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P-39/P-400 Airacobra vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen

P-39/P-400 Airacobra vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review March 2018 Title P-39/P-400 Airacobra vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen
Author Michael John Claringbould Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2018 ISBN 9781472823663
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $20.00


Two icons of early WWII Pacific aerial combat tangle in the 87th installment of Osprey's entertaining "Duel" series.

Subtitled "New Guinea 1942", P-39/P-400 Airacobra vs A6M2/3 Zero-sen follows the publisher's familiar format.

Commencing with introductory notes and a chronology, author Michael John Claringbould outlines "Design and Development" and "Technical Specifications" details for both fighters.

Comments on the "Strategic Situation" and "Combatants" come next. Then coverage hits crescendo with combat accounts.

Airacobras of USAAF 8th FG and 35th FG fought Zero-sens of Tainan Kaigun Kokutai, the IJNAF's "crack fighter unit" with the "cream of Japan's Zero-sen pilots" – who, incidentally, renounced wearing parachutes. Some familiar names – including one future US President – season stories.

Text reflects latest research. New Guinea-based USAAF Airacobras officially scored, for instance, 95 aerial victories. But postwar analyses of Allied and Imperial Japanese records reduced the true number to 15 – 6.3 claims per actual kill, as Claringbould dryly details.

In fact, USAAF Airacobra combat losses totaled 44 – versus "just 15 Zero-sen, constituting a loss ratio of almost three-to-one" in IJNAF's favor. But of those 44 downed Airacobras, "only 15 were shot down by Zero-sen".

Most significantly, however, "slightly more than half of the USAAF fighter pilots shot down parachuted to safety and flew again, whereas only one Zero-sen pilot survived and was captured."

"Statistics and Analysis" and "Aftermath" sections complete coverage. Photos, color plates, cockpit interior details, and maps illustrate the account. Tables, expanded captions, and sidebars also supplement the study. And a selected bibliography of secondary sources and an index neatly wrap things up.

A personal coda: most of my dad's WWII flight class eventually flew P-39s in SW Pacific actions – and subsequently suffered high casualties. Had color vision problems not washed him out of flight training, I might not be here!

This is one of Osprey's best "Duel" titles. And it enjoys my strong recommendation.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!