P-39 Airacobra Aces of World War 2 Book Review
By Ray Mehlberger
|Date of Review||January 2008|
|Title||P-39 Airacobra Aces of World War 2|
|Author||George Mellinger & John Stanaway|
|Format||96 pages, softbound|
The first American fighter fitted with a tricycle undercarriage and mid-mounted engine, the P-39 proved less than successful in the hands of its launch customer, the U.S. Army Air Force (AAF). Hampered by unreliability and poor engine performance at high altitude, the P-39 nevertheless served alongside the P-40 and P-38 in the bitter struggle to capture Guadalcanal in 1942/43.
It also saw much action defending New Guinea. It was used in the Mediterranean by the AAF too. The fighter’s true success came whilst serving with the Soviet Red Air Force, whose pilots rated the Airacobra as probably the best lend-lease fighter of the war. Indeed, well over 30 communist pilots used the aircraft to make ace, with several finishing with scores in excess of 50 kills.
The first title ever published on Airacobra aces, this volume recounts the exploits of the elite pilots from both air forces that flew the much-maligned Bell fighter.
The book is in Osprey’s usual 9 ¾” x 7 ¼” soft-cover format of 96 pages for their series of aircraft books. There are 101 black and white wartime photos of P-39’s and AAF and Soviet pilots that flew them. There are 38 full color side profiles. Usually, there are 6 illustrations, also in color, of pilots in these books. This book does not include these.
The cover art is by Osprey’s resident cover artist Iain Wyllie. It shows a P-39D of the 8th FG’S 36TH FS, flown by Don “Fibber” McGee shooting down a zero near Port Moresby, New Guinea on May 1st. 1942. It carries the words “Nips Nemesis” in yellow cursic letters under the cockpit, a yellow Q on the nose, a yellow tip on the rudder with yellow serial no. 16941 below. It carries the early war type star insignia with the red center on the fuselage. This red center was later dropped from that marking, as Allied anti-aircraft gunners often mistook seeing it as being Japanese markings
Aircraft illustrated are:
- 4 illustrations of the P-400
- 1 illustration of the P-39F
- 4 illustrations of the P-39D
- 2 illustrations of the P-39D-2
- 1 illustration of the P-39J
- 1 illustration of the P-39K
- 1 illustration of the P-39K-1
- 1 illustration of the P-39L
- 1 illustration of the P-39L-1
- 4 illustrations of the P-39N
- 3 illustrations of the P-39N-1
- 2 illustrations of the P-39N-5
- 4 illustrations of the P-39N-0
- 2 illustrations of a P-39 of an unknown sub-type
- 2 illustrations of a P-39Q
- 1 illustration of a P-39Q-1
- 1 illustration of a P-39Q-5
- 1 illustration of a P-39Q-25
- 1 illustration of the Airacobra I
The appendices includes a list of USAAF aces, P-39 types lend-leased to the USSR and their serial numbers, P-39 units, a list of Soviet P-39 aces and 1/72nd scale line drawings of P-39 variants.
This is one neat book and highly recommended to aircraft enthusiasts and modelers. I purchased my copy, years ago, from Barnes & Nobles book store.