A pictorial history of aviation from 1939-1945.
Beginning in 1939-40 with the German blitzkrieg and the Battle of Britain, aircraft repeatedly turned the tide of war. Their worth was proved in many roles besides bombing and airborne assault, including air defense, support of ground operations, maritime patrol, shipping strikes, transport support and reconnaissance. Warplanes became indispensable and revolutionized the character of war.
In Aviation Century World War II, stunning images of preserved and restored wartime aircraft are combined with archival photographs of the world's first well-photographed war to tell an unprecedented visual story of World War II. The unforgettable images are accompanied by insightful text that explains the strategic role of warplanes and describes the types and models of aircraft used by each nation, and re-tells the dramatic stories of the war.
Forewords for Aviation Century World War II are written by World War II veteran pilots Ramsay Potts and Don Lopez.
Ron Dick served with the Royal Air Force for thirty-eight years, retiring as an Air Vice-Marshal. During his career, he flew sixty different types of aircraft, accumulating over 5,000 hours of flight time. In addition to the five-volume Aviation Century series, he has co-authored five other books with Dan Patterson. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Dan Patterson is the recipient of the first annual Combs Award, presented by the National Aviation Hall of Fame and business aviation legend Harry Combs to honor a photographer's contribution to the preservation of America's air and space heritage. Patterson's images are featured in fourteen books. He lives in Dayton, Ohio
Air Vice-Marshal Ron Dick
In 1939, when the curtain rose on the first act of WWII in Europe, none of the major powers had clear ideas on how air power might best be used to influence the conflict. The predominant interwar theories had suggested that strategic bombing would be air power's most significant role, with fleets of bombers assaulting the essential structure of an enemy nation, thereby undermining the morale of its people and destroying its capacity to wage war. Strongly represented though these ideas were, they were set aside by most nations. By 1939, only the United States and Britain were making serious attempts to establish strategic bombing forces. However, both had officially left behind the original concept of attacking civilian populations and were proclaiming that their bombers would strike with rapier-like precision at specific targets. Unfortunately, the Anglo-Americans had paid insufficient attention to the practicalities of such a policy. The available instruments of aerial destruction were soon shown to be inadequate for so demanding a task.
The strategic air power theorists were wrong, too, in that it proved impossible to bring an enemy nation to its knees by using air power alone. The relentless and increasingly heavy pounding of Germany from the air over six long years failed by itself to force a surrender, vital though it was as an element of the combined Allied offensive. Nevertheless, in 1945 the theorists felt justified in claiming that their principal conclusion had been correct; it was the timing of its application that had been wrong. They could point out that the practitioners had jumped the gun in 1939 by reaching for the ultimate goal before the necessary equipment was at hand. Once the intercontinental bomber and the atomic bomb arrived, the theory and the means to prove it came together. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the air finally broke the Japanese will to resist. Would that not still have been the case if such a Draconian response from the United States had been possible four years earlier, immediately after Pearl Harbor?
Wherever the truth of the strategic argument lies, it is undeniable that few of those involved in the use of air power in 1939 could have predicted the extent to which aircraft would contribute to the Allied victory. Interwar emphasis on the bomber had perhaps veiled the real versatility of air power. In the event, beginning in 1939-40 with the German "blitzkrieg" and the Battle of Britain, aircraft turned the tide of war again and again. Their worth was proved in many roles besides bombing, including such varied tasks as air defense, close support of ground operations, interdiction, airborne assault, maritime patrol, shipping strikes, transport support, and reconnaissance. The flimsy, unarmed and often scorned contraptions of 1914 grew into indispensable items of military hardware. In the process, they revolutionized the character of warfare and influenced every aspect of the worldwide struggle.
PART I: EUROPE AND THE MIDDLE EAST
PART II: THE PACIFIC, CHINA, BURMA AND INDIA