F6F Hellcat vs A6M Zero-sen
ISBN: 978 1 78200 813 2
Contributor: Andrew Nguyen
Review Date: 11 Nov 2015
During the first year of the war in the Pacific, the Japanese A6M Zero dominated the skies, nearly sweeping away all opposition before it. Even the main American carrier fighter during the war's early stages, the F4F Wildcat had trouble against the Zero due to the Japanese fighter's incredible maneuverability and its skilled pilots. It was only with the use of tactics that played to the Wildcat's strengths and the beginning of the decline of the skills of Japanese fighter pilots due to inevitable attrition in late 1942 that allowed the Americans to hold their ground in the air against the Japanese. As 1942 transitioned to 1943, new American fighters such as the P-38 Lightning and the F4U Corsair entered the battlefield which presented a great challenge to the A6M Zero then they had faced with the Wildcat and other Allied aircraft. It would not be until mid to late 1943 that the A6M Zero met its American nemesis, the F6F Hellcat.
The 62nd book in the Osprey "Duel" series, F6F Hellcat vs A6M Zero-sen chronicles the struggle of the premiere fighters of the US and Japanese navies during the last two years of the war. Written by Edward M. Young, the book serves as a sequel to its predecessor in the Osprey "Duel" series, F4F Wildcat vs A6M Zero-sen, which Young also wrote as well.
As it is a sequel to the previous book that Young has wrote in the series, it incorporates information from the previous book and builds on it, particularly in the discussion of the A6M Zero as well as pilot training for both sides and the tactics they used, particularly on the Japanese side.
Serving as a replacement for the F4F Wildcat, the F6F Hellcat took into account the latest updates in technology for airplanes along with a firm industrial base and logistical system and a pilot training system that delivered a steady flow of pilots armed with excellent training. While other aircraft such as the F4U Corsair and the P-38 Lighting had already started cutting deeply into Japanese fighters, the arrival of the Hellcat would make the heaviest impression onto its foes. Due to the versatility of the Hellcat with a variety of weapons, it tackled other roles as well as the war approached its end, replacing the SB2C Helldiver on several US carriers.
On the other end, the A6M Zero continued to shoulder on while its weaknesses became gradually clear to see and potential replacements suffering heavy delays. While the lack of armor on the A6M Zero is well known, it also began to suffer from having an underpowered engine and gradually weak armament against the heavily armored American aircraft. The most grievous problem for the Zero fighter was the gradual lack of trained pilots available due to the inadequate pilot training system proving unable to field trained pilots for the front.
For those that are familiar with the format of Osprey "Duel" series, the book follows in that format. It starts with an introduction before focusing on the development of both fighters. Next is a short overview of the situation of the combatants before transitioning to the core of the book, which deals with the combat on both sides, which in this cases focuses on the fighting form 1943 to 1944 where the US Fast carrier task force and its Hellcat squadrons broke the back of conventional Japanese naval aviation. A comparison is made of the performance of the fighters after the fighting dies down and the aftermath of the combat between both sides.
While the combat section between the two fighters is lacking, the book is an impressive volume as it described the technical aspects of both fighters in the space of limited pages in the books of the "Duel" series. The use of diagrams, drawings, and photos does help in providing a visual representation of the combat and of the capabilities of both weapons. Overall, it mainly serves as a good introduction to both weapons and a starting point for those willing to research more about them.
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George Patton, 31 May 1944