cover image Battle for the Skies: From Europe to the Pacific, World War II Aces Tell Their Story

Battle for the Skies: From Europe to the Pacific, World War II Aces Tell Their Story

Michael Paterson, Author David & Charles Publishers $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7153-1815-7

The archives of many nations have been ransacked for this absorbing compendium of oral histories and after-action reports from World War II pilots. The material, which includes the perspectives of Axis and Allied fliers alike, covers all the epic air battles, from the Battle of Britain to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but also visits lesser known corners of the war, like the adventures of female Soviet Union combat pilots. Paterson, formerly of the British Imperial War Museum, groups the selections thematically and provides background commentary that draws together aspects of the air war in a fairly coherent fashion. Readers learn of the performance specs and combat characteristics of such storied planes as the Spitfire and the Messerschmitt 109 through tales of the intense love felt by pilots for these machines. The exhilaration of dog-fighting is evoked--""I lined him up in my sights and paused for an instant, savouring the beauty of the moment,"" rhapsodizes a German pilot going in for the kill--along with the alternating tedium and dread felt by Allied bomber crews over Germany, whose casualty rates sometimes exceeded those of Japanese kamikaze pilots. And the gentlemanly conduct of dueling fighter pilots on the Western front is celebrated as one of the few episodes of chivalry in that ghastly conflict. A selection of color reproductions of aerial combat paintings by artist Robert Taylor enhances the atmospherics of this exciting and evocative book.