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The Zeppelin in Combat
A History of the German Naval Airship Division 1912-1918
by Douglas H. Robinson
Hardcover: 410 pages
Dimensions (in inches): 1.50 x 11.50 x 9.00
Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd.; (April 1994)

"Make no mistake: this is the definitive history of the Imperial German Navy's rigid airship program. It is thoroughly researched, well written, and superbly illustrated yet curiously flawed.

Dr. Robinson's primary research into the fascinating subject of Zeppelins began with a 1937 visit to Germany, and continued into the 1970s. The text traces the commercial and naval development of Zeppelins (half of all rigid airships ever built were flown by the Kaiser's navy), noting design, development, and operational considerations. Early combat successes, probably reaching their apex in 1916, were offset by heavy losses to operational causes as well as accidents. Robinson describes British defensive measures in tantalizing if not detailed fashion. In the end, he concludes that the early superiority of Zeppelins was defeated by technical and doctrinal failings. He believes that the Zep's main purpose--scouting--was seldom properly exploited.

For all its strengths--the photos alone are worth the cost to enthusiasts--the book fails its full potential as a reference.  The index and appendices both have inexplicable omissions, as there's no listing for Lt. Leefe-Robinson's victim, SL-11, among others. Similarly, the text is oddly incomplete in describing Zeppelin shootdowns, as British aircraft often are not even identified. Undeniably the best overall treatment available, The Zeppelin in Combat earns four iron stars out of a possible five."

Reviewed by Barrett Tillman

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