Books - The Air War


Aces of the Reich: The Making of a Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot by Mike Spick

Pegasus Archive review: A chronicle of the evolution of the Luftwaffe from its origins in the First World War to the supremacy that it attained at the beginning of the Second. Mike Spick, whose knowledge of military aviation is impeccable, provides a highly detailed analysis of the Luftwaffe's strengths and shortcomings, discusses their tactical outlook and the numerous personalities who helped, or indeed hindered their development, and profiles a number of the leading German aces and their incredible records. The narrative follows the course of the War from the Luftwaffe's perspective and examines the reasons for the gradual decline of German strength in the air, and how their squadrons were changed from a devastating weapon of attack into one of increasingly desperate defence. He also explores the new aircraft which became available as the war progressed and the ever-changing face of aerial combat, with the introduction of new concepts such as night-fighters and jet aircraft. Price £10.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


The Armed Rovers: Beauforts and Beaufighters Over the Mediterranean by Roy Conyers Nesbit

Pegasus Archive review: It is a mystery why so little has been written about the anti-shipping operations carried out by the RAF during the Second World War, as it is a story of great heroism and sacrifice, where the dangers to the attacker were as high as they were to the attacked. The operations also had a highly influential impact on campaigns on the ground, with each ship sunk sapping the ability of the enemy land forces to resist. In the Mediterranean theatre, with which this book is concerned, the efforts of the RAF and the Royal Navy at times so disrupted the German and Italian supply lines to North Africa that only a fraction of their ships arrived safely, and this was one of the decisive factors in their defeat. This excellent book tells the story of a campaign which raged, almost unnoticed by posterity, throughout the entire duration of the War, and the vicious struggle which developed, in the air as well as on the surface, as the British attempted to take on the heavily protected convoys. Price £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


British Airfields of the Second World War by Stuart Hadaway

Pegasus Archive review: A short but beautifully presented and interesting introduction to the construction and operation of a typical British airfield of the Second World War. Over 600 were built, and played an absolutely critical role in the defence of Britain and later in the liberation of Europe. This book examines their condition at the start of the war, when a great many of the old grass landing strips surrounded by wooden installations were still being modernised in favour of concrete and steel. It describes how they were built, organised, defended, and with a number of photographs also illustrates the daily life around them. Copies may be purchased from Amazon.


Catalina Over Arctic Oceans by John French

Pegasus Archive review: Compiled from the notes of Wing Commander John French, this fascinating memoir catalogues his service with the RAF from 1938 until retirement in 1962, and in particular his wartime association with the Catalina flying boat. With this iconic aircraft he flew sorties in the Mediterranean in support of the landings of the 1st Allied Army in Morocco and Algeria in November 1942, but above all it is the story of that more unfamiliar war in the distant north, flying anti-submarine patrols out of Shetland, searching for downed airmen, attempting to locate the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst battleships hiding in the Norwegian fjords, and escorting the Arctic Convoys to Murmansk. It was on one of the latter sorties that his crew spotted and sank German submarine. French developed an interest in Russia as a consequence of these missions, and in the post-war period he made many official trips behind the Iron Curtain, meeting a number of key personalities, including Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Nikita Khruschev. Price £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Darwin Spitfires by Anthony Cooper

Pegasus Archive review: A beautifully presented book devoted to the forgotten defence of Darwin during the Second World War. Several books and indeed Hollywood movies have drawn attention to the Japanese air raids which took place on the 19th February 1942, yet the ensuing battles for control of the airspace over Northern Australia, which raged until the end of 1943, have managed to escape the notice of not just the world but many Australians themselves. It was not a campaign of such life and death importance as the Battle of Britain; the Japanese attacks failed to make any noticeable impact and were never mounted on a scale to be anything more than a nuisance, whilst the British and Australian Spitfires of No.1 Fighter Wing were unable to exact an impressive toll on the aggressors and in fact struggled against the more reliable armament and superior battle drill of the Japanese Zero's. Yet this campaign successfully defended Australia from the only sustained attack that it has known in its history, and this thorough and impeccably researched book does a very fine job in bringing it to wider notice. Price £20.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Douglas DC-3 by Robert Jackson

Pegasus Archive review: The DC-3 has a special place in the history of aviation, with its classic design establishing new benchmarks for reliability and luxury, and it was so successful in pioneering new mail and passenger routes during the latter half of the 1930's that within a few short years 600 had been built and enjoyed a near monopoly on commercial air travel over the USA. This achievement was dwarfed by its performance during the Second World War, with over 15,000 military versions being produced as the C-47 Skytrain, otherwise known as the Dakota to the British and the Lisunov Li-2 to the USSR. It provided the Airborne Forces with a superb parachute dropping and glider towing aircraft, but above all saw ubiquitous service as a transport workhouse, carrying passengers and freight all over the globe, delivering supplies to forward bases and evacuating wounded on the return flight. This book summarises its service history, but with many colour photographs and renderings it is primarily intended as a superb reference for modellers, including a wide range of patterning examples and close up detail of numerous component parts. Price: £16.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


The Few: Preparation for the Battle of Britain by Philip Kaplan

Pegasus Archive review: As a part of the Images of War series, this book contains the usual range of excellent photographs, each accompanied by detailed notes to describe the course of the campaign as it unfolded. Starting with the desperate preparations of the British, with Spitfires and Hurricanes in varying degrees of construction on the assembly line, it proceeds to describe the struggle to defend Channel shipping, the vital radar stations, the airfields, and ultimately London. Accompanying all of this is Philip Kaplan's not inconsiderable narrative, which concisely accounts for these phases of the Battle of Britain, with individual stories from both sides cleverly woven in to give a very personal feel to quite typical engagements. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Fighter! Fighter! Corkscrew Port! : Vivid Memories of Bomber Aircrew in World War Two by Pat Cunningham

Pegasus Archive review: This book consists of ten accounts of Bomber Command veterans, whose dramatic stories describe their first days in the Royal Air Force and the numerous sorties in which they were involved. The accounts cover a broad spectrum of the experience of aircrews, be they flying Mosquitos, Stirlings, Lancasters, Wellingtons or Baltimores, describing the numerous situations that any crew might encounter, with one account even covering the conversion of his squadron to Transport Command, ferrying SOE agents behind enemy lines and towing gliders and dropping parachutists of the British Airborne Divisions. The result is a comprehensive cross-section of life in Bomber Command which pays tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the aircrews who, despite terrible casualties, played a decisive role in the defeat of Germany. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Fighter Operations in Europe & North Africa 1939-1945 by David Wragg

Fighter Operations in Europe and North Africa 1939-1945 tells the inspiring story of Allied and German fighter pilots in Europe, over the Mediterranean and in North Africa during the Second World War. The book starts with the early skirmishes as each side tested the other's defences, moves through the Battle of Britain and onto the Blitz, when the emphasis switched from single-engined day fighters to twin-engined night fighters. At this time, fighters were increasingly used to conduct destructive sweeps over occupied France. This overlapped with the need to provide air cover for the strategically vital island fortress of Malta, as well as defensive operations against Axis forces in Crete and North Africa. The contribution of the too often neglected Desert Air Force, formed from elements of many Allied air forces, is well covered as is the shift to offensive operations as the balance of power changed. The invasions of Sicily, mainland Italy and the South of France also relied heavily on fighter cover, initially by carrier-based aircraft. From June 1944 the lessons learnt in North Africa were put to good use by the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force, working closely with the advancing Allied armies and achieving overwhelming air supremacy. The book also covers the actions of Luftwaffe fighter pilots as they took on the RAF by night and the USAAF by day. For a well-informed description of the development of tactics and aircraft types as well as exploits of the combatants, Fighter Operations in Europe and North Africa 1939-1945, written by a much published authority, is unlikely to be bettered. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Fighters Under Construction in World War Two by Graham Simons

Pegasus Archive review: Rare and unpublished photographs show numerous aircraft of the Royal Air Force as they have scarcely been seen before; divided into their component parts on a production line. Chapters cover the Spitfire, Seafire, Hurricane, Mosquito, Hornet, Typhoon, Tempest, Beaufighter, Walrus and Aircobra, as well as the production of propellers, the Merlin engine and 20mm Hispano cannon. The photographs alone give a vivid sense of the production stages of each, showing the numerous phases by which the airframe was fashioned by expert craftsmen, long before the days of modern robotic assembly. Extensive notes accompany each photograph and they give a real insight into the manufacturing process as well as a brief overview and service history of the aircraft. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Flying Tiger Ace by Carl Molesworth

Synopsis: Bill Reed had it all ­- brains, looks, athleticism, courage and a talent for leadership. After a challenging childhood in Depression-era Iowa, Reed joined the US Army Air Corps, but the outbreak of World War II saw him give up his commission. Instead, he travelled to China to fly for the American Volunteer Group - the legendary Flying Tigers. After a brief return to America, he resumed the fight as a senior pilot and later squadron commander in the Chinese-American Composite Wing. Soon afterwards, Reed tragically lost his life in a desperate parachute jump late in the war, by which point he was a fighter ace with nine confirmed aerial victories. His obituary was front-page news throughout the state of Iowa. This book is a biography of his extraordinary life, focusing on his time spent flying with some of the famous aerial groups of World War II. It draws heavily on Reed's own words, along with the author's deep knowledge of the China air war and years of research into Reed's life, to tell his compelling story. Copies may be purchased from Amazon


Hitler's Jet Plane: The ME 262 Story by Mano Ziegler

Pegasus Archive review: The ME 262, the first military jet to enter service, was amongst the most significant of Adolf Hitler's so-called "miracle weapons" which were to save the Reich. The author of this book is well placed to tell the story of this famous aircraft as he not only flew it but helped to design it. Consequently we are treated to a most comprehensive account of the ME 262, from the initial development stages through to its belated entry into service during the final months of 1944. Ziegler correctly focuses on the reasons behind this late arrival as it could have reached the front line much earlier, and may well have had a significant impact on the efforts of the Allies to win air supremacy over the continent. Yet Hitler's peculiar conviction that it should only be developed as a bomber, rather than the fighter which it quite clearly was, resulted in it only coming into service once that battle was effectively over. Despite numerous successes, the Luftwaffe's dwindling resources and pilots were faced with the insurmountable, and it became apparent that even a miracle weapon could only do so much. Price £10.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Hitler's Spyplane Over Normandy 1944 by Philippe Bauduin

Pegasus Archive review: The Arado 234 was one of Adolf Hitler's "miracle weapons", and yet, built on only a very small scale, it was never able to achieve the fame of the Me-262 and the V weapons. It nevertheless made aviation history, first by completing several very successful reconnaissance sorties over the Normandy beachhead, flying so fast and so high that it passed unnoticed by the Allies, and when a later variant was equipped with a payload of bombs it became the world's first jet bomber. This book describes the origins of Germany's jet technology and the evolution of the Ar-234, helped in no small measure by the contributions of Erich Sommer, who flew its maiden sortie over Normandy. This is as much his story as it is that of the aircraft he flew, and gives an insight into how pioneering men such as himself came to be involved with these remarkable projects. Included in the book are a great many rare and unpublished photographs, including the quite fabulous results of the Normandy reconnaissance. Price £20.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


The Luftwaffe over Germany: Defense of the Reich by Don Caldwell and Richard Muller

Pegasus Archive review: A superbly presented account of the Luftwaffe and its ultimately doomed attempt to dominate the skies of Europe in the face of continuous bombing by the impressive might of the RAF and the USAAF. It was a campaign which was enormously important for the outcome of the Second World War, and although it is a subject which has been very well documented from the Allied perspective, remarkably little research has been forthcoming from that vital and all too often overlooked component of properly understanding any battle; matters from the enemy's point of view. In this the authors have delivered a veritable tour de force, using new information, in the form of official records and interviews with veterans, to describe the course of the campaign in chronological order, highlighting the tactics employed and the ongoing technological battle to gain an edge over their opponents. The result is a meticulously researched book which is deserving of a place on the shelf of any enthusiast of the air war, and one which truly establishes a benchmark for future studies. Price: £28.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Luftwaffe Special Weapons by Robert Forsyth

Pegasus Archive review: It is well known that Germany embraced radical new technologies to turn the tide in their losing battle against the immense industrial might of the Allies, and with the V1 flying bomb, V2 rocket, and Me262 jet fighter, pioneered concepts which dominate military thinking to this day. This wonderfully illustrated book explores the much less known concepts devised by the struggling Luftwaffe, some of which were trialled and even used in action, while others never progressed beyond the design phase. They include wire-guided air to air missiles and anti-shipping glide bombs, more conventional weapons such as large calibre anti-tank cannons and rocket-firing aircraft, and some truly out of the box ideas like dropping bombs on bomber formations, and the very simple but potentially devastating tactic of using fighters trailing long lengths of reinforced cable to sever aircraft wings and destroy engines. Copies may be purchased from Amazon.


Missing Believed Killed: Casualty Policy and the Missing Research and Enquiry Service 1939-1952 by Stuart Hadaway

Pegasus Archive review: While most military personnel were stood down at the end of the Second World War, the Missing Research and Enquiry Service, formed from a small nucleus established in 1941, was expanded and began to trace the remains of those 41,881 RAF aircrew who had been posted as "Missing Believed Killed". With no front line, no definite battlefields and many aircraft lost at night in unknown locations, it was an enormously complex undertaking with investigators having to draw on what little information was available from all manner of sources. Stuart Hadaway first outlines the establishment and development of the MRES throughout the war, and goes on to describe each of the areas where their work took them; from the Arctic Circle to Western Europe, the Mediterranean and Burma. He paints a vivid picture of what they encountered, be it hostile landscapes and climates, uncomfortable forays across the Iron Curtain, or the locals on whose assistance they relied; people who, depending on whether they had regarded the RAF as friend or foe, ranged from the extremely helpful to the decidedly unfriendly. With numerous examples following the progress of specific investigations and the methods used to discover their final resting place, this is a fascinating read which lifts the lid on an aspect of the Second World War which has received little or no prior attention. Price: £10.39. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Mosquito Menacing The Reich by Martin Bowman

Pegasus Archive review: The Mosquito has never received the public acclaim which the Spitfire and Lancaster enjoyed, yet it was one of the most remarkable aircraft, arguably the best, to emerge from the Second World War. Used as a reconnaissance aircraft, precision bomber, pathfinder, night fighter and long range escort to name but a few of its many and varied roles, the Mosquito had the rare distinction of being a jack of all trades and master of them all. This book dedicates a chapter to each of its more popular roles, using a mixture of the author's narrative and a series of vivid first hand accounts to describe in detail some of the remarkable feats which it carried out. The result is a fine tribute not only to a superb aircraft, but to those who flew it and crafted its legend. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Naval Aviation in the Second World War by Philip Kaplan

Pegasus Archive review: Unlike other books in the Images of War series, which contain a heavy bias in photographs over text, Naval Aviation in the Second World War possesses a far more comprehensive narrative which explores the gradual rise to dominance of the aircraft carrier. Its main focus is the Second World War, and above all else the war in the Pacific where the carrier assumed a central role in the island-hopping campaign, yet it also contrasts this experience with those of future conflicts where naval aircraft played an important role, including Korea, the Falklands and the Gulf War. In addition to the usual range of dramatic and indeed rare photographs on display, there are several individual stories of aircrews in action which have been woven into the text, and the result is an engaging introduction into the emergence of a vessel which quickly supplanted the battleship as the primary naval weapon. Price £12.00. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or



The Strike Wings: Special Anti-Shipping Squadrons 1942-45 by Roy Conyers Nesbit

Pegasus Archive review: Coastal Command has never received the attention which has been lavished on the more famous branches of the Royal Air Force, and so the existence of the Strike Wings, formed in November 1942 to attack the heavily defended convoys carrying iron ore from Scandinavia to Germany, may be unknown to all but a few. In taking on these formidable targets, the Mosquito and Beaufighter squadrons suffered losses which were every bit as horrendous as those of Bomber Command, yet Roy Conyers Nesbit, himself a veteran of the Strike Wings, reveals that these anti-shipping sorties had a far more damaging effect on the German economy, sinking so many merchantmen that Hitler even considered stopping them altogether and relying on alternative means of supply. This is a superb book which not only explores the formation of the Strike Wings, the numerous sorties they carried out, and the weapons and tactics which they used, but it also sheds light on a vital yet much neglected chapter of the Second World War. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Stuka: Hitler's Lethal Dive Bomber by Alistair Smith

Pegasus Archive review: A part of the "Images of War" series dedicated to the Ju-87 Stuka, one of the most iconic aircraft of the Second World War. The ability of the Stuka to accurately drop its payload of bombs during a steep dive, with the famous Jericho Trumpet sounding a terrifying cry as it accelerated towards its target, made it a most feared weapon, and, although its high losses during the Battle of Britain resulted in its being hastily withdrawn from that front, it continued to be a mainstay of the Luftwaffe's arsenal until the final phases of the War. All of the photographs in this collection belonged to Erich Heine, a Stuka rear gunner and radio operator, and they show the aircraft in action and on the ground in numerous theatres along with the men who crewed them. The accompanying narrative follows Heine's career from training to operations on the Eastern Front, and this unique record which may be taken to describe the typical experience of any Stuka crewman. Price: £11.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or


Vichy Air Force at War by Jon Sutherland and Diane Canwell

At the beginning of World War II the French faced the German invasion with 4,360 modern combat aircraft and 790 new machines currently arriving from French and American factories each month. When the phony war finally ended, some 119 of 210 squadrons were ready for action on the north-eastern front. The others were reequipping or stationed in the French colonies. Of the 119 squadrons France could bring into action only one-fourth of the aircraft were battle-ready. With France overrun by June 1940, what remained of the French air force was either concentrated in the unoccupied zone or had been hastily redeployed to the colonies. Nonetheless, in retaliation for the British attack on the French fleet in Oran, French bombers, based in French Morocco, carried out retaliatory air raids over Gibraltar. The Armée de l'Air de Vichy was born and would fight to the best of its ability against the Free French's allies in theatres as distant as north-west Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Madagascar and the Far East. Not only would they take to the skies against the British and later the Americans, they would also willingly take part in aerial duels against Free French pilots. Only a handful of books have been written on French aircraft, but never has there been a complete history of the operations of the Vichy Air Force and its fratricidal war. This title literally spans the globe, examining forgotten air combats. It is also important to note that many of the Vichy pilots that survived the air combats later volunteered to join the Free French and would fight with great courage and distinction alongside the very pilots that they had been trying to kill. This book describes all major theatres of combat, examines the aircraft flown and lengthy appendices cover operational units, victory credits and the Aéronautique Navale. Price: £15.99. Copies may be purchased from Amazon or