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First Look Review
Air Combat Dogfights WWII
Air Combat Dogfights of World War II
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:

Air Combat Dogfights of World War II is a new hardback book from Osprey Publishing LTD. It goes on sale tomorrow, January 24. It is a compilation of four popular DUEL titles. This book has 320 pages and the ISBN 9781472836762. Osprey catalogues it with their short code GNA.

These books not only satisfy the technical and historical appetite of readers, they also contain images certain to inspire modelers, for individual aircraft as well as diorama ideas. Osprey
says of this book:
    The battle for the skies in World War II fuelled a race between rival air forces to develop ever faster and more capable fighter aircraft - and the struggle for air superiority was never over until the war itself ended.

    This volume explores four clashes of some of the finest planes and pilots, in key theaters of the war: formidable Spitfires and Bf 109s dueling over the Channel, the Fw 190 battling the Soviet La 5 and 7 on the Eastern Front, the F4F Wildcat in a desperate clash with the legendary A6M Zero-sen, and the F4U Corsair in combat with the second-generation Japanese Ki-84 in the closing days of the war.

    Fully illustrated with contemporary photographs, maps and colour artwork, Air Combat conveys the full story behind these dramatic aviation duels.

Osprey's Duel series feature a wealth of data and information to explain the differences and similarities of two specific fighters that faced each other in WWII. Duel books present both a good read and technical manual that does convey the strengths and weaknesses of the opponents in combat against the other. Students of the aircraft and modelers will real enjoy these titles.

Each book offers technical specifications for different variants of each aircraft. Training and tactics of opposing pilots are examined, as are how such factors influenced the dogfights. Several accounts from pilots are included for a you-are-there description of the planes. Merits of gun layout, engine types and development, cockpit arrangements, formations, and other subjects are included. Statistical analysis supports the anecdote content.

Each topic presented through these chapters:
    The Machines
    Type History
    The Strategic Situation
    The Men
    Into Combat

The texts are enhanced with first-hand quotes and excerpts from the fighter pilots:
    The Tojo [sic] Lt Alley destroyed was very aggressive, and very fast. The pilot displayed excellent airmanship - the Tojo proved to be an equal match for the Corsair in both dives and turns.

The books examine pilot selection and training for the two sides, comparing thoroughness and flight hours.

The first part of this book is Channel Clashes, Spitfire I/II vs Bf 109F. It explores and explains the shift in fortune after the Battle of Britain, where the Spitfire became iconic of England's stand against the Nazis. Shortly after the BoB concluded, the new Bf 109F supplanted the Bf 109E while the Spitfire V took the fight from the Spitfire I/II. The roles shifted as Britain took the war to France. The escort problems the German fighters had over England were now Fighter Command's problem. This book is iconoclastic in that it shows that the Spitfire - outstanding as the design was over its life - got shot out of the sky by a shocking margin for the next year and a half.

Next, we venture to the Pacific Theater for F4F Wildcat vs A6M Zero-sen, Pacific Theater 1942 Duel 54. You can understand the amount of detail invested in the development of these two fighters by Mr. Young as he spends the first 43 pages presenting the information. Each fighter is examined from concept to prototypes and testing, through development of different versions and variants in peace and in combat. Gizmologists will be fascinated by the series of engines and powerplant appliances fitted to these fighters. Except for an intermediate sub-model of Wildcat, both were equipped with two-speed two-stage ("high-altitude") superchargers. Historians of Japanese aircraft will be satisfied to have the mystery of model numbers deciphered, i.e., A6M2 Model 11 and Model 21; A6M3 Model 22 and Model 32. Fighters are only fighters because the are designed to aggressively bring guns to bear against targets. The quality of the gun battery is critical as to whether a fighter is a killer or just malevolently annoying. Each aircraft's weapons are reviewed as is controversial decision to change the F4F's armament.

The difference between training of American VF and Imperial Japanese VF pilots is explored in surprising detail. Superbly honed as IJNAF Zero pilots were, they were up against the extraordinary pre-war US pilots known as "The First Team". A specific difference in fighter training is attributed to the success of the Wildcat against the superior performance of the Zero.

Two pilots are profile: USMC top ace Joe Foss and IJNAF ace Yoshiro Hashiguchi.

When I first saw this title I thought What could be new? I finished the book saying What a great read! This book covers two well known fighters, the A6M Zero and the F4F Wildcat. It covers the fighter fights of two well documented carrier battles and the epic Guadalcanal campaign. Yet it does so with a very well balanced presentation of aircraft development, pilot training, tactics, and operations. I learned new aspects and details of the F4F and the Zero; pilots and tactics; new research revealing combat results.

Our next story takes us from the muggy Pacific to the steppes of Russia for La-5/7 vs Fw 190 Eastern Front 1942-45 Duel 39. Soviet LaGG fighters were in the thick of fighting from the beginning of Barbarossa. It was heavy, underpowered, and difficult to handle; made of wood it had the nickname “Varnished coffin”.

Nazi Germany’s supreme Focke-Wulf 190 fighters were initially deployed in 1941 to the most challenging Channel Front to savage the RAF. As more become available they were sent to dominate the VVS (VVS RKKA: Voenno-Vozdushnye Sile Raboche Krestiyankoy Krasnoy Armii – Air Force of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army) in 1942.

By 1943 these two closely matched opponents were mutually smearing the sky with the others’ debris; Germany modified their already excellent fighter to create a good multi-role fighter. The VVS continuously improved the LaGG with a series of power plant and airframe modifications. Redesignated the La-5, the Soviet fighter gradually developed performance superior to the Fw 190. In the sky over Kursk and the Crimea these two world-class fighters wrestled for aerial supremacy. Focke-Wulf developed their fighter into a multi-role fighter that was difficult to intercept, and always dangerous when caught, while Lavochkins developed into more capable air superiority fighters.

Osprey Duel series usually includes a pair of biographies, in this case profiling Ivan Kozhedub and Walter Nowotny.

Finally, we watch the war play out with F4U Corsair vs Ki-84 ''Frank'' Pacific Theater 1945 Duel 73. Actual clashes between the Corsair and Hayate did not occur until early 1945, even though 'Frank' had been in combat over the CBI and Philippines since 1944. By this time Japanese HQ had created air defense units over Japan proper, and these had different roles. Some were tasked with supporting the kamikaze offensive against the Okinawa campaign; despite the ability of Ki-84, many were expended in Special Attack missions. With that in mind as well as the overall decline of IJAAF pilot ability, the author notes that this book does not present a classic "duel". If you like trivia such as Japanese names and nomenclature, this book will please you.

Included are profiles on two of the subject aircraft pilots: USMC Capt William Snider and IJAAF WO Katsuaki Kira, both of whom survived the war.

Photos, Graphics, Artwork
These books are filled with specially commissioned dramatic in-action scenes, galleries of photographs, and tables that summarize data in the text. Each book has a "through-the-gunsight" view of an dogfight. Excellent though the illustrations are, occasionally a mistake slips (pardon the pun) by - savvy readers might notice that the "through-the-gunsight" scene to the right shows the Ki-84 is in a slip but not actually turning, per the turn and bank indicator.

I have been very impressed with Osprey's Duel series. Osprey has released several compilations of their individual books as hardback and the ones I have are worth having. They include the content of each book as well as some forewords.

The text of expert authors and the excellent galleries of photos, artwork, and graphics greatly enhance the texts.

I happily recommend Air Combat Dogfights of World War II.
Highs: A compilation of four Duel titles featuring detailed text, and excellent galleries of photos, artwork, and graphics.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: I have been very impressed with Osprey's Duel series and find them worth collecting.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472836762
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Jan 24, 2019

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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