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P-40 Warhawk Aces of the CBI


P-40 Warhawk Aces of the CBI
(Carl Molesworth)

I was somewhat disappointed by this book, because I figured (didn't you?) that it would tell the story of the AVG Flying Tiger aces of Burma and China. Alas, no. It focuses almost entirely on the U.S. Army fighter pilots who followed the AVG, and the original Tigers get only a page about their exploits, plus some photographs and of course the Osprey Books specialty: full-color plates of a few AVG Warhawks (Tomahawks, actually) that made the cut because of their USAAF associations. Bob Neale's Number Seven is pictured, for example, because Neale actually commanded the 23rd Fighter Group for two weeks--probably the only time that a U.S. Army combat unit on the front line has been commanded by a civilian.

Tomahawk Number 46 is also pictured, complete with its P-number on the tail. But it's wearing the 23rd FG emblem, as the plane was flown by USAAF 1st Lt Thomas Smith in September 1942. All the other P-40s pictured are the big-jawed versions, P-40E and later.

Similarly, the appendix of aces lists only those AVGs who have some association, however tenuous, with the USAAF. In addition to Neale, I see the names of Tex Hill, Bill Reed, Charlie Bond, Ed Rector, Joe Rosbert and Dick Rossi (who refused induction and instead remained in China to fly for CNAC!), Gil Bright, Robert H. Smith (?), George McMillan, and Jim Howard. Mysteriously, this appendix is headed "Aces who flew P-40s in the CBI". But what about Greg Boyington, George Burgard, Bob Little, Chuck Older (who did in fact join the USAAF after he returned to the U.S., and who also flew combat in the Korean War), R.T. Smith (likewise a USAAF combat pilot), and Bill McGarry--to name only those who scored higher than Bond? Apparently the author decided to qualify as an USAAF P-40 ace anyone who remained in China for two weeks' additional service after the AVG was officially disbanded, and who also was credited with five enemy aircraft in any theater. Thus Dick Rossi, who was never a serving member of the U.S. Army, makes the cut, while R.T. Smith does not.

On the other hand, I was glad to see that the AVG victories have been corrected to eliminate aircraft destroyed on the ground, and also to reassign victories that had been distorted by pilots' sharing bonus credits equally among all who took part in a mission.

The Osprey series is a praiseworthy effort. The books are pricey, for paperbacks, but they give good value with their "colour" plates. (Sadly, in this one there are no color plates of individual pilots, such as graced the earlier Osprey volumes I own.)

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