Review Corner: “Clash of Wings”

30 Sep

Clash of Wings. By Walter J. Boyne. Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994. ISBN 0-671-79370-5. Photographs. Appendix. Selected Readings. Index. Pp. 415.

 Reviewed By Simon S. Sundaraj-Keun

            Walter J. Boyne’s book-Clash of Wings-is purely an excellent single-volume analysis of the air campaigns in World War II. General Walter J. Boyne served in Korea and Vietnam as a fighter pilot for the United States Air Force. His combat experience made him an expert on the ever-changing world of military aviation and air doctrine.

            Boyne’s thesis gives a general survey of the great air campaigns of World War II. This book also exams the technical development of the time that coincides with the implementation of new aircraft, weapons, and tactics. It also explains the successes and failures by nations to adapt to the air war evolution.

            This book starts out with the tactics and strategies adopted by World War II powers (Chapter 1). The real test came for the Allies and Axis powers were during air operations (Chapter 2) because for each successes and failures new tactics were developed and employed. The Japanese adopted a light frame aircraft for a more maneuverable aircraft (Chapter 3) and the Germans deployed tactical planes for a lighting war strategy (Chaps 4-5). In the beginning of World War II all air doctrine by major Axis and Allies powers was still at an experimental stage.

            Boyle’s book provides an accurate analysis on the air doctrine of all participants during World War II. For instance the opportunity lost by the Germans in gaining air superiority in World War II (Chaps 6-8 & 10) was a failure in contemplating the objectivity of conducting campaigns over vast distances. The book emphasize that concentrating on a single air doctrine would limit the operational ability of a nation to conduct total war. Strategic bombing (Chapter 9) conducted by the British and Americans was to limit and bleed the Axis ability to conduct war. This caused the Axis powers, especially Germany to develop new technologies to counter the Allies heavy bombers.  Boyle points out with every action as an equal or opposite reaction, as the Allies adopted escort fighters (Chapter 11) to counter the new German tactics.

            Although, this book is well research, but it does not have citations in the form of footnotes or end notes to demonstrate which sources Boyle obtain his information. In order to give the reader a visual comprehension of the air war the book contains vintage images of the aviation, people, and collateral damage. The appendix section elaborates on the aircraft types and statistics on major aircraft. Boyle’s book contains an index section, but he substitutes the bibliography with ‘selected readings’ section where a reader might find further information.

            Clash of Wings does not offer new information on the air campaign of World War II. The strength of this book is the dedication of Boyle keeping his research and analysis concise with the book’s thesis. The book is useful in understanding the tactical and strategic techniques of Allies and Axis powers in conducting air operations during World War II.  With this in mind, I do recommend this book for historians and enthusiast in general.


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