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WINDSOCK WORLDWIDE, VOL.24 NO.5.

 |  reviews

From Albatross Productions

Of all the many well-known fighter aeroplanes of ‘The Great War,’ the Nieuport 28 is assuredly one of the most instantly recognizable. Although initially ‘undergunned,’ and with an inherent weakness in its wing structure, it was nevertheless flown with success by America’s first combat pilots, several of whom went on to become top scoring aces. Popularized by Hollywood movies and pulp magazines in post-war years the 28 has remained a perennial favourite with modellers and replica builders ever since and fully deserving of this highly detailed and informed reappraisal from Ted Hamady. Few publishers are as generous or as well-heeled than Schiffer when it comes to giving authors the necessary ‘elbow room’ and lavish production values so they may accord their work the depth of coverage it truly deserves. Very much the case here as Ted lays out the full Nieuport 28 story over 277 image-laden pages and there’s not an ounce of padding among them.
The book opens with the fullest account yet published of American pilots’ first ever combat victories on 14 April 1918 when Lts. Douglas Campbell and Alan Winslow took off from the 94 AS aerodrome at Toul to engage the Pfalz D.IIIa of Uffz. Heinrich Simon and an Albatros D.Va flown by Vzfw. Antoni Wroniecki. Within the space of four minutes the German machines were on the ground either side of Toul aerodrome, the Pfalz in flames, the Albatros with damaged wings. Both Jasta 64 pilots were made PoW. This action sets the tone for the book which continues with an overview of the first air war, the development of fighter aircraft and the drive to equip the AEF with the best available of them. The pace picks up with detailed coverage of the USAS First Pursuit Group with its fulsome descriptions of how the nimble Nieuports and their pilots fared within the service of 27th, 94th, 95th and 147th Aero Squadrons.
Subsequent chapters assess the type’s role in combat, its extensive post-war use as a trainer, shipboard fighter, and foreign service, ably recording those that fell into civilian hands and how some ended up centre stage in many a movie. Several remarkable photos turn up in this section with colour stills and period posters for such classics as Dawn Patrol, and Men with Wings. Extensive coverage is also given over to Nieuport survivors and restorations; in particular NASM’s example which took five years to rebuild, the author working as project researcher on the team thus providing the insider knowledge and impetus to produce this book.
The remaining 35% of the pages are devoted to extended appendices which include pilot’s reports on the Nieuport 28 flying characteristics, design evolution of the type (which includes some excellent photos, sketches, and drawings from Juanita Franzi and Colin Owers), plus detailed surveys of the 160-Gnome and its systems, graphics of its gun mountings, synchronizer installations, and the under-fuselage Cooper bomb rack. Of course no study of the Nieuport 28 would be complete without discussion of upper wing failures and much detailed coverage is given to this with over 10 pages of photos, diagrams and analysis. Lists of known serial numbers with relevant service careers are provided along with detailed colours and markings data which includes input from Alan Toelle and 10 pages of superb colour art from Juanita. Full notes and a bibliography round out the content. Overall it’s a most impressive volume although some of the photo captions are a little brief in places but that’s unlikely to concern the average reader. Writing this in July it’s rather premature to bestow the ‘WW I title of 2008’ to Ted’s book but I shouldn’t be surprised if it tops someone’s list by year’s end…