New books about the great American warplanes is well worth the price

There are a lot of books about military airplanes on the market, but somehow that market never becomes saturated. There always are those among us who never get enough.

One of the newest, “Combat: The Great American Warplanes” by Jim Wilson, is more than a picture book, delving into such historic questions as why the U.S. military took so long (five years) to figure out the value of aviation, how bombers contributed more than any other weapon to our superpower status, how close support of ground forces evolved, and much more.

Wilson is a believer in the notion that aerial dogfighting is as dead as the biplane, thanks to the increasing sophistication and range of missiles. That miscalculation was made before Vietnam, too, and led to creation of Navy and Air Force fighter weapons schools, following embarrassing air-to-air combat losses. It is interesting that the issue has risen again.

Wilson begins each of the book’s nine sections with an interesting overview, before getting into the details of specific airplanes and their stories. He does not explain why eight sections are devoted to Air Force aircraft and only one to Naval Aviation, although readers can assume that his fascination with big airplanes has a lot to do with it.

Wilson is the science editor of “Popular Mechanics” magazine. In that job he covers aviation, aerospace and military matters and, judging from this book, he has become quite knowledgeable about them.

This large (9″x11″) book is available directly from Hearst Books via and at a lot of book stores – some of which, surely, are discounting the $50 price. However, even readers paying the full fare are unlikely to be disappointed. It’s worth the price.

By Thomas F. Norton

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