Model Centrum's Panama Canal Defenders Vol 1

Author/Artists: Dan Hagedorn


Model Centrum


$41.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 64 pages, soft cover, 8 x 12
ISBN: 978-

It has been a while since I've seen a book in this series, the last one being on South African Air Force colors and markings. This one is the first volume on the aircraft that operated in the Sixth Air Force and those that also were part of what was known as the Antilles Air command. These units were actively engaged in protecting the Panama Canal as well as performing ASW missions throughout the Carribean and along the northern west coast of South America. There were even units stationed in the Galapagos. Those in the islands of the Antilles were actually fairly active against German U-boats as they tried to sneak into the Gulf of Mexico to attack shipping.

One would be surprised, as was I, at the sheer number of units that were involved as well as the aircraft types that were used. Initially, the few squadrons in the Canal Zone prior to the start of WWII, were flying P-26s. These were still operated in the early years of the war before the survivors were provided to Guatemala (at 'PT-26s' as the US was forbidden to provide offensive aircraft to Central American nations). It is the source of the P-26 flown by Planes of Fame and the one in the USAF Museum.

As war broke out in Europe, P-36s were sent to Panama and the Antilles Air Command was formed. Later types such as the P-39 and P-40 were sent. Interestingly the type most used in this theater was the P-39 and it turned out that it was the most well suited for the types of missions that were being flown. Its lack of high altitude performance was not seen as an issue as any incoming Japanese air raids would be from aircraft carriers at low level. They also had good patrol range. . P-39s and P-40s of all variants were used by these units.

The book itself starts with a general look at the theater before the war then covers the units with a brief history of their operations and the colors/markings used by them. These are all divided by aircraft type starting with the P-26 then moving on to the P-36, P-39, and finally the P-40. The book is fairly image intensive, though not strictly a photo book. What is a real treat are the full color profiles at the end of the book, all based on a photo.

Like the earlier books in this series, it covers a part of the air war that has rarely been researched and it makes for a superb read. I found it a great reference for some fairly unique camo and markings schemes and I think you will as well. Most highly recommended. 

May 2022

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