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American Bomber Aircraft Development in World War 2 Hardcover – May 15, 2011
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About the Author
William J. Norton is a flight test engineer working in southern California and at the Air Force Test Center. This continues a career began during 20 years as a US Air Force officer, when he also served as aircrew on test and support aircraft. Bill is a civil pilot with numerous ratings, has restored and operates a DHC-1 Chipmunk, and built a Rutan Long-EZ. He holds a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering.
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Top customer reviews
Mr. Norton's style is clear and he provides technical information as well as sufficient context regarding design and operational objectives, coupled with procurement intentions and contracts, to tell the story. Some ground is covered on flying results, mishaps and other anecdotes.
I would have perhaps hoped for a little more on systems, especially defensive armaments (a particular interest of mine) but still found plenty of nuggets to keep me happy. Any book that clarifies a few more points on the turrets and sighting arrangements of Northrup's B-35 is a treasure for me.
Ranging through attack, medium, heavy, super-heavy, flying boats and early jet bomber development, it covers a lot of aircraft. It is neither shallow or definitive (given the scope it could not be); it is an excellent, much-needed survey. I found no waste in it at all. I think I'll eventually add to my library everything Mr. Norton produces.
It is let down, however, by an alarming number of typos and crass proof-reading mistakes, which are not acceptable in what apparently is a professionally-edited, not inexpensive book. For instance, the text at the end of page 97 (which is the last page of a chapter) does not seem to have closure (and lacks a full stop, too). Page 98 is an entirely new chapter, so it gives the impression that something is missing. Also on page 179, speaking of the XB-35, it says " they predicted a 700 mph (1,261km/h) advantage, or matching speed with just 75% engine power". Besides the fact that 700 mph is equivalent to 1,120 km/h (either the author or whoever made the conversion probably confused miles with knots, as 700 knots is roughly 1,260 km/h), the sentence makes no sense whatsoever, as I am quite sure Northrop did not expect the airplane to be supersonic.
In fact, there are other cases of wrong conversions, not to mention typos galore. This increases after one goes past the middle of the book, giving the impression that no one bothered to revise the final part. Examples like those on page 184 -"2,00,000lb (90,361kg)"- or page 177 -"the equipment was expected to add 20,005,000lb (9,071,0340kg) to the aircraft" unfortunately can be counted in dozens, detracting confidence on any specific numbers present in the book.
Turns out it is both.
There are hundreds of books that lay out the history of famous types like the B-17. And sure enough, this book will tell you the differences between a B-17F and G or the various versions of B-29s. But if that's what you're looking for, I'd suggest you go elsewhere, while I don't doubt what the author tells us, this book is lighter than it should be when it comes to illustrating some of those versions. Unless you're up on the versions you might have some questions.
Where this book excels is in tell the reader the technological (but not so much the often equally important political and economic reasons) development of the basic aircraft and some of the reasons for the versions produced. Again, you can find much of this in single subject books, but unless you have a fairly complete library, you may not know these stories. One of my favorite stories of WWII is the tale of the development and production of the B-29. It was a huge undertaking, which led to the development of the war's most advanced bomber in near record time. The few pages allotted in this book don't even begin to do it justice, but since several books have been written on the subject you can easily find the details in those sources.
What I particularly enjoyed is the fact its one of the few books that will tell you about both Army and Navy aircraft. Besides the B-17, 24 and 29 you'll learn about various Navy land based bombers (the North American PBJ and Lockheed PV, PV-2 and P2V) and seaplanes including the famous Consolidated PBY and the less well known Martin Mariner.
And the author also gives you a broad scope of the bomber world by providing histories of the aircraft in the "Attack" category...like the A-26 and A-26.
Criticisms (aside from the previously mentioned lack of photos of every major variant) include the absence of a chat on each type showing the weights and performance of variants of a type. The A-20 chapter is particularly confusing since it went by a number of designations with its many customers.
A well laid out chart on a type might of replaced some of the number heavy paragraphs of text while making it easy to compare variants.
And if you're looking for operational details of the aircraft, you had better look elsewhere.
Pluses include details of projects that never went beyond paper studies, mockups or prototypes. I guarantee that even experts will learn something about some of the more obscure proposals (especially from firms like Martin who have escaped the attention of many historians).
So in review, if you're a novice with a small library, this book will be a huge addition to your collection.
But if you already know about the stories of the American "greats" of WWII, you may not learn a great deal about them, but you will learn enough about other types to make adding this book to your library worthwhile.