Warbird Obsession

It’s an addiction. Admitting you have it is the first step.

(John M. Dibbs / The Plane Picture Co.)


(John M. Dibbs / The Plane Picture Co.)

“If one had any sense or a desire to stay alive, you didn’t try and mix with a Zero, at any costs,” Squadron Leader Robert W. Foster, RAF told James Busha, who wrote the text of The High Battleground. In 1937, the Japanese Navy requested an airplane with a maximum speed of more than 310 miles per hour at an altitude of 13,000 feet. The fighter also had to be able to climb 9,800 feet in under three and a half minutes, stay airborne for about one and a half hours, and operate from a carrier deck. (All this with an engine in the 1,000-horsepower class.) “Just glancing at the requirements made me gloomy,” aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi later recalled. But Horikoshi’s Zero remains the fastest fighter ever powered by a 1,000-horsepower air-cooled engine, and was rated by the U.S. Army Air Forces as superior to the P-38, P-39, P-40, P-51, F4F, and F4U—the best U.S. fighters of the day. The Zero pictured here is part of the Commemorative Air Force, based in Pacific Coast, California.

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