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Hidden Warbirds

12 June 2013

Hidden Warbirds

Hidden Warbirds: the epic stories of finding, recovering & rebuilding WWII’s lost aircraft, Nicholas A. Veronico, 2013, ISBN 978-0-7603-4409-5, 256 pp.

Hidden Warbirds: the epic stories of finding, recovering & rebuilding WWII's lost aircraft by Nicholas A. Veronico, cover design by Chris Fayers with cover photo by Charles Darby

Hidden Warbirds: the epic stories of finding, recovering & rebuilding WWII’s lost aircraft by Nicholas A. Veronico, cover design by Chris Fayers with cover photo by Charles Darby

Read this book if you are interested in learning about the culture of people and organizations which search and find historic aircraft wrecks of the Second World War. Better, read this book if you want to learn the back stories of the recovery of many of these warbird wrecks from WW II to flying status as well as becoming exhibits in museums. Best, read this book for the stories of the service personnel who died within or survived the crashes that wrecked these aircraft — often, incredible stories of survival after becoming stranded in the remotest of territories are part of each war wreck’s tale.

Nicholas Veronico is an accomplished writer and photographer. He has an easy and flowing writing style that is informative, as well as deeply knowledgeable, not only giving readers the facts but relating the history leading to the crashes and the people involved — as well as each aftermath. The cover photo on Hidden Warbirds is of the famous B-17E known as “Swamp Ghost” since it lay forgotten in a New Guinea swamp until rediscovered three decades later. The survival story of the crew is remarkable as is the tale, taking several years, of Swamp Ghost’s recovery. This recovery was no easy task since the aircraft was neither in water nor on dry land and miles from firm ground. Politics and a little bit of greed are also part of the saga of getting Swamp Ghost to the Pacific Aviation Museum.

The chapter on Swamp Ghost, about 15 pages, is worthy of a separate review due to Veronico’s writing and image quality (National Geographic in caliber). The other chapters in this book are equal in those qualities, as well. Aircraft recovery and restoration are not only covered in detail but the community of finders (wreck chasers) and restorers are each specifically discussed  — who they are and the specialties they possess. Aside from the well done index and bibliography there is an extensive listing of museums and restoration outfits — more than enough to inspire as well as amaze readers with respect to the world of finding lost warbirds, recovering them, restoring them and even re-restoring them. We learn, too, that recovering and restoring a warbird is not a money making enterprise and not by a long shot.

Throughout the book Veronico tells readers amazing stories. Some of the stories told in Hidden Warbirds are (though there are many more):

  • A Douglas B-18 Bolo which unintentionally crash landed in Hawaii — and so remote it is only accessable by helicopter, even today
  • A North American F-6D Mustang (a photo reconnaissance aircraft based on the P-51D) and the surprisingly numerous differences between the F-6 and the P-51 though they are outwardly nearly identical. This aircraft is now the famous “Lil Margaret” which has flying status.
  • The challenges when recovering U.S. Air Force as opposed to U.S. Navy aircraft
  • Japanese aircraft recovery from jungles, Luftwaffe aircraft from lakes, USN aircraft from underwater and U.S. Army Air Force aircraft from within a glacier

Veronico also does what the best non-fiction authors do — he provides context as well as perspective. He tells us how warbird restoration began and evolved with the times including the influence of internet resources. He also describes how restoration, at first basic, became a craft of the highest order with incredible attention to detail and authenticity. This story is told by a person who has been there and can relate his knowledge in a gifted way. Nicholas Veronico finishes with an epilogue that will make most of this book’s readers jump up and look for the many more remaining Hidden Warbirds.


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press has provided a copy of this book to read and provide an objective review — no compensation has been offered, expected or requested.

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