The Douglas B-18 and B-23: America’s Forsaken Warriors
By Dan Hagedorn Sr. and Dan Hagedorn Jr.
Hardcover in dustjacket, 288 pages
Publisher: Crecy Publishing, September 2015
Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.8 x 11.4 inches
Books on the Douglas B-18 Bolo are rare. It was designed as a replacement for the Martin B-10 and entered service with the USAAC in 1937, only 350 were produced. The design drew heavily on Douglas’ experience with the DC-1 and DC-2, but by the time of the Pearl Harbor attack its deficiencies in speed, bomb load, and defensive armament had rendered it obsolete as a bomber. Many were destroyed on the ground in Hawaii and the Philippines, those stateside were pressed into the anti-submarine and training roles.
The authors have done an excellent job at collecting and presenting a wealth of information on this obscure aircraft. The B-18 was a favorite of photographers before the war and much of their work is presented here. The authors also do a good job explaining the role of the Bolo in developing anti-submarine equipment such as the Air to Surface Vessel (ASV) radar and Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) gear. There are several color profiles by artist Rich Dann, and line drawings of the various sub types.
There are a few areas where I would have liked to have seen the authors take their analysis just one step further. The chapter on ASW patrol activities details several U-boat sightings and engagements but never reconciles claims or credited kills against German submarine losses. I read every report contained in the book but still have no idea how many submarines were actually sunk by B-18s (Wikipedia claims four). There is a detailed chapter on all the units which operated the B-18, and another on camouflage and markings, but the plethora of interesting unit markings is neither illustrated nor explained.
Still, the authors have collected a lot of useful data in one place which will be helpful to those wishing to study the type. It is an interesting book which is just a few small steps away from being a great reference.