A Spy In The Sky, A Photographic Reconnaissance Spitfire Pilot In WWII

The author recounts his career as a young photo reconnaissance pilot flying Spitfires during WWII. This is a most welcome book covering one of the vital aspects of modern warfare which rarely receives coverage – Highly Recommended.

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NAME: A Spy In The Sky, A Photographic Reconnaissance Spitfire Pilot In WWII
FILE: R3004
AUTHOR: Kenneth B Johnson
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword, Air World
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWII, WW2, World War II, World War 2, Second World War, photo 
reconnaissance, photographic reconnaissance, stereoscopic imaging, oblique 
photography, photo analysis, Spitfire, PR Spitfire, PRU, Photo Reconnaissance Unit, 
unarmed Spitfires, high level photography, low level photography

ISBN: 1-52676-156-4

IMAGE: B3004.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y6nejtwa
LINKS: 
DESCRIPTION: The author recounts his career as a young photo reconnaissance pilot 
flying Spitfires during WWII. This is a most welcome book covering one of the 
vital aspects of modern warfare which rarely receives coverage – Highly 
Recommended.

Ken Johnson was only eighteen when he joined a Photo Reconnaissance Unit. He was soon flying a PR Spitfire high above enemy territory. He had to depend on his reactions and the speed of his Spitfire because the guns had been removed. In fact PR Spitfires were ruthlessly stripped of anything that did not directly support the photographic mission. The author also flew several other types of photo reconnaissance aircraft during WWII, including the Lockheed Lightning.

Photo reconnaissance was one of the earliest duties placed on aircraft. It was rapidly appreciated that army commanders could obtain a detailed image of where the enemy was and what he was doing, allowing speculation on what he intended to do. This contrasted with the situation before aircraft when army commanders often manoeuvred their troops in close proximity without realizing how close they were. In WWI aircraft were sent up to photograph enemy positions and this was frequently done with a pilot flying the aircraft as smoothly as possible while the observer stood in the cockpit behind, or leaned precariously over the side, with a hand-held camera. Very quickly the trench lines from the coast to Switzerland were photographed in great detail and the images joined together to produce a plan image of the front. It did not take long to understand that air reconnaissance could also provide a very accurate intelligence picture of what the enemy was up to. It was as important to see an empty field that the day before had been filled with troops. Now they could be seen to have vacated that area, they had to be somewhere else for a very good reason. A commander could now see his opposite number building up ready to attack. As the assembly areas could be some distance from the battle line, that gave time to prepare for the attack when the troops began to move forward. The same applied to any other type of military activity that could be photographed from above.

When WWII began, photo reconnaissance had already moved on a long way. Large cameras with long lenses were mounted pointing down or to the side. They were operated remotely and this made it possible to fit the cameras in a modified single-seat fighter aircraft like the Hurricane or Spitfire. The Spitfire was ideal because it was a fast aircraft that became faster after all unnecessary weight had been removed and the skin carefully prepared to ensure the absolute minimum drag. Flying high and fast, a Spitfire could be almost invisible, record a variety of activity in enemy territory and provide evidence of the effectiveness of bombing strikes.

The Spitfire initially was faster than enemy fighters. To squeeze extra performance by polishing the skin and using minimum paint and take out everything that a fighter pilot required, but a PR pilot did not, gave it a considerable performance edge over potential interceptors.

This is a very interesting and entertaining book that casts light on a neglected but very important part of WWII history.