“THE FIGHTERS” -– which I purchased in April 1977 as a 12-year old while on vacation with my family in Florida --- was the first book I read on First World War aviation and the people who played a key part in its development between 1914 and 1918. It is an amazing book, full of photographs and aircraft diagrams. It also has a comprehensive map of the Western Front with special reference to the air war that shows the reader places where several of the airbases that were used by the combatant nations were situated. Being able to look back at this map from time to time as I read the book helped to make the air war more tangible to me.
Besides that, I enjoyed reading the stories of the various airmen (both the famous and lesser known ones) like Adolphe Pégoud (the world’s first fighter ace), Roland Garros, H.D. Harvey-Kelly (the first pilot in Britain’s Royal Flying Corps to land in France in August 1914), Oswald Boelcke, Max Immelmann, Georges Guynemer, Jacques Leps, René Fonck (the top Allied ace of the war; he was never shot down or wounded), Ernst Udet, Albert Ball, James McCudden, Werner Voss, Raymond Collishaw (a distinguished Canadian pilot who began his career with the Royal Naval Air Service), Rudolf Stark, Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (aka “The Red Baron”), Eddie Rickenbaker (America’s top fighter ace of the war), Hermann Becker, Raoul Lufbery, and George Vaughn (a lesser known American fighter pilot who flew with both the British and the Americans).
Reading their stories – and others – gave a poignancy to “THE FIGHTERS” that makes it, for me, a book I will gladly read again and again. IT IS THAT GOOD.