Review by: Martin Koenigsberg
Just finished my 43rd Book Review of the Year!!
Summary: A very complete look at the Curtiss P-36, one of the seminal American Aircraft of the WWII Era. Served in many Air Forces and brought many new features to the Pre War Aircraft Industry. Each airframe is traced and discussed.
This might be the best single type book I have ever read about a WWII era aircraft. Dan Hagedorn, an American aircraft author and researcher of some note , teams up with Amaru Tincopa, a maven of Latin American aviation to track down and research the P-36 Story- ALL of it. You might just think of the P-36 as the precursor to the p-40- really just the same airframe with a stronger series of liquid-cooled engines and self-sealing fuel tanks-but it was really more. This book shows how the Curtiss Design 75/P-36 served the air forces of Nationalist China, Thailand, the US Army Air Corps, The RAF, RSAAF, Norway, Vichy and early war France, Brazil , The Luftwaffe, Finland, Holland and Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), Peru, and Iran- all before the Curtiss had developed the P-40! The book aims to handle it all- be a complete record (you get spread sheets that trace EVERY Airframe!), a categoric curated photo collection (one is reminded that Sepia was still a thing in 1930s photos), a history of the type in each service with some combat stories for colour (some are gripping), a resource for modelers of the type (you get a tonne of side view scheme paintings- of some rare birds)- and a general resource of the technical changes in the type over the years and the remaining examples. It’s a big list- but every time I turned a page I was either discovering something I did not know or being reminded of the realities of the 1930s aviation world in a engaging way. The Latin American Content is really amazing- one forgets that this was an era of “adjustments” to borders and newfound resources in the continent- and the P-36 represented modernity there in a way that held meaning in the 1940s.
By the time WWII was actually on- the P36 could fight with a Me 109 or a MiG-3 – it just had trouble getting away. The extra weight of the liquid cooled engine would make the P-40 faster in a dive- and faster level- although it would end up taking away the feathery touch and turning radius advantage the type had with the slower Radials chosen for the P-36 (of course totally competitive in 1936 when the type debuted). The Finns- who operated their own- and then bought Airframes the French and Norwegians had operated – used the type with success into 1944 (!!!!)- but their pilots were extremely experienced. I loved discovering that the South Africans flew them in support of the Somalia and Ethiopia Campaigns in 1941- and then that that a few of them were the other aircraft alongside old Hurricanes that defended Burma and then Eastern India (Now Bangladesh)- and could still shoot down a contemporary Japanese type enough to get by. When the period begins- two synchonised machine guns above the engine cowling was the main set-up- but the end of the period anyone who’s fighting in them has put 3-4 .50 Cal Brownings in the Wing-mounts that are the mark of WWII fighters- or trying to hang all sorts of 20mm/25mm cannon on the wings- so it’s a type that shows you development in the early war period. The best example of that is that the first overseas contracts , Siam and Argentina, were fixed undercarriage types with beautiful aerodynamic spats around the tires- like the WWII Dive bombers. I kept turning a page and saying “They flew them too?”- and there was always chapter, verse, photos and a side scheme or two to back it up. I loved it- and I so wish I could have shared it with my dad who loved this type and made several models of it. If you like aircraft stories that really try to give you the whole story- and show their work- this is the book for you.
There are a few adult themes but no graphic violence or pictures and the prose is direct enough for this to be a good book for a 12/13 year old Junior Reader- with a longer attention span. For the Gamer/Modeler/Military Enthusiast- clearly the intended audience- this is a great addition to the canon on this type. Blood Red Skies players will want to track it as a surprise infighter if you run French 1940, Vichy Early War, Finnish, or Pearl Harbor scenarios- and you get those schemes to paint. Modelers get the provenance and ultimate fate of EVERY SINGLE airframe- for every air force I have listed- and so many schemes to choose from it’s really awesome- I know my modelers! The military enthusiast gets this great resource that is not only categoric- but helps to explain so much about how Technology, Industrialism, Politics, and personalities came together in the prewar and early war period- to set up the Allies for ultimate Victory. I found the story very compelling- and think any P-40, USAAC, French Air Force, or Technology shelf of the WWII library can stand to ad this tome.
About the Reviewer: Martin Koenigsberg is just a Guy with a History Degree who reads a lot of books. I find books at thrift stores, read them, review them- then get them back to the Gamers/Modelers/Military Enthusiasts who also like this Genre. I’m also going through my Father’s Collection- (Leyte ’44, Japan ’45-47) and reading those… I Game/Paint/Read Military History in Boulder, CO- hope to travel a bunch to Europe and Pacific Museums again… Follow me: https://twitter.com/MartinKoenigsb2https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100069956042468https://www.instagram.com/martmarsminisnbooks/https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9591804-martin
About the Book: Hardcover, 368 pages
Published 2021 by European Airlines Rob Mulder