The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird: the Illustrated Profile of Every Aircraft, Crew and Breakthrough of the World’s Fastest Stealth Jet, Richard Graham, 2015, ISBN 9780760348499, 288 pp., 320 color and 116 b/w photos
Graham, former SR-71 pilot, has written the boss book on the mystical and hyper-tech SR-71. Writing on the SR-71 has been a career for Graham and each of his titles bring insight as well as unique information. The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird will become THE reference book on this fantastic aircraft. Included, as well is the history of the A-12, the SR-71’s ancestor which was flown by the CIA. The D-21 drone and its program are contained, as well.
Graham answers the questions authoritatively of why the USAF designed the SR-71 to replace the successful A-12 (evolution or turf war?) and how the SR-71’s original designation (RS-71) was altered (not what is popularly written). It is welcome that these curiosities have finally been put to bed.
The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird lives up to its name by:
- Detailing the design and construction history of the A-12, SR-71 and D-51—highlights and lowlights included
- Mission profiles are described comprehensively as are each mission phase including, refueling, maintenance, engine changes, engine startup and much more
- Each retired SR-71 and A-12 have a dedicated bio, location and photo
- Each SR-71 crew is named and photographed
- A wonderful cutaway drawing of an SR-71A by Mike Badrocke
- Line drawings of the forward and rear cockpits of each SR-71 model
The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird is impressive with its illustrations and imagery beginning with the cover and end pages—it fits into the coffee table size category though it is far from unwieldy. Thankfully, many illustrations are larger than previously published for better understanding (such as how the by-pass air from the enormous engines provided much more thrust than the jet exhaust). Graham’s writing and intimacy with the SR-71 complement the images, many unseen in previous publications (a favorite is small icicles dangling from the chines of a Blackbird), wit h his experience and authorship.
The book serves as well as the only book of the Blackbird family (A-12/SR-71/D-21) in a library as well as to significantly complete that section of any library.
In keeping with the publishing custom, a copy of The Complete Book of the SR-71 Blackbird was provided by Zenith Press for an objective review.
Boeing heavily modified four B-747 aircraft into outsized cargo aircraft. The kind with the swollen-looking fuselages which can carry aloft large objects such as satellites and fuselage sections. Boeing coined the term “Dreamlifter” for these super-specialized super-sized cargo aircraft since their primary means of earning a living is to haul section of Dreamliner (B-787) fuselage sections. Just last week we spotted a Dreamlifter at MIA probably undergoing maintenance and were able to take these long shots through a chain link fence.
25° 48′ 23″ N / 80° 16′ 32″ W
The MD-11 is larger than the DC-10, especially longer but not wider in the fuselage, though from this perspective it looks to be significantly bigger than its immediate ancestor. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective? These two aircraft are seen in Google Earth and an overhead view shows them to be similar is size. So, it is a matter of perspective.
Bombing Europe: the Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force, Kevin A. Mahoney, 2015, ISBN 97807603348154, 240 pp., 200 b/w photos
The U.S. Fifteenth Air Force was tasked to destroy or incapacitate the Axis forces in Central and Southern Europe from 1943 through 1945. It did not enjoy the glamour of bases in Great Britain but flew logistically tough missions such as the shuttle missions which landed in Russia, rearmed and sortied back to southern bases. The low level Ploesti raids also belonged to the Fifteenth so hardly more need be said for their combat challenges.
Mahoney is more than familiar with the history of the Fifteenth and is accomplished as an author so Bombing Europe is no archetypal history book. Instead, it is a concise history laden with trials and tribulations of the aircrews and generously stocked with images. The text relates the thinking and the context of the events while the photos bring these events jumping off the book’s pages.
The images are many, often dramatic and too often tragic. Death and injury in the cold skies high over Europe are recounted in one event after another with no two being the same. The photographs are large—a welcome characteristic of Mahoney’s fine book along with his engaging but never wasteful writing.
Bombing Europe is a small size coffee table book well at home in a library or on a side table. It tells as well as shows the trajectory of the battle with chapters dedicated to all aspects of the struggle—from the flak to reconnaissance; from the Lone Wolf missions to rescues in Slovakia; and from combat with the Axis forces to War Crimes plus so much more.
The photographs show so many happy and good looking combatants as well as fatally hit aircraft and everything in between. This book is gritty, accurate and complete—no Hollywood scripting or imagery here, but what happened and the way it happened.
Bombing Europe is long overdue since the Fifteenth was responsible for more of Europe than other Allied forces but sees little of what it deserves. We have Kevin Mahoney to thank for his work and the Fifteenth Air Force for its more than significant contribution in winning World War II for the Allies. This book tells their story and what a story it is.
As is the publishing custom, Zenith Press provided a copy of Bombing Europe: the Illustrated Exploits of the Fifteenth Air Force for an objective review.
Wings of War: Great Combat Tales of Allied and Axis Pilots During World War II, James P. Busha, 2015, ISBN 9780760348529, 256 pp., 32 color and 123 b/w photos
James P. Busha has literalized important World War II history which has too often been unaddressed in past historical accounts. These individual accounts by service people (both Allied and Axis) recall the context of the times and are not the stuff of grand overview where the ugly details are often dismissed to, coincidentally we are sure, to place things in the best of light.
We learn so much in Wings of War that it is a challenge to write a succinct review, but here are a few stories which may enlighten even the most well-read of us:
- An OS2U Kingfisher pilot backing his aircraft onto a beach to rescue two pilots from the shores of Japan, and under fire no less
- Many aircraft were knowingly sacrificed, crews would have to ditch their aircraft and await ocean rescue after their attacks due to fuel starvation, in order to sink the last of Japan’s aircraft carriers
- How the Battle of Britain was a close run thing
- What is was like to be in a fighter formation which was thirty abreast attacking dozens of heavy bombers
- What is was like to be in a heavy bomber as thirty fighters flying in abreast formation came in for the attack
- How little combat flight training new pilots often received—in all services
- Some pilots loved the often maligned Brewster Buffalo
- What it was like to fly and fight in a Curtiss Helldiver as well as a Douglas Dauntless
- Living as a fighter pilot during a losing effort and against ever increasing odds
- What is was like to be in victorious bombing and attack missions—in all services
- What is was like to be in a disastrous bombing mission—in all services
Busha pulls no punches and does not smooth over rough spots. These are the recollections of warriors who were at the pointy end of the stick where truth is unvarnished, raw and a cold calculation amid racing minds and adrenaline boosted hearts. The context of the war is felt moment by moment—not in comfortable retrospect aware of the end of the story. Engines often performed poorly, surprise enemy appearances were common, flak was either effective or extremely effective, bailing out over enemy ground often had pilots stay with fatally wounded aircraft (often to save wounded crew aboard)—all these and more were some of the everyday experiences by Allied, as well as Axis, airmen so well described by their own words.
Wings of War is important to read and occasionally review while reading about the strategies and overviews of World War II, or any war. Important because the humanity, suffering and selflessness which mark war are generally lost in most historical accounts as they address courses, speeds, tonnage, tactics and results—but not in Wings of War.
As is the publishing custom, Zenith Press provided a copy of Wings of War: Great Combat Tales of Allied and Axis Pilots During World War II for an objective review.