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Wreaking Havoc: A Year in an A-20 (Texas A & M University Military History Series #91) by Joseph W. Rutter

 

Rutter details his stateside training and provides a lot of interesting details about flying the A-20. His unit fought in New Guinea and the Philippines before he was rotated stateside and discharged. Navigational errors and mechanical malfunctions seemed to claim as many victims in his squadron as direct enemy action. Most of the time they were flying low level strikes against airfields, bases, and supply dumps using bombs retarded with parachutes so they didn't blow themselves up. A reader looking for a lot of intense descriptions of combat may be somewhat disappointed (a few of the missions are described in depth - a low level raid on Clark Field being one of the most notable) but for anyone interested in the A-20 (which is largely ignored in most WWII literature) or a fascinating look at one pilot's WWII experience, this is definitely worth a read. I finished it in about two and half days and that's always the sign of a book that captured and held my attention.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Wreaking-Havoc-Williams-Ford-University-Military/dp/1603447377

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David Isby: The Decisive Duel - Spitfire vs. 109. Abacus 2012.

As mainstream history of WW2 aircraft as it can ever be. A nice package of the history of these two legendary aircraft and the people involved with them (designers, pilots, mechanics, factory builders), although the Spitfire and Bf 109 stories are nowadays so well covered that the book gives very little new info. It is not so much the information value but rather the interpretation and vision of the book which makes it worthwile reading for "more expert" readers. However I must confess that I almost skipped the chapter of Battle of Britain - everything about it seems to have been analyzed and written in previous books. Fortunately the book gives You much more than just Battle of Britain - it is the history of Spitfire and Bf 109 during the whole WW2 and even beyond.

Although there was little new in this book for me it was nice summary of the history of Spitfires and Bf 109´s covering well their technical development and operational history in all fronts of WW2 and I can warmly recommend this book as an introduction to those who have only little or superficial knowledge of these machines. As for others - well, I must say that I would not have bought this book as it offered little new information to me but it was not a bad christmas gift (thanks, Mom). I did read it and I enjoyed it although the most of the stuff was quite well known to me from earlier books and other sources. Something new there still was like the failed Allied campaign in Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean) 1943 - one of those "sideshows" which are almost forgotten in mainstream WW2 history writing.  

 

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Raymond Cheung: Aces of the Republic of China Air Force. Osprey Publishing 2015. Osprey Aircraft ot the Aces series, vol. 126.

The 75th anniversary of Battle of Britain is coming, but are you a bit tired of the well-known mainstream history with Spitfire and Messerschmitt aces? Want to read about something else than to go through the well-trodden paths of the mainstream history? If the answer is yes, then this book is for you. It covers the airwar over China during WW2 and little beyond from the perspective of Chinese fighter pilots - something that has been missed in English for wider audience for a long time. We have learned that China was the "learning school" of Japanese pilots which prepared them for the Pacific war and we may know something about this by reading the victorious accounts of Japanese pilots (who overclaimed often their exploits). Then we may know the sharkmouthed P-40´s of American Volunteer Group and their exploits, but that is usually what we know. The Chinese point of view on the airwar over China is something that we usually miss or know very little of.

Although there have been some English publications about the topic earlier they are little known and not easy to find for a average reader of airwar history. What you find from the web is rather fragmented and not always easy to digest. Even those familiar with Håkans Aviation Page will find something new in this book and I think that the book in its clear print package and straight-forward Osprey format is significantly easier read than anything that you find from the web.

This book is a good effort and excellent entry-level info for those who want to find out more about the difficult yet tenacious struggle of Chinese aviators against an enemy which for a long time was better equipped, better organized, better trained and usually superior in air combats. I would consider the Chinese airmen at least as brave as the British aviators in the Battle of Britain as all the odds were even more against them. Still they managed to put a fight and the airwar over China was not a complete walkover for the Japanese (although Japanese propaganda wanted people to think just that). The book tells the story of those Chinese pilots who managed to challenge the enemy and bring him down - not all the pilots presented are aces with five confirmed "kills", but this does not make them less interesting and less important. How many very interesting pilot stories are missed and forgotten just because they did not make it up to "five confirmed"?  

The minus points come from the limitations of Osprey´s book format - therefore there are no pages for the bibliography or Further Reading -section which would have been interesting for those willing to find more about the history of Chinese Air Force. This is not the writer´s fault - without doubt Raymond Cheung would have provided us with a complete bibliography and good hints where to find more info if there had been pages for that available -  the too cost-efficiently minded editors of Osprey are those to be blamed.

The one thing that goes without much mentioning is Chinese Civil War (1945 - 1949) - the book concentrates in the Nationalist/Taiwanese Air Force (Republic of China Air Force, ROCAF) as the title says and the focus is almost exclusively in the Sino-Japanese War (WW2) of 1937-1945. This is a logical and well-founded decision taking in account the page limitation of the Osprey book format. However there could have been some mentioning of the early air combats of Sino-Japanese war of 1932. But the book includes one nice little detail about the history of Chinese ace pilots: it started with Etinne Tsu who achieved five confirmed air victories in WW1 and his (possible) Nieuport 17 fighter features among the colourplates of the book.

My overall evaluation of this book is: Well Done and Highly Recommended!

http://www.amazon.com/Aces-Republic-China-Force-Aircraft/dp/1472805615

https://ospreypublishing.com/aces-of-the-republic-of-china-air-force


 

Edited by hanwind
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Tomasz Szlagor: Thunderbolts of 8th U.S. Army Air Force. March 1943 - February 1944 March 1944 - May 1945. Kagero 2010, 2011. Air Battles 15 & 17. 

These two books cover the operational history of P-47 fighter units of 8th USAAF in WW2. There are lots of details of operational successes and losses by day-to-day accounts, lots of nice photos and some well-made detailed colourplates. However the books left me somewhat wanting and not satisfied - there is not much analysis and I missed informative appendix tables covering units, top pilots and overall combat stats by different periods. The technical development of P-47 does get only little attention but this is only to be expected here - these are not the first books to learn about the history of P-47 (or 8th USAAF) but a further reading after some introductory source. However for the real fans of "Jug" these books probably do not give much new. The targeted audience is the "intermediate level" of those interested in the P-47. 

If your focus is more in the history of 8th USAAF fighter units than in the P-47, the first volume can stand alone and would be well supported by a book focusing in the service of P-51 in the 8th USAAF. From the standpoint of history of 8th USAAF the P-47 was a "interim fighter solution" between the short-legged Spitfire and the long-distance Mustang. However the P-47 deserves serious attention although its contribution has been overshadowed by the success story of P-51. The P-47 was the first US-built fighter which could really challenge Bf 109 and FW 190 on performance basis and it contributed considerably to the attrition war against Luftwaffe in 1943 and early 1944.    

One little detail that I missed particularly: the coverart of both books is quite nice and describes probably actual combat situations but unfortunately there is not info related to them. 

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