The P-47 fighter-bomber story and all that sdurounrs it the plane and the men that it served are brought to life in Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones’s new book, Hell Hawks! Mr. Jones, a veteran astronaut, B-52D pilot, on Kindle see his Marine Air: The History of the Flying Leathernecks in Words and Photos, and Mr. Dorr, a former senior diplomat, are veteran authors in the field of aviation history and space exploration. In this book, they give us drama and emotion, a powerful sense of history combined with illuminating action. Dorr and Jones’s well-told story belies the cliche about Flying Fortresses and Mustangs winning the war: Their narrative is absorbing and enjoyable to read. Introducing the voices of numerous pilots, ground crewmen, and enemies, Dorr and Jones blend a trove of original interviews to create an air men’s history of the 365th Fighter Group and the vast destruction it wrought. Chronicling the Thunderbolt’s interdiction war makes for an exciting narrative. It brings new light to the historical importance of ground attacks by fighter-bombers that wielded great devastation on German military forces. The term for fighter-bombers or what authors Dorr and Jones, using the German’s own coinage, have called Jabos are tactical ground attack aircraft such as the Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, RAF Hawker Typhoon, and the USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. But, for all its familiarity and indisputable greatness, the P-47 Thunderbolt’s beginnings and the development of its mission are not generally understood in comparison to the glamous North American P-51 Mustang. The P-47 s calling as a fighter-bomber spanned thousands of missions against Hitler’s armies. But three episodes stand out as decisive in the victorious campaign: The breakout in Normandy, the race to the Rhine, and the Battle of the Bulge. Riddled with anecdote, fortified by detailed accounts of exciting air action stories, Hell Hawks! is an enthralling read, equal parts victory and defeat. Dorr and Jones’s writing is sharp, their approach sharper: they write All too often, they saw their planes return with bent propellers, holes in wings and fuselage, and traces of the battlefield, dirt, stones, shrapnel, branches, leaves embedded in the wings and cowling. But it was precisely the P-47 s ability to limp back to base with seemingly fatal damage that made it the ideal aircraft for ground attack. For those who find comfort in believing a fighter pilot’s role in western Europe was noble, impersonal, and detached mainly machine against machine or at the least a gentleman’s duel, like the First World War’s classic dogfights, this book will disappoint, indeed, its look at ground attacks carried out by the Hell Hawks offers no glamor for the readers. The authors counter, The pilots took a fatalistic attitude toward the work, which was gritty, dangerous, and frequently terrifying. It is important to understand, as Dorr and Jones do, that the Allied armies’ role in defeating Hitler’s panzers would not have been possible without the Ninth Air Force’s relentless tactical ground attacks. When Dorr and Jones make the statement, The 365th pilots were justifiably confident in their ability to deal with whatever opposition the Luftwaffe might throw at them, they have the evidence to back it up Their kill ratio was 8 to 1 in air-to-air combat. What makes this book worth reading is the author’s compilation of vivid Ninth Air Force experiences. However, also of importance to the reader is the realization that: Few if any of the men in the Hell Hawk’s group relished being in the war, but circumstances beyond their control made them participants. In the book’s concluding chapter, Final Mission, Dorr and Jones salute the achievement of Hell Hawks: The combination of skilled pilots, a rugged, capable aircraft, close and reliable communications between the air and ground teams, and the courage to fight a brutal, dangerous war at close quarters created an irresistible force that overwhelmed one of the most successful armies in history. Hell Hawks! pays tribute to an iconic beast of a fighter. As crew chief Charles Johnson, states, That P-47 was one tough airplane, and I guess so were we. A former Hell Hawk proudly states, Our pilots never got the credit they deserved. In my opinion, going down to fifty feet, at 350 miles per hour, and putting two five-hundred-pound bombs on a Tiger tank was a greater contribution to the war effort than shooting down an Fw-190. Hell Hawks! contains a gallery of forty-seven interesting photographs, two ETO maps, and a Ninth Air Force Fighter-Bomber Organization Chart.
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