Hampton, one of the most decorated pilots in Air Force history, called on his own experiences for the more modern description of air combat, then looked to those who were in the cockpits and to mountains of research for information about air combat in past eras.
The 534-page book is divided into conflicts, starting with the beginning of aerial combat in World War I. Retired Lt. Col. Hampton writes in detail about individual pilots and the aircraft they flew in the widely diverse conflicts. Details range from the wingspan and construction of the aircraft to the innovations in armament that took aerial combat to the next level.
“Research was a big part of writing this book,” the author said. “I added about 300 books to my library to provide the research I needed to write this book. For personal experience, I went to the Vintage Aircraft Museum in Fort Lupton and was graciously allowed to get into the cockpit of some of the World War II and World War I planes to get a feel for them. My research included spending a lot of time talking to as many combat pilots from each era as possible.”
He said the aircraft and equipment went through almost constant changes from the open cockpits of World War I to the high-tech situation of today's fighter pilots.
“While the airspeed, equipment and weapons changes, many of the basic tactics of an aerial combat dogfight remained the same,” Hampton said. “For example, the turn circle that is so much a part of a dogfight, as opposing pilots fly a circle seeking an advantage, remains a turn circle.”
While the description of aircraft and information about pilots is very detailed, the author blends those details into information about the politics and history of the time. For example, Hampton explores the little-known era of aerial combat that occurred between the world wars and how that combat helped improve aircraft, weapons and fighter pilot skills. In talking about the history of the two wars, Hampton points out that three World War II leaders, Churchill, Hitler and Mussolini, all served in the trenches in World War I.
Hampton also writes about the fact that many leaders, including those in the United States, frequently refused to learn from previous experiences and thus repeated past mistakes.
To further inform the reader, Hampton added a wealth of knowledge in the appendix, including a detailed explanation of the anatomy of a dogfight and the anatomy of a surface attack. There is a wealth of maps of the areas discussed in the book, plus a full glossary of terms.
“Lords of the Sky” is a book that will appeal greatly to those interested in history, aviation and aerial combat. However, the history and information about the impact of the political and economic climate woven into the evolution of aircraft and aerial combat makes reading the book time well spent.