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Miller, Kent D. Fighter Units & Pilots of the 8th Air Force: September 1942 - May 1945, two volumes. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2001
Introduction; photos; tables and charts
Introduction; photos; tables and charts
The bombers of the American 8th Air Force in World War II have long had their operations, successes, and failures chronicled in print, notably in the series of books by Roger Freeman, including The Mighty Eighth and The Mighty Eighth War Diary. Additionally, Fighter Aces of the USA by Toliver and Constable provides a great deal of detail about individual fighter aces. Although existing works like those by Freeman don't ignore the "little friends," and the compendium by Toliver and Constable offers much information on aces, the 8th Air Force's fighter operations, units, and pilots in general have never been the focus of a reference work to the same extent they are in Kent Miller's new tomes.
Indeed, Miller has produced what must be the ultimate compilation of quantifiable information about 8th Air Force fighter operations, units, victories, losses, and pilots. On the other hand, this is not a book of war stories, or descriptions of air-to-air combat, or thoughtful analysis of how and why it all happened. Instead, these two volumes in sum amount to over 800 pages of numbers, statistics, dates, and facts in endless rows and columns of data. Readers who want to know what it was like to drive a shrieking P-51 out of the sun into a swarm of Luftwaffe interceptors won't find that kind of information here. But readers who want to know exactly what happened on any given daywhat groups put planes into the air, how many and what kinds of machines they were, what missions were flown, what victories were claimed on a pilot-by-pilot basis, and exactly who was lost, what they were flying, and what happened to each pilotwill find these hefty volumes provide an unprecendented mother lode of cross-referenced facts.
The books are divided into four main sections, each one approaching the raw data from a different perspective. This means there's a fair amount of duplication throughout the books, but it also means that almost every nugget of information is accessible from more than one direction.
Part One, "Day-to-Day Operations," opens the first volume and provides a detailed chronological account of the 8th Air Force fighter missions. For each date, Miller lists the following information:
- Type of aircraft being operated by each fighter group
- Missions flown
- Claims, divided into air and ground, with each broken down into categories: destroyed, probable, and damaged
- A group-by-group, squadron-by-squadron list of claims with pilot's name, nature of claim, and location
- Losses, organized by group, with pilot's name, rank, and squadron, aircraft type and serial number, cause and location of loss, and what happened to the pilot (POW, KIA, MIA, etc)
- Remarks, including crash landings, ground losses inflicted (such as locomotives and railcars), etc
Here's an example of a fairly typical daily log:
August 11, 1944
Groups Operating: P-51 4th, 20th, 55th, 339th, 352nd, 355th, 357th, 361st
P-47 56th, 78th, 353rd, 356th
Missions: Support of bombers hitting targets on the Brest Peninsula plus fighter-bomber operations
Claims: 4-0-0 air
|84th:||Lt. C.E. Parmelee||(2)Me-109 dest(air)||NW Paris|
|350th:||LtCol. K.W. Gallup||u/i a/c dest(grd)||Maraville|
| ||Lt J.O. Ruscitto||Me-109 dest(grd)||Maraville|
|351st:||Capt. V.L. Byers||Me-109 dest(air)||S/Paris|
| ||Lt. M.B. Hungate||Me-109 dest(air)||S/Paris|
|354th:||F/Lt. W B. Peglar||Ju-52 dest(grd)||Saarbrucken|
355th: Lt. Frank Michela (358th Ftr Sqn) KIA
P-5 IB YF-H 43-6649
Hit by flak near Metz.
|4th:||1-2 locos, 1-8 railcars|
|Lt. Willard G. Gillette (334th Ftr Sqn) b/o Haverhill; o.k.|
|P-51D QP-B 44-13372|
|55th:||22-0 locos, 7-0 vehicles, 1-0 flak tower|
|339th:||Lt. Ely N. Van Cleave (504th Ftr Sqn) c/l Luton; o.k.|
|353rd:||6-4 gun positions|
|361st:||1-0 loco, 3-12 vehicles|
353rd: Lt. Roben A. Metz (350th Ftr Sqn)
Crashed while trying to land at Raydon after a test hop.
Part Two, "Fighter Group Histories," is also in the first volume. It includes much of the same information from Part One, but organized by Group and supplemented with much more data about each individual unit.
- Component squadrons of the Group
- A few paragraphs of basic information
- Claim summaries, by squadron, for air (destroyed, probable, damaged) and ground (destroyed, damaged)
- Group commanders (with name, rank, dates)
- Superior headquarters to which the Group belonged (with dates)
- Description of aircraft markings and codes
- Month-by-month Group statistical report with mission, aerial claims (destroyed, probable, damaged), ground claims (destroyed, damaged), losses, and KIAc
- Total pilot losses by squadron (MIA and KIA) by aircraft type
- Total victory claims by aircraft type (by air and ground, with usual categories)
- Total victory claims by enemy aircraft type (by air and ground, with usual categories)
- Lists of commanders for each of the Group's squadrons (name, rank, dates)
- Group aces, ranked by total victories (with name, rank, air, ground, total victories, and squadron)
- List of all Group pilots with victories, alphabetically for each squadron (by air and ground, with usual categories)
- Daily record of scoring by Group pilots (in the same format as "Day-to-Day Operations")
- Daily record of Group pilots lost (in the same format as "Day-to-Day Operations")
- Pilot rosters for each squadron (with name, rank, dates, plus types, serial numbers and nicknames of aircraft flown)
- Aircraft flown by each squadron (with type, serial numbers, nicknames, and names of pilots)
These entries can be quite lengthy. For example, the 4th Fighter Group totals about twenty-five pages. Here's a brief sample of some of the kinds of information provided in "Fighter Group Histories."
THE 353RD FIGHTER GROUP
350TH, 351ST, 352ND FIGHTER SQUADRONS
The 353rd Fighter Group was activated on October 1, 1942, at Mitchel Field, New York. Training in the eastern United States, the group headed overseas on June I, 1943, aboard the "Queen Mary". The first of 447 missions came on August 12, 1943, with the final flight coming on April 25, 1945. While in England, the 353rd claimed 328 aerial and 404.5 ground victories while 141 P-47's and P-51's were lost on operations and 15 pilots died in accidents.
Bases for the 353rd were Goxhill, from June 7,1943; Metfield, from August 3,1943; and Raydon, from April 12, 1944, until October of 1945. Aircraft flown were the P-47D (with a few C-models), from July of 1943 until November of 1944, and the P-5I D and K (with a few B-models) from October of 1944. The 353rd was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for it's [sic] support of the airborne invasion of Holland from September 17-23, 1944.
|LtCol. Joseph A. Morris||October 15, 1 942-August 16, 1943|
|LtCol. Loren G. McCollom||August 16, 1943-November 25, 1943|
|Col. Glenn E. Duncan||November 26, 1943-July 7, 1944|
|Col. Ben Rimerman||July 7, 1944-April 21, 1945|
|Col. Glenn E. Duncan||April 21,1945-September 1945|
Wing and Command Assignments
|Assigned to VIII Fighter Command||June 7, 1943|
|VIII Fighter Command, 66th Fighter Wing||August 18,, 1943|
|3rd Bomb Division, 66th Fighter Wing||September 15, 1944|
|3rd Air Division, 66th Fighter Wing||January I, 1945|
Original P-47's were in the olive drab/neutral gray scheme with white cowl and theater bands. In early 1944, NMF planes arrived and a large number of these were then painted. In April of 1944, a group marking was applied: a diamond set pattern of black and yellow checkerboards on the cowling extending back to the shutters. Col. Duncan's P-47's were the only ones to carry a checkerboard pattern instead of the diamond set design.
All P-51's arrived in NMF with a few receiving dark green applications on the upper surfaces. Group markings consisted of black-yellow-black-yellow banded spinners, plus a yellow and black checkerboard cowl band, square set and composed of three rows. In late November of 1944, the checkerboard was extended back past the exhaust stacks, with eight squares per longitudinal row. Also in November, squadron rudder colors were applied: yellow for the 350th, none for the 351st, and black for the 352nd.
Squadron codes were:
350th Ftr Sqn: LH
351 st Ftr Sqn: YJ
352nd Ftr Sqn: SX
Part Three, "Aerial Victories," opens the second volume and covers almost 250 pages with information very similar to that shown chronologically in Part One and by Group in Part Two.
- Name and rank of pilot
- Squadron and Group of pilot
- Type of enemy aircraft claimed (air and ground, with usual categories)
- Type of aircraft flown
Here's a typical sample of a pilot's listing for this part of the book.
Yeager, Charles E., Capt.
363rd Ftr Sqn/357th Ftr Grp
|363rd||March 4, 1944||Me-109 dest(air)||SE Kassel||P-51|
| || ||He-111 dam(air)||Wittenburg||P-51|
| ||September 13||(.5)Me-109 dest(air)*||S/Kassel||P-51|
| ||October 12||(5)Me-109 dest(air)||Steinhuder Lake-Hanover||P-51|
| ||November 6||Me-262 dest(air)||E/Assen||P-51|
| || ||(2)Me-262 dam(air)||E/Assen||P-51|
| ||November 27||(4)FW-190 dest(air)||SW Magdeburg||P-51|
* - shared with Lt. FL. Gailer of the 363rd Ftr Sqn
Part Four, "Ace Data," concludes the second volume and is divided into three sections: Listing by Victories, Listing by Fighter Group, and Listing by Ace.
The first section of this part, "Listing by Victories," is itself divided into two sub-sections. The first is a listing, by number of victories, of all the "aerial" aces of the 8th Air Force, starting with Gabby Gabreski and his twenty-eight victories. This list shows the pilot, his rank, number of claims, his Fighter Group, and remarks such as "PTO" or "RAF" where victories were scored elsewhere. The second sub-section does exactly the same thing for combined "air and ground" aces.
The second section provides the same information, but broken down for each Group.
The third section of the last part of the book lists every 8th Air Force fighter ace alphabetically by last name, with the same personal statistics as found in Part Three, plus considerably more biographical detail.
- Name and rank of pilot
- Dates with his Group
- Number of missions flown and total flying hours
- Type of aircraft flown, with serial number and nickname
- Name and rank of groundcrew
Here's a sample of an ace's personal listing.
Gabreski, Francis S., LtCol. (31.5) Oil City, PA
61st Ftr Sqn/56th Ftr Grp February 1 943-January 1944
HdQts/56th Ftr Grp January 1944-April 1944
61st Ftr Sqn/56th Ftr Grp April 1944-July 20, 1944(POW)
Hit the ground while strafing at Bassenheim.
Earlier flew in the PTO with the 45th Ftr Sqn, 7th Air Force, Hawaii.
166 missions (includes 13 while on D.S. with 315 Sqn, RAF)
P-47D HV-A 42-75510
P-47D HV-A 42-25864
S/Sgt. Ralph H. Safford-c/c
Sgt. Felix Shacki-ac/c
Sgt. Giuseppe DiFranza-arm.
|61st||May 15, 1943||FW-190 dam(air)||NE Rotterdam||P-47|
| ||August 24||FW-190 dest(air)||Dreux||P-47|
| ||September 3||FW-190 dest(air)||St. Germain||P-47|
| ||November 5||FW-190 dest(air)||S/Rheine||P-47|
| || ||FW-190 dam(air)||S/Rheine||P-47|
| ||November 26||(2)Me-110 dest(air)||SE Oldenburg||P-47|
| ||November 29||(2)Me-109 dest(air)||NE Bremen||P-47|
| ||December 11||Me-110 dest(air)||Esens||P-47|
|HdQts||January 29,1944||Me-110 dest(air)||S/Coblenz||P-47|
| ||January 30||Me-109 dest(air)||Lingen||P-47|
| || ||Me-210 dest(air)||Lingen||P-47|
| ||February 20||(2)Me-110 dest(air)||W/Hanover||P-47|
| || ||Me-110 dam(air)||W/Hanover||P-47|
| ||February 22||FW-190 dest(air)||N/Lippstadt||P-47|
| || ||Do-217 dest(grd)||Eindhoven||P-47|
| ||March 8||FW-190 dest(grd)||WeinstorfA/F||P-47|
| || ||(4)FW-190 dam(grd)||Weinstorf A/F||P-47|
| ||March 16||(2)FW-190 dest(air)||Nancy||P-47|
| ||March 27||(2)Me-109 dest(air)||NE Nantes||P-47|
| ||April 9||(.5)u/i a/c dest(grd)||Schleswig||P-47|
|61st||April 24||He-111 dam(grd)||FrieburgAF||P-47|
| ||May 8||Me-109 dest(air)||Celle||P-47|
| ||May 22||(3)FW-190 dest(air)||Hoperhofen A/F||P-47|
| || ||FW-190 prob(air)||HoperhofenA/F||P-47|
| ||June 7||Me-109 dest(air)||E/Dreux||P-47|
| || ||FW-190 dest(air)||E/Dreux||P-47|
| ||June 12||(2)Me-109 dest(air)||Evreux||P-47|
| ||June 27||Me-109 dest(air)||La Perth||P-47|
| ||July 5||Me-109 dest(air)||Evreux||P-47|
| ||July 20||He-111 dest(grd)||Bassenheim||P-47|
* - shared with Lt. H.L. Matthew of the 63rd Ftr Sqn, 56th Ftr Grp
What Fighter Units & Pilots of the 8th Air Force lacks in narrative, it more than makes up with masses of statistics and personal data. It's especially handy to have so much data organized in a manner that makes it easy to find all the pertinent facts even when approaching from different angles. A few minor drawbacks only slightly detract from Miller's work. First, there seems to be no key to exactly what some of the abbreviations and unlabeled data means; in most cases it's easy enough to figure it out, but a key would have been a handy addition. Second, the volumes lack an index. Given the organization of the book, and the duplication of the same information in various places, that's not a major shortcoming, but in some instances it would have been useful. Finally, some of the data seems to be missing. For example, Chuck Yeager is clearly recognized as an ace and his name appears in Part Three and in the first two sections of Part Four credited with 11.5 aerial victories. However, in the final section of Part Four, where extra biographical information is provided for aces, Yeager doesn't seem to be listed at all.
That brings up another point. How accurate is this mountain of facts of figures? Well, this is the sort of material air buffs have been debating since the war ended. Miller himself puts it this way: "The author will point out that there may possibly be errors, but overall the scores presented should be accurate. The reader will notice a few scores are different from what has been accepted as fact over the years; please remember, however, that this is the first in-depth look at the 8th's air-ground aces in a number of years and not simply a re-hash of old information. If anyone has documented evidence contrary to what is printed, they are welcome to contact the author for future corrections."
In the meantime, despite a couple of minor flaws, Fighter Units & Pilots of the 8th Air Force certainly stands as the definitive guide to the subject, and these two volumes will prove invaluable to Air Force enthusiasts as well as connoisseurs of fine reference works. Recommended.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from Schiffer Military History.
Thanks to Schiffer for providing these review copies.
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Reviewed 23 April 2001
Copyright © 2001 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone