From Kagero we have the second part of their history of the P-47D units of the “mighty eighth” called “Thunderbolts of the US Army air Force” This book chronicles the operations of this rugged aircraft from March 1944 - May 1945. It is full of great pictures and pilots accounts of the kill or be killed air battles in the last months of the war – click on below to see what we found out about the book when we read it….
Kagero Air Battles: 17 - Thunderbolts of the U.S. 8th Army Air Force March 1944 – May 1945
Written by: Thomas Szlagor
Written by: Thomas Szlagor
Pages: 96 pages
Format: Soft cover A4 (210x297 mm)
ISBN: ISBN 978-83-61220-82-4
RRP: € 16.93 from The Kagero Bookshop online
Thunderbolts of the U.S. 8th Army Air Force March 1944 – May 1945 is the seventeenth book in Kagero “Air Battles” series and for this reviewer couldn’t come too soon. I have the first of this two part series and the pilot’s accounts especially had me riveted by the realism as I read their stories. This second book promises more of the same, with ninety-six pages packed full of text and one hundred and eight large format black and white pictures including eight full colour shots as well as aircraft profiles. The book is a matted A4 format cover with great art work and the pages are a similar patted finished stock.
Kagero second book in the history of the Eighth air force’s P-47 Thunderbolts wastes no time in taking straight off from where the first book left off –the second half of 1944 and the Second World War in the skies of Europe. You go straight in to a great story in the introduction of the book. Pilots telling of a massive air battle with German air units, the pilots using such familiar aces names like “Dave” (56thfg commander David Schilling) like you are there and know the person they are speaking about. It is this lack of formality which really helps you connect with these pilot’s stories so easily. The text of the book is engaging and never really boring to read.
Most of the book however is a day by day recollection of the 8th air Forces thunderbolt groups at that time. This book goes from covering nine P-47 fighter groups at the start of the book to only one at the end of the story – the most famous of all of the P-47 groups the 56th fighter group.
The story starts with the spring air offensive against the Germans. It recounts the trials of these aircraft based in England and the struggle against the relative needs of supporting the bombers driving deep into Germany against the relative short ranges of their aircraft at that time. Accounts tell of the use of droptanks to remedy this lack of range and how the thunderbolt pilots used this to penetrate deep into the continent in their attacks. These missions changed from just escort duties into what was to become what the thunderbolt became best known for – the destruction of the Third Reich’s ability to wage war by attacking it from the air in straffing attacks.
The stories of the Thunderbolt pilots make the real heart of this book, and like the first edition they soon struck me as the most interesting part of the book. You do get the information of how many aircraft went on these missions and from where and whom they were escorting and attacking, but the accounts are really the pearl in the oyster here.
The missions of the Thunderbolt pilots to support operations “Overlord” and “Market Garden” are explained in the next chapter. From the 6th of June that year onwards this chapter tells of the support the thunderbolts gave to the troops in the invasion of the continent.
With the change of mission came losses and for these losses the American pilots retaliated by shooting up nearly anything that moved on the ground and in the air. One story of “blood and explosions everywhere” struck me as pretty graphic but these pilots were in a life or death struggle every day.
There are lots of great images of Thunderbolts with the tell tale black and white invasion stripes in this section of the book. In fact while I am talking of photos the shots in this book are pretty much all known to me, but I am a bit of a thunderbolt nut so I would expect to know them. Those who are not as familiar with this aircraft will find the pictures of great quality and large in size. There are some great shots in here rather than exclusive pictures.
The last chapter of text in the book, the aptly named “The quick and the dead” tells of the last operations of the Thunderbolt in wartime Europe. Most of the shots and action in this part of the book covers planes from the Duxford based 78th fighter group and towards the end the 56th fighter group who stuck with the P-47 through to the wars end.
This part of the war saw the thunderbolts attacking deep into Germany. Destroying airfields, escorting the heavies and ground attacks by the pilots are described through mission day outlines and the great pilot accounts.
The most interesting of these to me were the late war accounts of the battles with the German early jet aircraft like the ME 262 and the Arado “Blitz” bombers.
Pictures in colour are a good addition to this book but maybe should have just been included in the general section instead of their own part of the book seeing these are not new shots to most of the audience. The shots however are great and make a good addition.
The great profiles in this book at the rear of the book again would have been better through the middle part of the book where the text to match them is placed but that is a minor concern. The profiles are very well illustrated in some interesting subjects of some uncommon airframes which are a great addition to this book. Very inspiring for modellers!
This is a welcome addition to the first edition to the series – I liked it better than the first as it concentrated on a lot of the later war Thunderbolts and the attacks deep into Germany which was the jewel in the Thunderbolt’s crown. The writing of the day to day is informative, the graphic pilot’s accounts are brilliant and the colour profiles are a great addition to the title.
A great book for not just P-47 fans but anyone who likes to read about wartime aviation – I recommend it!
Thanks to Kagero for supplying us with this book