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Exploding Fuel Tanks: Saga of Technology That Changed the Course of the Pacific Air War

Exploding Fuel Tanks: Saga of Technology That Changed the Course of the Pacific Air War by Richard L. Dunn. Richard L. Dunn, 2011, 190 pp.

Richard Dunn's Exploding Fuel Tanks is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in how aircraft development shaped the modern world. From a historical and technical perspective, it offers a fascinating glimpse into World War II aviation and the background of its evolution. Rather than writing an opinion piece derived from broad generalizations, the author simply lays out the facts and lets the reader reach a conclusion based on actual evidence.

Historians who focus only on technical specifications oftentimes merely summarize the subject of aircraft development. Instead, Dunn examines the topic at a particular time. For instance, instead of simply addressing the overall history of development, he details how certain decisions were made. Regarding aircraft fuel tanks and armor, the author relates the history of why aircraft progressed as they did.

By digging deeper and asking why, rather than relying on general assumptions, Dunn paints a much better picture of his topic. Take, for example, the widespread perception of the Japanese Zero as an agile yet frail fighter as compared to American aircraft such as the P-40, which was more robust but less agile. Dunn presents the full story, backed up by incredibly detailed research, by exploring records of actual documented combat to determine whether such a perception has a basis in fact. Indeed, the reliance on documented evidence is one of the book's strengths.

On the other hand, one might justifiably criticize the scope of this study. Although I applaud its detailed analysis of the Pacific theater, I would be interested in seeing comparisons between all of the major powers on this subject. Overall, Exploding Fuel Tanks is recommended for any aviation enthusiast interested in the history of the development of combat aircraft.

Capt Douglas G. Ruark, USAF
United States Space Command, Thule, Greenland


"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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