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Who Downed the Aces in WWI?
by Norman Franks
Hardcover: 256 pages
Dimensions (in inches): 0.94 x 9.59 x 6.40
Publisher: Grub Street the Basement; (November 1996)

"The biblical passage says that all good things come to him who waits. Certainly that applies to WWI "aceology," as the prolific British author Norman Franks proves in this excellent survey. Tracing the rise and fall of British, French, American, and German aces from 1915 through 1918, he describes, where known, the fates of those notable fighter pilots killed, wounded, captured, missing, or simply defeated to fly another day. While the text does not cover every ace killed or missing in the Great War, it certainly addresses most of them. Nine French casualties are omitted, as is Capt. Hamilton Coolidge of the 94th Aero.

The Big Three, of course, are von Richthofen, Voss, and Guynemer, the latter two both being KIA in September 1917.  Franks does not elaborate upon The Red Knight's demise seven months later (he covered it nicely in another book) but does provide background to Guynemer and Voss. Also noteworthy is the fact that the RFC feared that a Bristol Fighter had killed Guynemer, and expunged the No. 20 Squadron records for that date!

While Frank Luke's fate is not contested, the author doubts that a dusk shootout occurred near Murvaux. Dedicated Forumites will recall information posted in 1998-99 which strongly supports the legend of the Arizona Balloon Buster's pistoliferous propensities.

In a concise, well reasoned epilogue, Franks summarizes the controversy surrounding claims versus losses and offers tantalizing speculation as to what might have happened if MvR, Voss, Ball, Mannock, McCudden and many other young men might have survived the war. Whether a reader agrees or not, this book is bound to stir the imagination, rating 3 stars."

Reviewed by Barrett Tillman

Buy it now!

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