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Soviet Air Power in World War 2

Soviet Air Power in World War 2 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review October 2008 Title Soviet Air Power in World War 2
Author Yefim Gordon Publisher Midland Publications
Published 2008 ISBN 978-1-85780-304-4
Format 528 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $79.95


While there are numerous titles on the market dealing with the Soviet Air Force during World War Two, many of them are simple translations of Soviet-era historical monographs that were very patriotic in nature and rarely recognized that anyone else was fighting Nazi Germany at the time. These publications usually featured grainy black and white photos that were of little benefit due to the simplistic printing processes and rarely did you find mention of Soviet use of Lend-Lease aircraft in their air war. I know, I have many of these titles that were published in Russian back in the 1970s, but they provided a rare glimpse into the air operations against a battle-hardened Luftwaffe.

When I noted earlier this year that author Yefim Gordon was publishing an extensive (528 pages!) title on the subject, of course I pre-ordered a copy. UPS was kind enough to deliver said copy yesterday, and I am impressed. If you haven't heard of Yefim Gordon, he is a prolific author of Soviet Airpower and has previously released THE comprehensive references for the MiG-31 Foxhound, MiG-29 Fulcrum, and most recently, the MiG-21 Fishbed. A few of his monographs have dealt with specific World War 2 aircraft, but this title is his first comprehensive work of the Soviet Air Force in World War 2.

To give you a flavor of the coverage in this title, here are the six chapters that span this huge book:

  • The Soviet Aircraft Industry in the Run-up to and during the Great Patriotic War
  • Soviet Air Force Organization and Equipment Before and during the Great Patriotic War
  • Naval Aviation in the Great Patriotic War
  • Soviet Combat Aircraft of 1939-1945
  • The Role Played by the Lend-Lease Agreement During the Great Patriotic War
  • Soviet Pilots in the Great Patriotic War

As with the other titles from this author, the book is printed on high-quality glossy paper and is illustrated with excellent period photos. I recognize some of these photos from past Soviet publications, but I've never seen them without the compulsory grain and poor quality printing before. In addition to all of the great photos in this title, the book is also well-illustrated with color profiles of many of the aircraft shown in the photos.

As with any complex title that involves editors and illustrators, the occasional photo gets misplaced. On page 143, the caption talks about the Yak-1 but the photo is a great example of what you'll find in here - a clear shot of a P-40E getting towed on the snow with the cowling removed wearing a white tail and red stars in all the right places. This is in Chapter 2 and in here alone, the author walks through each aircraft type providing a great mix of technical data and operational experiences. Another typical reference on the subject would focus on the fighters, not so here. The author does provide better coverage of the fighters that any title I can recall, but he also extends that same thoroughness to the seaplanes, attack aircraft, light bombers, medium bombers, and heavy bombers.

The section on the lend-lease aircraft is worth the price of the title (for me) as this area has long been overlooked. We've seen lots of information on the Spitfire, Hurricane, P-39 and P-40 airframes delivered, but did you know they also received one Mosquito B.IV (shown above) and 10 P-51 Mustangs? As with the other sections, this area is also well illustrated and included some interesting color profiles. An A-20G with an early Soviet-made air intercept radar; another A-20G with a torpedo suspended under the aircraft, an O-52 with some interesting fuselage artwork (too bad we don't have a good kit of this subject), and even a Lancaster modified into a special transport. From these photos, I can see why the pilots were having problems with the P-39 Airacobra - the airframes weren't large enough for all of the kill markings!

This is another excellent title from Midland Publications and fills a major void in the published history about this subject.

Defnitely recommended!