Books on War in the Air

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Books - War in the Air

Lockheed Blackbird – Beyond the Secret Missions, the Missing Chapters, Paul F. Crickmore. A very impressive volume on this record breaking Mach 3 reconnaissance aircraft, covering every aspect of its career in massive detail. Includes detailed sections on the design and development of the aircraft, the test flights, training and selection of its crews, all of the technical problems faced by the pilots, and its operational record. Greatly expanded compared to earlier books because the author had access to newly declassified material, and also benefits from the authors close relationship with many of the aircraft and other people involved in the programme (Read Full Review)
U-2 Dragon Lady Units 1955-90, Peter E Davies. Looks at the first 35 years of the career of the U-2, one of the few aircraft to remain in military service for over 50 years. Covers its original development, its early use on high altitude flights over the Soviet Union (famously ended when one was shot down in 1960) and its later career operating around most of the world, and in new roles, outliving its replacement and still being modified now (Read Full Review)
F3D/ EF-10 Skyknight Units of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Joe Copalman. Looks at the combat record of the US Navy’s first jet powered night fighter, starting with its limited use as a night fighter over Korea, where it suffered six losses and claimed six victories, to its more succesful time as an electronic warfare aircraft, operating around Cuba and in Vietnam, detecting and jamming enemy radar (Read Full Review)
F-8 Crusader Vietnam 1963-73, Peter E. Davies. Looks at the track record of the US Navy’s best dogfighter of the Vietnam War, covering its development, weapon systems, the rival MiG-17 and MiG-21, and the key combats in the most active period in the late 1960s, when most of the direct clashes between the rival fighters took place. There aren’t many of these clashes, but they are well described, and are unusual for the combination of classic dogfighting and guided missiles (Read Full Review)
F2H Banshee Units, Richard R Burgess. Looks at the career of one of the US Navy’s first generation jets of the 1950s, which saw brief combat as a fighter and fighter-bomber in Korea, and longer use as a photo-reconnaissance aircraft, as well as becoming the Navy’s first tactical nuclear bomber, briefly a night fighter (in rather small numbers) and serving with the Canadian air force (Read Full Review)
The Aviation Pioneers of McCook Field, Jerry Koszyk. A series of interviews with the people who worked at McCook Field when it was the centre of US Army aviation research in the early 1920s, carrying out pioneering work across a range of subjects from the parachute and improving engines to high altitude and long distance flights, often at great risk to the test pilots. A fascinating series of insights into the often dangerous world of these early aviation pioneers, who helped turning flying from a risky venture into a daily part of life (Read Full Review)
US Attack Aviation, R.G. Head. A history of US light attack aircraft looking at their development, combat roles, the differences between the USAAF/ USAF and Navy attitudes to the attack role, with an especially big section devoted to the development of the joint Air Force/ Navy A-7. Could do with more on the Second World War, but otherwise good, with interesting insights into how the two US services approach the attack role and how that impacts on the aircraft they have purchased over the years (Read Full Review)
F-86A Sabre - Korea 1950-51, Peter E. Davies. Looks at the role of the F-86 Sabre in Korea, and in particular its battles against the MiG-15s of the Soviet, Chinese and North Korean air forces. Good material on how the two types of aircraft reached Korea, how their units were organised, how their pilots were trained and operated, and how the two types performed in combat (Read Full Review)
McDonnell XP-67 Moonbat – Steve Richardson and Peggy Mason. Looks at McDonnell’s first fighter aircraft, the radical twin engine XP-67, which featured extensive blending between fuselage, wing and engine nacelle. We trace the development of the design and look at the test flights carried out by the single prototype in great detail. The result is a detailed picture of a potentially promising design let down by its reliance on a new engine that never entered production, and which would have been very difficult to replace with a larger engine because of the blending that made the aircraft interesting in the first place (Read Full Review)
Infantry Antiaircraft Missiles – Man-Portable Air Defense Systems, Steven J. Zaloga. Looks at the technology behind these weapons, traces their development in the United States, Soviet Union, Britain and elsewhere, covering the main versions that have entered production, how they were used in combat, and covers examples of their main uses in combat, from their debut in the Arab-Israeli wars to the current conflict in Syria. Ends with a look at how they may evolve in the future, and the impact they still have on modern air warfare (Read Full Review)
B-36 ‘Peacemaker’ Units of the Cold War, Peter E Davies. A look at US Strategic Air Command’s first new post war long range nuclear bomber, still the largest bomber ever to have served with the USAF (admittedly only seeing ten years of service). Good material on the development of the aircraft, the attempts to make it more reliable and then improve its performance, and the role of the impressively large crew (Read Full Review)
Douglas XB-19 – America’s Giant World War II Intercontinental Bomber, William Wolf. A look at the Douglas XB-19, the USAAF’s largest bomber from 1941 to 1946, but one that was obsolete by the time it made its first flight. Examines the still impressive aircraft in great detail, making it clear how much of a technical achievement it was, and looking at how it contributed to the development of the engines used on the B-29 (Read Full Review)
Early French Aviation 1905-1930, Graham M. Simons. A splendid collection of photographs of early French aircraft, mainly from the pre 1914 era, the first decade of powered heavier than air flight. Includes a fascinating mix of the sensible and the wacky, all supported by very well researched captions which provide technical details of the aircraft as well as their fate. An excellent source for the early history of aviation in its main pre-war powerhouse. (Read Full Review)
Yokosuka D4Y ‘Judy’ Units, Mark Chambers with Tony Holmes. A well written look at the operational history of a dive bomber that arrived too late to be truly effective as a carrier based dive bomber, and that suffered heavy losses during the battle of the Philippine Sea, before spending the rest of the war as a land based bomber, achieving limited success in both the conventional and kamikaze roles. (Read Full Review)
Strike from the Air – The Early Years of the US Air Forces, Terry C. Treadwell. A look at the earliest days of American military aviation, from the formation of the first Army and Navy aircraft units before the First World War, to the massive (if not terribly succesful) expansions plans after American entered the war, and on to the story of American volunteers fighting for the newly independent Poland. Covers both the Army and Navy, so we get a look at the US role on the Western Front, and the rather more significant role of US Naval aviation during the first Battle of the Atlantic (Read Full Review)
Torpedo Bombers 1900-1950, Jean-Denis Lepage. Looks at the fairly short history of the torpedo bomber, focusingly mainly on the aircraft themselves, with a series of historical introductions looking at the development of the torpedo and torpedo bomber, and each of the historical periods the book is split into. The book is built around hundreds of short articles on the individual aircraft, each supported by at least one of the author’s own illustrations. Very useful for the earlier period, and well into the Second World War, perhaps less so later on, reflecting the decline of the actual torpedo bomber!(Read Full Review)
Balloons and Airships – A Tale of Lighter Than Air Aviation, Anthony Burton. A rather fun look at the history of lighter than air aviation, going all the way from the earliest experiments with manned balloons, through the early 20th century heyday of the airship and finishing with today’s leasure ballooning and some of the attempts to revive the airship. A fascinating look at the brave pioneers of air flight, and the impact they had on the world. Also includes a look at the balloon at war – in the Franco-Prussian War and American Civil War and the use of the airship during the First World War(Read Full Review)
Fighter Aircraft Since 1945, Frank Schwede. This book falls into something of a gap between the two main types of aircraft books - detailed examinations of individual types and encyclopaedic books covering as many types as possible. Instead the author has chosen to provide medium sized articles covering a smaller selection of the most important types. Organised by area, then manufacturer and finally by date, but without losing the overall picture of fighter development (Read Full Review)
F-15C Eagle vs MiG-23/25 Iraq 1991, Douglas C. Dildy & Tom Cooper. Looks at the war in which the west realised that it’s best fighter aircraft outclassed their feared Soviet opponents, despite the limitations of the weapons it was armed with. Studies the background to the war, the development of the aircraft and their weapons, the way they were controlled, and the results of the limited number of clashes between the F-15s and the two Soviet types(Read Full Review)
Images of War: United States Naval Aviation 1911-2014, Michael Green. Covers the full range of US naval aircraft, from the early biplanes that entered service only five years after the first powered flight to the modern jet aircraft and unmanned drones. Split into four time periods, with each section beginning with a brief introduction to each aircraft type, followed by the photos themselves, each supported by a useful caption. Also includes a short section of colour plates, mainly of more modern aircraft or surviving older types (Read Full Review)

First World War

Bloody April 1917 – The Birth of modern air power, James S. Corum. Looks at the aerial battles of April 1917 from an operational, tactical and strategic level, instead of focusing on individual air battles, thus giving us a much clearer picture of what both sides were attempting to achieve in the air, and why the Germans won an equally impressive victory in the air as they did on the ground. Finishes with a useful look at how the three combatants learnt from the battles of April 1917 (Read Full Review)
Voices in Flight: Escaping Soldiers and Airmen of World War I, Martin W. Bowman. Despite the title this book actually contains twelve articles on air warfare during the First World War with no connection to escapers, followed by seven looking at escape stories. Not what the title would lead you to expect, but does include plenty of interesting articles on its actual topic as well as a mix of Allied and German escape stories, mainly told in the escapers own words (Read Full Review)
Winged Sabres - One of the RFC’s Most Decorated Squadrons, Robert A. Sellwood. A detailed history of No.20 Squadron, RFC, one of the most successful two seat fighter squadron of the First World War, reconstructing the lost record books for 1916 and 1918 to add to the details of 1917. Also tries to compare British claims to German losses and vica-versa, and to place the fighting in the context of the fighting below on the ground and the changes in aerial combat (Read Full Review)
The Royal Navy's Air Service in the Great War, David Hobbs. An impressive history of the RNAS, the organisation that developed many of the principles of naval aviation while under intense pressure during the First World War, only to disappear into the RAF in 1918. Traces the impressive development of the service, which ended the war on the verge of attempting a massed torpedo bomber attack on the German fleet in its anchorages, a precursor of Taranto and Pearl Harbor that was only abandoned because of the end of the war (Read Full Review)
Air Raids on South-West Essex in the Great War, Alan Simpson. Looks at the impact of German air raids on the north-eastern suburbs of London, which at the time into south-west Essex, and on the rural approaches to the city. Despite the sub-title the book covers both the Zeppelin raids and the later aircraft raids. As well as looking at the raids themselves, the author also follows the British response, both on the ground and in the air, to provide a useful snapshot of the 'first blitz'. [read full review]
Images of War: Great War Fighter Aces 1914-1916, Norman Franks. Covers the air war from the outbreak of conflict to the end of 1916, the period in which fighter aircraft were first developed, and the first 'aces' appeared. The majority of the photos are of those aces, a mix of formal portraits and pictures around their aircraft, with a smattering of other related pictures. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction to the air war in that period, along with potted biographies of the main people shown in the photos [read full review]
The First Blitz - Bombing London in the First World War, Ian Castle. A detailed raid-by-raid study of the German bombing offensive against London in the First World War, looking at the nine Zeppelin raids and eighteen aircraft raids that reached the capital. Follows the story from both sides, tracing the development of the German units, the British response to the raids and the details of each of the individual raids. [read full review]
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The Birth of the Royal Air Force, Wing Commander Ian Philpott.. A useful reference work on British air power during the First World War, covering the RFC, RNAS and the formation of the RAF, with useful sections on organisation, aircraft, airfields, actual operations on the home front, the Western Front and further afield as well as the training and background structure of all three organisations [read full review]
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In the Teeth of the Wind: Memoirs of the Royal Naval Air Service in the First World War, Squadron Leader C P O Bartlett DSC.. Very different to the more familiar RFC memoirs, this traces the wartime experiences of a RNAS bomber pilot, mainly operating near the Channel coast, taking part in the first sustained bombing campaign in military history [read full review]
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The First Blitz, Andrew P Hyde. Inspired by a family connection to one of the victims of a bomb that hit a London primary school in June 1917, this book looks at the development of the German aerial attacks on Britain, with a focus on the most successful period of Gotha raids, the unit that carried them out and the leader who briefly turned that unit into an effective weapon. [read full review]
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Somme Success: The Royal Flying Corps and the Battle of the Somme 1916, Peter Hart. A compelling account of the aerial battle fought alongside the more famous fighting on the ground during the long battle of the Somme. Focuses on what the air forces were attempting to achieve and how successful they were, with the more familiar duals between air aces and technological developments placed more firmly in context than is normally the case. [read full review]
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Aircraft of World War I - 1914-1918, Jack Herris and Bob Pearson. Takes an unusual approach for a book on aircraft, organising its subject chronologically and by topic, thus bringing together all of the aircraft involved in a particular battle or campaign, and tracing how they developed. As a result the air war is better tied to the battles on the ground than in books organised aircraft-by-aircraft. [read full review]
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Fighter Aces - The Constable Maxwell Brothers, Alex Revell. An unusual double biography, looking at two brothers who served as fighter pilots, one in the First World War and one in the Second. As a result we get a clear picture of the vast increase in the complexity of aerial warfare in the two decades between the wars, from the standing fighter patrols of the first war to the radar guided interceptions of the Battle of Britain or the complexities of the night fighters, both on defensive and offensive duties [read full review]
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US Air Force Special Operations Command, Rick Llinares and Andy Evans. A look at eight types of aircraft either currently or recently in use with the US Air Force Special Operations Command, from the AC-130 Hercules Gunship to the CV-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor aircraft, with a large number of impressive detailed photographs show each aircraft from a wide variety of angles. [read full review]
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Korean War

F3D/ EF-10 Skyknight Units of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Joe Copalman. Looks at the combat record of the US Navy’s first jet powered night fighter, starting with its limited use as a night fighter over Korea, where it suffered six losses and claimed six victories, to its more succesful time as an electronic warfare aircraft, operating around Cuba and in Vietnam, detecting and jamming enemy radar (Read Full Review)
Sunderland over Far-Eastern Seas, Group Captain Derek K. Empson. The autobiography of an RAF navigator who served in Sunderland flying boats in the mid 1950s, and a successful attempt to explain why the crews of flying boats felt that 'being on boats' was so special. Looks at the unusual nature of service on flying boats, as well as the author's combat experience over Korea and Borneo. [read full review]
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MiG Menace over Korea: The Story of Soviet Fighter Ace Nikolai Sutiagin, Yuri Sutiagin and Igor Seidov. An invaluable account of the career of the leading Soviet fighter ace of the Korean War, this book gives us a fascinating view of life in the Soviet Air Force during its top secret involvement in the Korean War, the only time when Soviet and American fighter pilots clashed in large numbers during the Cold War. [read full review]

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Link to review of Sabres over MiG AlleySabres Over Mig Alley, Kenneth P. Werrell. Based on interviews with American pilots this book details the battles for air superiority over Korea, fought between the US Sabre and the Russian MiG-15 [see more].
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De Havilland Vampire

Link to review of De Havilland Vampire De Havilland Twin-Boom Fighters: Vampire, Venom and Sea Vixen, Barry Jones. Aviation historian Barry Jones traces the history of the Vampire and its twin boom fighter stable mates in UK and overseas service. This is a modern, up-to-date 192 page book with a great level of detail about these much loved aircraft and plenty of illustrations and archive photographs. [see more]
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Fokker Dr. I

Fokker Dr I Aces of World War I, Norman L.R. Franks. This book looks at the Fokker Dr. I from the point of view of the pilots who flew it, and the combat record that they established [see more].
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Fokker Dr I Triplane, Paul Leaman. A well received, well researched and well illustrated book on this classic first world war fighter [see more].
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Handley Page Halifax

Review of Halifax Squadrons by John lake Halifax Squadrons of World War II , Jon Lake. This is a very good book on the combat record of the Handley Page Halifax. It covers much more than just its role as a front line bomber, with chapters on the Halifax with Coastal Command, the Pathfinders and SOE, amongst others. [see more]
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Halifax Squadron: The Wartime Operations of No 640 Squadron, Leconfield, Bill Norman, 2005. A complete operational history of the squadron from its formation in January 1944 to the end of the war. Packed with interviews with members of the squadron, this book gives an invaluable insight into the life of a Bomber Command squadron in the last two years of the Second World War. [see more]
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Hawker Tempest and Typhoon

Typhoon and Tempest Aces of World War War 2, Chris Thomas. This book tells the tale of the troubled Hawker Typhoon, concentrating on its use as a fighter rather than its more successful career as a ground attack aircraft, and its transformation into the excellent Tempest, one of the best fighters of the later years of the Second World War [see more]
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Heinkel He 111

Heinkel He 111, Ron Mackay (Crowood Aviation). A comprehensive look at one of the most famous German aircraft of the Second World War, taking us through its pre-war development, its time as the Luftwaffe's most important bomber early in the war, to its long decline and the eventual collapse of the German bomber force.[see more]
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Heinkel He 112

Heinkel HE 112 in Action, Dénes Bernád. This is an interesting book dedicated to one of the more obscure aircraft produced in Germany before the Second World War. [see more]
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Messerschmitt Bf 109

Messerschmitt Bf 109: Pt. 1, John R. Beaman, Jr. This work provides a good technical history of the 109, tracing the development of the fighter from the early prototypes up to the 109E, the model used during the Battle of Britain. [see more]
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109 in Action 2Messerschmitt Bf 109: Pt. 2 , John R. Beaman, Jr. This second volume continues on from part one, beginning with the Bf 109F, probably the best version of the fighter, and taking the story to the end of the war and beyond. [see more]
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Messerschmitt Bf 110

Messerschmitt Bf 110 Zerstorer Aces of World War 2 (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces), John Weal. This book concentrates on the career of the Bf 110 as a daylight fighter. At the start of the war the aircraft had an impressive reputation, which survived to the end of the French campaign but faded once the aircraft had to face modern fighters. Weal traces the story of the Bf 110 through to the final disastrous attempts to use it against American heavy bombers.
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Sopwith Camel

link to review of Sopwith Camel AcesSopwith Camel Aces of World War 1, Denes Bernad. The Sopwith Camel is probably the most famous British aircraft of the First World War. This book looks at the careers of the fighter aces who captured the imagination of the British public and provided some relief from the gloom of the Western Front [see more]
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Sopwith Triplane

Link to review of Sopwith Triplane AcesSopwith Triplane Aces of World War I, Norman L.R. Franks. An excellent guide to the operations of the Sopwith Triplane, covering all four RNAS squadrons that used the aircraft in 1916 and 1917. Although the Sopwith Triplane was not produced in large numbers, it [see more]
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link to review of French Fighters of WWIIFrench Fighters of World War II, Alain Pelletier. This book tells the story of the French fighter aircraft that attempted to stand up the Luftwaffe in 1940. It covers seven main aircraft and a larger number of minor variants. Each aircraft is taken from development and prototypes through the battle of France and into the period after the armistice. [see more]
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Soviet Union/ Russia

Soviet Spyplanes of the Cold War, Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov. . Looks at two Soviet spyplanes - the high flying Yak-25RV and the high speed reconnaissance versions of the MiG-25. Covers the development and service records of the real aircraft as well as reviews of the limited number of available models. [read full review]
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Russian Gunship Helicopters, Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov. Looks at the Mil Mi-24 (Hind), Mil Mi-28 and Kamov Ka-52, three Soviet and Russian helicopter gunships, with histories and descriptions of all three, supported by excellent photos and plans and model reviews. Interesting material on the development of each type, and model reviews that don't pull their punches. [read full review]
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United States

C-130 Hercules - A History, Martin W. Bowman. A look at the impressive career of the C-130 Hercules, one of the most successful military aircraft of all time, cover its six decades of service with the US military, as well its service with Australian, New Zealand and Great Britain, its use as a straightforward transport, as a gunship and in all sorts of specialist roles. A very readable account of the exploits of this remarkable aircraft and its crews (Read Full Review)
Images of War: Twin Mustang - the North American F-82 at War, Alan C. Carey. A photographic history of the unusual Twin Mustang, the last piston engined fighter to be purchased in large numbers by the US Air Force and a short-lived aircraft that saw limited combat during the Korean War, scoring the first UN aerial victory of the war. [read full review]
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Naval Aviation

On the Deck or in the Drink, Flying with the Royal Navy 1952-1964, Lieutenant Brian R. Allen RN. The autobiography of a pilot in the post-war Fleet Air Arm, recounting his experiences flying a wide range of aircraft from old wartime Avengers to the Fairey Gannet and some alarming early helicopters [read full review]
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Sea Flight: The Wartime Memoirs of a Fleet Air Arm Pilot, Hugh Popham. First published in 1954 this was the first memoir produced by a fighter pilot from the Fleet Air Arm, and captures the feel of the times while the nine year delay means that Popham had time to put his experiences into a wider context, both personally and within the framework of the war. [read full review]
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Fleet Air Arm Carrier Warfare, Kev Darling. A complete history of the Fleet Air Arm's use of aircraft carriers, from the earliest experiments during the First World War, through the Second World War, where the carriers became the most important capital ships in the navy, the Korean War, which saw the Fleet Air Arm involved from the beginning to the end, the Falklands War, which re-emphasised the important of the carrier and right up to the current 'super-carriers'. [read full review]
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On and off the Flight Deck: Reflections of a Naval Fighter Pilot in World War II, Henry 'Hank' Adlam On and off the Flight Deck: Reflections of a Naval Fighter Pilot in World War II, Henry 'Hank' Adlam. A rare example of an autobiography produced by a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm. Adlam served on escort carriers in the Atlantic, and on fleet carriers with the British Pacific Fleet, and gives us his opinions on the aircraft he flew or observed, the command structure in the Royal Navy and an account of the campaigns he fought in. [read full review]
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RAF Coastal Command in Action, 1939-45, Roy C. Nesbit. This is an excellent photographic history of Coastal Command during the Second World War. The book is split into six chapters, one for each year of the war. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the events of the year, and the aircraft that equipped the command before moving on to the photos. Each chapter contains a mix of pictures of the aircraft used by the command and pictures taken by the command. [see more]
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The Fleet Air Arm Handbook 1939-45, David Wragg. This is an excellent book on the Fleet Air Arm, combining a well written history of British Naval Aviation during the Second World War with a detailed reference section on the squadrons and ships of the Fleet Air Arm [see more]
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