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Air War Over the Putumayo

Air War Over the Putumayo Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review November 2018 Title Air War Over the Putumayo
Author Amaru Tincopa, Santiago Rivas Publisher Helion
Published 2018 ISBN 9781912390236
Format 88 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $29.95


Amaru Tincopa and Santiago Rivas systematically and superbly detail one of the Western Hemisphere's first aerial conflicts in Air War Over the Putumayo – seventh in Helion's growing "Latin America@War" range.

And the subtitle tells it all: "Colombian and Peruvian Air Operations During the 1932-1933 Conflict".

Armed clashes, authors observe, often stemmed from Latin America's "ambiguous" national borders. And many disputed boundaries lay "in remote or inaccessible areas such as the Amazon" – hence the Putumayo river reference.

Helion's copiously illustrated coverage commences with six chapters of background details. These include historical and geographic notes, prewar arms purchases, and combatants' capabilities – air, ground, and naval. Colombia's warplane acquisitions, impressed civil aircraft, and locally experienced aviators offset Peru's initial numerical equipment superiority.

Contents then swiftly segue to combat.

In September 1932, a "mixed group" of Peruvian "civilians and military elements" seized the Colombian towns of Leticia and Tarapacá – precipitating the crisis.

Colombia rapidly responded with military forces and requisitioned civilian assets – notably Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transportes Aéreos (SCADTA) commercial aircraft, some converted to bombers.

Mining archival sources, Tincopa and Rivas then competently and chronologically chronicle all major engagements, including political and economic factors behind actions.

A League of Nations ceasefire ended months of clashes, "opening the way to a diplomatic solution of the conflict."

With 60% losses in the theater of operations, however, the campaign proved "disastrous" to the Cuerpo de Aviación del Perú. But Peru's experience prompted critical modernization, acquisition, training, and organization improvements. These would prove pivotal in coming conflict with Ecuador – topic of a future "Latin America@War" title from Helion.

I can't wait.

Hundreds of photos – many rare and previously unpublished – season the survey. Extended, explanatory captions further augment the account. Twenty-six color aircraft profiles and three maps illustrate the effort. And annotations, sources, and acknowledgments conclude contents.

Just check profiles against photos. Colombian Hawk II 804, for instance, should sport shallow, streamlined spats for low-pressure tires – not the deeper design with larger wheels. And BT-32 Condor engine nacelles should extend beyond wing trailing edges.

Modelers note details like those.

What a superb study. I thoroughly enjoyed this picture-packed page-turner. More, please!

Rabidly recommended!

With thanks to Casemate Publishing for the review copy!