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Book Review: 2nd Tactical Air Force

By Floyd S. Werner Jr.

Title: 2nd Tactical Air Force
Volume One:
  Spartan to Normandy, June 1943 to June 1944 (ISBN 1-903223-40-7)
Volume Two:
  Breakout to Bodenplatte, July 1944 to January 1945 (ISBN 1-903223-41-5)
Volume Three:
  From the Rhine to Victory, January to May 1945 (ISBN 1-903223-60-1)

Author: Christopher Shores & Chris Thomas
Cost: $54.95 per volume

The European Air War was not only fought at contrail altitudes between the Luftwaffe and the USAAF but also at ultra-low altitudes in the weeds. The British RAF was operating down and dirty against ground targets in some of the fiercest action in the war. When the German Army was trapped in the Falaise Pocket it was the fighter bombers that were sent in to close the gap. So why don't we hear much about their exploits? I can't find any reason, they were every bit a hero as the ace. Thankfully some of this oversight has been addressed by Classic Publications. These books were actually written 30 years ago, when the information was still relatively fresh in the minds of the veterans, but have been updated with further information and formatted in keeping with Classic's style.

The three part piece of work deals with the formation of the 2nd TAF until the end of the war. These hardbound volumes are printed on high quality paper and is typical of the quality that we have come to expect from Classic Publications. Each book contains hundreds of black and white photos, many previously unpublished. Also there are many Chris Thomas gorgeous color profiles covering every model used by the 2nd TAF including the Mustang Is, Spitfires, Typhoons, Tempests, Mosquitos, and Boston bombers, even Meteors. If you were ever looking for motivation to do a model look no further. The drawings and photos are all first rate.

The text is written in a chronological order, however, the text is easy to read and comprehensive. Interspersed with the day to day operations are personal accounts, which add to the whole story. One thing that you will be aware of is the attrition level of these pilots. The toll in human life is enormous and highlights the heroic exploits of the crews, but because they weren't "aces" much of their sacrifice has gone unnoticed. Also added into the pages are profiles of individual leaders or outstanding pilots, such as James Edgar (Johnnie) Johnson, including their aircraft.

Spitfires were the mainstay of the 2nd TAF all the way to the end of the war and there are plenty of pictures of them. The progression to the Typhoon, both car door and bubbletop, is seen as the units "upgrade" to a purpose built ground attack airplane.

The D-day operation is highlighted with a variety of color profiles of Spitfires, Mustangs and Typhoons. It is nice to see the crudely painted markings which were initially applied to the aircraft, especially on the Typhoons.

In the second volume you will see some more of the same. Excellent reference, photos and profiles are a highlight of this series. There are some things you wouldn't expect to see, such as a captured Fi-156 in British markings and invasion stripes used by Winston Churchill to tour the beach area with Wg Cdr. Harry Broadhurst. It seems scary to me to have the leader of your country over the beachhead in a captured enemy airplane. How about a sharkmouthed Mossie? Interesting to say the least. These are just a couple of examples of the great information shown in the photos. One of the greatest photos for a diorama idea is a Typhoon being serviced in a hangar. So what? Aircraft are in hangars all the time, but this time the hangar is disguised as a street of elaborately camouflaged buildings. I want to build this one myself. There are plenty of other ideas for dioramas included in these books.

Just after D-Day the 2nd TAF experienced its highest loss rate while attaining their greatest success. Pink and blue Spitfires are here as well. The late war aircraft are starting to show up in greater numbers, aircraft such as the Tempest and the five bladed Spitfire XIVs.

The third volume takes you from Bodenplatte until the end of the war. Interestingly, the British markings are seen to change to four color upper wing roundels. Also an increase in personal markings applied to the fighter bombers, including nudes, is characteristic of this period. Despite the lateness of the war the toll of human life was still tremendous. The beginning of the British jet age is covered with a lot of photos of the Meteor. Photos of a Typhoon with napalm under the wings show the way the next war would be fought. The third volume has some really nice color photos of Spitfires and Typhoons which will be helpful to the modeler. The shift in the color to a lighter grey upper color is noticeable. Meteors are shown in camouflage and all white paint schemes will be interesting to the model builder.

Again the amount of unpublished photos surprised me and the quality of the profiles is unparalleled. The photos and profiles are very inspirational for the modeler. The text is an interesting read for both the modeler and historian. These three volumes go a long way to address the lack of information on the 2nd TAF. This is an exceptional series and does justice to the heroism of these men. There is nothing about this series of books that I didn't like.

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Aeroplane Books for the review copies. You can get your copies at Tell them you heard about it here.

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