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G. Gonzalez (Madrid, Spain)

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Aichi 99 Kanbaku 'Val' Units: 1937-42 (Combat Aircraft)
Aichi 99 Kanbaku 'Val' Units: 1937-42 (Combat Aircraft)
by Tagaya Osamu
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.04

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The very best Osprey Aviation book I have read !, 11 Mar 2012
I have just finished reading this book on the Aichi Val and I am in owe. I have read 65 of all the published "Aircraft of the Aces" and "Combat aircraft" series by osprey, and this book on the VAL ( Or Kanbaku 99 as the Japanese themselves called it ) is easily the very best of them all. I have to confess that even if I have ended up buying most of the books in the Osprey collection, many of the books are not that good, and Osprey seems to be making little attempt at creating some kind of minimum editorial standard that its multitude of authors have to stick to. But none of that criticism applies to this work. I do not know where to start praising it, so good it is. the difficulty with the Osprey books is to balance the narrative reffering to the "big picture" of the use of that aircraft in the context of the war, with enough details and descriptions to also be able to give the reader an idea of what it was to fly and fight in these aircraft. This book does it masterfully. From the description of how the aircraft was developed, to the nicely summarised but complete description of the Japanese carrier operations 1940-1942, to a wealth of trivia and details, the book combines them masterfully. Of course the well known operations at Pearl Harbour, the Coral Sea and Midway are described in detail, from the perspective of the Japanese dive-bombers that fought in them. But the book also covers the less known but equally fascinating early campaigns against Darwin in Australia or in the Indian ocean against the british Royal Navy ( where the brits had a combined fleet with three aircraft carriers looking for the Japanese carriers off the coast of Ceylon, who were in turn bent on finding the british carriers and sinking them all, both fleets barely missing to spot each other one full month before Coral Sea in what would have been the first aircraft carrier vs aircraft carrier battle of the war ). The descriptions of the Attacks on Pearl harbour and the battle of Midway are masterful examples of how to present a large and complex operation in only a hanful of pages.

Actually, one important thing to notice is that even though the book is advertised here as "Val units of World War 2", the real title is "Val units 1937-1942" so it only covers the development, the war in China and first year of the Pacific war.

One great virtue of the book is the imparciality of the author when describing the battles. At the end of the book, it would be difficult for the reader to guess if the historian who wrote it was American, Japanese, British or what. This is good stuff.

My favourite anecdote of the book is the one that described how, during the battle of the Coral Sea, a large group of Aichi Vals that had been sent to bomb the US task force carriers at the end of the day failed to find it, and starting to run short of fuel and with daylight dissapearing, they decided to dump their bombs in the ocean and started to fly back to their carriers. They then came across what they believed to be their own fleet and entered the landing pattern to land on the two carriers at the centre of the force. These, however, were none other than the two US carriers that they had been looking for, and that were far closer to the japanese fleet than anyone had known ( including gthe Americans ). The US carriers were themselves recovering some of their own aircraft at that time so the presence of more aircraft in the landing pattern did not at first create any alarm. Only in the very last moment did the lead japanese pilot realize, in horror, his mistake and was able to hit the throtle and abort, still ending up overflying the lengh of the US carrier at low speed and just barely above the funnel heigth, followed by his whole squadron. The carrier had also been wondering for a while why there were many more aeroplanes wanting to land back on board than they had launched. All hell broke loose then, with all anti-aircraft guns firing on the low-flying japanese Vals and the Japanese pilots trying to get the hell out of there asap while cursing having dumped their bombs only 20 minutes before. Great stuff, and the book has plenty more of this.

So, well done, Mr. Tagay Osamu ( author )and also to Jim Laurier, who made the spectacularly beautiful profile color drawings that adorn this book. Actually, since as said before the book only covers the Val's operations up to Midway in 1942, so I assume there is a second volume coming to describe the model's involvement in the subsequent strugle for Guadalcanal, the battle of Santa Cruz, etc up to the use of the remaining examples in the Kamikaze operations at the end of the war. I can not wait for it.

Very highly reccomended and an eye-opener for those like me who wanted to know more about the air war in the pacific from a japanese perspective.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2012 8:53 PM BST

Malta Spitfire Pilot
Malta Spitfire Pilot
by Denis Barnham
Edition: Hardcover

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent & different to the others, 19 Sep 2011
This review is from: Malta Spitfire Pilot (Hardcover)
This is quite possibly one of the best autobiographies about aerial combat ever writen ( and I have read quite a few of them, the only other one that comes close would be the also recently published LOUD AND CLEAR by Yiftach Spector ). It describes only a short periof of 10 weeks, but these were quite possibly the most intense weeks of the air war over malta. Never before that spring had the bombardement been so intense or the local air superiority of the Luftwaffe so suffocating, and after the defeat of Rommel at el Alamein and the Alied landings in North Africa only one month after Barnham had left, the pressure was drastically reduced almost overnight. Like most autobiographies of this kind, maybe only 5-10 % of the book is about aerial combat and the rest is about life as it happened arround them, but these are actually the best part of the book. I will not write a long review here, but I will just say that when you finish this book, the reader has been given a very detailed, comprehensive and claustrofobically vivid knowledge of what it was to be a RAF defender of Malta in those days.

A Willingness to Die: Memories from Fighter Command
A Willingness to Die: Memories from Fighter Command
by Brian Kingcome
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not reccomended, 16 Sep 2011
I had great expectations for it, since it came highly reccomended, but it did not live up to my expectations. Other reviewers describe Brian Kingcombe as modest, but I think this is a superficial reading, for to me, between the lines, he comes accross as a bit arrogant. But this is not the problem. The main issue is that the book contains by the end of the day very little information and eventually ends up boring. He can tell you once that on this or that date he went with his posh friends to this or that pub and they had a delightfully served dinner and that they all got jolly drunk before getting back to the base. But by the time he tells you this for the seventh time in the book, you have had enough of it. I read the first half looking forward to him getting "to the point" but he actually never did, so I ended up not finishing the book.I bought this book wanting to find out more about the RAF, the Battle of Britain or aerial combat in general in WW2, but this is really not the book for it. The book is about Brian Kingcomb himself, and to be honest, I was not interested in him or what he thinks about pre-marital sex or about today's TV standards...

Actually, one problem might have been that I read this book only one month after having read Denis Barnham's absolutely superb autobiography "Malta Spitfire Pilot". That one is such a FINE book that by comparison it probably made Kingcombe's book look worse that it actually is. But even when compared to Geoffrey Wellum's "First Light" or "Wing Leader" by Johnny Johnson, it does not make the mark either ( both titles also highly reccomended but in my opinion not as good as Barnham's account ).

Uh, by the way, since you happen to be reading this review,if you are into WW2 autobiographies from combat pilots, take a look at Vasily Emelianenko's "Red Star against the Svastika". Another superb book but with the added interest of having the story told from the uncommon perspective of a Soviet pilot instead of a Brit or an American, and also as seen by a ground attack pilot ( and not the ususal fighter pilot's story ).
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2012 8:20 AM GMT

The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon
The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, well writen and informative, 25 July 2003
I first read this book many years ago when I knew litle about the Napoleonic era, and I greatly appreciated the depth of its information and its ability to convey complex scenarios with clarity and style. The reader is left at the end of the book with a very solid understanding of how war was conducted on land during the Napoleonic era, how it differed from the previous styles of warfare, how the various armies from each country differed conceptually and how this dettermined their fighting capabilities, etc.
The good thing is that this is NOT a history book about the campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars ( there are so many of those already ) or yet another book about how Napoleon or Wellington did this or that, but instead it is a very insightful reference book as to why war was waged as it was and what were the changes that took us there. It includes interesting complementary chapters on medical services, siege warfare, etc.
Another good point is that it is NOT writen by a French author ( "Napoleon was a great European and a honest supporter of democracy, but rather missunderstood outside France" tematic line ) NOR by a British author ( "The British Army was great all the time and its oponents were just amateurs in comparison" usual stuff ), so we are spared all the national historical pride that almost always manages to creep into books on this matter. Still today, after having read over the years many more books on this chapter of our European History, I regard it as one of the best. I think they should come up with a new edition of it.

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