REVIEW: Korean Air War – Sabres, MiGs and Meteors, 1950–53 (2021)

A Book by Michael Napier

In America, we love reading about wars that we won. We’re talking those times U.S. soldiers went in, guns blazing, and fought the evil cartoonishly scary bad guys for freedom! This, of course, is basically describing how many people see World War II, and a lot of it ends there for the simple reason being that we haven’t really “won” a war ever since. That’s not even how WWII was, but that’s another discussion altogether. Perhaps the most overlooked of these post-WWII military conflicts is The Korean War. Long ignored by pretty much everyone, and usually even further brushed away as a “police operation”, it exists to many only in MASH reruns late at night on network television.

I have a sincere interest in learning about The Korean War because my own grandfather served in The United Sates Army during the war, and hope this book is the first step of many of me growing my knowledge of it. Even more obscure than the war itself is an entire book about Korean War air power, and that’s the topic for today. Korean Air War – Sabres, MiGs and Meteors, 1950–53 by Michael Napier pulls together more information than I ever expected on that topic, showing that the origins of air combat, as we know it today, started in those early 1950’s skies over Korea.

“From acclaimed aviation historian Michael Napier, this is a highly illustrated survey of the air war over Korea. The Korean War holds a unique place in aviation history. It saw the first large-scale jet-versus-jet combat and it was the first military action of the Cold War, fought by both the newly independent United States Air Force and the recently formed Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force. In a meticulously researched volume, former RAF Tornado pilot Michael Napier unravels the complex narrative of events, describing the course of operations in the air and the major campaigns of the land war. He examines in detail the air power of the major combatants, which included North and South Korea, the UK, Australia, Canada and South Africa as well as China, the USA and the USSR. Packed with stunning contemporary images and including first-hand combat reports, Korean Air War is a groundbreaking exploration of a much forgotten conflict, which nevertheless provided lessons about the organization and prosecution of modern aerial warfare that remain relevant through to the present day.”

I think one of the more interesting parts of the book was reading about some of the growing pains involved in the switchover from propeller based planes to jet planes during the war. At times, many of the parallel-developed planes from various countries had similar shapes and colors resulting in many cases of unfortunate friendly fire and other accidents. Pilots were still not used to the power of such planes, and many early dogfights were won by antiquated World War II planes.

The book does a great job of giving a broad overall history of the war itself, and is perhaps one of the most well-researched aviation books I’ve ever read. It can get a bit repetitive at times, but honestly, there’s only so many ways you can describe an airplane battle so I wasn’t worried about it. I feel like I now need to search out a solid book on the ground offensive, and I might have a working knowledge of the war far surpassing most of my peers. Great book overall, solid for aviation, military, and history buffs.

If you are interested in purchasing this book click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.


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