Winning Tactics: War In The Air. By R. J. MacLean. Amazon. 2014. Photographs. Sketches. Bibliography. Pp. 189. $18.90 paperback ISBN-13: 978-1492984184
MacLean's title implies his book is about aerial tactics. It was frustrating to read although quite interesting in parts. It begins with the first balloons in 1783 and discusses balloon use during the Napoleonic wars, the American Civil War, the Franco-Prussian War, and the Boer War before turning to the airplane. Subsequently, MacLean takes us through World War I, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Cold War, and campaigns including the Falklands and Desert Storm.
The book is filled with fascinating illustrations taken from older sources, although not always pertinent to the material being discussed. It is as if he could not quite bring himself to leave them out since he had taken the effort to acquire them. For example, when dealing with Gotha bombing raids on London during World War One, he has pertinent illustrations of the B.E.2c night-fighter and Handley Page 0/400 heavy bomber. But there are also three antique aviation-related advertisements for Spinx [sic] ignition (spark) plugs, a Wright-type seaplane, and a Burberry Air Warm (flying coat). These do reflect the style of the time and help put the reader into that era, but what they have to do with Gotha bombing is a mystery.
MacLean has done a commendable job of relating various air actions over a series of wars and engagements and provides a great deal of interesting information. Coverage of the Arab-Israel and the Indian-Pakistan conflicts very thorough. However, several egregious errors of fact caught my eye. He speaks about 200,000 Marines landing on Leyte in 1944, when it was the Sixth U.S. Army with four divisions (no Marine ground forces were involved). Elsewhere he states that Admiral Nimitz (in Pearl Harbor) heard Rear Admiral Sprague's plain-language radio calls for help (all the way from Leyte Gulf), as an Imperial Japanese Navy fleet threatened total destruction of Sprague's task group. Sprague did call for help, and some of those calls were undoubtedly over UHF voice radio...