Star-Spangled Spitfires...


...a new Images of War title from Pen and Sword


Title: Star-Spangled Spitfires

Author: Tony Holmes

Publisher: Pen and Sword Books

ISBN: 978-1-47388-923-1

Another new Images of War book from Pen and Sword by author Tony Holmes, a follow-up from his earlier title, 'American Eagles'.  This time he focusses on the use of the Spitfire by US units in Europe and the Middle East. American volunteer pilots had been flying with the RAF in the 'Eagle' squadrons, and when the USA became directly involved with the war in Europe, these pilots and the Spitfire Vb aircraft were transferred to the USAAF.  Three US fighter groups operated the Spitfire, the 4th, 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups each operated with three Spitfire equipped squadrons.  After initial involvement in NW Europe in 1942, both the 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups moved to support Operation Torch in North Africa and after that, Italy.  They did upgrade their Vb's to Mk IX's before later converting to P51's in early 1944.  Even after that, the Spitfire continued to be used through to the end of the war by the USAAF in the form of tactical reconnaissance aircraft with the 67th Reconnaissance Group and later variants of high flying PR XI's with the 7th Photographic Reconnaissance Group.

SO with that in mind, what we have here is a fine collection of archive photos showing the various Spitfire variants in use by the USAAF and with the US stars (and later with added bars).  The book itself is in the usual soft-cover format, with 100 pages organised into 4 chapters.  The first covers Early Operations in the ETO (European Theatre of Operations), then Combat in the MTO (Mediterranean Theatre of Operations), then Training and Photo-Reconnaissance Units before a particular gem of this title, Spitfires in Glorious Colour, with original wartime colour images.

For the aircraft historian and the modeller you get to see an excellent reference of markings applied to Spitfires in US service during the war in both Europe and the Mediterranean/Italy.  You also get to see some of the aircrews as well as groundcrew working on airframes in various states of 'completeness'.  My favourite part however has to be the final chapter which has some ever so atmospheric colour photos of wartime US Spitfires.  For the modeller, one of these even has the Autocar tractor unit and fuel trailer which is the subject of a new Airfix kit last year, so a great bit of inspiration for a model diorama, among a number of others in the book.  A couple of these colour photos do indicate the difficulty of referencing old colour images, where the grey/green camouflage looks more like shades of blue so needs to be treated carefully as an individual reference.  One minor comment on this particular book is a bit unusual for the Images of War series, and that is the number of pages which look half empty and where the layout suggests there was room for more, not an issue that has struck me in this popular series before.  That doesn't take away from the interesting selection of photos in here, or from their useful and informative captions, it's just an observation.