Osprey Aircraft of the Aces No 54:
Rumanian Aces or World War 2
by Denes Bernad
Reviewed by Steve Jantscher
This book represents a prime example of what I like to call the second wave in the Osprey Aces series of books. After all the popular and well known fighters of WW II were covered (Spitfires, Mustangs, Me 109s and Fw 190s) the series moved on to WW I, and some of the "Canvas Falcons" of that conflict. Having made a serious dent in the aces of that conflict, the attention at Osprey once again is turning to WW II, forced by necessity to focus on some of the lesser known and less sexy aircraft and their "ace" pilots. This book, number 54 in the series and the P-40 Warhawks in the Pacific represent what I hope is the second go around of scrubbing the war for suitable subject areas to add to the Aces series.
To say that there isn't much written in the English language on the Rumanian air force in WWII, let alone the aces in that air force, would be an understatement. When I got a hold of this book to review, I looked up my only other source on Rumanian aircraft and air force operations during WWII. That book, the Squadron /Signal publications Rumanian Air Force : The Prime Decade, 1938-1947 turns out to have been written by the same author, Denes Bernad. He says in the forward to that book that it was the first comprehensive treatment on the Rumanian air force published in English. I have to believe that this new Osprey title might be the second such book!
Rumania was one of two of the minor Axis powers that fought alongside the Germans on the Russian front from the begining of that conflict. As such, they flew many of the same aircraft as the Luftwaffe. In addition to Junkers and Messerschmidts, the Rumanian Air Force also fielded an indigenous single seat fighter in the IAR 80/81 series. I don't know as much about that airplane as would have liked, and find what little fault this book has in not addressing this aircraft in more detail. As it turned out, this aircraft, as well as many other pre and early war aircraft were phased out of combat use by mid 1943 as the threat from American fighters showed them to be obsolete. Gradually more and more of the Rumanian fighter units switched to different versions of the Me-109G series. In August of 1944, coincident to a Soviet offensive which would quickly overrun the country, the Rumanian government first declared its desire for armistice terms from the Allies, and later in the month declared war on its former cobelligerents, the Germans and Hungarians. Thus we have, with just a modification in the aircraft markings, a group of fighter pilots who fought against both Laggs and MiGs as well as Heinkels and Messerschmidts. This makes for an interesting tidbit of history.
From the modelers point of view, the 96 page book with its' 32 full color side profiles of Rumanian aircraft is one of two sources of photographs and information of this air force. If you're wanting to model one of these colorful Axis aircraft, you're pretty much tied into getting this book. I find it is always more interesting if I know something about the pilot and combat experience of the unit to which the model I'm building is being painted to represent. In that regard this book is priceless. Will the modeler get a bunch of detail photographs from which he can gain anything other than general paint schemes? This time I'm afraid not.
In conclusion, I feel that the major benefit of this book lies in the text. This book tells an almost unknown story (in the west) of desperate fighting in a small corner of the WW II battlefield. The efforts that the small Rumanian air force put up was noteworthy, and deserves a volume in the Osprey Aces series.
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