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AIR POWER HISTORY, SUMMER, 2009.

 |  reviews

Reviewed by Col. Scott A. Willey, USAF (Ret.), NASM Docent and Volunteer, APH Book Review Editor, Air Force Historical Foundation.
I’ll cut to the chase quickly: Ted Hamady’s Nieuport 28 is the finest book ever written on America’s first true combat aircraft. I plan to cull all other material in my library dealing with this fighter. There is no reason to keep it, because Hamady covered everything the historian or modeler could want to know about the Nieuport.
For nearly two decades, Hamady has been a volunteer research historian at the National Air and Space Museum. When the museum restored its Nieuport, Hamady did much of the research that led to one of the world’s finest restorations. He knows his subject. The extensive documentary research and interviews with many survivors who were involved with the Nieuport and its Army Air Service use during 1918 are reflected throughout the book.
I can’t think of anything that has been left out. Hamady starts with a superbly detailed account of the first kills made by U.S.-trained pilots on April 14, 1918. Most readers are probably familiar with the kills made by Lieutenants Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell. Included is a beautiful diagram of the flight paths of the two American fighters and their German adversaries. From that introduction, Hamady proceeds with an excellent summary of the air portion of the First World War up through the U.S. entry in 1917.
When the U.S. declared war, the U.S. “air force” was essentially non-existent. France ended up providing the majority of the Army’s combat types: first the Nieuport 28 and then the SPAD XIII. Hamady details the story of the development of the Model 28 and the procurement by the U.S. for use by its fledging air arm. Only the U.S. Army flew the Nieuport 28 in combat, and the reader will fully understand the reasons for that. Chapter Four covers the entire four months that the Nieuport 28 was in combat. Four months, and then the SPAD XIII entered service and became, by far, the more famous and celebrated of the two aircraft.
The interesting question about the supposed inferiority of the Nieuport compared to the SPAD is covered in the best part of the book, Chapter Five, which provides an unprecedented analysis of the former’s combat role. It turns out that some of the negative press about the earlier fighter was probably unwarranted–and this is not a modern view, but is shown through contemporary correspondence and activities.
After the war, many Nieuports served in the new movie industry. The postwar model 28A was brought home by the Army to serve in the U.S. Both the 28 and 28A served in Hollywood and with various civilian fliers. Other Nieuports served with the U.S. Navy and the Swiss and Argentinians. Hamady well covers today’s survivors, led by a detailed discussion and pictorial of the restoration of NASM’s example. But every one of the known aircraft (about 20 of them) is covered.
After his main narrative, Hamady provides six appendices on flying and designing the Nieuport 28, its characteristics and specifications, and a discussion of the one big weakness of the model: its upper wing. There is a massive table covering every known Nieuport 28/28A produced, and the appendices conclude with a number of outstanding two-view profiles on all of the camouflage schemes and users.
In short, Schiffer’s usual high quality paper and photos are combined with nearly flawless grammar, spelling, photo captions, and editing. The book is expensive, but it is worth every penny.