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2018 started with the launch of our new aviation series, Air Campaign, which has received a great response from so many of you. Next year, we're adding to our Air Campaign list with six new books. Which of our newest ACM books is making your wishlist?
ACM: Operation Linebacker I 1972
As the Paris peace talks floundered in 1972 and the US began to disengage from Vietnam, the North Vietnamese were preparing for a major conventional invasion into South Vietnam. Screened by bad weather and heavy air defences in the north, the attack advanced quickly but the US pushed back, rushing aircraft into the theatre, and launching a hard-hitting air campaign to stem the invasion.
Following the failure of Rolling Thunder, US aircraft were now armed with new technologies such as laser-guided bombs and the first (albeit improvised) helicopter-mounted anti-tank missiles. The Air Force now had the fearsome AC-130 gunship, and US Navy aviators had much better dogfighting training thanks to the new TOPGUN fighter school. It was in many ways the first modern, high-tech air campaign – but also brought back some old-fashioned technology, and many lessons were learned from this pioneering campaign.
ACM: Japan 1944–45
While preparing for a costly ground invasion of Japan, the United States sought to cut short the Pacific War with a bombing campaign built around the most expensive weapon programme of the war – the B-29 Superfortress. But in 1944, no strategic bombing campaign had ever brought about a nation’s surrender. Not only that, but Japan was half a world away, and the US had no airfields even within the extraordinary range of the B-29.
This military analysis of the B-29 campaign explains the many problems the US Air Force faced and their initial failures, and how General LeMay devised radical and devastating tactics that began to systematically incinerate Japanese cities and industries and eliminate its maritime trade. It looks at the campaign’s effect on Japan’s war-fighting ability – and how gaps in Japan’s defences contributed to the B-29s’ success.
ACM: Six-Day War 1967
The Israeli Air Force’s Operation Focus was not only a watershed in the history of the modern Middle East but was one of the greatest and most effective air superiority campaigns ever waged. On a single morning, almost the entire IAF was committed to a surprise, pre-emptive airstrike against the numerically far superior air forces of the encircling Arab states. The attack was extraordinarily successful. Hundreds of Arab aircraft were destroyed, their airfields crippled, and the IAF gained almost complete air supremacy for the rest of the war.
ACM: Battle of Berlin 1943–44
Throughout late 1943 and into early 1944, a titanic struggle raged over the skies of Germany between RAF Bomber Command and the Luftwaffe. The ‘Battle of Berlin’ was ordered by the Commander-in-Chief of Bomber Command, Arthur Harris, and was his all-out attempt to finish the war by massive strategic bombing of the enemy’s capital.
But the Berlin campaign turned into a hard, desperate slog. Fought in often dreadful and bitterly cold weather, Bomber Command ‘went’ to Berlin a total of 16 times, suffering increasingly severe losses throughout the winter of 1943/44 in the face of a revitalized German air defence. The campaign failed to achieve Harris’ goal, and it remains a matter of controversy what it ultimately achieved.
ACM: Ploesti 1943
The oil city of Ploesti was at the heart of the Romanian oilfields that fed the German war machine. As part of its expanding strategic bombing operation in 1943, and as a key part of the Oil Campaign, the USAAF decided to stage a major raid on Ploesti from air bases in Libya.
But the Halverston mission in 1942 had provoked the Luftwaffe to substantially reinforce the Ploesti defences so that by the time of the August 1943 raid, they consisted of a substantial Flak force as well as about 50 Luftwaffe Bf 109 and Bf 110 fighters. The resulting Operation Tidal Wave raid on 1 August 1943 was one of the costliest to date, losing 53 aircraft, about a third of the starting force.
ACM: Guadalcanal 1942–43
The campaign for Guadalcanal was centred on the airfield of Henderson Field, which was captured by the US on 8 August 1942 and was operational by 20 August. As long as the airfield could stay open and was stocked with sufficient striking power, the Japanese could not run convoys with heavy equipment and large amounts of supplies to the island. Instead, they were forced to rely on night runs by destroyers, which could not carry enough men or supplies to shift the balance. The American air contingent on the island, nicknamed the Cactus Air Force, had the challenging mission of defending the airfield against constant Japanese attacks, and more importantly, of striking major Japanese attempts to reinforce the island.