Exploding Fuel Tanks
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Exploding Fuel Tanks
Softcover book
190 pages
Photos, diagrams
ISBN: 1450773052

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Exploding Fuel Tanks - Book Reviews

"Somehow I managed to miss "Exploding Fuel Tanks" for nine years. I'd seen the title mentioned and certainly knew of Rick Dunn's reputation, but what a revelation to see the book up close. Dunn takes an "everybody knows" type of subject (Our Airplanes were better protected than Their Airplanes), dips it in high-octane fuel, wrings it out, and sets it on the historical clothes line for examination while drying. Dunn's mix of a "rivet counter" tekkie subject combines with rare information and professional-quality insight that yields illuminating analysis. And along the way, he teaches aviation students more than a few things--but mainly he demonstrates that history is both a process and a journey, sometimes best experienced on what seems a well traveled road."
- Barrett Tillman Aviation historian and author Amazon customer review July 7, 2020

"Richard Dunn’s Exploding Fuel Tanks is a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in how aircraft development shaped the modern world. From a historical and technical per- spective, it offers a fascinating glimpse into World War II aviation and the background of its evolution. Rather than writing an opinion piece derived from broad generalizations, the author simply lays out the facts and lets the reader reach a conclusion based on actual evidence.
Historians who focus only on technical speci cations oftentimes merely summarize the subject of aircraft development. Instead, Dunn examines the topic at a particular time. For instance, instead of simply addressing the overall history of development, he details how certain decisions were made. Regarding aircraft fuel tanks and armor, the author relates the history of why aircraft progressed as they did.
By digging deeper and asking why, rather than relying on general assumptions, Dunn paints a much better picture of his topic. Take, for example, the widespread perception of the Japanese Zero as an agile yet frail ghter as compared to American aircraft such as the P-40, which was more robust but less agile. Dunn presents the full story, backed up by in- credibly detailed research, by exploring records of actual documented combat to determine whether such a perception has a basis in fact. Indeed, the reliance on documented evidence is one of the book’s strengths.
On the other hand, one might justi ably criticize the scope of this study. Although I applaud its detailed analysis of the Pacific theater, I would be interested in seeing comparisons between all of the major powers on this subject. Overall, Exploding Fuel Tanks is recommended for any aviation enthusiast interested in the history of the development of combat aircraft."
- Capt Douglas G. Ruark, USAF, Air & Space Power Journal [Summer 2016] page 117

"Great air-warfare history. Well-written; extremely well researched (many excellent photographs); exciting reading; and important lessons learned. Highly recommended"
- Hon. Jacques S. Gansler Ph.D., Professor, University of Maryland, former Under Secretary of Defense

"Rick Dunn is to be commended for having written the first comprehensive study of a vital subject in aviation history which, all too often, has received only superficial and subjective treatment. His probing analysis strips away widely-held misconceptions and much myth surrounding the issues to reveal a complex multi-layered reality. Every serious student of military aviation history should read this book."
- Osamu Tagaya  Aviation historian and author

"Easily the most in depth research I have ever had the pleasure of reading on aircraft development. Incredible detail is put into a detailed historical context to paint the full and complete picture."
- DG Amazon customer review November 21, 2015

"Amazon tells us to compare the product with others in the same category. I'd say that is nigh impossible with this work, as I'm not aware of a current published work that has dealt with this subject. I've not finished it yet, but I have enjoyed it hugely and I've learned a great deal so far. Good money spent for your aviation research shelf!"
- W. Dickinsonon Amazon customer review November 26, 2014

"More to this book that at first meets the eye - The author has made something clear here that most other aircraft books either ignore or gloss over with very ambiguous documentation. Until I read Mr. Dunn's work, I had not realized that the ".50 caliber" weapons fielded by the Imperial Japanese Army were machine cannon, not machine guns. Once alerted by Mr.Dunn's writings, I reexamined other source materials and found that they either called them machine guns (which are much less potent unless employed en masse, as with US fighter wing guns), or buried any reference in obscure tables.
Also, this author addresses a topic not normally explored in depth by aircraft authors, that of armor plating. While mostly about the Japanese side of things, Mr. Dunn spends quite a bit of time looking at shot angles, plate fitting, and the differences between the rifle caliber weapons used by the Japanese and British early on, and the late war heavy caliber machine guns and aircraft machine cannon."
- T. Stibal Amazon customer review June 28, 2014

"Excellent book for those who care about the technology of war- I care about the technology of war. I've been featured on nine History Channel programs (mostly Modern Marvels and Engineering Disasters) talking about the technology of war. This book adds a welcome new dimension to that field.
I’ve just purchased a self-published, well-researched and remarkably readable book by Richard L. Dunn called “Exploding Fuel Tanks – Saga of Technology That Changed The Course of the Pacific Air War.
There is a strong mythology out there about the vulnerability of Japanese aircraft because they lacked pilot armor and self-sealing fuel tanks – this isn’t entirely true, as it turns out, but there is a massive chunk of truth to it. Dunn starts with looking at the adoption of armor and tank protection in Europe, and how it spread to the US, but not to Japan, by the start of the war. In this, he includes lots of tech stuff about the tanks, including tanks that were shot at (experimentally) to see how well it worked.
Then he jumps to the Pacific War (my current area of real fascination), and goes plane-by-plane in showing what bullets and cannon and AA fire could do to protected and unprotected aircraft, from Pearl Harbor forward. He shows lots of proof that many Japanese planes were battle-damaged or shot down without burning (though also noting how some burned easily, most especially the Mitsubishi G4M (aka Betty) which was called the Type 1 Lighter by its crews, for obvious reasons.
This book has lots of photos, lots of contemporary charts (taken from pilot’s manuals, etc.) and lots of anecdotal info. Photos include Japanese soldiers jumping up and down on the fuel tank of a shot-down B-29 to see how strong it was, and of women in the states using clothes irons like my mom used to use to seal up self-sealing fuel tanks in factories.
There are enough photos here to interest modelers, but mostly, this is a very interesting and informative book about a subject often alluded to but not often studied. Well worth reading if you like the tech side of what we model.
It is a self-published book, which is obvious from the typography and layout – but you don’t buy this book for the page layout – you buy it for the information. Great information … I’m glad I took the plunge."
- Ned Barnett, IPMS Life Member #5544 Amazon custoer review October 25, 2013

"An entirely new perspective of the Pacific War - I confess that I never read something about this subject before so, given my professional formation, I really appreciated the book as it resemble more a scientific paper than a simple essay. The narrative and writing style are extremely readable and convincing even for those who are not specialists. The author surely made a "first" in historical studies. The introduction is the best example I have ever seen within a book with its clearly outlined method of research, scopes to be pursued and results expected to be reached. The illustrations and drawings are superb as well as the appendixes. In my opinion the author has unveiled a completely forgotten and overlooked subject in telling the relation between technology, research and air combat operations. The clear conclusions at the end of the book are absolutely a must and gave an original perspective to WWII in the Pacific."
- Luca Ruffato  Pacific Aviation Researcher & Author Amazon customer review August 16, 2011

"The Inside Story of Technology Driven by Safety - Just finished reading Exploding Fuel Tanks and am most impressed with the way the author took such a narrow subject and gave it life. His linking of the people, their machines and the philosophy of the time brings everything neatly together so that even I can understand it. I have always looked at the Japanese aircraft in an inferior way because of the past/current stereotype presentations and I certainly have not even considered how and why fuel tanks could contribute to technology that has an impact in so many other areas. This book gives this topic a new, long overdue life and in the process it added a new dimension towards my understanding of the war in the Pacific. I must admit, when I read the sub title .. Saga of technology that changed the course of the Pacific air war... I was skeptical about how fuel tanks could change or add anything to technological advancement. By the time I finished reading about Midway (Chapter IV) I realized two things. One, I can't put the book down because it is bold, interesting and full of new information. Two, I very much like the way the author weaved seemingly disparate subjects (rubber, synthetics, bullets, engine power, aluminum, steel, etc) into his central theme. It is a genius approach and it opened a greater understanding of the larger challenge both sides faced beside each other. In my wildest off-tangent thinking I would never have given one iota of thought to linking fuel tanks to air combat advancement, outside of range. Also, I am one of those guys who have simply taken aviation engineering for granted. A must read for all WWII enthusiasts. This book should be in all military libraries, including Naval, Air Force and USMA."
- Eugene M. Monihan Amazon customer review July 11, 2011

"Quelling the pilot's nightmare - Rick Dunn tells the fascinating story of how Britain and Germany developed the first 'crash proof fuel tanks,' and how other countries including the United States and Japan scrambled to catch up, to save their pilots from death or disfiguring burns. With many splendid photos and drawings, this is a must for every military aviation library"
- Daniel Ford  Author Flying Tigers: Claire Chennault and His American Volunteers, 1941-1942
Amazon customer review June 10, 2011

"Explosive material - This is a fascinating account of the Pacific air war. It is is nicely written and beautifully illustrated. I especially appreciated the extensive historical research that went into this volume. I learned a lot and enjoyed the ride. Highly recommended."
- Gary G Berntson  Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience, Ohio State Unviversity
Amazon customer review
June 23, 2011