Air Combat 1945: the Aircraft of World War II’s Final Year
Air Combat 1945: the Aircraft of World War II’s Final Year, Donald Nijboer, 2015, ISBN 978-0-8117-1606-2, 203 pp.
Donald Nijboer, noted author, selected the final year of World War II so the advanced aircraft could be the subject of focus as well as telling the tale of how this war wound down on across the globe. It is a rich subject and Nijboer covers it well with historic photographs taken in black and white as well as color.
The usual aircraft in Air Combat 1945 are all there, but Nijboer deftly avoids being clichéd since photos were selected not only for their relevance but uniqueness– Mustang III aircraft of No. 309 RAF (Polish) unit is one of a multitude of examples. Yes, Nijboer moved through the usual suspects of images to pull out gems from the archives which give breadth to the war as opposed to the too often homogenous treatment given to describing the aircraft of World War II.
The Soviet Union, Japan, USA, Great Britain and Italy (flying American made aircraft after their surrender to the Allies) are addressed in individual chapters. Horrifying images of aircraft suffering direct flak hits mix in with fighter aircraft under taxi with mechanics on wings (directing the pilots), public relations quality photos and so many aircraft well-worn and too young old. Two images come to mind that would make for great dioramas—that of an abandoned Mitsubishi F1M (Allied codename Pete) and a Kawasaki Ki-48 Sokei (Allied codename Lily).
Air Combat 1945 is wonderful in describing less the glamour of the time but the reality of it. And the aircraft of the time as well since the end of the war saw designs leagues ahead of their ancestors only a handful of years previous.
The book is large format so the photos are also large—easy to see and encouraging investigation. Mustangs, Bf 109s, Me 262s, Lancasters, B-17s, B-24s and Spitfires are notably covered with other commonly recognized aircraft. Liberally sprinkled among these images are those of unsung though no less technologically significant aircraft (even the by then handicapped Axis powers). Some of these gems are:
|Destroyed Typhoons of Operation Bodenplatte||Halifaxes|
|Lancaster bombing up with a Grand Slam||Westland Welkin|
|Hadrian ditching drawings||Seafires|
|Fairey Barracuda||Fairey Firefly|
|Ju 88 night fighter||Ar 234|
|Me 262 Schwalbe with 50mm nose cannon||He 177 Greif|
|Bv 222 Wiking||Ju 290|
|He 162 Volksjägger||Do 335|
|Torpedo armed SM.79 Sparviero||Fiat G.55 Centauro|
|CANT Z.1007 Alcione||P-39 Airacobras|
|Sikorsky R-4B Hoverfly||B-17G Dumbo (lifeboat and search radar)|
|B-32 Dominators||B-29 Superfortresses|
|Many horrendous flak hits||Defensive fire bullet dispersal pattern analyses|
|Many gorgeous images of massive formations||P-61|
|Rare Nakajima Ki-87 with exhaust turbocharger||Nakajima Ki-115 Tsurugi|
|Mitsubishi Ki-67 Hiryu heavy bomber (Peggy)||Tachikawa Ki-74 long range recce|
|Tachikawa Ki-94-II high altitude fighter||Mitsubishi J8M Shushi (rocket powered)|
|Nakajima B6N2 Tenzan (Jill) + surface search radar||Nakajima G5N Shinzan (Liz) strategic bomber|
Happily, there are more unusual aircraft photos. Education is present and clear, as well. Captions and short descriptive paragraphs compliment the images in a smooth delivery of what could easily be made complex by a lesser author. What is made clear, but less addressed in many other books is:
- The armored decks of Royal Navy aircraft carriers had them suffer much less than U.S. Navy aircraft carriers,
- Aircrews of both sides boldly flew through flak, gun turrets were more accurate than man-handles machine guns
- The cutaway drawing of Allied and Axis aircraft
This book has value in setting the winding down to the conclusion of World War II had no relaxing aspect to it and aircraft design continued evolving at searing pace in the Axis as well as Allied air forces. The images and illustrations are an excellent cross-section of nearly all combat aircraft as well as specialized ones.
As is the publishing custom, Stackpole Books provided a copy of Air Combat 1945: the Aircraft of World War II’s Final Year for an objective review.