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John Fredrikson's illustrated guides

Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide

Warbirds
Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to U.S. Military Aircraft, 1915-2000
by John C. Fredriksen. ABC-CLIO, 1999. 377 pp., large format, b&w photos. (Click on the cover or the title to order from Amazon)

John Fredriksen has given us a portrait, specifications, and brief history for each of 327 American warplanes. Is that every one? Well, I checked those known to me, and all are present and accounted for, including such obscurities as the CW-21 Demon, whose only brush with U.S. service was the three acquired (and wrecked) in 1942 by the American Volunteer Group in China. And some famous planes, like Northrop's Flying Wings, didn't make the cut because they were never deployed. Between the extremes, you'll meet all your old favorites ... then browse the intervening pages for new ones. Just now my eye was caught by the pretty Vought F7U Cutlass, "a sparkling performer [that] was also prone to engine failure and inexplicable crashes," as Fredriksen notes. He adds that 400 were built and that they killed 25 pilots.

A splendid reference, made all the better by a lengthy bibliography pointing the way to detailed information.

And Warbirds II

Warbirds II
International Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to World Military Aircraft, 1914-2000
by John C. Fredriksen and Walter Boyne. ABC-CLIO, 2001. 387 pp., large format, b&w photos. (Click on the title to order from Amazon)