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This time around we have the stories of three pilots: one top-scoring ace who flew against Japanese and German fighters (and also served in a Polish squadron of the RAF); one aviation pioneer who, as a successful businessman and administrator, was called to service during the war; and one youngster who did his share to the best of his ability, leaving nothing behind but a journal and a windswept grave.
Gabreski, Francis. (As told to Carl Molesworth) Gabby: A Fighter Pilot's Life. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998.
Foreword; photos; color plates; Bibliography; Index.
Appendices: Confirmed Aerial Victories; Decorations and Service Awards
This is the first-person story of Francis "Gabby" Gabreski. The son of Polish immigrants, he almost failed to graduate from flight school but went on to become the leading American air ace in the European theater. Gabby was stationed at Wheeler Field in Hawaii on 7 December 1941 and -- despite the fires, destruction, and confusion -- managed to get into the air but without any success. In 1942, thanks in part to his fluency in the Polish language, he wangled an assignment to the RAF's 315th (Polish) Squadron and flew Spitfire IX's over German-occupied France in 1943.
Gabby then transferred to the 56th Fighter Group of the USAAF with which he made his name as a highly successful P-47 jockey. His victories included nine days on which he shot down more than one enemy fighter. That victory count would have climbed higher except for Gabby's crash-landing in Germany in July 1944. He spent the rest of the war as a POW. Gabreski went on to score 6.5 more victories in Korea and retire from the Air Force in 1967 as colonel, afterwards spending twenty years in the aviation industry.
Snow, Crocker. (Edited by Pam Gleason) Log Book: A Pilot's Life. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 1997.
Preface; photos; Epilogue; Index.
The second of the "pilot trilogy" comes from Crocker Snow, an early aviator who flew with Amelia Earhart and founded his own New England-based airline during the inter-war years. He was called to active duty in July 1941 and established the North Atlantic Ferry Route for flying American-built aircraft to the United Kingdom. Although he wanted command of a fighter group, he was deemed -- at age 38 -- too old for the job. In 1943 he assumed command of a B-17 group in Tennessee but ended up with B-29 Superfortresses in the strategic bombing of Japan.
After the war Snow returned to his position as Massachusetts Director of Aeronautics, retiring in 1976 after almost 50 years in professional aviation. An interesting account from a pilot who saw firsthand the evolution from biplanes to jumbo jets, with the largest section on his wartime experiences.
Ford-Jones, Martyn R. Desert Flyer: The Log and Journal of Flying Officer William Marsh. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1998.
Acknowledgments; Introduction; photos; maps; Bibliography.
Appendices: Service Record; Combat Claims; Aircraft; No. 274 Squadron Combat Claims; No. 274 Squadron Casualties; Equivalent Ranks.
William Marsh was a young Englishman who became a pilot and flew with the RAF until his death in 1944. Much as Sandra Merrill did for the American fighter pilot Donald Emerson in Donald's Story, author Martyn Ford-Jones reconstructs the flying life of Marsh from Marsh's journal and other papers and builds the story of a man and his squadron-mates in wartime.
Marsh began his RAF career in England but sailed to Canada in January 1941 for flight training in Manitoba. He returned to England in the summer and was posted to No. 605 Squadron. By the end of the year he was embarked on HMS Argus and bound for Malta in convoy with HMS Ark Royal when the latter was torpedoed and sunk. Marsh ended up in Gibraltar until the end of December when he sailed for West Africa and was then ferried from Tokoradi across the continent to Port Sudan and onward to Egypt.
In March 1942 he began flying Hurricanes with No. 274 Squadron based at Gambut near Tobruk. Marsh remained with the Desert Air Force through the victory in Tunisia. He transferred to No. 71 Operational Training Unit in Egypt in June and began preparing fresh pilots for combat flying. On 6 February 1944, while "leading a large formation of aircraft on a practice battle flight," Marsh was killed in a mid-air collision when struck by a pupil's Hurricane. His grave lies in a cemetery of sand and eucalyptus four miles west of Ismailia.
All three titles are interesting, entertaining, quick reads. Heavily illustrated with photos. Sure to appeal to readers who enjoy the day-to-day lives of the men who fought in the skies.
Available from online booksellers, local bookshops, or directly from the publishers.
Thanks to the publishers for providing these review copies.
Reviewed 28 April 1998
Copyright © 1998 by Bill Stone
May not be reproduced in any form without written permission of Stone & Stone
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