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Book Review
Chinese Aces
Aces of the Republic of China Air Force
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Aces of the Republic of China Air Force, Aircraft of the Aces 126 reveals the story of ace pilots who flew for the Republic of China. Author Raymond Cheung has woven together this remarkable history of Chinese fighter pilots from history fragmented by years of war, civil war, and Cold War.

I've been fascinated with Far Eastern air wars since reading The Ragged Rugged Warriors decades ago. I would much rather read about obscure or unsung pilots and fighters battling in the wars between the wars, and long have I hoped for the story of the Chinese Air Force to be revealed. Thanks to Mr. Cheung and Osprey the wait is over!

Aces of the Republic of China Air Force is 96 pages of content, illustrated by Chris Davey, with the IBSN 9781472805614 for the paperback. It is also available (with different ISBNs) in ePub and PDF formats.

Aces of the Republic of China Air Force is a fascinating story of China’s struggles in the air against Imperial Japan and then Communist China. The content may inspire modelers to build subjects outside of their usual fields of interest. For me, books like this stoke interest in uncelebrated airframes such as the D1Y, E8N, Fiat, Dewoitine D.510, Boeing 281, Kawasaki 10, I-15bis, P-66 Vanguard, Curtiss Shrike and the variety of Hawks, to name a few. One peculiar dogfight witnessed Shrike ground attack aircraft dogfighting with biplane dive-bombers. Detailed dogfights are narrated, frequently with airframe numbers and enemy pilots named, units identified, as well as specific damaged sustained by particular aircraft. Several times the identity of a victim is confirmed as a pilot’s kill.

Mr. Cheung recounts this history of aerial warfare through six chapters in 96 pages;
    Creation of the Republic
    Shanghai and Nanking Campaigns
    Sino-Soviet Pact
    Chinese-American Aces
    Combined Pursuit Group
    Chinese-American Combined Wing
      Color Plates Commentary

Mr. Cheung has written for well-known defense journals and is a devotee of the history of the Sino-Japanese War 1937-45. He brings insight and resources to this text. Chinese names are presented both in the format used at the time, today’s format, and with Chinese characters. His text is neatly organized and expertly written in an easy to read fashion. The text is not perfect and there are typos, i.e., the I-16 monoplane misidentified as a biplane.

One of my favorite parts of Aircraft of the Aces books are personal accounts by pilots. This book lacks remarkable first-person accounts although it does have plenty of narratives, such as this dogfight when an obsolectent Hawk III bested a modern A5M;

    Seconds away from being within firing range of the bombers, Liu spied another A5M closing in on his rear, so he had to break off his pursuit and face his attacker. Rushing at each other head-on, the Japanese pilot fired first. Liu's Hawk III was hit and thrown into a spin, although he managed to regain control and pull up in time to face his attacker. The A5M dived past before Liu could fire, however, his opponent then using the speed built up from the dive to zoom climb into an advantageous position. The A5M was able to maintain the upper hand and Liu could only keep turning tightly to avoid being hit. He eventually pushed the nose of his Hawk III over into a dive towards the Chung Hwa Gate at the southern edge of Nanking. The A5M followed. Pulling up into a series of tight loops, Liu forced the A5M to overshoot after the third loop. Seizing his chance, he opened fire and sent the A5M crashing into the streets of Nanking. Its demise was witnessed by many of the besieged city's residents, the destruction of the fighter greatly boosting local morale.

In Creation of the Republic he provides an overview of the creation of the Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) from World War I through the tumultuous complexities of the ‘Warlord Period’, when the first factional air arms came into being. Civil wars within civil wars ravished China as provincial and regional interests contested for control against attempts to establish a central government. Japan exploited the situation for influence and even trained Chinese pilots for puppet air forces. Some Chinese pilots eventually fought against their former Japanese instructors. It also reveals Etienne Tsu, who, during World War I, fought for France with Escadrille N37 in 1916-17, perhaps achieving acedom. Shanghai and Nanking Campaigns recounts the early melding of the air forces into an organized national entity. With my previous exposure to ROCAF books in mind, I was surprised that Chinese fighter groups turned in as good a showing against the Japanese as they did. This was the era of the first mercenary ‘International Squadrons’ taking to the air over China but as this title is about Chinese pilots, it is not surprising that no mention is made of them.

Sino-Soviet Pact chronicles the Chinese pilots who achieved much during the involvement of the Soviet Union which, for both military and political reasons, assumed the air war. Despite the patriotic dedication of many Chinese to the war effort, the overall selection and training of Chinese pilots at the time was dubious. Yet the foreigners who came to China were in general ineffective rogues. Not surprisingly, China turned to Russia which had its own problems with Japan. This chapter features long and detailed biographies of several ROCAF fighter pilots. Eventually, due to shifting political tides in Europe, the Soviets ceased supplying aid to China. Fortuitously for Stalin’s flyers, as the Japanese Navy soon introduced the legendary A6M Zero fighter which, decimated all it encountered.

Japan’s full-scale assault on China led to a patriotic fervor amongst the Chinese community in North America. The 15 pages of Chinese-American Aces tells of the Chinese-Americans who made their way to Asia to fight Japan. “Art” Chin was one who test-flew a captured Ki-27, demonstrating that its performance allowed it to outfight two flights of Soviet I-15bis!

Combined Pursuit Group continues the history during the attempt to rebuild the Chinese Air Force through nine pages. Finally, America’s official involvement over China after Pearl Harbor is related through 15 pages in Chinese-American Combined Wing. This chapter includes the familiar P-40 as well as the obscure Republic P-43 Lancer. The turbo-supercharged Lancer could catch high-flying recon aircraft and is central to the numeric curiosity of accounts of Chinese P-43s fighting Japanese Ki-43s.

This chapter also presents China’s entry into the jet age and the world’s first use of guided air-to-air missiles against the Chinese Communists. It includes the ROCAF pilot who made ace in WWII and whose son shot down a Chicom MiG!

If you seek stories about the Flying Tigers or other non-Chinese groups, this is not the book for you. It is entirely about Chinese pilots. Only to put events into context or as supportive information are other persons and entities mentioned. Nevertheless, the stories shed a new light on this chapter of aerial warfare.

photos, art, graphics
Almost every page has a photo. Photo quality varies widely between formal studio exposures and amateur ‘grab shots’. Regardless, the selection of photos is excellent and shows everything from Japanese wrecks to aircraft, individual pilots to group portraits. All photos are black-and-white.

Artist Chris Davey brings color to the subject with 31 full color aircraft profiles. Curiously, aircraft delivered factory-ordered to China were painted an olive green overall; having a sky color underneath seems to have only been seen on airframes acquired secondhand. ROCAF often emblazoned huge white numbers on the fuselage and rarely placed the national symbol on the fuselage. However, most aircraft had the colorful white and blue 12-stripe rudder insignia. Each profile is described with an accompanying narrative in the appendices.

Finally, a simple table lists all 17 of the aces who flew for Republic of China.

Aces of the Republic of China Air Force is an excellent book for modelers, historians and enthusiasts of the Republic of China Air Force, its pilots, early Asian air wars, the Pacific air war, and the Cold War. It is well written. Fascinating stories are revealed, often including exciting air-to-air narratives. A fine selection of photographs show us what the ROCAF world looked like, and color artwork of those aircraft brings those subjects to life.

The text is not perfect and has a typo. That editing error can mislead readers unfamiliar with specific aircraft.

I have hoped for the story of the Chinese Air Force to be written and this book about ROCAF’s aces is a good primer for the subject. I heartily recommend it!

We thank Osprey for providing this book for review. Please tell vendors and retailers that you saw it on AEROSCALE!
Highs: Fascinating stories are revealed, often including exciting air-to-air narratives. A fine selection of photographs show us what the ROCAF world looked like, and color artwork of those aircraft brings those subjects to life.
Lows: Typo.
Verdict: Aces of the Republic of China Air Force is an excellent book for modelers, historians and enthusiasts of the Republic of China Air Force, its pilots, and the wars they fought.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781472805614
  PUBLISHED: Aug 22, 2015
  NATIONALITY: China / 简体

Our Thanks to Osprey Publishing!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


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