"4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' " perfectly epitomizes the high standard Osprey Publishing has established in its Aviation Elite Units Series for"4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' " perfectly epitomizes the high standard Osprey Publishing has established in its Aviation Elite Units Series for concise and comprehensive accounts of distinguished air force units across the world.
The 4th Fighter Group came into being in September 1942 from the transfer of 3 Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter squadrons (made up mainly of American pilots who had been in combat since late 1940) to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). Along with the transfer, the Group retained the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V fighters, which it flew operationally against the Luftwaffe until it transitioned to the P-47 Thunderbolt in early 1943.
The book, besides relating details of the combat missions flown by the 4th Fighter Group between September 1942 and war's end in May 1945, sheds considerable light on the outstanding fighter pilots in its ranks. Men like Don Blakeslee, who had begun his combat service flying Spitfires with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941, and became, by sheer force of personality, the bold, intrepid leader of the unit; Don Gentile from Piqua, Ohio who began his combat service with the RAF and later became a prime exponent of the P-51B Mustang; John Godfrey - who for a time served as Gentile's wingman in 1944, forming one of the best air fighting teams in history - indeed, Winston Churchill dubbed Gentile and Godfrey "the Damon and Pythias" team of the air; Ralph "Kid" Hofer - a bold, brash figure who became one of the Group's top aces; Duane Beeson - a consummate, courageous pilot who might have emerged from the war as the Group's top ace had his P-51B Mustang not been brought down by flak over Germany in April 1944 - he spent the remainder of the conflict as a PoW; Pierce McKennon; the Greek Spiros "Steve" Pisanos; the Pole "Mike" Sobranski who began the war as a soldier in his homeland resisting the German invasion; and Nicholas Magura.
There is also a generous profusion of photos and illustrations throughout the book, which enriches the reading experience.
The 4th Fighter Group came out of the war as the highest scoring fighter group in the USAAF, having shot down 550 German planes and destroyed 461 planes on the ground. For any aviation enthusiast, "4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' " is a winner. ...more
"NIGHT FIGHTER" is J.R.D. "Bob" Braham's story, which lives up to its billing as "fast-paced, hard-hitting and personal."
After leaving school in 1936"NIGHT FIGHTER" is J.R.D. "Bob" Braham's story, which lives up to its billing as "fast-paced, hard-hitting and personal."
After leaving school in 1936 and having worked as a clerk in a police station, Braham joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) on a short service commission in late 1937. Despite some struggles during the elementary stages of flight training, he persevered and won his wings in late August 1938. During this time, Braham had his first exposure to night-flying, a skill at which he would become highly proficient during the Second World War.
But before that, Braham was to gain considerable experience flying some of the RAF's standard and recently obsolescent fighters of the 1938-40 period, inclusive of the Hawker Fury, Hawker Demon and Gloster Gladiator biplane fighters, the Hawker Hurricane (one of the modern monoplane fighters then swelling the ranks of RAF Fighter Command, along with the Spitfire), and the twin-engined monoplane - the Bristol Blenheim. Eventually, a short time after the outbreak of war in September 1939, the decision was made to make Braham's squadron into a night-fighter unit. A year would pass before he scored his first kill, flying the Bristol Blenheim.
Braham has a way of bringing home to the reader the stresses, strains, and thrills of combat flying. I gained a deep appreciation for the dynamic, fluid nature of the air war by night as waged between the RAF and the Luftwaffe. Sometimes one side would move a little ahead of its opponent as the technology of radar detection and concealment grew and evolved under wartime pressures --- and changes in tactics and aircraft would tilt the scales, as well.
By 1943, Braham had become one of the RAF's highest-scoring night-fighter aces flying the formidable Bristol Beaufighter and commanding his own squadron. He would go on to help develop "intruder tactics" by which RAF night-fighters could engage in fast, low-level daylight missions against Luftwaffe airbases and German military installations in Occupied Europe, as well as Germany itself. A year later, Braham himself would be shot down by enemy fighters over Denmark, flying the superlative DeHavilland Mosquito twin-engined fighter. (The way Braham describes this combat in great detail was like seeing a dramatic series of heart-stopping scenes being played out in my imagination.) Braham would return from POW camp in May 1945 and resume serving in the RAF before accepting an opportunity to emigrate with his family to Canada and join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), where he would serve with distinction for 16 years (1952-68). ...more
This book offers a first-rate story of the struggles Fighter Command faced between 1941 and 1943 to wrest air supremacy from the Luftwaffe over the ChThis book offers a first-rate story of the struggles Fighter Command faced between 1941 and 1943 to wrest air supremacy from the Luftwaffe over the Channel Front with the different variants of the Spitfire. There are also plenty of quality photos and color illustrations of the Spitfires flown by those fighter pilots - British, Canadian, Australian, Free French, Belgian, Polish, Dutch, New Zealander, Norwegian, and South African - who 'made ace' during those crucial years. I greatly enjoyed reading this book. ...more
"Spitfire Ace: My Life as a Battle of Britain Spitfire Pilot" is based on an unfinished memoir the author Gordon Olive was writing about his wartime e"Spitfire Ace: My Life as a Battle of Britain Spitfire Pilot" is based on an unfinished memoir the author Gordon Olive was writing about his wartime experiences prior to his death in 1987. (Following Olive's death, his family contacted the editor of this book, Dennis Norton, who had corresponded with Olive the year prior to his death, to complete work on Olive's memoir. Thus, this book is the finished product.)
In reading this book, I felt as if Olive himself were recounting to me the full wealth of his flying experiences. I seemed to hear an unmistakably clear, Australian accent as I went from page to page. After a rigorous, competitive process, Olive won admission to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1936, age 20. He trained for a year, earned his wings, and then he earned a Short Service Commission with the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the opportunity to receive advanced training in Britain. Olive speaks extensively about his time with the prewar RAF during the years 1937 to 1939, which makes for some very fascinating reading. What I found interesting to learn is that Olive, now in the RAF, was disappointed in having been slotted to serve as a fighter pilot. His first choice was bombers because he envisioned later having a career back in Australia as an airline pilot. He felt the experience with multi-engine aircraft would serve him in good stead.
With the outbreak of war, Olive's squadron formed part of Britain's home defense against anticipated Luftwaffe attacks on ports and coastal bases from SE England to the Firth of Forth in Northern Scotland. He flew numerous patrols and engaged in some meteorological flights, as well as some experiments aimed at revising fighter tactics. Of the latter work, he writes that "When the experiments were over [this was in Britain during the Phoney War period of 1939-1940], I wrote a paper on our findings which recommended that we should function in elements of two aeroplanes, not three as was the established practice. The section of three was a legacy of the First World War. I might have saved myself the trouble because nobody took the slightest notice of it."
Then with the coming of the German Blitzkrieg in Western Europe on May 10th, 1940, the subsequent decimation of Britain's Advanced Air Striking Force (AASF) in France, and the eventual retreat of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to Dunkirk toward the end of the month, Olive's squadron became engaged in flying missions over the evacuation beaches there, often flying as far as 20 miles inland to ward off any German fighters intent on strafing the soldiers on the beaches.
Olive is a very good writer. He gives the reader a palpable sense of the urgency of the hour following France's capitulation to Germany in June 1940 when Britain stood alone and invasion seemed both certain and imminent. Hardly anything escapes his attention. For instance, on one of the missions he flew to France to view the developing German invasion preparations and proliferation of air bases along the Pas de Calais, he writes that "[i]t was estimated that in addition to the dozen or so French aerodromes within seventy miles of the English coast, the Germans constructed a further thirty or more in June and early July . With three squadrons operating off each aerodrome, this threatened us with well over a thousand aeroplanes."
Olive's squadron (65 Squadron) would go on to fly combat during the most critical moments of the Battle of Britain from July to late August of 1940 before being belatedly sent up to Scotland to rest and refit. The book is full of Olive's descriptions of the scale of combat he experienced in the skies over SE England and the Channel that will leave any reader grasping for breath. It is that INTENSE! Let me cite the following passage.
"I called Control and was given a course to steer; a minute later and I saw a dot on the horizon. I was flying straight at it and it was not moving. Either it was going the same way as I, or it was coming towards me.
"A few seconds later it was clearly a single-engined fighter - either a Spitfire or a Me 109. Which? It answered the question for me and dozens of tracer streaks flashed towards me. As we did not fire tracer I instantly knew he was not one of ours, but before I could make a move to put my sights on him, he flashed by overhead, tracer still pouring out of his guns. He was travelling at full speed ... running slightly downhill at about 400 mph. My own speed would have been around 350 mph, so our combined closing speed would be about 750 mph or twelve miles a minute. As neither the Spifire nor the Me 109 could be seen five miles distant from head on, this meant that he had come from a position beyond my range of vision to point blank in thirty seconds. He probably opened fire a mile away when he still could not be sure of my identity about five seconds before he passed me. … It was a good lesson on the speed at which things happened – out of sight to point blank in thirty seconds, with five seconds to identify friend or foe, then out of sight again in the same time." (Olive scored 2 victories during that particular mission.)
Olive would return to active service in SE England in October as a seasoned ace, flying several more combat missions before the squadron was broken up the following spring and he was sent off to help form an RAAF night fighter squadron tasked with the defense of the western approaches to Liverpool, the West Midlands, and Manchester against Luftwaffe night raiders. His subsequent return to the RAAF in Australia and his experiences there also make for very interesting reading.
"SPITFIRE ACE" I would rank as one of the top wartime pilot memoirs I've yet read. Olive not only writes well, but was a skilled artist, too. The book contains several of the illustrations he painted from memory of the various aerial encounters he had during the Battle of Britain. There are also a few photos. This book is a keeper. ...more
For all of its 170 pages, "BIG FRIEND, LITTLE FRIEND: Memoirs of a World War II Fighter Pilot" is one of the best of its kind that I've yet had the plFor all of its 170 pages, "BIG FRIEND, LITTLE FRIEND: Memoirs of a World War II Fighter Pilot" is one of the best of its kind that I've yet had the pleasure of reading. Turner takes the reader along with him as he enters the cockpit of his P-51 Mustang fighter to undertake missions over German-occupied Europe, either providing bomber escort for the Eighth Air Force's B-17 and B-24 bomber groups or undertaking highly dangerous low-level dive bombing attacks on enemy airfields, emplacements, and railway junctions which were stoutly defended by fierce anti-aircraft fire. He also gives the reader the palpable feel of fear and excitement a fighter pilot experiences when he is engaged in high altitude, heart pounding combat with some of the Luftwaffe's toughest fighter pilots. At the time Turner entered combat, the Luftwaffe fighter force in Western Europe was still very much a potent force, not one to be taken lightly.
Turner flew combat with the 354th Fighter Group, the first unit in the U.S. Army to fly the new P-51 Mustang into combat, between December 1943 and September 1944. He emerged from the War as a double ace, with 12 German planes to his credit. He reverted to reserve status in the Air Force, completed his college education, married, and with the start of the Korean War, returned to combat flying F-86 Sabre fighters in 1951-52 with the Fourth Fighter Wing and tangling with MIG fighters over North Korea. ...more