HELL HAWKS! The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht.There is no question that it was one hell of a hard hitting heavyweight.
Whoever dreamt up the name Hell Hawks must have been influenced by those white knuckle dog fight epics of the 1930s where the skies over the Western Front were brought to life in brazen, if overly dramatised, detail. The authors of this excellent read go some way to keeping that flame alive with a thoroughly researched and highly affectionate look at the men of the 365th Fighter Group who flew ground attack missions in the P-47 Thunderbolt during World War II. While the Mighty Eighth will forever hog the limelight, a good look at the heroic pilots of the 9th Air Force is both welcome and necessary if their efforts are going to be kept afloat in a very crowded history pool.
This book is aimed primarily at an American audience, but the authors know their air war history and achieve a great sense of balance coupled with excellent detail and not a little drama. A little way in, I thought I might fall victim to something akin to those rotten documentaries where the basics are repeated constantly to keep a presumably challenged viewer on track. But this fear was entirely misplaced and once the emphasis on the sheer power and brute force of the P-47 had been firmly hammered home the prose rushed off like…well, like a Thunderbolt, with a blizzard of adventures and pen portraits of the people involved. A good deal of attention is given to the ground crews and, in fact, my favourite picture is one showing an armourer cheerfully sitting on a bomb. I like this book.
What you take away is a cast of giants to add to the Band of Brothers you like to cut out and keep. America’s “Greatest Generation” seemingly has an endless procession of names to discover and pay your own quiet homage to. I regret that I have never seen a P-47 Thunderbolt in flight, but having seen so many photographs, there is no question that it was one hell of a hard hitting heavyweight. What it must have been like for very young men to fly into a blizzard of flak and all kinds of horrors has become a little more clear thanks to the authors, who have done well. Robert F Dorr is a much published writer. A former air force officer and diplomat, he knows his stuff. Dr Thomas D Jones flew B-52s and is a former astronaut with four shuttle missions under his belt. The book ends with brief biographies of the principal players and it is nice to see that many have lived well into old age. They deserve the peace they fought so hard to win.
In paperback, £14.44p, and as a Kindle ebook for £11.03p.