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American Secret Projects

American Secret Projects Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review December 2015 Title American Secret Projects
Author Tony Buttler AMRAeS and Alan Griffith Publisher Crecy
Published 2015 ISBN 9781906537487
Format 281 pages, hardbound MSRP (BP) £27.50


Count on aircraft “project” experts Tony Buttler and Alan Griffith to unearth details of the US Navy’s exotic Wallace-Martin Model A.

It’s just one of dozens of fascinating entries in first volume of Crécy’s enormously entertaining American Secret Projects. Subtitled “Fighters, Bombers and Attack Aircraft, 1937 to 1945”, the lavishly illustrated study surveys the stunning sweep of US designs before and during World War II.

Hundreds of B&W shots, color photos and archival illustrations season the splendid study. Superb line drawings by author Griffith reference original factory plans and mock-up photographs for optimal accuracy. And additional line art – some from manufacturer sources – visually capture the vast warplane range.

It offers, authors aver, “by far the most extensive coverage of US Second World War proposals for fighter and bomber designs ever produced”:

  • USAAF Single-Engine Fighters
  • USAAF Twin-Engine Fighters
  • USAAF Light and MediumBombers
  • USAAF Heavy Bombers
  • USAAF Attack Aircraft
  • US Navy Fighters
  • US Navy Attack Aircraft
  • Maritime Patrol Aircraft and Flying Boats
  • “Miscellaneous Programmes”

Crécy’s cast of characters surprisingly sports many familiar faces – like P-40s, P-51s, B-24s, B-25s and iterations. Spotlights also showcase A-26s, F6Fs and SBDs. Authors, in short, recap all key US warplanes that beat the Axis. But why include all these with “secret projects”?

Yet there’s more. Far more.

How about that Curtiss CP-40 and P-248 – and forward-swept-wing Mustang with tricycle undercarriage? Or that XP-55 “P-304” development with General Electric TG-180 jet engine? Some paper projects – like the twin-engine Lockheed L-134 and Curtiss XP-71 with contra-rotating pusher propellers – resemble refugees from 1940s pulp fiction!

Boeing’s XB-20 and Model 334 studies foreshadow the legendary B-29. And how about that Burnelli XBA-1 medium bomber and Consolidated six-engine “Flying Wing B-36 Alternative”? Or Consolidated/Convair “tailless patrol aircraft”? Wow!

Two appendices, glossary, selected bibliography, source notes and index augment Crécy’s cool compendium.

But some gremlins haunt this otherwise admirable account. That’s YP-43 – not “YF-43”. Maybe it’s I, but Vultee’s twin-engine P-1015 doesn’t appear “very reminiscent” of Britiain’s de Havilland Mosquito. “In all only thirty-eight B-23s were built and their service career was pretty short” – not “B-18s”. And that annoying buff color background on line drawings spoils details for scratch-builders.

Douglas’ Model 332/XB-31 also carried machine guns – not “machines” – in turrets. I really wanted much more on Lockheed’s Constellation airliner variant, the XB-30 bomber – all “four versions” mentioned in text. “Although offering good performance, the Wallace-Martin was very heavy and had a poor performance”. Which is it: “good” or “poor” performance? And why no entries on Bell’s X/YFM-1 Airacuda and Douglas’ XB-19?

Nitpicks notwithstanding, the first volume of American Secret Projects is a ripping read. I really enjoyed it. And I eagerly await the sequel!


My sincere thanks to Crécy Publishing Ltd for this review sample!