Allied Fighters, 1939-45: The Essential Aircraft Identification Guide

  • Published

Allied Fighters, 1939 – 45: The Essential Aircraft Identification Guide by Chris Chant. Zenith Press, 2008, 192 pp.

Allied Fighters 1939–45 is but one of a number of books comprising The Essential Aircraft Identification Guide. Though claiming to include all major fighters of World War II, the book focuses solely on the European and North African theatres of operations, with little, if any, mention of the Pacific theatre. It is penned by Chris Chant, author of its counterpart Allied Bombers, 1939–45, in addition to a number of other books on airpower.

The book begins with a short history of the predominant tactics that would define the war. It then provides short histories of the French, British, and American air forces, divided by their fighter commands. The other sections, comprising the Soviet Union and smaller nations such as Denmark, Norway, and Yugoslavia, are organized by major events. The book concentrates largely upon the United Kingdom, which receives a total of 81 pages; the Soviet Union is summarized in 19.

Embedded in the history are pictures of the fighters, their variants, and relevant statistics such as power plant, speed, range, weight, and weaponry. However, it omits maneuverability statistics as well as detailed comparisons with enemy aircraft of the period.

In addition, descriptions of the organization of fighter units, from squadrons to wings to air commands, offer the reader limited understanding of the organization of the countries’ air forces. The appendix is especially valuable, including statistics of production and losses organized by country, period, and type of fighter. However, in the absence of a bibliography, one cannot verify the veracity of this information.

Although the book is useful in providing general information about a number of different World War II fighters, it is constrained by a number of factors, such as the repetition of fighter models. Some, like the Supermarine Spitfire and P-51 Mustang, were fielded by multiple countries, and thus their images and statistics are repeated—almost excessively—while others are mentioned but not featured.

Further, the lack of careful editing is evident in occasional errors in the conversion of an aircraft’s weight (p. 65) and another’s ceiling (pp. 122–23). The latter is more significant since the description of the aircraft states that its low service ceiling hampered its usage, even though the ceiling listed was standard for aircraft of the period.

Given the short length and nature of the book as an aircraft guide, it is primarily meant for casual readers and modelers. Enthusiasts of the subject matter might find the appendix and performance information interesting but would desire a more in-depth description of the events.

Radu Venter

Kingston, Ontario

"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."