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Antonio L. Sapienza

Autor/a de Aircraft of the Chaco War 1928-1935

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Suprisingly thorough book about a minor detail of an obscure historical event. Paraguay, having fought a bloody and disastrous war against three out of four neighboring states in the 19th century (see the War of the Triple Alliance) decided to complete the set by going to war with Bolivia in the 20th. Nobody is quite sure what happened; it seems like Paraguay started things off by an unprovoked attack on a Bolivian border outpost in 1928, but it also seems like nobody was really sure where the Bolivia/Paraguay border was. There are various suggestions that interests from the United States, France, Italy, and Germany had talked the Bolivians into believing that there was abundant oil in the Chaco region of Paraguay, and that conquest would merely be a matter of marching.

On paper it probably looked that way; Bolivia had about three times the population of Paraguay, had enough national mineral and oil wealth to pay for armaments, and had a German-trained army; while the principal export of Paraguay was malaria and the entire Paraguayan army wouldn’t have quite made a regiment by First World standards. However, things didn’t work out that way; the Bolivian highlanders didn’t do very well in the Chaco lowlands, communication and transport favored Paraguay, and the Paraguayans were fighting for their homeland – at least according to some maps. Thus the Paraguayans took some Bolivians fortifications, surrounded and captured two entire Bolivian divisions, and were marching into Bolivian territory when the war was ended by arbitration.

Aircraft of the Chaco War is co-authored by Dan Hagedorn, a curator at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and Antonio Sapienza, a Paraguayan Air Force officer. Sapienza must have been diligently collecting photographs and documents for years – the illustrations include an excellent photograph of a Curtis Osprey attacking Paraguayan ground troops, from a situation where cameras must have been a rarity and the presence of mind to use them during an air attack must have been even rarer.

The authors comment that the first casualty of the war was business ethics; despite League of Nations and United States Congress arms embargos, aircraft salesmen descended on Asuncion and La Paz like condors on a dead llama. Bolivia ended up with the larger air arm, with a fleet of Curtis Ospreys and miscellaneous other craft; Paraguay made due with Potez 25s. Although the Osprey was faster and more maneuverable, the Potez had heavier armament; both sides scored some air-to-air victories. However, as might be expected most aircraft attrition occurred through accidents, with aircrew, maintenance, and airstrip quality leaving something to be desired on both sides.

A few aircraft turn up that became familiar later; Bolivia had some Fiat CR-32s and Ju-52s (the authors don’t understand why the Bolivians didn’t use their Ju-52s as bombers). Near the end of the war, Bolivia bought a fleet (four) of Curtiss BT-32 “transports”. Curtiss literature showed the aircraft equipped with gun turrets, a bomb bay, and underwing bomb racks; the aircraft that were interned in Lima on their way to La Paz didn’t have these features but the US government was not convinced and indicted some Curtiss officials.

Strictly a specialist publication; the publisher (Schiffer Military History) does a lot of this sort of thing. Well illustrated and large format make for a list price ($45) that should discourage all but the most OCD; however I got mine from a remainder house for a small fraction of the cover price. Just the thing if you want to build a detailed model of a Wibault Type 73 or an Ansaldo SVA-5.
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setnahkt | Dec 3, 2017 |



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