Japanese Aircraft Equipment 1940-1945
by Robert C Mikesh
reviewed by Mark Smith
Those who have the book Japanese Aircraft Interiors published in 2000 by the same author might have wondered if this volume might be redundant. On the contrary, Japanese Aircraft Equipment relies on much material that Mikesh had meant for the earlier book - only to find that his publisher saw it differently. And though the focus is tighter - the specific equipment contained in those cockpits - this one can almost be considered the second volume in the set.
The subjects systematically covered include aircraft instruments, radio equipment, aerial cameras, machine guns and cannon, gunsights and bombsights, and a special chapter on interior colors and coatings. On the latter subject Mr. Mikesh has always counseled against dogmatic and flat statements regarding colors, while at the same time virtually introducing the subject for serious conversation. Changing paradigms there have proven him wise. But it should not be forgotten that at the same time it was Mr. Mikesh who, along with Don Thorpe, virtually introduced the subject for serious conversation.
The above subjects are covered with over 400 remarkably clear photographs of existing relics from private collections and museums, some in superb condition, as well as a smaller selection of period photos that pertain. The great majority of these are in color. Many of the functions of these instruments are now arcane to say the least, so it is interesting to finally find out how they functioned and why they were necessary. (Caption on page 83: "functions of many (of these controls) are long forgotten and therefore recorded here for posterity and technical reference.") Cracking the complexity of technical Japanese aviation terms no longer even in use was no mean feat. This is information that has never been generally available to the historian and modeler, and certainly not in one place. One can only imagine how Col. Frank McCoy and the WWII ATAIU would have salivated had they had a copy of this through some serendipitous time-warp.
Starting with an esoteric subject that was virtually undocumented in any reliable form twenty-five years ago, Bob Mikesh, with the help of many fellow historians and contacts, has now published two large-format hardbacks that total over five hundred pages of such information. Modelers and historians owe him a great debt. That first book is out of print now and fetching two hundred dollars if you can find it, only five years after its publication (typically perverse of Monogram Publications over the years). The good news is that this one is available now. Beautifully sewn and bound, the book is printed on heavy glossy stock. It is conveniently the same size as Japanese Aircraft Interiors. It is a historically significant book and one not to miss if it falls in your field of interest.
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