the alfmeister

a figment of reality's imagination

Book Review; Dogfight: Greatest Air Duels of WWII


By Tony Holmes

This book looks very impressive, and as I skimmed through the pages it felt that this would be a very dedicated and professionally put together volume on a favourite topic of mine. Well, it was, and it wasn’t.

The title of the book does misrepresent the content a little; I got the impression it would chronicle and dissect famous dogfights while providing background on the planes and the amazing pilots that flew them, and if you know anything about air warfare of WWII you’d know that there are many of all to choose from.

But this book is dedicated to three ‘pairs’ of duelling combatants which was ultimately disappointing. It took two specific planes from either side of the fighting spectrum and analysed them to death from the plane itself, its inception and variants, and then into the training required to fly and fight them, and then a post-match analysis. There were smatterings of actual fighting narrative and the odd bio of pilots but these were too far few and between.

As it goes, however, the book is a great reference and is so thoroughly researched that I came out knowing a whole lot more about the subject, and I know a fair bit!

My biggest gripe was the selection of planes and pilots, as the book suggests only the ‘greatest need apply’, and I don;t think they have, but it could be seen as subjective. First is the trusty Spitfire vs. the Messerschmitt Bf109; fair enough, there are probably no two more distinguishable planes than these. Then we moved onto the P47 Thunderbolt and again the Bf109 (later variant); the P40 Warhawk and Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ fighting over China; P51 Mustang and the Focke Wulf 190, and finally the Seafire and Mitsubishi ‘Zero’.

An example of the fine paintings in this book (this one by Jim Laurier of a P40 Warhawk)

It lost continuity and at times (especially where the Spitfire/Seafire, and Bf109s were involved, a lot of doubling up of information to read. And too many times I found myself asking “What about the Hurricane? Where is the Me 262? The Corsair and Hellcat? Bader and Galland?”

Nope, as the book goes it is wrong in the sense it doesn’t deliver what it suggests, but nevertheless it is a good read if you can shift your focus from your own conclusions. Diagrams, photos, artwork and tactical notes are great, top-notch, and some of the facts and figures are detailed. Where there were a few pilot bios there weren’t enough and these themselves were missing more intricate detail.

Only for the real plane-spotters.

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