P-39 Airacobra Aces of World War 2

Osprey Aircraft of the Aces #36
By George Mellinger and John Stanaway
Osprey Publishing Limited, copyright 2001
96 Pages, Softbound

Reviewed by Matt Bittner

One of the latest Osprey Aircraft of the Aces is on the much maligned Bell P-39.  In their typical fashion, Osprey combines some really well done photos, along with great text on the type as well as some well done color profiles.  While the P-39 quickly fell out of favor with the USAAF, it was highly regarded by the VVS, the Soviet Air Force.

This is primarily because of the types of roles the different nations used the type for.  The P-39 was at its worst in high altitude dog fighting, while it excelled at the low-level spectrum.  It was in this vein that the VVS was able to use the type to full advantage.

Aces #36 does a wonderful job of dispelling the age-old myth that the P-39 was so successful in VVS hands because it was only employed in the ground attack role.  In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  Yes, it was probably used against ground targets when the opportunity arose, but the P-39 was used as a dog-fighting machine by the VVS first and foremost.  In fact most of the VVS aces achieved most of their success with the P-39.  The excellent historian George Mellinger brings all this out in this book.

Yes, the P-39 wasn’t the best fighter the VVS had, but it sure helped them wrest control of the skies away from the Germans.  If you have any interest in the P-39, this book is definitely for you.

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