American Heritage DOGFIGHT™ World War I Air Battle Game
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Air Fighters Book

Ah, yes, the heart of the matter. A classic example of marketing apparently gone very, very wrong. Although details are quite sketchy, it appears the impetus (or a least a very thinly disguised perk) for creating the American Heritage games was to market the American Heritage History of Flight (a “major book”), as well as the American Heritage Junior Library books for younger readers.

I’ve never seen the History of Flight, or a set of these pre-Internet (by decades) volumes, but the little Air Fighters book must have been an attractive draw — at least to kids willing to write to Great Neck, New York to obtain more information.

As a young Dogfight player, I read the Air Fighters book dozens of times, and despite its inaccuracies, it was well written in classic pulp style and tastefully illustrated. The only thing missing was a hint of sex, which could have been snuck by the censors in the form of a provocative enlistment poster of the era, or perhaps a personal insignia on the side of a plane. Unfortunately, the “pitch” to would be purchasers of the Junior Library was on the back cover of the booklet, which I never bothered to look at, nor can I ever remember having an interest in obtaining more information about them.

The Air Fighters booklet was issued in two versions, differing only in their back cover. The original version (from 1962-63) has three paragraphs on the back cover, and is designed with adequate white space. The Re-issue version (1976) includes an additional paragraph in the middle section dedicated to listing the Command Decision game titles, which crowds the typeset a bit. Apparently a better marketing team at Milton Bradley realized that kids were inherently more interested in trying other games than just writing for information about a book.

As an aside, the description of the American Heritage History of Flight is unchanged between the intervening 13 years, to wit: “a comprehensive illustrated history of aviation, from man’s first myths of flight to spacecraft launching of our own day”. One wonders if they updated it to include anything about actually landing on the moon, or if they were still trying to peddle the 1963 backstock.

A great little booklet in its own right, the original Air Fighters is offered at $15.00, and the re-issue version is offered at $12.00.

© Brian Becker
Photography by Larry Gotkin
Site Design by Precision Computing Arts, Inc.
Updated: July 9, 2010