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WWII aircraft in detail and color

Combat Aircraft of World War II, by Enzo Angelucci and Paolo Matricardi, with illustrations by Pierluigi Pinto. New York: Orion Books. An eight-book series, $17.95 each. In a new, beautifully designed and illustrated eight-book series, authors Angelucci (who also wrote a definitive book on United States fighter airplanes) and Matricardi trace the evolution of the airplane as an instrument of warfare from World War I to its emergence as a tool to deliver total destruction to the enemy.

What makes these books really special is detailed, full-color, three-perspective illustrations of about 25 airplanes per book (with an accompanying text for each plane).

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In the first volume the authors outline the existing technology of each of the nine combatant countries in World War II which produced aircraft and describe the political and economic situations between 1918 and 1937. There are examples of airplanes from each country, as developed between 1933 and 1937.

The second book covers developments during the Spanish Civil War and the Japanese invasion of China (ca. 1937-38). The authors explain how, as each of the combatants vied for a position of power in the skies over Europe or Asia, the course of technological progress was being determined.

Each of the next five books in the series covers a particular year of World War II, beginning with 1939. The authors detail how the technology of each warring country was geared to keep pace with, and ultimately surpass, the efforts of the ``enemy.''

In the last book, No. 8 in the series, the authors sum up World War II in the air. They place it historically as well as developmentally and give a brief glimpse of the future.

These books - which are fascinating, factual, and wonderfully illustrated - will appeal to aficionados of WWII military aircraft, admirers of the art of technical drawing, airplane buffs, and historians.

Bill Harrold is a free-lance book reviewer.

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