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World War II in the Air
American P-47 Thunderbolt in flight
British Spitfire Mk XVI in flight
American SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber
American B-17 heavy bomber
Japanese A6M Zero fighter
German Focke-Wulf Fw-190 fighter in flight
Italian Cant Z506 patrol seaplane in flight

World War II was the first major aerial war in history. Aircraft fought on every front and played major roles in most battles. Especially in the Pacific, the airplane was king -- the side with better air power was the side that won, period. I have quite a large number of books that are about one facet or another of the air war. Not all of them can be neatly categorized as about one theater or the other; some deal with both.

Guidebooks and References about aircraft of WW2

These are reference works about aircraft used in the Second World War. They generally include each aircraft's vital statistics (length, height, wingspan, powerplant, performance, armament, etc.) and brief production and operational histories, but few if any details.

  • AIRCRAFT OF WWII
    Author: Wilson, Stewart
    Copyright:1998
    Publisher: Aerospace Publications
    ISBN: 1-875671-35-8
    This is a sort of catalog of aircraft types used in World War II. The information given on each type is pretty basic: a single small black-and-white photograph, manufacturer, name/model, dimensions, performance, armament, and a short service history. However, the book more than makes up for that by being the most complete single volume I have on the topic. There are entries for just about every type used by any combatant in the war: the USA, Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and even a few from the Eastern European nations which were allied with Germany against the USSR. The aircraft covered include every major model and many prototypes, trainers, and limited-production models.
  • AMERICAN AIRCRAFT OF WORLD WAR II, The Concise Guide To
    Author: Mondey, David
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Chartwell Books
    ISBN: 0-7858-0147-2

  • AXIS AIRCRAFT OF WORLD WAR II, The Concise Guide To
    Author: Mondey, David
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Aerospace Publishing
    ISBN: 1-85152-966-7

  • BRITISH AIRCRAFT OF WORLD WAR II, The Hamlyn Concise Guide To
    Author: Mondey, David
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Chartwell Books
    ISBN: 0-7858-1362-4

  • FIGHTERS AND BOMBERS OF WORLD WAR II
    Author: Munson, Kenneth
    Copyright:1969
    Publisher: Blandford Press
    ISBN: 0-907408-37-0
    A survey of the major warplanes used by all combatants in the Second World War, including fighters, bombers, transport, patrol, and reconnaissance aircraft. Each aircraft gets a standard three-view drawing (top/bottom view and a left or right profile) colored drawing, basic specifications (length, wingspan, height, engine, armament, crew, range, etc.), and a capsule description of its development and combat history. Every major warplane of every major combatant is reviewed; the only aircraft that this book does not cover are experimental ones or low-production ones that didn't affect the course of the war.

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General Books about the Air War

These books deal with the air war in general, on all fronts.

  • CLASH OF WINGS: World War II in the Air
    Author: Boyne, Walter J.
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    ISBN: 0-671-79370-5

  • FLYING FORTS: THE B-17 IN WORLD WAR II
    Author: Caidin, Martin
    Copyright:1968
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-28780-X
    The story of the B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber in WW2.
  • FORK-TAILED DEVIL: THE P-38
    Author: Caidin, Martin
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-28301-5
    The story of the P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft, from initial concept through its WW2 combat career. The Lightning served on every front and in an incredible variety of missions: escort fighter, interceptor, night fighter, level bomber, dive bomber, strike fighter, long-range photo reconnaissance. It's credited with the destruction of more Japanese planes than any other Army Air Forces fighter, and gave sterling service in the European and Mediterranean theaters too. Caidin offers an interesting argument that the P-38 had a fundamental effect on US Air Force postwar doctrine: since WW2, the Air Force has always had at least one do-it-all tactical fighter-bomber in its inventory.
  • RAGGED, RUGGED WARRIORS, THE
    Author: Caidin, Martin
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-13109-5
    A history of air war in the 1930s and the first two years of WW2.
  • WAR IN THE AIR, THE: The Royal Air Force in World War II
    Author: Lyall, Gavin (ed.)
    Copyright:1968
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN:

  • WINGS OF THE MORNING: The British Fleet Air Arm in World War 2
    Author: Cameron, Ian
    Copyright:1962
    Publisher: Wm. Morrow & Co.
    ISBN:
    The Fleet Air Arm was in charge of all aircraft that operated from Royal Navy warships, including combat planes from aircraft carriers and scout-seaplanes from battleships and cruisers. The Air Arm was badly neglected by the Admiralty between the two World Wars; as a result, when WW2 began it was cursed with obsolete aircraft flying from inferior bases and aircraft carriers. Yet despite these enormous handicaps, the Fleet Air Arm was an effective force throughout the war and staged several incredibly successful missions.

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The Air War in the European Theater

The air war in Europe consisted mainly of the German Air Force, the Luftwaffe, versus the British, American, and Russian air forces. Both sides fought with large numbers of highly advanced aircraft, and both sides took enormous losses.

  • A WING AND A PRAYER
    Author: Crosby, Harry H.
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Harper
    ISBN: 0-06-100812-5

  • ACES AGAINST GERMANY: The American Aces Speak
    Author: Hammel, Eric
    Copyright:1993
    Publisher: Pocket Books
    ISBN: 0-671-52907-2

  • BLACK THURSDAY
    Author: Caidin, Martin
    Copyright:1960
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN:
    The story of the Schweinfurt raid, October 14, 1943, the worst single day in the history of the Eighth Air Force. The objective of the raid was to knock out the Schweinfurt ball-bearing factories. The cost was horrible: in a single day, sixty bombers and six hundred men died; another fifty bombers came home damaged beyond repair and never flew again; and hundreds more men were killed or injured among those that did return.
  • DAM BUSTERS, THE
    Author: Brickhill, Paul
    Copyright:1951
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-12571-0

  • FIRST AND THE LAST, THE
    Author: Galland, Adolf
    Copyright:1954
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-26726-4
    Adolf Galland was a leading Luftwaffe fighter pilot through WW2, ending as General of the Fighter Arm. This is his firsthand account of the Luftwaffe Fighter Arm in WW2.
  • FLY FOR YOUR LIFE
    Author: Forrester, Larry
    Copyright:1973
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-20391-6
    A combat biography of Robert Roland Stanford Tuck, one of the RAF's greatest aces. An expert pilot and lethally accurate gunner, Tuck flew in combat for almost two years, from Dunkirk in 1940 until he was shot down and captured in January 1942. He's officially credited with 29 kills. His private, unofficial tally is 35. He flew both Spitfires and Hurricanes in combat, but always preferred the Spitfire. He became a leader in innovative tactics, including fighter sweeps and low-level strafing strikes.
  • HORRIDO!
    Author: Toliver and Constable
    Copyright:1977
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-23052-2
    The story of the Luftwaffe fighter arm in WW2, focusing on a dozen or so of the greatest German fighter pilots.
  • I FLEW FOR THE FUHRER
    Author: Knoke, Heinz
    Copyright:1954
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-12668-7

  • JG 26: TOP GUNS OF THE LUFTWAFFE
    Author: Caldwell, Donald L.
    Copyright:1991
    Publisher: Ivy Books
    ISBN: 0-8041-1050-6
    Combat journal and history of Jagdgeschwader 26, the Abbeville Kids, the best of the German fighter units on the Western Front in WW2.
  • NIGHT FIGHTER
    Author: CF Rawnsley & Robert Wright
    Copyright:1957
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-31025-X
    First-hand account of the development of the Royal Air Force's night-fighter forces during the Second World War.
  • SCREAMING EAGLE: Memoirs of a B-17 Group Commander
    Author: Smith, Maj. Gen. Dale O.
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Dell
    ISBN: 0-440-20847-5

  • STUKA PILOT
    Author: Rudel, Hans Ulrich
    Copyright:1979
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-12304-1

  • THUNDERBOLT!
    Author: Johnson, Robert
    Copyright:1959
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-28307-4
    Robert Johnson's personal account of aerial combat in the European Theater, as a member of the 56th Fighter Group (Zemke's Wolfpack), flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. Johnson describes his progress from pilot trainee, through the vicious air battles of 1943 and early 1944, to his last mission, on which he became the first USAAF fighter pilot to break Eddie Rickenbacker's WW1 record of 26 confirmed air-to-air kills. Official reviews of Johnson's mission reports eventually credited him with twenty-eight kills, placing him among the leading American aces on all fronts.

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The Air War in the Pacific

These books deal with the air war in the Pacific Theater. The Pacific war was just as different from the ETO in the air as it was on the ground and at sea. In the Pacific, aircraft required range above all. The Japanese Empire had limited manufacturing capabilities, while the British and the US Army Air Force poured the majority of their aircraft into the European War. At sea, the Pacific war was in large part a carrier war, which brought lightweight carrier-based aircraft into conflict with larger, heavier land-based aircraft. Further, the Japanese air forces were qualitatively inferior in most ways -- of all their aircraft, only the famous Zero was clearly superior to the aircraft it faced, and even that was true only for the first two years of the war. Thus, where the ETO had huge fleets of aircraft in massive air battles, the Pacific Theater had fewer aircraft fighting much smaller battles over longer ranges for much more limited objectives.

  • ACE! A Marine Night-Fighter Pilot In World War II
    Author: Porter, R. Bruce, Col
    Copyright:1985
    Publisher: Jove
    ISBN: 0-515-09159-6

  • ACES AGAINST JAPAN: The American Aces Speak
    Author: Hammel, Eric
    Copyright:1992
    Publisher: Pocket Books
    ISBN: 0-671-52908-0

  • BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP
    Author: Boyington, Gregory
    Copyright:1958
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-10790-9

  • CACTUS AIR FORCE, THE
    Author: Miller, Thomas G.
    Copyright:1969
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-26727-2
    The story of the Cactus Air Force, the small Marine air group that flew from and defended Henderson Field on Guadalcanal during the critical period of the battle for the island.
  • DIVINE WIND, THE
    Author: Inoguchi and Nakajima
    Copyright:1958
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-25238-0

  • FIRE IN THE SKY: The Air War in the South Pacific
    Author: Bergerud, Eric
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Westview Press
    ISBN: 0-8133-2985-X

  • GET YAMAMOTO
    Author: Davis, Burke
    Copyright:1969
    Publisher: Random House
    ISBN:

  • GRIM REAPERS, THE
    Author: Johnston, Stanley
    Copyright:1943
    Publisher: Blakiston Company
    ISBN:

  • SAMURAI!
    Author: Sakai, Saburo
    Copyright:1957
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-11035-7
    The story of Saburo Sakai, Japan's greatest surviving fighter pilot.
  • ZERO!
    Author: Okumiya, Horikoshi, Caidin
    Copyright:1956
    Publisher: Ballantine Books
    ISBN: 0-345-28305-8
    The story of the Japanese Zero Fighter, as written by military officer Masatake Okumiya and engineer Jiro Horikoshi. Translated to English by Martin Caidin.

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