Osprey's Big Reveal: Duel

In Military History, Featured

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The Big Reveal continues with books from the Duel series. Which machine-on-machine conflicts are you intrigued by?


DUE: British Battleship vs Italian Battleship

During World War II’s battle for control of the Mediterranean, both the British and Italians navies planned to bring their battle fleets into play. At the centre of both of these fleets was a core of battleships which both sides expected to play a decisive role in the conflict.

On 9 July 1940, the two navies met in the central Mediterranean. Though both sides shot well, the only hit was scored by Warspite on the Italian battleship Giulio Cesare and the Italians were forced to withdraw. It was the largest fleet action fought in the Mediterranean during the war. As well as this battle, there were other occasions during the war when both British and Italian battleships were present and influential, but during which they never engaged each other directly – the Battle of Spartivento on 27 November 1940, and the Battle of Cape Matapan on 28–29 March 1941.

This title explores in detail the role played by British and Italian battleships in these encounters, and their influence in the Mediterranean theatre of World War II.


DUE: P-40E Warhawk vs A6M2 Zero-sen

The P-40E Warhawk is often viewed as one of the less successful American fighter designs of World War II, but in 1942 the aircraft was all that was available to the USAAC in-theatre. Units equipped with the aircraft were duly forced into combat against the deadly A6M2 Zero-sen. During an eight-month period in 1942, an extended air campaign was fought out between the two fighters for air superiority over the Javanese and then northern Australian skies. During this time, the P-40Es and the Zero-sens regularly clashed without interference from other fighter types. In respect to losses, the Japanese ‘won’ these engagements, for many more P-40Es were shot down than Zero-sens. However, the American Warhawks provided a potent deterrent that forced the IJNAF to attack from high altitudes, where crews’ bombing efficiency was much poorer.

This book draws on both American and Japanese sources to tell the full story of the clashes between these iconic two fighters in Darwin and the East Indies.


DUE: P-47D Thunderbolt vs Ki-43-II Hayabusa

Although New Guinea’s Thunderbolt pilots faced several different types of enemy aircraft in capricious tropical conditions, by far their most common adversary was the Nakajima Ki-43-II Hayabusa, codenamed ‘Oscar’ by the Allies. These two opposing fighters were the products of two radically different design philosophies. The Thunderbolt was heavy, fast and packed a massive punch thanks to its battery of eight 0.50-cal machine guns, while the ‘Oscar’ was the complete opposite in respect to fighter design philosophy – lightweight, nimble, manoeuvrable and lightly armed. It was, nonetheless, deadly in the hands of an experienced pilot. The Thunderbolt pilots in New Guinea slowly wore down their Japanese counterparts by continual combat and deadly strafing attacks, but nevertheless, the Ki-43-II remained a worthy opponent deterrent up until Hollandia was abandoned by the IJAAF in April 1944.

This fascinating book examines these two vastly different fighters in the New Guinea theatre, and assesses the unique geographic conditions that shaped their deployment and effectiveness.


DUE: A-4 Skyhawk vs North Vietnamese AAA

The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was certainly one of the most inspired designs of the 1950s. Although its small size made for a very cramped cockpit and comparatively light external armament, it also reduced the aircraft’s target signature, as did its smokeless engine. First flown in 1954, ‘Heinemann’s Hotrod’ entered service in 1956 and remained in continuous production for 26 years. During the 1965-68 Rolling Thunder period, up to five attack carriers regularly launched A-4 strike formations against North Vietnam. Over North Vietnam, the attackers faced an ever-expanding and increasingly co-ordinated Soviet-style network of AAA, missiles and fighters. Despite their lack of radar and advanced bombing equipment, A-4 pilots often delivered their ordnance with commendable accuracy, although bomb loads usually comprised several small Mk 81 weapons to increase the chances of a hit. In order to hit their anti-aircraft defences targets, they dropped ordnance below 3000 ft, putting the aircraft within range of small-arms fire. The defenders had the advantage of covering a relatively small target area, and the sheer weight of light, medium and heavy gunfire directed at an attacking force brought inevitable casualties.


DUE: US Navy Ships vs Japanese Attack Aircraft 1941–42

The striking power of the IJN’s carrier-based attack aircraft was established at Pearl Harbor. The next opportunity that the IJN’s carrier-based torpedo- and dive-bombers had to show their prowess was at the Battle of Coral Sea when they sank the US Navy carrier USS Lexington and damaged the carrier USS Yorktown. Even at the disastrous Battle of Midway, the relatively small number of IJNAF attack- and torpedo-bombers that were launched at the US fleet proved that they remained a potent force by heavily damaging Yorktown again. At Guadalcanal, IJNAF carrier-based aircraft sank the carrier USS Hornet and badly damaged Enterprise twice. However, after a brilliant initial attack by land-based IJNAF aircraft on two Royal Navy capital ships in December 1941, these same bombers were unable to replicate this success against US Navy targets. Throughout 1942, US Navy ship defences took a rising toll of attacking IJNAF aircraft. The final major battle of the year, the carrier Battle of Santa Cruz, exacted crippling losses on the IJN. Thus the stage was set for the eclipse of the IJNAF’s highly-trained and effective aviation attack forces.


DUE: Spanish Galleon vs English Galleon

Between 1450 and 1650, a rapid evolution in ship design took place. This was also a period that saw a large amount of naval combat, much of it between individual ships belonging to the competing powers of England and Spain. This was the pinnacle of the Age of Discovery and Exploration for the European powers, in which the galleon played a crucial role. Galleons were both the main vessels in maritime commerce and the principal warships used by the opposing fleets throughout the Age of Exploration.

This exciting addition to the Duel explores how the galleons used by Spain and England were built and armed, and examines the effectiveness of the cannon they used. It also compares how they were sailed and maneuvered, showing the strength and weaknesses of each design. Several prominent battles of the day are examined, including the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa, the fight between the Golden Hind and the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, an action from the Spanish Armada, and the last fight of the Revenge.


DUE: British Battleship vs German Battleship

The four key German capital ships at the outbreak of World War II comprised the Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

The Royal Navy’s King George V-class battleships were the most modern British battleships in commission during World War II, and were among the navy’s most powerful vessels. Five ships of this class were built: HMS King George V, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Duke of York, HMS Howe and HMS Anson. The Royal Navy’s two-ship Nelson-class (Nelson and Rodney), alongside the King George V class, comprised Britain’s only other battleships built in the interwar years. The Nelsons were a unique British battleship design, being the only vessels to mount all nine of their main-armament 16in. guns forward of the bridge.

This superbly detailed addition to the Duel series compares and contrasts the design and development of these opposing capital ships, and describes the epic clashes on the high seas that ended with the destruction of the Kriegsmarine’s major naval assets.

Post Comments

Hessy Field posted on 7 Sep 2019 15:58:52
A naval-heavy list - as with some other comments "Spanish Galleon vs English Galleon" is the stand-out for me (how about a volume on "Ottoman Galley vs Venetian Galley" for roughly the same period?). Slightly disappointing due to the lack of armour vs armour titles - I tend to enjoy reading those the most of the Duels.
AdamC posted on 30 Aug 2019 16:19:59
Hi Guys,

That’s not a bad list at all. I’d say I’m more interested in the nautical ones this time around, particularly the Galleon one. That’s not to say I have anything against the aircraft one – they just don’t tickle my fancy as much as the naval titles.

Like other members I am a bit surprised to see no land based titles. Surely there is more to be explored there??? How about Crusader Vs M13/41 & M14/41 or Panzer III – Western Desert 1941-43, Grant Vs Panzer IVF-2 ‘Special’ – Western Desert 1942, M3 Stuart Vs Type 95 – Burma/Philippines 1942, Matilda II Vs M11/39 – Western Desert 1940-41, Comet Vs Tiger I – Germany 1945, Churchill III Vs Tiger I – Tunisia 1943, Challenger I Vs T-54/55/62 – Gulf War 1991, Challenger 2 Vs T-54/55/62 – Iraq 2003, M-48 Vs PT-76 – Ben Het 1969, M18 Hellcat Vs Panzer IV/Panther – Ardennes 1944-45, Jagdtiger Vs M4 Sherman – Germany 1945, King Tiger Vs M4 Sherman – Normandy & Ardennes 1944-45, M41 Walker Bulldog Vs T-34/85 – Bay of Pigs 1961??? Literally loads of potential titles there!!!
PAUL W posted on 29 Aug 2019 23:13:50
For me I'm definitely all at sea, 4 very good naval titles. The other 3 are ok, with the Vietnam title the aviation one for me.
KenA trust me I'm not stalking you, I just remembered you mentioned it in one of the blogs a while back!
Here's to the rest of the reveal.
brianwithani posted on 29 Aug 2019 22:29:00
Oh, it's quite possible our team wasn't good enough, but my issue was ....

The team that won, in fact the team that won and went to the national championships every single year, did a project on the history of segregated Negro Leagues baseball and the title of their project was "Only the Ball Was White." Now of course they again won first place and got a free trip to the national championship in Washington, DC. But I was super-annoyed because something about that title sounded really, really familiar ... and I had a hard time swallowing that 14-year-old farm kids would come up with a title that pretentious on their own ....

A couple weeks later I was browsing through yet another bookstore and was suddenly reminded why their subject and title of their "original" history project seemed so familiar: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51uOHsyiuKL._SL500_.jpg
KAL9000 posted on 29 Aug 2019 19:25:10
Glad to see the British Battleship vs German Battleship title in there! I'm surprised at the lack of land warfare titles, but oh well the rest look interesting.

brianwithani: Maybe you just weren't good enough.
Paintybeard posted on 29 Aug 2019 18:32:03
brianwithani: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King!" (Elizabeth 1). Perhaps you could have told your professors she was gender-fluid? That would have scored you a few points!
Paintybeard posted on 29 Aug 2019 15:10:22
Yes, it's all about the ships for me too. All of these look worth trying, glad to see that this series is producing a steady output of worthwhile titles.

A controversial point: Is this series so good because it concentrates on research and not too many pretty pictures?

brianwithani: The point of studying any subject is what YOU learn, not pandering to your teachers whims.
KenA posted on 29 Aug 2019 14:50:11
An interesting list. You’re either ‘up in the air’ or ‘all at sea’ with this list. Not much there for those staying grounded. Nevertheless, it has hit the spot for me.

I have this weakness for battleships - I just can’t seem to say no to books on the subject so I guess I’ll be getting both on this list. The Warhawk, Thunderbolt and US Navy ships vs IJN attack aircraft titles are all of interest. But the one that I’m really looking forward to is the Spanish vs English Galleon.

Oh, and on the subject of the number of US vs UK titles on this list, it is US four and UK three. But don’t forget what the MAN said: it’s America First!!!!!

Paul W. You got it right - I’m a Kiwi.
brianwithani posted on 29 Aug 2019 14:21:47
I'm definitely looking forward to Spanish Galleon vs. English Galleon. The Spanish Armada of 1588 has been a longtime favorite of mine since I was a kid. In eighth grade my friend and I produced a video documentary on 1588 for our entry in the United States' national "History Day" competition - the theme that year was "Taking A Stand in History." But the judges for these things are all American university history professors - and since there were no oppressed minorities in our story and the only woman in it was not exactly what you'd call a victim (to put it mildly), we came in dead last, lol.

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