MiG-17/19 Aces of the Vietnam War Book Review

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MiG-17/19 Aces of the Vietnam War, Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 130

by István Toperczer, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Paperback, 96 pages, 30 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing October  2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472812557

ISBN-13: 978-1472812551

Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.4 x 9.6 inches

This volume follows the standard format which will be familiar to any reader of Osprey’s previous Aircraft of the Aces volumes.  Author István Toperczer provides a historical overview of the Vietnamese Peoples Air Force and their employment of the MiG-17 and MiG-19, and illustrator Jim Laurier treats us to thirty beautifully rendered side profiles of the aircraft, most of which are depicted in natural metal schemes with a few shown in camouflage for good measure.

The VPAF credits eight pilots with five or more victories while flying MiG-17 or -19s.  Roughly half of the officially credited VPAF claims are uncorroborated, and many of the losses admitted by the U.S. were attributed to AAA or SAMs.  Toperczer notes throughout the text where North Vietnamese claims cannot be reconciled with USN or USAF loss reports, but does not explain the VPAF crediting methodology nor explains the discrepancy.  The reader is left to wonder if ground controllers who tracked U.S. aircraft throughout an engagement couldn’t easily confirm or deny a claim, or if the lack of aircraft wreckage or downed aircrew was ever taken into account.

Another more humorous illustration of the “fog of war” is the strange case of three very active MiG-19 pilots, who all flew with the 925th Fighter Regiment from Gia Lam airfield at the same time.  Their names were very similar – Nguyen Hong Son, Nguyen Hung Son, and Pham Hung Son.  As their exploits were reported in the Vietnamese press the matter became so confusing that the pilots were referred to as Son “A”, Son “B”, and Son “C” and historians have continued the paradigm.

A surprise to me was the presence of North Korean “volunteer” aircrew, which was not officially acknowledged until 2001.  They were active from 1967 through 1969.  Fourteen North Korean pilots were killed.  The VPAF credited them with achieving four victories although none of those can be corroborated with U.S. losses.

These books are a good reference for modelers and the profiles provide some great eye candy and inspiration for planning builds.  I would have liked to have seen more attention paid to sorting out or explaining the overclaiming issue, and perhaps some complementary descriptions of the same combats from the perspective of the U.S. aircrews.  A recommended reference volume, particularly as Airfix is expected to release a Mikoyan MiG-17 kit in 1/72 scale shortly.

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