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review 2018-10-03 18:14
A WAR MEMOIR ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1943
The Sky Is My Witness - Thomas Moore

"THE SKY IS MY WITNESS" is a slim book (135 pages) that was written during the Second World War by the author, who had been trained to be a U.S. Marine dive bomber pilot in the months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor.   Indeed, 2 days following the attack, Lieutenant Moore was awarded his wings.  

 

Within the next 6 months, Moore was assigned to a dive bomber unit that was moved from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, and on to Midway Island, where it played a part in the Battle of Midway.   He received his baptism of fire while attacking one of the Japanese carriers, barely surviving an onslaught from some of Japan's veteran naval fighter pilots flying the Mitsubishi Zero.    

 

By August 1942, Moore's unit landed on Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, where it was tasked with attacking enemy warships and transports, often at night.     The greatest value of "THE SKY IS MY WITNESS" is that it reflects the thoughts and feelings of a wounded veteran at a time when the Second World War was far from over.

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review 2018-10-02 13:30
FRONTLINE LIVES OF AVIATORS ON CANVAS, 1914-1918
Sky Fighters of France: Aerial Warfare, 1914-1918 - Henry Farré
  The greatest value that comes from "SKY FIGHTERS OF FRANCE" is that it is Henry Farré's account of the 4 years he spent (on attachment with the French Aviation Militaire) with a variety of aviation units (bombardment, reconnaissance/artillery spotting, and 'chasse' or fighter squadrons) on the Western Front --- and with a seaplane unit in the coastal city of Dunkerque.

Farré's remit, as an accomplished artist, was to capture on canvas various aspects of the lives of pilots in frontline settings. And judging from the reproductions of his paintings scattered throughout the book, the reader gets a palpable feel of what the thrills and perils of combat flying were like 100 years ago. For instance, there are paintings of nighttime bombing raids far behind enemy lines (Farré flew several missions as an observer with a night bomber squadron), a couple of crews from damaged seaplanes (referred to in the book as 'hydroplanes') barely above the waves being rescued by a French destroyer, and individual fighter planes engaged in 'mano-a-mano' aerial combat. There are also individual portraits that Farré drew of some of the aviators he met and with whom he established friendships. For example, one of the war's most famous and skilled aviators, Georges Guynemer, who, before his death on September 11, 1917, was credited with shooting down 53 German planes.

For me, as a First World War aviation enthusiast, "SKY FIGHTERS OF FRANCE" is a prized book that was easy to read. It enriched my understanding of what life at the Front was like for those aviators who took part in history's first air war. Merci, Monsieur Henry Farré.

 

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review 2018-09-23 19:53
Polikarpov Fighters in Action, Pt.1 - Aircraft No. 157 - Hans-Heiri Stapfer

This book provides a fairly comprehensive history of the first generation of Polikarpov fighter planes -- all biplanes --- produced by the Soviet Union during the 1930s, which came into being in response to Moscow's decision to modernize the Soviet air force and aviation industry in the Soviet Union. Many of these fighters (e.g. the I-15 and the I-152) saw combat in the Spanish Civil War, in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol (fought between the Soviet Union and Japan from May to September 1939), the Sino-Japanese War (with the Chinese Air Force), and during the early stages of World War II. 

The Polikarpov fighters, when they first arrived on the scene, were among the most advanced aircraft in the world. But by the time Europe was on the eve of war in 1939, these Soviet fighters had become obsolete, due to the widespread adoption of the monoplane fighter by a majority of the world's modern air forces. The day of the biplane was now passé. Nevertheless, Stalin insisted that a more advanced biplane fighter be developed. Thus was born the Polikarpov I-153, which had a retractable landing gear, and boasted a higher speed, as well as heavier armament, than its predecessors. Though a robust fighter, the I-153 proved to be unsuitable for fighter-vs-fighter combat during the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and was largely relegated to the ground attack role until it was phased out of service in 1943. 

This is a fantastic book, with many photos and a page containing illustrations of the various Polikapov fighters (1st generation) in their various uses from the Spanish Civil War, the Sino-Japanese War, to World War II. 

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review 2018-09-08 08:13
VIII Fighter Command at War 'Long Reach' - Michael O'Leary

This book is a first-rate compilation of the experiences of 24 United States Army Air Force (USAAF) fighter pilots who had extensive combat experience in Europe with the 8th Air Force during the Second World War. This compilation was taken from a document commissioned by VIII Fighter Command in the Spring of 1944 that was to be used as a teaching manual for potential fighter pilots undergoing training in the USA. There are also plenty of interesting photos in the book showing the 24 pilots (many of them top scoring aces), the planes they flew, and the combat units with which they served.

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review 2018-09-08 07:14
A TRIBUTE TO THOSE WOMEN PILOTS WHO PERSISTED - AND MADE AVIATION HISTORY
Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History - Keith O'Brien

This book sheds light on the unsung contributions made by women pilots to aviation between 1927 and 1937, a time often referred to as the Golden Age of Aviation. Its focus is on 5 women aviators of the 1920s and 1930s (i.e., Louise Thaden, Florence Klingensmith, Ruth Elder, Amelia Earhart, and Ruth Nichols, whose pilot license was signed by aviation pioneer Orville Wright himself) and their struggles to gain acceptance and respect in the field of aviation. Aviation in its early days was considered more of a "man's sport" and women were discouraged from being a part of it. But these women -- many of whom proved to be extraordinary fliers in their own right --- were made of sterner stuff. These 5 women persisted - and some of them paid the ultimate price for that. 

The only quibble I have with this book is the author's frequent use of the word 'airship' in place of 'airplane'. By common understanding in the aviation industry, 'airship' refers to a 'dirigible', a lighter-than air machine. For that reason, I've taken a star away from what otherwise would have been a 5-star rating.

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