Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950, Jean-Denis Lepage

Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950, Jean-Denis Lepage

The torpedo bomber was one of the anti-shipping weapons of the Second World War, but it had a surprisingly short existence. The first attempts to take torpedoes into the air were made before the First World War, and the British were planning for a major torpedo bomber attack on the German fleet in 1919, but the war ended before it could be carried out. During the inter-war period technology evolved to the point where the torpedo bomber was effective, if someone difficult to use correctly. Torpedo bombers scored major successes during the Second World War, most famously at Taranto and Pearl Harbor, and played a significant role for much of the rest of the war. However by the end of the conflict the dedicated torpedo bomber was already fading away. Dive bombers, rockets, guided missiles and other weapons began to replace them, and the last know combat use of a standard torpedo was actually against a dam in Korea! 

The book is split into six sections – pre 1914, First World War, Interwar, two on the Second World War and one on the post-war period. Each section begins with an overview, followed by one chapter for each country that developed torpedo bombers in that period. The chapters are made up of fairly short descriptions of every aircraft that could carry torpedoes, covering their development, technical specifications, and a brief overview of their service career (if any). The author has produced his own illustrations for the book, with at least one for every aircraft (including one or two cases where the aircraft was never actually built!). Most of these illustrations are excellent, and I rather like the idea of using a single consistant art style throughout the book (my only quibble here is that the pictures almost all follow the related article, which often places them on a different page, so I’ve sometimes found myself looking at the wrong picture).

I found the first three to be most conistantly useful, along with the earlier parts of the two Second World War chapters, where most of the aircraft were either dedicated torpedo bombs, or defiately saw service in that role. I found the earlier sections more useful than the later sections. Many of the aircraft examined in the Second World War and especially the Post-war sections were theoretically capable of carrying torpedoes, but most of them didn’t use them in action (especially those created after the last use of an air dropped torpedo, which came during the Korean War, and was against a dam, not a ship!). Most of the last section feels like a bit of a waste of space. I would rather that space had been used to look at the actual torpedo use by some of the earlier aircraft – it’s all very well to learn that the B-24 Liberator or B-25 Mitchell could carry a torpedo – the real question is how often did they do so? For me the divide is perhaps the point at which dedicated torpedo bombers start to be replaced by multi-purpose aircraft that increasingly filled other roles most of the time.

I would have liked to see more information on the actual torpedo bombing career of more of the aircraft, but otherwise this is this in an excellent reference work, covering a remarkable number of aircraft from an impressive range of countries.

Part One: Early Torpedo Bombers
1 – Torpedo
2 – Torpedo Bombers
3 – Early Experiments

Part Two: The First World War 1914-18
4 – Development of Torpedo Bombers
5 – Britain
6 – Germany and Austria-Hungary
7 – Italy
8 – France
9 – United States
10 – Japan

Part Three: The Interwar Years 1918-39
11 – The Development of Military Aviation
12 – The Development of Torpedo Bomberes
13 – Aircraft Carriers
14 – Britain
15 – United States
16 – Japan
17 – France
18 – Italy
19 – Germany
20 – The Netherlands
21 – Soviet Union
22 – Poland

Part Four: The Second World War in Europe
23 – Torpedo Bomber Tactics
24 – France
25 – Britain
26 – The Netherlands
27 – Italy
28 – Germany
29 – Sweden
30 – Soviet Union

Part Five: The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific
31 – The Pacific Theatre
32 – Australia
33 – United States
34 – Japan

Part Six: Torpedo Bombers after 1945
35 – Decline of the Torpedo Bomber
36 – Britain
37 – United States
38 – France
39 – Soviet Union
40 - Japan

Author: Jean-Denis Lepage
Edition: Hardcover
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation
Year: 2020

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