luftwaffe forces was moved to the East, where it took part in German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. After only a few months of service on the Eastern front at a time when the complete failure of the German war effort against the Soviet Union was just beginning to become apparent, JG 53 was withdrawn to the Reich for another short period of rest and re-equipping, though two of its Gruppen were posted to the Netherlands in the fall of 1941, where they saw comparatively little action. This changed completely when at the end of 1941 the entire Geschwader was transferred to the Mediterranean theatre of operations, where III. Gruppe was first sent to North Africa to take part in the dramatic struggle there, while the remainder of the Geschwader went to Sicily as part of the offensive forces of the Luftwaffe that were concentrated there for the planned air offensive against the British island fortress of Malta, later to be joined by III.
Gruppe after its return from Africa. Iochen Prien is also the author, with Peter Rodeike, of Messerschmitt Bf 109 F/G/K Series: An Illustrated Study (available from Schiffer Publishing Ltd.).