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Naval Aces of World War I: Parts 1 and 2

by Jon Guttman, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, England, 2011 and 2012, $25.95

Most aviation enthusiasts are familiar with World War I’s land-based aces, but the top naval pilots are practically unknown. Jon Guttman has rectified this oversight with a two-part series, Naval Aces of World War I. The author of 12 previous books for Osprey (and Aviation History’s research director), Guttman has become something of the American expert on World War I.

Part 1 mainly focuses on Britain’s Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), while Part 2 covers the remainder, including Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Greece. Though there was only one U.S. Navy ace, Lt. j.g. David S. Ingalls, many other American naval aviators—some of whom Guttman covers in context—had impressive careers.

The color profiles included are notable because of the variety of RNAS types illustrated. Besides the usual Sopwith Camels, Sopwith 1½-Strutters and Pups, Part 1 also features Nieuports and Sopwith Triplanes. Perhaps the most unusual aircraft found here are a de Havilland DH-4 light bomber and a Sopwith Baby floatplane fighter, complete with supplemental plan views. It’s also wonderful to see how many rare, littleknown types Part 2 covers, including the Hansa-Brandenberg W.12 and W.29 floatplane fighters. Russian flying boats and Italian Macchi M5 flying boat fighters are included, as are Albatros D.Vs and Fokker D.VIIs, whose careers in navy squadrons often receive little attention.

I’d have liked to see at least one map showing naval bases, and a table of comparative ranks in naval services. But their omission is understandable given the format. These new additions to the “Aircraft of the Aces” series will offer enthusiasts and modelers a wide range of types and markings for future projects. Having watched Osprey’s growing list of such works for more than 16 years, I can say that these two books are packed with the most fascinating details I have yet seen.


Originally published in the November 2012 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.