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23rd Fighter Group

by Carl Molesworth Jim Laurier

Staffed with inexperienced USAAF pilots and led by a handful of seasoned veterans of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the 23rd FG was formed in the field at Kunming, in China, on July 4, 1942 and flew combat missions that same day. The group's three squadrons - the 74th, 75th and 76th Fighter Squadrons - were initially equipped with war-weary P-40s handed down from the AVG. These were supplemented by the attached 16th FS, flying new P-40Es, and all squadrons adorned the noses of their airplanes with fearsome and iconic sharksmouth designs.The 23rd FG fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese, steadily moving pilots and aircraft from one remote air base to another to keep the enemy off balance. Because China could only be supplied by air from India, there were constant shortages of aircraft, fuel and ammunition with which to contend. The 23rd FG met these challenges head-on and by the end of the war its pilots had compiled a score of 594 aerial victories and nearly 400 ground kills. Among the 47 aces who flew in the 23rd were colorful characters such as David L 'Tex' Hill, Robert L 'Bob' Scott and Clinton D 'Casey'. The human cost was high, however - 126 pilots lost their lives in China while serving in the 23rd.

57th Fighter Group - First in the Blue

by Jim Laurier Carl Molesworth

Organized in January 1941, just as the United States was building up military forces for its inevitable entry into World War II, the 57th Fighter Group was the first USAAF fighter unit to go into action in North Africa. It went on to establish a number of other "firsts" during its illustrious combat history in this theater. Flying P-40 Warhawks, the pilots of the 57th entered combat in August 1942 and fought throughout the final Allied advance from El Alamein through the Axis surrender in Tunisia, the capture of Sicily and the invasion of Italy. Converting to the P-47D Thunderbolt in late 1943, the 57th continued pounding the retreating Axis forces in Italy until the end of the war in Europe. The 57th Fighter Group produced a number of aces during the war, and was also recognized for its pioneering achievements in the fighter-bomber role.

Curtiss P-40 - Long-nosed Tomahawks

by Carl Molesworth

The initial version of the Curtiss P-40, designated by the manufacturer as the Hawk H-81, combined the established airframe of the earlier radial-powered H-75 (P-36) fighter with the Allison V-1710 liquid-cooled engine. The year was 1939, and the marriage was one of expediency. With the threat of war in Europe growing by the day, the US Army Air Corps brass wanted a modern fighter that would combine the sterling handling qualities of the P-36 with a boost in performance that would make it competitive with the new types emerging in Germany and England, and the generals wanted the new plane immediately. The P-40 delivered admirably, and though it never reached the performance levels of the Bf 109 or Spitfire, the sturdy fighter nevertheless made a place in history for itself as the Army's frontline fighter when the US entered World War II. Long-nosed P-40s initially saw combat in North Africa, flying in Royal Air Force squadrons. They also fought in the skies over Pearl Harbor and the Philippines. But the long-nosed P-40 is best known as the shark-faced fighter flown by the American Volunteer Group - the legendary Flying Tigers - over Burma and China during 1941-42.

Curtiss P-40 -Snub-nosed Kittyhawks and Warhawks

by Carl Molesworth Adam Tooby

An improved version of the Allison V-1710 engine gave rise to the Curtiss H-87, which began life in 1941 as the P-40D and featured a completely redesigned fuselage. The shorter and deeper nose of the new fighter gave it a decidedly snub-nosed appearance compared to the earlier P-40 models. Curtiss continued to tweak the H-87 for the next two years in the search for better performance, but the last major version, the P-40N, was only marginally faster than the first. In the process, Curtiss even tried an engine change to the Packard Merlin in the P-40F and L but to no avail. What the late model P-40s lacked in speed and service ceiling, they traded for maneuverability, durability and availability. Their niche became fighter-bomber operations, and they fought on fronts as varied as the arctic wastes of the Aleutian Islands and Iceland, the steaming jungles of the South Pacific and the barren deserts of North Africa. P-40s were a common sight in the skies over Burma and China, Sicily and Italy, and western Russia as well. By the time production ceased in 1944, Curtiss had produced nearly 14,000 P-40s.

P-40 Warhawk Aces of the CBI

by Carl Molesworth

This book details the colourful experiences of the elite pilots of the AAF's Tenth and Fourteenth Air Forces in the 'forgotten' China-Burma-India theatre during WW2. Inheriting the legacy of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), units such as the 23rd FG 'held the line' against overwhelming Japanese forces until the arrival of the first P-38s and P-51s in 1944. The Warhawk became synonymous with the efforts of the AAF in the CBI, being used by some 40 aces to claim five or more kills between 1942-45. This volume is the first of four covering the exploits with the P-40 during World War 2.

P-40 Warhawk Aces of the MTO

by Jim Laurier Carl Molesworth

Thrown into action following the Torch landings of late 1942, the 'green' American pilots flying the obsolescent P-40F suffered cruelly at the hands of seasoned German fighter pilots flying superior machines. Those that survived learnt quickly, and a handful of Warhawk pilots succeeded in making ace by the time the Axis forces surrendered in North Africa. The action then shifted to Sicily and Italy, and the P-40 remained in service until mid-1944. This book charts the careers of the 23 men who succeeded in making ace during that time, despite the advent of much better P-47 and P-51 fighters.

P-40 Warhawk Aces of the Pacific

by Carl Molesworth Jim Laurier

The first USAAF fighters to engage the Japanese in World War 2, a handful of P-40s rose to defend Pearl Harbor from attack on the morning of 7 December 1941. Warhawk units were also heavily involved in the ill-fated fight to stem invading Japanese forces in the Philippines and Java between December 1941 and April 1942 and again in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands between January 1943 and March 1944. This book examines The Warhawk's wartime exploits and all of its aces including 'aces-in-a-day' Mel Wheadon and Joe Lesika.

P-40 Warhawk vs Bf 109

by Jim Laurier Carl Molesworth

Although the P-40 and the Bf 109 both joined the air war over North Africa at nearly the same time in early 1941, the venerable German fighter was already fully sorted with a combat career dating back to 1937 in Spain, while the American fighter was making its combat debut in the hands of the RAF's Desert Air Force. Both aircraft were low-wing designs powered by a single liquid-cooled engine of roughly the same output, but there the similarities ended. The Bf 109 was small and agile, capable of operating at high altitudes. The P-40's weight and engine limited it to middle-altitude operations, but it was more manoeuvrable than the Bf 109 and extremely capable in the fighter-bomber role. In typical encounters, Bf 109 pilots would climb above a formation of P-40s and then dive into battle, seeking to maintain the initiative and a speed advantage. The P-40 pilots would respond by trying to turn into the attack. The tide turned in the autumn of 1942, by which time USAAF P-40 squadrons had joined the fight in time for the final Allied push from El Alamein and the Operation Torch landings in Morocco.From the Trade Paperback edition.

P-40 Warhawk vs Ki-43 Oscar

by Carl Molesworth Jim Laurier Mark Postlethwaite

Known for the distinctive "sharkmouths" decoration on their noses, P-40 fighters first saw combat in China during World War II.Their most common adversary was the Japanese Nakajima Ki-43, nicknamed "Oscar." Carl Molesworth describes and explains the design and development of these two foes, the products of two vastly different philosophies of fighter design. The P-40 was heavily armed and sturdy with armor protection and self-sealing fuel tanks, but paid for this with the loss of speed and a sluggish performance at altitude. The Ki-43 was a rapier to the battleaxe P-40 and the Ki-43 was immensely nimble, though with less firepower and durability. This book examines these two different fighters, and the pilots who flew them over China, with an action-packed text, rare photographs and digital artwork.

Very Long Range P-51 Mustang Units of the Pacific War

by Carl Molesworth

The pilots called themselves the 'Tokyo Club'. It was a simple task to become a member. All you had to do was strap yourself into a heavily loaded P-51 Mustang, take off from Iwo Jima (a postage-stamp sized volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), fly 650 miles north over the sea - often through monsoon storms - in your single-engined aircraft to Japan, attack a heavily defended target in the vicinity of the enemy's capital city and then turn around and fly home while fretting over your shrinking fuel supply and perhaps battle damage as well. If your gas held out and you were not blown off-course on your return trip, you landed back at 'Iwo' after an eight-hour flight. Do it once and you earned membership in the club. Do it 15 times and you earned a trip home. But make one mistake or have one touch of bad luck, and you had a very good chance of ending up dead. This book will tell the little-known story of these brave men and their efforts to defeat the aerial forces defending Japan during the final five months of World War 2. Used initially to provide fighter escort for B-29s bombing Tokyo and other Japanese cities, the Iwo Jima-based P-51s enjoyed such success that they were soon called on to make low-level attacks against ground targets in preparation for the invasion of Japan. The book will cover the three Mustang-equipped Very Long Range fighter groups of the USAAF's Seventh Fighter Command - the 15th, 21st and 506th FGs - based on Iwo Jima with an action-packed text, many rare photos drawn from private collections and appendices providing statistical information. These units flew some of the most colourful P-51s ever seen in USAAF, and the author has extensive photographic references available to allow Jim Laurier to produce profile illustrations of 30 P-51D/Ks in their finery.

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