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Historica Aviation Publications of Reno, Nevada continues to expand its line of reprinted volumes from US Army and Air Force sources. Here are notes about some of their latest releases. In all cases, these are desktop published, photocopied onto 8.5"x11" paper, and copy shop bound with a cardstock title page and clear plastic cover. The pages are all extremely bright, clean, and crisp and the binding seems perfectly sturdy, but physically these shouldn't be confused with professionally published hardcover books.
US Army. Japanese Monograph No. 76: Air Operations in the China Area, July 1937 - August 1945. Reno, NV: Historica Aviation Publications, 2003
vi + 131 pages
Preface; Historica Preface; tables; charts; maps; OBs
In the immediate post-war years, the American occupation force in Japan enlisted former IJA and IJN officers to compose a series of reports about their air, ground, and naval campaigns. Known collectively as the "Japanese Monographs," these eventually numbered nearly two hundred and covered nearly every aspect of the empire's war. The monographs varied considerably in length (from just a couple of pages to several hundred) and in quality. While they were all translated into English, some comprised nothing more than uselessly vague generalities while other detailed accounts were carefully edited, polished, and supplemented with maps, OBs, and charts. Never commercially published, some have been available strictly on microfilm while a few can be found in typescript print editions in large libraries. Other than that, they're nearly impossible to locate and acquire.
This volume proves to be one of the stronger monographs (proofed, corrected, edited, and supplemented with additional material) and it covers a topic little heeded elsewhere in the English-language literature of the war: Japanese air operations in China. As such, it has a great deal to offer and makes a great choice for a Historica reprint.
The text describes the organization of the Japanese Army Air Force in China, the overall progress of operations, and much in the way of day-to-day air combat. The text is accompanied by organigrams showing the chain of command of Japanese air forces, maps displaying dispositions of air units, tables with numbers and types of aircraft in Japanese air units as well as the number and quality of pilots in each, and tables summarizing numbers of missions by month (mostly) in north China, central China, south China, Formosa, Indo-China, Thailand, etc.
Here's an example of the kind of information provided for day-to-day operations against the Chinese Air Force, the American Volunteer Group, and the USAAF:
On 31 March, the 3d Air Division ordered a squadron of the 33d Air Regiment,
using six Type 1 fighters, to attack Kweilin. A few enemy planes were sighted but
they retreated before they could be engaged.
On 1 April, twelve planes of the 1st Air Brigade (4 Type 1 fighters from the 25th
Air Regiment and six Type 1 fighters and two Type 2 fighters from the 33d Air
Regiment) advanced to Hengyang and Lingling and, about 0900 hours, engaged
more than twenty P-40's over Lingling. Four enemy planes were shot down. The
1st Air Brigade lost four planes.
At 1300 hours on 1 April, the 44th Air Regiment, using nine reconnaissance
planes under the protection of six fighter planes of the 25th Air Regiment, bombed
and damaged the runway at Chienou air base.
On 1 April, in order to report any enemy attempt to bomb Japan, the 55th
Independent Air Squadron using four Type 100 Headquarters reconnaissance
planes formed a patrol line extending over 350 km. down the coast of Fukien
Province from Lishui to Putien. Further, having received information that the
United States Air Force was constructing facilities at Lishui in preparation for air
raids against Japan, the 83d Independent Air Squadron using approximately 80
reconnaissance planes continuously bombed Lishui and the surrounding area for
three days from 30 March.
At 1144 hours on 24 April, 44 fighters of the 1st Air Brigade engaged 11 P-40's
in combat over Lingling air base. Three enemy planes were shot down and one
was destroyed on the ground. Japanese losses were one shot down and one lost
while returning to its base.
On 29 April, twenty-three fighters and nine light bombers of the 1st Air Brigade
flew over Lingling air base. No enemy planes were encountered in the air, but
two small planes on the ground were damaged and military installations in the
city were bombed.
As might be expected, Japanese claims in air-to-air combat don't always match American claims. Contrast the Japanese claim for 24 April with the American report for the same date (taken from the official USAAF Combat Chronology by Carter and Mueller): "13 P-40s intercept 25 ftrs near Lingling and shoot down 5."
Although neither the Japanese authors nor the post-war American editors nor Historica Aviation addresses these inconsistences, that's the kind of data which will probably never be fully resolved accurately and/or to the full satisfaction of all involved. In sum, however, this is a very desirable compilation of information available nowhere else.
Plocher, Hermann. The German Air Force versus Russia, 1943. Reno, NV: Historica Aviation Publications, 2003
Foreword; Author's Foreword; About the Author; Preface; charts; diagrams; Footnotes
Appendix: Biographical Section
Much as the American occupation force in Japan enlisted former enemies to compose post-war reports, likewise in Europe former Luftwaffe and Heere officers were utilized to produce historical assessment of wartime operations. Some of the earlier reports and interrogations have been recently compiled into books by David C. Isby while some of the later, lengthier, and more polished historical studies from some of the same writers commissioned by the US Air Force were published in book form by Arno Press in the 1960s and early 1970s. Those old Arno volumes are long out of print andlike the Japanese Monographsnearly impossible to find and acquire.
Once again, these old US Air Force volumes prove to be fertile ground for Historica. In particular, the highly regarded German Air Force versus Russia books make great reprints. Unlike the earlier interrogation reports, more time and care has been devoted to these, and they've been annotated by American editors (although there's still almost no data from the Soviet side to balance the German perspective). This is the third and final of those yearly titles (since there seems not to have been a volume for 1944 or 1945). Originally produced by the USAF Historical Division in 1967, the Arno Press edition came out in 1968.
The originals were created by typewriter with a rather primitive look. Historica seems to have scanned and OCR'd the text so that, rather than generating a facsimile, this reproduction looks far better than the original. In the process, the page count has dropped from 368 to 274, but the new edition emerged uncrowded and easy on the eyes. While the text, charts, and biographical appendix remain unchanged, the Historica edition omits all the photos and all sixteen full-page maps from the original.
This volume includes seven chapters:
The Beginning of 1943: Crisis between the Don and Dnepr Rivers - 19 pages
Luftwaffe Operations in Defense of the Kuban Bridgehead - 27 pages
Luftwaffe Command East in Combat Zone Center of he Eastern Theater of Operations - 33 pages
The Aftermath of Zitadelle - 41 pages
Air and Flak Forces in the Battle for the Crimea - 16 pages
Operations in the Northern and Far Northern Areas - 38 pages
Critique of Luftwaffe Operations in the Eastern Theater in 1943 - 53 pages
Here's an example of the kind of material covered in these chapters:
According to plan, the forces of the German armies (Army Force Kempf
Fourth Panzer Army, and Ninth Army) jumped off to the attack. Large numbers of
Luftwaffe flak units were added to the conventional artillery to participate in
opening barrages. About 100 heavy flak guns (8.8 cm) participated with the
northern attack forces alone.
Units of the 1st Air Division took off on their first attack missions on 5 July at
0330 hours. While units of the VIII Air Corps were taking off for their respective
target reports came in from the aircraft warning service and from Freya radar
units that very powerful Soviet air formations were approaching Kharkov If this
enemy force intended to attack the fewer crowded German airfields and if it should
arrive while the German bombers were still taking off or in the process of
assembling in the air, there was a grave danger that the first massed attack of
he VIII Air Corps for ZITADELLE would be broken up in its initial stages or at
least, seriously hampered. This would, of course, materially weaken the air
support which was planned for the ground forces' opening attack.
Alerted by these reports, all of the German fighters stationed at Kharkov and
al of those at airfields near the front southwest of Belgorod took off immediately not
following their own bombers as had been planned, but flying directly to meet the
incoming enemy formations. As the Russian squadrons approached the target
airfields, Messerschmitt (Bf) 109-s, coming at them out of the grayish haze of
he early dawn, struck them in alternating waves in a well-directed attack In
these encounters German pilots achieved exceptional results in enemy planes
shot down, while the Russians, rigidly employing their usual obstinate and
inflexible tactics, continued steadfastly on their set course. In so doing they
lost most of their aircraft. The battles, which were taking place at great height,
could be seen clear across the skies. At those altitudes German defense
forces had an indisputable advantage. It was a mass aerial engagement such
as is seldom seen, with burning and crashing Soviet bombers and their escorts
falling to the ground almost everywhere. Generaloberst Jeschonnek Chief of the
Luftwaffe General Staff happened to be at the advanced command post of the
VIII Air Corps at the time, and was able to personally witness this Soviet
Flak artillery units also took their toll of the incoming Soviet planes. Without
regard for their own fighters, light and heavy flak batteries opened fire on the
approaching formations, coming in at altitudes ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 feet,
and scored a number of direct hits.
Since few of the Russian bombers reached the target areas, few bombs were
dropped and those which were dropped were released in such haste and in such
a haphazard manner that few of them even came close to any airfield
installations German bombers were thus able to continue their takeoffs and to continue
operations on schedule.
In the course of the air defense action, approximately 120 Soviet aircraft
were shot down, while German losses, including those destroyed on the ground,
were so slight that the outcome could be described as a complete victory. The
timely anticipation of the Soviet air attack and the personal initiative exercised by
fighter commanders saved the day, and gave the Wehrmacht air superiority over
the entire area for the next few weeks, during which time the Russians refrained
from any aggressive air activity. The Luftwaffe was therefore able to give
almost full support to the ground attack (which began precisely on schedule).
The rise in Luftwaffe morale was marked and remained up for a considerable
period of time.
Although not entirely devoid of the kind of bias sometimes found in post-war analysis produced by a defeated enemy, in general the Arno volumesand the three German Air Force versus Russia volumes in particularare well regarded and highly prized. Despite the missing maps, the Historica edition should be a worthy addition to any collection currently without the originals.
Warren, Harris G. Special Operations: AAF Aid to European Resistance Movements, 1943-1945. Reno, NV: Historica Aviation Publications, 2003
Foreword; Historica Preface; charts; tables; Glossary; Notes; Biographical Note
Appendices: More than 25 assorted appendices
Unlike the other two new volumes from Historica, this one wasn't originally written by officers of a defeated enemy. Instead, it was written by a US Air Force major. This volume also distinguishes itself by covering the obscure subject of aid delivered to partisans by the US Army Air Force in Europe between 1943 and 1945.
These operations took several forms, including delivery of supplies and agents (either by landing or para drop), dropping propaganda leaflets, and extraction of agents, wounded personnel, and documents. These mission took place in particular in France, northern Italy, Yugoslavia, Poland, Albania, and Greece. The text provides an overview of the resistance movements in Axis-occupied Europe and Allied policies in regard to those groups, then describes the establishment and evolution of Allied agencies and air units for supporting resistance groups. Individual chapters examine planning and execution of missions, examples of typical operations, and the general course of activities during the last years of the war.
Here's an example of a typical page:
The principal German offensives in Yugoslavia in May and June were directed
against Vlasenica, the area south of Bihac, Ribnica, and Tito's Headquarters at
Drvar. When these efforts in Slovenia and Bosnia failed, strong forces
attacked Partisans in southern Yugoslavia in the Andrijevica, Berane, and
Kolasin areas of Montenegro. This July offensive left the enemy with his positions
only slightly improved. In July, also, the BAF began operations and was able
to give considerable tactical aid to the Partisans, to inflict serious damage on the
enemy's road and rail transport, and to provide fighter escort for daylight
landing missions on a scale hitherto impossible. Most of the 1,200 sorties flown
by the BAF in July were against communication targets, but numerous Spitfire
attacks struck Podgorica and Niksic in Montenegro in support of Partisan operations. This activity in Montenegro called for many supply missions by No.
334 Wing and a great increase in landing operations which took out more than
5,000 persons, most of whom were wounded Partisans and women and children.
(See App. 12) In August the Germans renewed their drive to clear communications routes in southern Yugoslavia. Troops assembled in the Pec-Mitrovica
areas advanced west to capture Andrijevica, Bijelo, Berane, and Kolasin. In spite
of heavy assistance from the BAF, Partisans were losing ground rapidly. What
had become a critical situation changed quickly between 23 August and 5
September when Rumania and Bulgaria capitulated before the swiftly advancing
Russians. The Germans were compelled to revise their strategic plan and
directed full attention to extricating their exposed forces from the Balkans.
The August offensive came at a time when considerable effort was being
made to aid the Polish uprising in Warsaw, and No. 334 Wing diverted three
squadrons for that purpose. Nevertheless, special duty aircraft-exclusive of
the Russian Air Group-flew 635 successful sorties to Yugoslavia to deliver more
that 873 net long tons of supplies. The 60th Troop Carrier Group delivered more
than 65 percent of this total, which represented about 75 percent of its effort to
the Balkans. The Italian squadrons at Lecce took in 203.47 long tons. The
Russian Air Group completed 194 of 221 sorties to Yugoslavia and delivered 321
net long tons; 43 of its sorties were landing operations that evacuated 751 personnel and infiltrated 146. Practically all of the 60th Troop Carrier Group's
145 successful landings during August were made in Yugoslavia, and more than
2,000 persons were evacuated to Italy. An unusual feature of these landing
missions was the delivery of 24 mules and 12 75 mm. guns to Montenegro.
These deliveries were made on two very difficult landing grounds and in exceptionally bad weather, which required flying on instruments between two jagged
peaks at the destination.
The author concludes with a lengthy series of appendices containing organigrams, summaries of units and aircraft involved in missions, statistical digests of sorties, a synopsis of the "operational cycle" for support ops, etc. These are a useful addition to the main text, but it's especially interesting to note the author's disclaimer about this data (and the book as a whole):
Materials for this study were difficult to obtain because operations discussed were
highly secret in nature and adequate records, if they exist, did not come to light. An
unsuccessful attempt extending over several weeks, was made to obtain materials from
the Office of Strategic Services. Perhaps it should be noted that OSS records have been
somewhat dispersed during the reorganization of that office.
Unit histories, war diaries, and special reports have been drawn upon heavily. On the
higher levels, the two histories of special operations in the Mediterranean theater and
the history of the CARPETBAGGER project from the United Kingdom were especially
useful. Histories of the Eighth, Twelfth, and Fifteenth Air Forces and the Mediterranean
Allied Air Forces, while touching but briefly on special operations, were also valuable.
Among the hundreds of supporting documents that were filed with the MAAF history
are many which relate to special operations. Where not otherwise placed, the sources
are to be found in the Archives Section of the Air Historical Office.
One finds considerable difficulty in reconciling statistics, especially when sources
often disagree substantially. In such cases the writer has accepted the statistics
which, in his judgment, appear to be most reliable. For the Mediterranean theater, this
unfortunate situation could have been remedied had all the Special Operations Monthly
Reports been available. This series did not begin until April 1944, two months after the
AAF began its special operations from Italian bases. The RAF Mediterranean Review
was helpful in providing background material on the Partisan situation in the Balkans
Covering a topic more obscure than the other two new Historica reprints (even more obscure than the Japanese air war in China, if that's possible), and doing so with what the author admits are limited and contradictory sources, this volume will probably be mostly of interest to those who specialize in this niche. On the other hand, it also seems this volume has never been commercially published, so it shouldn't find a saturated market.
Historica should be commended for undertaking this series of reprints, especially because many of the originals are nearly impossible to find these days. While not without occasional imperfections and omissions, they serve as close-to-the-moment documents by authors who were on the spot.
Historica has chosen to simply reprint the originals; therefore, these editions inherit the original strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, that means more readers and researchers have a chance to see the unedited material as it was initially published. On the other hand, that also means any inaccuracies are perpetuated. Further, even though Historica has chosen not to edit or annotate any of the original text, without exception each book could have benefitted from additional features such as a reading list for further (and newer!) information on the same topics as well as something simple (and useful!) as an index.
Regardless of those relatively unimportant limitations, these volumes should be eagerly acquired and absorbed by anyone interested in these kinds of primary sources for World War II air operations.
All of these books are available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Historica Aviation Publications.
Thanks to Historica for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 7 September 2003
Copyright © 2003 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone