'I think the success of the 354th as the leading group in the European theatre for aerial victories is due to several things. First was the initial training of the squadrons before deployment to England. Colonel Ken Martin nurtured the group from its infancy, and all the excellence that later showed through could be placed at his doorstep. Despite his youth, he knew how to foster teamwork and demand perfection in flying. There was nothing more important than getting the group off on the right foot. Second, our pilots were taught to fly mutual support, and practised it faithfully. There were no "hot" pilots in the 354th, only "excellent" pilots. Third, men like Glenn Eagleston gave advice and warnings about combat tactics and guarding one's tail. This prepared our pilots for lurking dangers, something the other groups may not have done.' Brigadier General James Howard, Commanding Officer of the 354th Fighter Group
Formed with the best available fighter pilots in the Southwest Pacific, the 475th Fighter Group was the pet project of Fifth Air Force chief, General George C Kenney. From the time the group entered combat in August 1943 until the end of the war it was the fastest scoring group in the Pacific and remained one of the crack fighter units in the entire US Army Air Forces with a final total of some 550 credited aerial victories. Amongst its pilots were the leading American aces of all time, Dick Bong and Tom McGuire, with high-scoring pilots Danny Roberts and John Loisel also serving with the 475th. Among the campaigns and battles detailed in this volume are such famous names as Dobodura, the Huon Gulf, Oro Bay, Rabaul, Hollandia, the Philippines and Luzon.
The 49th FG was sent to Australia in early 1942 to help stem the tide of Japanese conquest in Java. Too late to save the island, the group went into action in the defence of Darwin, Australia, where the Forty-Niners' handful of P-40E Warhawks were thrown into combat alongside survivors from the defeated forces that had fled from the Philippines and Java. This book assesses the outstanding performance of the 49th FG, pitted against superior Japanese forces. By VJ-Day the group had scored 668 aerial victories and won three Distinguished Unit Citations and ten campaign stars for its outstanding efforts.
Formed around a nucleus of pilots already seasoned by their experience as volunteers in the RAF's Eagle Squadrons, the 4th Fighter Group was established in England in October 1942. Initially flying Spitfires, the Debden Eagles went on to fly the P-47 and P-51, becoming in July 1943, the first Eighth Air Force fighter group to penetrate German air space. The group's record of 583 air and 469 ground victories was unmatched in the Eighth Air Force, and the group produced a cast of characters that included legendary aces Don Blakeslee, Pierce McKennon, 'Kid' Hofer, Duane Beeson, Steve Pisanos and Howard Hively. While primarily a bomber escort group, the 4th also played roles in supporting the D-Day landings, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine. The group's achievements came at a price, however, for 248 aircraft were lost in combat, with 125 pilots killed in action and 105 being taken prisoner - a 42 percent casualty rate. Packed with first hand accounts, detailed aircraft profiles and full combat histories, this book is an intriguing insight into the best-known American fighter unit in World War 2.
One of the first Thunderbolt groups to see action in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) with the US Army Air Forces, the 56th Fighter Group (FG) was also the only fighter unit within the Eighth Air Force to remain equipped with the mighty P-47 until war's end. Led by the inspirational 'Hub' Zemke, this group was responsible for devising many of the bomber escort tactics employed by VIII Fighter Command between 1943 and 1945. By VE-Day the 56th FG had shot down 100 more enemy aircraft than any other group in the Eighth Air Force, its pilots being credited with 677 kills during 447 missions. The exploits of this elite fighter unit are detailed in this volume together with photographs, their aircraft profiles and insignia.
American pilots flew P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters over Noth Africa, Sicily, and Italy in the World War II Mediterranean Theater of Operations as part of the 325th Fighter Group. The 325th FG was activated under General Order number 50 on 30 July 1942 and set up training operations at Theodore F Greene Field in Providence, Rhode Island. By mid-December 1942 the group was considered ready for combat and the alert for overseas duty arrived on 2 January 1943. The pilots and their P-40s departed on the carrier USS Ranger on 8 January and flew their aircraft off the vessel into Cazes airfield, near Casablanca, on 19 January 1943. After the remainder of the personnel arrived in late February, the group prepared for combat, and finally flew its first mission on 17 April 1943 as part of the Twelfth Air Force. During the next four months it participated in the North African campaign, and operations against enemy-held islands in the Mediterranean Sea. By the end of the Sicilian campaign on 17 August the 325th FG had scored 128 aerial victories, been the first P-40 unit to deliver 1000-lb bombs against enemy targets, and had escorted 1100 bombers without losing a single one of them to enemy action. In September 1943 the 325th began its conversion to the P-47 Thunderbolt and in late December headed for its new base in Italy. During the next six months the 325th flew escort missions over Italy and the Balkan countries as part of the Fifteenth Air Force. During its P-47 period the 325th's pilots claimed 153 aerial victories and established itself as a very aggressive escort group. In May 1944 the 325th began converting to the P-51 Mustang, which it flew with great success for the remainder of the war. Thirteen of its 27 aces achieved this status while flying the Mustang. By VE Day the 325th FG had destroyed 537 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 281 on the ground, as well as numerous ground targets such as locomotives, trucks etc. The group was awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations and its pilots earned numerous medals, including four Distinguished Service Crosses, for individual bravery in combat. The cost was high, however, as 148 pilots were lost in action - being killed or becoming PoWs.
Eighth Air Force 78th FG flew P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang fighters in air combat against German Luftwaffe Me-109, Fw-190, and Me-262 aircraft. The 78th FG was originally established as the fourth of the P-38 fighter groups that were expected to perform fighter escort in the newly formed Eighth Air Force. Arriving in England in November 1942, the group lost most of its personnel and all of its aircraft as attrition replacements to units in the North African theatre in February 1943. Left with no flying personnel other than flight leaders, and no aircraft, the group was re-equipped with the P-47 Thunderbolt and newly trained P-47 pilots in March 1943. The 78th flew its first sweep along the Dutch coast in April in company with the 4th FG. Along with the 56th FG, these groups would be the first units in VIII Fighter Command, and as such "wrote the book" on long range fighter escort in the ETO. The 78th FG would ultimately prove to be the only Eighth Air Force fighter group to have flown the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-51 Mustang in its operational career. Flying from Duxford, in Cambridgeshire, the group's pilots shot down 316 enemy aircraft in air combat, with a further 144 claimed as probables or damaged. Once turned loose in 1944 to attack German airfields, the 78th was also credited with the destruction of 320 aircraft by strafing. The story of the 78th FG will be researched through extensive first-person interviews with eight surviving pilots and ground personnel of the unit, and also using previously recorded interviews with two leading ace pilots who are no longer alive. Photos will be gathered from surviving group members where possible, with emphasis on never-before-published imagery, in addition to other photos from historical collections.
The ace pilots of the Republic of China Air Force have long been shrouded in mystery and obscurity, as their retreat to Taiwan in 1949 and a blanket martial law made records of the RoCAF all but impossible to access. Now, for the first time, the colorful story of these aces can finally be told. Using the latest research based on released archival information and full-color illustrations, this book charts the history of the top scoring pilots of the RoCAF from the beginning of the gruelling, eight-year Sino-Japanese War to the conclusion of the Civil War against the Chinese Communists. Beginning as a ragged and very disparate group of planes and pilots drawn from various provincial air forces, the RoCAF gradually became standardised and was brought under American tutelage. Altogether it produced 17 aces who scored kills while flying a startling variety of aircraft, from biplanes to F-86 Sabres.
The Americans lagged behind their European contemporaries in military aviation in the late 1930s, and it took the Battle of Britain to awaken an isolated America to the necessity of having aircraft that could defend targets against nighttime attack by bomber aircraft. With the help of the RAF, the importance of creating such a specialized fighter force was given top priority. This book examines the numerous aircraft types that were used by the US in this role, beginning with the early 'stop-gap' conversions like the TBM Avenger, Lockheed Ventura and the A-20 Havoc (P-70). It goes on to detail the combat history of the newer and radar equipped Hellcats, Corsairs and Black Widows that were designed to seek out enemy aircraft (both German and Japanese) in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. It was these aircraft that registered most of the kills made by the Navy, Marine Corps and USAAF in 1944-45. Finally there are additional accounts from the American pilots who spent time on the frontline on exchange tours with the RAF in the ETO/MTO, learning the intricacies of flying radar-equipped fighters like the Mosquito and Beaufighter at night, prior to the USAAF taking receipt of the much-delayed P-61. With full color profiles and rare photographs, this is an absorbing account of an often underestimated flying force: the American Nightfighters.
The B-2A 'Spirit' was an aircraft conceived to fight the Cold War (1946-1991) but which has proved invaluable to both the 'New World Order' and more recently the 'War on Terrorism'. The combination of low-observability, precision strike, range and payload flexibility has made the 'Spirit' the weapon of choice when America hits its enemies at the start of a campaign. Spirits have fired the first shots of Operation 'Allied Force' over Kosovo and Serbia, as well as operations 'Enduring Freedom' (2001-present) and 'Iraqi Freedom' (2003-present). Despite the tremendous cost of the aircraft - each unit is literally worth its weight in gold - the B-2 has had an impact on modern warfare which has vastly exceeded this small force of 21 bombers. Developed in utmost secrecy, the B-2's gestation saw the use of new computer design and manufacturing techniques and ultra-modern synthetic materials making it the most revolutionary aircraft in terms of design and performance. This book examines these incredible aircraft.
Totally outnumbered throughout their short two-year sojourn in the Western Desert, the crack fighter pilots of the handful of Jagdgeschwader in-theatre fought an effective campaign in support of Rommel's Afrika Korps against the British and American forces. Relying almost exclusively on the Luftwaffe's staple fighter of World War 2, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, the battle-hardened aces used the aircraft's superior performance to achieve incredible scores against the Allies. Similarly, once pushed out of North Africa, these units continued to take the fight to the RAF and USAAF from makeshift bases in northern Italy.
Entering service with the US Navy as a carrier-borne fighter, the Brewster F2A, later named Buffalo by the British and simply the Brewster by the Finns, saw relatively little service with its own nation. Indeed, it was to see action on just one occasion in US colors: the engagement off Midway by USMC F2As saw a number of Japanese carrier aircraft shot down, including two by future ace Col Charles M Kunz. The F2A was also ordered for the RAF in 1939, and although it soon became apparent that the type was not suitable for use against the mighty Luftwaffe over Western Europe, the Buffalo was seen as a suitable type for use in the Far East. It was sent en-masse to equip new squadrons of the RAF, RAAF and RNZAF formed for the defence of Malaya and Singapore. Despite the many inadequacies exposed after the Japenese invasion, the Commonwealth units fought gallantly against the odds and with poor logistical backup and ultimately made many claims. Indeed no fewer than nine pilots either became aces on the type or increased their scores to achieve acedom, and a further fifteen aces flew them in action. Moreover, the leading Buffalo ace went on to become the most successful Commonwealth pilot against the Japanese of the entire war. It was in Finland, however, where the Brewster found undying fame and proved itself a real thorn in the side of the Soviets. Operating in primitive conditions and against superior numbers, Finnish Brewster 239 pilots racked up an incredible score against the Red Air Force. Overall, some 37 Finnish pilots became aces when flying the Brewster 239. The tubby Brewster was very much the fighter of choice for the leading Finnish pilots until the advent of large numbers of Messerschmitt Bf 109s in 1943.
C-47 is an aircraft that remains a popular favourite and an acknowledged classic design, carrying out missions every bit as strategically important and as dramatic for the aircrew as those of the fighters and bombers. The C-47's wartime operations paved the way for post-war military air transport. It also demonstrated how the USAAF was able to invest in and carry out a mission that it had not devoted much time to preparing for in terms of pre-war doctrine (in contrast to strategic bombing). In addition to linking theatres (by flying across 'the Hump'), it showed how vital it was to operations within a theatre like New Guinea. Even if massed airborne invasions were not carried out in the PTO/CBI, all air arms need transports like the C-47.
The C-47 units of the USAAF were an integral part of some of the most dramatic episodes of World War II (1939-1945): the airborne assaults in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, southern France, Operation Market Garden and the crossing of the Rhine. The mass fratricide off Sicily, the night drop for D-Day and the Bastogne supply missions are also covered, along with more typical accounts of training, formation flying, airdrops and casualty evacuation missions. This book details an aircraft that remains a popular favourite and an acknowledged design classic, carrying out missions every bit as strategically important and as dramatic for the aircrew as those of the fighters and bombers.
The World War 1 concept of the two-seat fighter persisted during the interwar period, with the RAF's biplane Demons being replaced by the twin-engined Blenheim IF - a fighter derivative of the light bomber then in service. By the start of World War 2 four regular and three Auxiliary squadrons of Fighter Command flew them, although very soon over a dozen more received them, albeit some used the Blenheim as interim equipment. The Blenheim IF flew some of Fighter Command's early offensive operations, and the type soon proved vulnerable when pitted against single-seat fighters. However, for much of 1940 the Blenheim fighter squadrons provided the RAF's main long-range convoy escort and nightfighter capability. Indeed it was a Blenheim that achieved the first night victory using then secret airborne radar, and many of the RAF's leading nightfighter aces were to learn their craft when flying the type. In the mid-1930s, in an attempt to capitalise on its expertise in power-operated gun turrets, the Boulton Paul company developed the Defiant, a single-engined fighter in which all the armament was concentrated in the turret behind the pilot. Intended as a 'bomber destroyer', the Defiant had its combat debut over Dunkirk, and initially achieved some considerable success. It sustained heavy losses when confronted by single-seat fighters, however. Later, with the Battle of Britain at its height, the two Defiant squadrons were deployed to southeast England, where, in spite of some early victories, they sustained crippling losses. These units, joined by a further ten squadrons, were then switched to nightfighter work, and achieved considerable success in holding the line through the night Blitz. The last examples were not finally withdrawn from frontline units until 1942. The fall of France saw an increasing number of American-built aircraft that had been ordered by the French government flown to Britain, including large numbers of Douglas DB-7 light bombers. Named Havoc by the RAF, some were fitted with radar for nightfighter duties and others replaced the Blenheim as night intruders. They proved successful in both roles. Less successfully, Havocs were also modified to mount an airborne searchlight to illuminate enemy bombers whilst others were employed as airborne minelayers to lay parachute mines ahead of enemy bombers. A total of 11 pilots claimed five or more victories when flying these three types to become aces, whilst no fewer than became 33 more aces claimed at least part of their scores when flying the Blenheim, Defiant or Havoc. More than 100 further aces also flew them, often honing and developing their skills before moving onto more efficacious nightfighters such as the Mosquito or Beaufighter.
'Like The Long Reach, Down to Earth is a message from the battle at its height, told in their own words by the men who fight' - this is how Brig-Gen Francis Griswold, VIII Fighter Command, ends his introduction to this book. His official endorsement reveals just how important a document Down to Earth was to the teaching of tyro fighter pilots heading for action in the ETO. More leading aces were lost to flak whilst ground strafing than to German fighters. In this book William Hess has included biographies of all the pilots that originally contributed to this work back in 1943-44.
Entering service with the Dutch air force from early 1938, the aircraft was also built under license in Denmark and Finland. Production was also scheduled to commence in Spain too but Nationalist forces overran the factory before this commenced. The Dutch D.XXIs saw less than a week of action following the German invasion of the west on 10 May 1940, with many of the country's 28 fighters being destroyed on the ground. However, those that survived the initial onslaught inflicted losses on the Luftwaffe, 15 pilots sharing in the destruction of 14 German aircraft (fighters, bombers and transports). By then, however, the D.XXI had found everlasting fame in Finland during the Winter War of 1939-40. Proving itself a real thorn in the side of the Soviets, the fighter, operating in primitive conditions and against vastly superior numbers, Finnish D.XXIs racked up an incredible score against the Red Air Force, and in particular its bomber units. No fewer than ten pilots became aces during this brief, but bloody, campaign, with a similar number claiming four victories and subsequently 'making ace' in later types. The sturdy D.XXI was highly rated by the leading Finnish pilots of the time, boasting a good rate of climb and the ability to break off combat when required thanks to its high speed in a dive. The D.XXI also has the distinction of producing the first 'ace in a single mission' in World War 2, when then 1Lt Jorma Sarvanto shot down six Ilyushin DB-3 bombers on 6 January 1940. After spending a year providing home defence and flying coastal patrols during the early stages of the Continuation War in 1941, all surviving Finnish Fokker D.XXIs were relegated to the reconnaissance role, which they performed through to the end of hostilities in September 1944.
Modified for low-level operations to counter Luftwaffe attacks on the south coast, the Griffon-powered Spitfire XIV became the best low-level fighter ofWorld War 2. Squadrons moved to southeastern England to counter the V1 flying bomb offensive, and daring pilots tipped the V1 over with the aircraft's wingtip to disorientate the bomb and became "doodlebug aces." Andrew Thomas also investigates the role played by the modified Spitfire squadrons after the V1 offensive, both in the attack on Germany and after the war in Malaya and Palestine. First-hand stories, photographs and color profiles complete this account of the aces who flew the most powerful Spitfire variant ever built.
So formidable an opponent did the Iraqi airforce consider the F-14 that during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), they ordered their pilots not to engage F-14s and the presence of one in an area was usually enough to empty it of Iraqi aircraft. Officially losses where tiny; only one F-14 was lost in aerial combat (to a MiG-21), one to a control problem and one downed by a ground-to-air missile. This book looks at the F-14's Iranian combat history and includes first hand accounts from the pilots themselves. It will consider key engagements and the central figures involved, illustrating the realities, successes and failures of the Iranian air campaign.
Diplomacy, politics and national trauma has dominated the frontline career of the Israeli F-15 to date. In the wake of the losses suffered in the October 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Israeli government opted for technology in an effort to reassure a traumatised population that they would never suffer a surprise attack from the air again. Despite Israel Defense Force Air Force (IDF/AF) interceptors having performed extremely successfully during the Yom Kippur War, they did not achieve the kind of results that allowed Israel to achieve future deterrence. The nation was not only looking for weapons that would win a war, but that would also prevent it in the first place. Post-Yom Kippur diplomacy enabled Israel to purchase the F-15 Eagle, which was then the world's best air-to-air fighter. For the first time in its history the IDF/AF could operate a fighter that was a full generation ahead of all opposing interceptors in the region. The first 'Kill' F-15 Baz (Buzzard) arrived in Israel in December 1976, and three years later it got the chance to prove its worth in combat. Israeli Baz pilots were credited with 12.5 kills between 1979 and 1981, with 33 victories following during the June 1982 Lebanon War. A further 4.5 kills followed in post-Lebanon War skirmishes. Despite all of this combat, no Israeli F-15 has ever been lost to enemy action. Once the jet secured air superiority and deterrence had been achieved along the Israeli borders, the IDF/AF went on to explore the Baz's long-range attributes and as air-to-ground capability. As an example of the former, Israeli F-15s escorted F-16 strike aircraft all the way to Iraq's nuclear reactor in June 1981, and in its bomber role, the type flew the IDF/AF's longest ever attack mission in October 1985 when it bombed the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Diplomacy prevailed again in the 1990s when the US government agreed to supply the IDF/AF with the F-15I Ra'am (Thunder) to fulfill the long-range surface-to-surface missile (SSM) mission post-Desert Storm. These aircraft also acted as a counter-balance to the sale of the F-15S to Saudi Arabia. A follow-on to the F-15I purchase was the development of the Improved Baz Avionics Upgrade Program, which saw the integration of many of the F-15I features into the older F-15A/B/C/D. From A to I, the extremely capable, and combat-tested, Israeli F-15 force will continue to deter potential enemies well into the foreseeable future.
The first virtually all-jet war, the conflict in Korea saw F-86 Sabres of the USAF take on MiG-15s of the North Korean and Chinese air forces. Although the Allied pilots were initially taken aback by the ability of the communist fighter in combat, sound training and skilful leadership soon enabled Sabre pilots to dominate the dogfights over the Yalu River. In all 39 F-86 pilots achieved ace status, and a number of these are profiled in this volume, as are notable pilots from the US Navy, Marine Corps and Royal Navy and, for the first time, the handful of MiG-15 aces.
Even before the first operational flight of the legendary Lockheed U-2 spy plane, aircraft design genius Kelly Johnson began work with his team at the company's "Skunk Works" plant on the type's replacement. The result was the SR-71. First deployed on March 9, 1968, this tri-sonic 'hotrod' flew its first operational sortie over North Vietnam just 12 days later. On that debut mission, the Blackbird overflew surface-to-air missile sites with complete impunity, collecting the detailed intelligence that led directly to the end of the siege of Khe Sanh in the process. Thereafter, the SR-71 roamed freely over areas previously denied to the vulnerable U-2, capturing photographic, radar and electronic intelligence. This book examines the immense impact this revolutionary aircraft had, not only on North Vietnam (Vietnam War, 1955-1975) but during the Cold War (1946-1991) as a whole, gathering information about the Soviet nuclear submarine fleet based in Vladivostok as well as the port's defenses, monitoring the actions of North Korea and flying four 11-hour, non-stop sorties into the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War in the late 1980s.
French World War II fighter design was cut short by the fall of France, but the MS.406 also saw service in Vichy French colonies and Finland.The MS.406 was an important aircraft not only because it was built in larger numbers than any other French fighter of the period, but also because it was the first modern fighter in the Armée de l'Air inventory. Although comparable to the British Hurricane and early models of the German Bf 109, it was outclassed when flown against the more powerful, and faster, Bf 109E. With little or no protection (no armour or self-sealing tanks), the MS.406 sustained heavy losses during the Battle of France. Too lightly armed, and fitted with unreliable weaponry, the French fighter struggled to down German bombers. It therefore comes as no surprise that only a dozen French pilots became fully fledged aces on the type during this period, despite the aircraft being present in significant numbers. However, a score of pilots, who bagged their very first kills at the controls of the MS.406, fought on after the fall of France, flying Dewoitine D.520s, Spitfires and even Soviet Yak-3s to attain ace status against both Allied and Axis opponents. A little known fact is that although the MS.406 was phased out of service in Vichy France and North Africa after the armistice was signed with Germany in June 1940, it soldiered on in French colonies that remained under the control of the Vichy government. The MS.406 was pitted against Japanese and Thai forces in French Indo-China (late 1940), Commonwealth air forces in Syria (May-June 1941) and, finally, the Fleet Air Arm in Madagascar (May 1942). The most successful user of the MS.406 in terms of aerial victories scored was Finland, whose air force initially received 30 examples in February 1940 that soon saw action during the last weeks in the "Winter War". Further batches of captured ex-French MS.406s were bought by the Finns from Germany, raising their force to 87 aircraft in total. The "Continuation War," commencing with the German attack on the Soviet Union, saw ten aces emerge during the first six months of the fighting. The MS.406 was then more than a match for Soviet I-16 and I-153 fighters, and had no problems chasing down Tupolev SB and Ilyushin DB-3 bombers. From 1942 the victory rate of Finnish MS.406 pilots slowed due to a lack of enemy opposition during this period and the worn-out engine-mounted 20 mm cannon fitted to the fighters. The introduction of new Soviet types like the LaGG-3, Yak-1 and Lend-Lease Hurricane and Tomahawk fighters also completely outclassed the MS.406, resulting in the French fighters' removal from the frontline.
The Mosquito developed into one of the most versatile aircraft of World War 2, entering service with Fighter Command in early 1942. The 'Mossie' was soon defending raids on Britain's Cathedral cities and became an integral part of the country's night defences. Its airborne radar gave it the ability to 'see' the enemy at night, and its speed and devastating fire power made it the finest nightfighter deployed by any side during World War 2. This book examines the infamous Mosquito, the nightfighter that was used by many leading RAF, Commonwealth and American aces.
Truly an example of engineering ingenuity born out of the desperation of war, the legendary 'all-wooden' Mosquito was perhaps the best twin-engined fighter-bomber of its size to see action in World War II (1939-1945). The first bomber variant to enter service was the B Mk IV, initial examples of which were issued to No 2 Group's No 105 Sqn at Swanton Morley, in Norfolk, in November 1941. Considerably faster than the unit's previous Blenheim Mk IVs, powered by inline rather than radial engines, and made of wood instead of metal alloy, the Mosquito initially proved a challenging mount for both air and groundcrew alike.
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