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Who Downed the Aces in WWI?, by Norman Franks, Grub Street, London, 1996, $32.95

A spinoff of the collaborative project that produced their earlier work on German World War I aces, Above the Lines, the new work from British historian Norman Franks and American researchers Frank Bailey and Rick Duiven, The Jasta Pilots, fills out the rosters of German fighter squadrons (Jagdstaffeln or Jasta for short) with minibiographies of all the other flying personnel that they have been able to document. As such, it makes an excellent supplement to Above the Lines, and it should prove to be an invaluable research tool for World War I historians who need information on the German fighter force. Modelers will also welcome the appendix, illustrated with drawings by Greg van Wyngarden, containing all that is currently known of the colors or combinations of colors on noses, tails, fuselages, etc., that were used to identify each Jasta.

Another interesting World War I­related reference is Norman Franks’ solo effort, Who Downed the Aces in WWI? Comprising a titanic amount of research in one compact volume, this book accounts for fighter pilots with five or more victories who were killed, wounded or brought down and taken prisoner. Beginning with the death of French ace Adolphe Pègoud on August 31, 1915 (by the observer of a German two-seater whose pilot, ironically, had been one of Pègoud’s students before the war), Franks concludes with the downing and capture of British ace 2nd Lt. E.O. Amm on November 9, 1918.

Hard-core World War I enthusiasts may not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, and his epilogue is marred a bit by his reference to German ace Werner Voss as being Jewish, about which one would think a seasoned old pro like Franks would know the truth. (Voss was, in fact, Lutheran—the long-discredited myth of his being Jewish was started in the 1930s by Welsh ace and author J.I.T. Jones just to spite Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring.) Overall, Who Downed the Aces in WWI? is an intriguing and useful volume that reminds us of just how personal air-to-air combat could be in the first air war.