Share This Article

FIGHTER AIRCRAFT COMBAT DEBUTS, 1915-1945: Innovation in Air Warfare Before the Jet Age

by Jon Guttman, Westholme, Yardley, Pa., 2014, $35.


Interesting, very well written and packed with facts and details, this survey of the careers of a wide variety of fighters in a seminal 30-year period comes from an established expert in aviation history. It is in the same wide-ranging and unusual category as British author Victor Flintham’s two books, Air Wars and Aircraft: A Detailed Record of Air Combat, 1945 to the Present and its updated sequel High Stakes: Britain’s Air Arms in Action 1945-1990, both of which I highly recommend. Supported by an impressive bibliography, Fighter Aircraft Combat Debuts offers readers many hours of reading and browsing pleasure, but also serves as a dependable reference that belongs in anyone’s historical aviation library.

Some of the entries and chapters will be familiar to enthusiasts, but there are many descriptions and anecdotes that may be new to even the most experienced aviation reader. Jon Guttman (Aviation History’s research director) is well known for his writing on World War I aviation, particularly through his numerous books for Osprey, but here he branches out into interwar engagements and early World War II operations, such as the first German raids into Poland in September 1939. His treatment of little-known British Royal Navy operations in the first years of WWII, including missions by Fairey Fulmar two-seat fighters and the desperate response by the Soviets when their air force was decimated by the German onslaught in June 1941, makes for excellent reading. Late-war German jet and rocket-plane operations add to the overall spread of coverage.

The only real problem is the thumbnail size of most photographs, many of which are very interesting and unusual. This book is reasonably priced in today’s market, but I would have gladly paid a little more to see bigger pictures. That said, Fighter Aircraft Combat Debuts is another fine effort by Guttman.

Peter Mersky