P-40 Warhawk vs. Ki-43 Oscar

Molesworth P-40 Duel at the Warbird's Forum
P-40 Warhawk vs Ki-43 Oscar

(Carl Molesworth)

[The Japanese plane on the mock-up cover is a Zero taken from another publication. The actual cover does indeed show the Ki-43, and presumably it will eventually replace this one on the Amazon page.]

A book review by Richard L. Dunn

Carl Molesworth's P-40 versus Ki-43 book in the Osprey "duel" series has many outstanding qualities. For those unfamiliar with the two fighters it provides a good survey of their development and performance specifications. The book provides an interesting general outline of the aerial conflict in China and pays particular attention to the period of the Ichi-Go offensive when Japanese ground forces greatly disrupted Allied air operations by capturing or threatening key air bases. There is an outline of combat tactics, organization, pilot training and experience, and a profile of one Allied and one Japanese pilot. Carl has spent time in assuring the book is well illustrated. The art work by Jim Laurier is particularly well done.

The book may be disappointing for some, however. It was for me. Of the book's eighty pages only twenty-two are devoted to the section titled "Combat" and a considerable portion of this section consists of illustrations rather than text. The coverage of the duel between the P-40 and the Type 1 Fighter (the correct service designation of the Ki 43 which is mentioned only once in the text I believe) is quite disappointing. The section relates a number of combats and in a few cases gives verified results from both sides. It quotes American pilot accounts of a few combats. There is little analysis of the way the very different characteristics of these two aircraft were off-set or countered in combat situations. These are discussed as generalities rather than derived from data documented in the narrative. There are no quotations from Japanese pilots or Japanese combat reports. After reading this book the reader has only a general idea of how the Americans and Japanese fought with the P-40 and Type 1 Fighter and what their relative merits were after considering the tactical situation, pilot quality and other relevant factors.

Aside from the fact that the book fails to enlighten the reader as to the service designation (the one primarily used by Japanese pilots and official Japanese reports) of the Type 1 Fighter, the book contains a few technical errors. One that is particularly irksome to this reviewer is that it repeats the standard (and inaccurate) rendition concerning the designations and armament of the Type 1 model 1 Fighter. This could have been avoided by reference to a research article on this website. Finally the author's choice of 1944-1945 as the reference point to describe the "duel" between the P-40 and Type 1 Fighter is strange. In 1942 and 1943 these two fighters virtually defined air combat in China. For most of that period they held a monopoly and were pre-eminent in the fighter role for their respective sides. During the period of "Duel's" survey both the P-40 and Type 1 Fighter had been supplemented and to a large extent superseded by more advanced types.

Carl Molesworth's book has a few flaws but it is well written, interesting, and its artwork and illustrations are a visual delight. Despite this reviewer's barbs, Carl's book will be highly interesting and useful to many readers. For those interested but who have not ventured deeply; or at all, into the aerial conflict in China it may be considered an essential addition to their library. For many others the illustrations and accounts of combat in 1944-1945 will be interesting and worthwhile.

See it at Amazon.com