Axis Aircraft in Latin America Book Review
|Date of Review
|Axis Aircraft in Latin America
|Santiago Rivas, Amaru Tincopa
|368 pages, hardcover
Over 70 years after World War II, historians have searched and sifted every aspect of Axis air power – right?
Historians Santiago Rivas and Amaru Tincopa have penned a truly terrific tome on German, Italian and, yes, even Japanese aircraft in Latin America.
Available from Specialty Press, Hikoki's Axis Aircraft in Latin America spans 368 lavishly illustrated, intensely intriguing pages of masterful research, spectacular insights and amazing epiphanies.
First a nomenclature note. Rivas and Tincopa rather elastically employ the term "Axis". Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan signed the Tripartite Pact 27 September 1940 – long after many of the book's events occurred. And with Allied victories in 1945, the Axis powers disappeared – before, for instance, this volume's duly detailed sale of Fiat G.55s to Argentina.
But I quibble.
After brief introductory notes, Hikoki's hefty hardback covers – alphabetically and geographically, civil and military – German and Italian aircraft in ten South American countries. An eleventh recaps their use in Central America and Mexico. Sections on Chile, Paraguay and Venezuela acknowledge the aid of local researchers.
A twelfth, chunky chapter covers "visitors" to the region – unsuccessful military competitors, impressed enemy airliners, record-setting machines and goodwill flights. That's where you'll find the book's sole Japanese example: Mitsubishi's G3M J-BACI "Nippon".
Contents conclude with accounts of the region's German and Italian airline operations, civil aircraft, "survivors" and "local industry legacy" – the last being an especially handy précis of "German and Italian engineers in Argentina and Brazil".
Italian designs saw widespread service in several Latin American militaries. Caproni AP.1s in El Salvador and Paraguay. Fiat CR.32s in Venezuela and Paraguay. Savoia-Marchetti SM.79s in Brazil. IMAM Ro-37s in Ecuador and Uruguay. Fiat G.46-2s and G.55s in postwar Argentina. And more. Much more.
German warplanes proved equally ubiquitous. Junkers Ju 86s in Bolivia and Chile. Focke-Wulf Fw 58s in Argentina and Brazil. Many German designs also entered civil service. Junkers F13s, K43s, W34s and Ju 52s, for instance, seemed everywhere.
Authors cover everything in context. In addition to recapping German and Italian aircraft use in the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay, their superb study surveys aircraft service in the Leticia War between Peru and Colombia, the 1941 border war between Peru and Ecuador, and several skirmishes, clashes and coups.
Contents come full of fascinating facts and "firsts". The legendary Junkers Ju 52, for instance, received its worldwide baptism of fire during the Chaco conflict. The Fábrica Nacional de Aviones Caproni Péru (FNA) actually received license to manufacture the rare Caproni-Vizzola F.5 monoplane fighter. Brazil nearly produced Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condors. And Paraguayan Caproni AP.1s served until 1949!
I got whiplash!
Text also includes color notes. And dozens of photos and color profiles could easily power years of model project possibilities.
But has the saga of Axis aircraft in Latin America really ended? Might some of Peru's elusive Caproni Ca 135s remain, as authors speculate, buried beneath the base at El Pato in Talara? And might Venezuela's last FIAT CR.32s – and its sole BR.20 – rest, mud-bound, in Lake Valencia?
In the meantime, try prying this brilliant book from my cold, dead hands. Get your own copy! Then pray that Santiago Rivas and Amaru Tincopa give us more.
My sincere thanks to Specialty Press for this review sample!