The American Aircraft Factory in WWII
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 13 Nov 2011
There were many books on military aviation were centered around the topics of technology, strategy, and the experience of the pilots and crews. Books on aircraft production, however, were far and fewer in between by comparison. In my personal library, for one, there were none dedicated to this topic until I received Bill Yenne's The American Aircraft Factory in WWII a few months ago. Although it was largely a photo collection rather than an in-depth analysis of the American industrial prowess, the book was still rich in information. The text portion of the book was a brief history of the aeronautical industry of the United States, starting with the early pioneers such as Glenn Curtiss, Don Douglass, etc. and how the foundations they had set up evolved into their WW2-era form. Trivia such as the culture clash between aircraft engineers (with their habits of using decimals) and automobile engineers (fractions), although only mentioned as a quick glance, made me appreciate just a bit more about the feat of converting a civilian industry for war manufacturing. The complexity of aircraft design also grew exponentially between 1940 and 1945, leaving me amazed at how a largely untrained workforce could put together as sophisticated a machine as a Superfortress bomber. As a photo collection, the images included in The American Aircraft Factory in WWII were superb. There were a number of photographs from the United States government (National Archives, Library of Congress, etc.) which I had seen before, but most of the others seemed to be from the company archives of Lockheed, Boeing, and the likes, a great majority of which I had not seen before.
This book did not aim to be a comprehensive history of American aircraft production. However, as someone relatively new to this specific topic, I felt that this book acted as a wonderful primer for me, a perfect introduction for me to move on to titles richer in detail. The amazing photographs in this coffee-table formatted collection ensured its place in my personal library.
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