Spanish Republican Aces by Rafael A. Permuy López, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, UK, 2012, $22.95.
Despite the Cold War, McCarthyism and the general disrepute into which communism has fallen in America, there remains a lingering fascination and sympathy with the Republican cause in Spain. That sympathy is undoubtedly reinforced by the fact that Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany aided the Nationalist effort that established the despised regime of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
Rafael A. Permuy López opens his book with an admission that Spanish records related to the war are incomplete, a preface to an in-depth discussion of the nature and organization of the Republican air force, with its initial fleet of obsolete French fighters. These were soon supplemented by Polikarpov I-15s and I-16s furnished by the Soviet Union. The Soviet aircraft and the personnel who accompanied them are described in detail, but the emphasis is on the Spanish aces. López provides a capsule biography for each one, usually with a description of his most famous aerial combat.
The Loyalist air force was at a disadvantage at the start, for many of its officers had defected to the Nationalist cause. Over time, however, it reestablished itself and became temporarily dominant at various points on the front. Spanish Republican Aces is well illustrated, with more group photos than most books in this series, and ground crewmen are often included in the pictures. The Spanish fliers come across like young fighter pilots everywhere, smiling, eager for combat and loyal to each other.
As with all the books in this Osprey series, this one is filled with date and type details of individual victories and squadron war diaries. It complements the publisher’s earlier books on the subject, and includes a variety of interesting and often overlooked night-fighter operations.