Book & Multimedia Reviews

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American Combat Aircraft
of the 20th Century

Written by: Ray Wagner
Type: 758 page hard cover
Publisher: Jack Bacon & company; 1 edition (August 2004)
ISBN-13: 978-0930083175


Available at:
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WRG Watercooler Review by Scott D. Rose
Most visitors to this family of sites will have at least one Aircraft encyclopedia in there collection. A glance at the WRG library wall reveals that I do indeed have one... and five more. When chosing a book to review for the Warbirds Resource Group I look for a book that is informative, interesting, potentially useful in our visitors research or personal education and stand out from the huge number of aviation books available to the reader. Aviation Encyclopedias often achieve the first three criteria but rarely have any unique qualities to make them stand apart from the numerous other volumes available. So when a copy of American Combat Planes Of The 20th Century by Ray Wagner showed up in my mail box for review I was less than thrilled at the prospect of looking through another encyclopedia with the same data, the same pictures and the same overall information as all the rest. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised.

American Combat Planes Of The 20th Century proved to be one of the most comprehensive volumes on American aircraft I have read. It is a rare thing for a book or information source to reveal an aircraft I had never even heard of and this book revealed half a dozen. The layout in unorthodox and takes a bit getting used to but once you figure it out it is quite interesting. Each entry has some basic stats and a blurb about the aircraft and often pictures illustrating each variant. Obviously the more mainstream and common aircraft have far more coverage than the experimental or one of aircraft, that is to be expected. But the shear number of unique and oddball aircraft represented here is impressive and represents hours of reading and a jumping off point for internet searches.

The book itself is a monster, being 11.1 x 8.4 x 1.6 inches and is quite hefty at 5.6 pounds. It sports 1700 pictures over 758 pages and covers the earliest American aircraft to the latest jets. The arrangement is roughly chronological and the the aircraft are grouped according to purpose and role. If you are looking for comprehensive knowledge on a specific aircraft then you might want to consider looking elsewhere. But if you want a base knowledge of all the American combat aircraft then this volume is a highly recommended addition to any warbird enthusiasts library.


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