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  #1  
Old 9th February 2005, 19:53
Dick Powers Dick Powers is offline
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Favorite Aircraft History Books?

Which do you consider the “best” World War 2 Axis or Allied (keeping our focus on this forum) aircraft history books? By aircraft history, I mean a book documenting the birth, life and final disposition of one particular aircraft design (the Lancaster, for instance), or a family of related designs (Me-110.210/410). Please limit yourself to aircraft history (mechography?..similar to the biography of a machine), and don’t include unit histories, campaign histories or other books. Those can wait for other discussions. Also say what you consider important in a “mechography”, and give reasons for your book selections.

In my own world, the “perfect” aircraft history would:
Document an aircraft which had not been covered in other books.
Discuss the design evolution, starting with the requirements to which it is designed, show alternate designs, and discuss modifications to the design during its lifetime.
Include information on the propulsion systemsused.
Dicsuss armament.
Discuss service use from initial tests through operational use and allocation to training or reserves, presenting critical analysis of the subject.
Discussed camouflage and markings since these are part and parcel of the aircraft, and give them character.
Of course pertinent photographs, well captioned are a must.
Three view drawings and color profiles are nice, but not essential.
Physical data including dimensions, weights, performance for subtypes are necessary. Serial numbers (or manufacturers numbers), subtypes and other production related data in usable form.

All in all, a tall order.

A few of my favorite “mechographies” are:

“Hs-129 Panzerjaeger” by Martin Pegg
Of all the books, this comes closest to being my model of a “good book”. A unique subject, detailed coverage, combat use, weapons development.

“Hawker Hurricane” by Frank Mason
I have the original 1962 version as well as the updated version. Almost as encyclopedic as “Blenheim”, coverage of all theaters, excellent photograph selections ( apparently the author attempted to provide at leat one photo of each Hurricane unit). And, of course a classic subject.

“Mosquito”, by Sharp & Bowyer
Everything you want to know about design, production and service use of the Mosquito. Beautiful photo selections with detailed captions.

“The Bristol Blenheim: A Complete History”, by Graham Warner
Encyclopedic coverage of the Blenheim. The RAF had more Blenheims than any other type when the war started. It fought in almost every theater for most of the war. Complete with color profiles, loss lists, design and service use.

Warren Bodie’s self published P-38 and P-47 books.
Bodie was a long –time AAHS P-38 specialist, he lived thorough the era, so his credentials are unique. Both books are well illustrated (except for the color profiles), discuss the technical aspects of design, set the aircraft in historical context and ,importantly, discuss shortcomings. The P-38 book, in particular, has a very good discussion on comperssilility and the remedy (flaps) as well as discussing why the later high-powered engines were fundamentally troublesome. The only negative aspect is the author’s annoying “America designed it first, every one else copied us” attitude which occasionally comes out.

All above are English language simply because that is the only language I read. Please feel free to include non-English books.

OK – what are your favorites and why?
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  #2  
Old 10th February 2005, 14:40
Jukka Juutinen Jukka Juutinen is offline
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Well, I agree on those two books by Warren Bodie. They are very good if one can get past his political views.

I disagree on Pegg. It was a reasonable effort that failed pretty hard on the technical aspects.

IMHO the capo di tutti capi in this contest is Edward Shacklady&Eric Morgan´s "Spitfire-The History".

Other excellent monographs:
-Bf 110/Me 210/Me 410 (Schiffer)
-Do 335 by Karl-heinz Regnat (Schiffer), excellent technical coverage and has excellent detail illustrations
-Tupolev SB by Mihail Maslov (Icarus Books)

What is interesting, and I have ranted on this before, that many ships have far better books written on them. E.g. the Anatomy of the Ship srs have extremely detailed design and technical coverage. It is also very odd that many WW One aircraft have much better books devoted to them than those of the WW Two. Where is e.g. a thorough (with performance curves, design analysis, handling info, pilot reports, material data etc) books on the Marauder, He 111, A-20 etc.?
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  #3  
Old 10th February 2005, 14:46
Kjetil Aakra Kjetil Aakra is offline
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Bets history books

Well, there are some to chose from, but the one book that has impressed me the most in recent times is Erik Pilwaskii's "Soviet Air Force Fighters 1941-45"; http://vvs.hobbyvista.com/Mybook/bookaddendum.html

This books deals with the technical development of all the major Soviet fighter types (I-153, I-16, Yak-1, -3, -7-, -9, LaGG-3, La-5, -5F. 5FN, La-7,. MiG-1/-3) as well as their colouration. What is really impressive about this book is the level of scholarship and in-depth research that has gone into it. Te bibliography is very interesting read, as is the sections on camouflage and colours. It is simply a masterpiece.

In fact, I think it is one of the very few books where a lengthy presentation of the technical evolution of a plane has been combined with an equally in-depth look at the evolution of colours and markings. It also has very good profiles, line drawings as well as numerous side and plan-views of various camouflage patterns.

I know the book has been critizided in some quarters as being too "revisionist" and pro-Soviet, but don't listen to that. It is simply because we Westerns, who often find ourselves in support of either Western Allied or Luftwaffe fighters, are not used to Soviet GPW (Great Patriotic War) fighters being dealt with in such flattering terms! We are undeniably biased in our views, we have grown up with our western books telling us how great the Mustang, Spitfire and T-bolt were, while Soviet fighters have often been described as rudimentary, simplistic, primitive and hastily put together "emergency" programs. That is simply not true. I still believe Luftwaffe fighters (especially the Fw 190) are some of the finest figehtrs of WWII, but there is simply no denying that the La-7 and Yak-3 (to mention two) were superior fighters, in many ways also to the Spitifre and Mustang. Read the account of the Yak-3U - or any of the other examples of what these Russian fighters could do!

All in all masterpiece and one of the best aviation books to be published in recent years. Highly recommended.

Kjetil Aakra
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  #4  
Old 10th February 2005, 15:45
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Bets history books

Kjetil
The book caused some reasonable comments among Russian researchers, though it seems the best on the subject available in English.
One interesting bit is that as yet nobody found any proof of use of yellow edges in Soviet markings.
And, while we are at technical details, feel free to proove superiority of Soviet designs, perhaps on Allied forum! Very eager to comment that.
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  #5  
Old 10th February 2005, 16:22
Kjetil Aakra Kjetil Aakra is offline
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Best aviation books

Hi Franek.

I am not the correct person to comment on the alledged superiority of some Soviet fighter designs, as I know precious little about them, except what i ahve read in the aforementioned bookk and some others I have in my collection. Besides, I think Pilawskii has done this in his book. Of course, he could eb wring, but he backs up his claims with tests results and also actual combat experience of the involved types.

Having read this book I am not in doubt that the La-7 must count as one of the very best fighters of its time (i.e. 1944-45).

Kjetil
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  #6  
Old 10th February 2005, 16:56
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Kjetil
I have serious doubts concerning accuracy of Pilavskii's claims, having in mind some comparative tests between Soviet and Western aircraft.
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  #7  
Old 10th February 2005, 17:12
Kjetil Aakra Kjetil Aakra is offline
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Tests!

Well, Franek, I'll admit that I was dubious about several of Pilawskii's claims regarding the performance of certain Soviet fighters. However, I also believe that Pilwaskii has done his research very well indeed and as I know little about these tests I cannot really say they are false.

If you have allied tests peformed on Soviet fighters I'll surely like to see them for comparison purposes.

And I strongly feel the La-7 must be ranked as one of the very best of WWII fighters - do you disagree??

Kjetil
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  #8  
Old 10th February 2005, 18:14
Dick Powers Dick Powers is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jukka Juutinen

I disagree on Pegg. It was a reasonable effort that failed pretty hard on the technical aspects.

Although I might disagree with your evaluation of the technical aspects, the overall package is successful.



What is interesting, and I have ranted on this before, that many ships have far better books written on them. E.g. the Anatomy of the Ship srs have extremely detailed design and technical coverage. It is also very odd that many WW One aircraft have much better books devoted to them than those of the WW Two. Where is e.g. a thorough (with performance curves, design analysis, handling info, pilot reports, material data etc) books on the Marauder, He 111, A-20 etc.?
Ships may be a different problem. Each ship is unique, or at most, only a few are built. Although the design and construction may be much more complicated than for an aircraft prototype, at least prior to the last 30 or so years. I believe where aircraft histories get complicated is when a single book tries to deal with a design having tens of factory variations, twice that of field variations and production that runs into the thousands. trying to make sense of this must be a challenge.

BTW - I saw recently that Crowood will issue one book on the A-20 family, another on the A-26 family. Although Crowood's books can be derivative, sometimes they can produce a gem; Kev Darling's book on the Typhoon, Tempest and Sea Fury is very good.

I certainly agree that flight test data, pilot reports, and similar information should be inlcuded.
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  #9  
Old 10th February 2005, 18:24
Dick Powers Dick Powers is offline
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Re: Bets history books

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kjetil Aakra
Well, there are some to chose from, but the one book that has impressed me the most in recent times is Erik Pilwaskii's "Soviet Air Force Fighters 1941-45"; http://vvs.hobbyvista.com/Mybook/bookaddendum.html
Thanks for your comment. I browsed a copy last year, but put it back. Sounds like I didn;t pay attention to the content, only the title.

I do believe that there are a few publishers that consistently demonstrate a commitment to quality, and I feel comfortable buying their books unseen. I alphabetical order, Classic Publications, Eagle Editions, and Hikoki.

As far as Soviet aircraft designs, there is no reason that they should have been inferior to western designs. They were, however, designed for a different set of circumstances.[/quote]
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  #10  
Old 10th February 2005, 19:12
Jukka Juutinen Jukka Juutinen is offline
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Dick, I have Crowood´s A-20 book. It is quite good and so far the best A-20 book I have seen, though I haven´t seen too many However, you cannot do a comprehensive book on type like the A-20 in about 200 pages.

Of course, many ships are unique. But you must not forget that many ships went thru vast number of modifications, sometimes calling for extensive structural rework. E.g. they might have had their 18 coal firing boilers landed and replaced with 8 oil firing boilers. Not a simple and quick task. I think the greatest reason for this situation is background of authors. Many of the famous ship authors have naval architect or similar background. How many Classic, Hikoki, Osprey authors have piston engine aircraft designer background?
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