/ Published January 29, 2019
Sabres Over MiG Alley: the F-86 and the Battle for Air Superiority in Korea by Kenneth P. Werrell. Naval Institute Press, 2013, 233 pp.
In his book, Sabres Over MiG Alley, the F-86 and the Battle for Air Superiority in Korea, Werrell, a pilot and historian, details the Air Force’s entry into the Korean War, the need for air superiority during the conflict, and the urgent need for improved aircraft capabilities when Russia introduced the MiG into the Korean theater.
Werrell gives a history of how World War II affected US aviation, the lessons learned from that era, and what was needed in the new Korean theater of war with the sudden appearance of aircraft that could break the sound barrier. Great detail is given in this book to the introduction of the F-86 Sabre that would be the ultimate answer to the devastating Russian advancement in air superiority.
Avid aircraft enthusiasts will be delighted with the detail Werrell goes while describing the design, development, and testing of the F-86. The book is a little heavy reading for readers not familiar with the technical intricacies of aircraft design, but the author adds historical aircraft development information that every level of enthusiast will find enjoyable.
Werrell discusses the strengths and limitations of the F-86 when it was first introduced to the Korean theater, the quick, and sometimes not so quick, design changes that were made as a result of air-to-air combat with the MiG, and lessons learned from studying the MiG itself, all of which turned the tide of the air war to the US advantage. The author interviewed many pilots who flew the new aircraft and includes their personal observations and experiences, which lends much credibility to his book.
A look into the lives of the people who created the aircraft and the pilots who flew the F-86 is an added benefit for the reader. Understanding the knowledge, experiences, and struggles of these men brings home the dangers that pilots faced while fighting in the air and while testing the aircraft on the ground. Werrell sheds light on the uphill battles of having to quickly design, test, and implement new concepts in air design with the added pressure of having to be almost instantly successful. These designers, engineers, and pilots knew the risks but also knew that the cost of failure was too high not to take the risk. Through his interviews, Werrell expertly captures the pilots’ emotions in undertaking this historic adventure in avionics. The last few chapters of the book are dedicated to short biographies of many of these pilots.
An unexpected benefit of the book is for the Korean War historian. Werrell does a fantastic job of discussing the origins of the war and the US entrance into it. He talks about world events at the time, the causal events of World War II that led to the conflict, and the need for supporting the newly formed United Nations.
Sabres Over MiG Alley is a good length at 200 pages, and makes for an enjoyable afternoon of reading for aviation and history enthusiasts alike.
MSgt Vicky Spesard, ANG
600 Chennault Circle
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6010