Clash of Eagles...
...USAAF 8th Air Force Bombers Versus the Luftwaffe in WW2 from Pen and Sword
Title: Clash of Eagles
Author: Martin W Bowman
Publisher: Pen and Sword
First published back in 2006 this is a new paperback edition from Pen and Sword. It starts from the early days of the USAAF as the first bomber crews arrived, and the airfields for them began to multiply in the communities across East Anglia. We learn about their early missions, sometimes with small numbers of operational bombers, raids involving 20 aircraft or less. It is quite a contrast to many of the missions later in the war, when raids of well over 1,000 aircraft would make their way over the continent.
The level of detail throughout the book is first class. It also benefits from the time since the war, as we get not only the stories of the crews and their missions, but in many cases we learn what actually happened to those which did not get back. The text is interspersed with lots of personal accounts of the men who took part, not only the American bomber crews but also the Luftwaffe fighter pilots whose task was to intercept them. As the war progressed, the tactics used by the bombers and those of the Luftwaffe fighter pilots all evolved as combat experience led to the lessons learnt being put into practice. As well as the enemy fighters, Flak remained a constant enemy to the bombers and inflicted losses and serious damage to the bombers as they stayed straight and level on their bomb runs.
We learn what it felt like to be woken in the morning, eat breakfast and then attend the early briefing for what lay ahead, and those targets which instilled a feeling of dread about what lay ahead. It makes it clear that it wasn't just about a bomber being shot down over the target, but those which were badly damaged, often with crew members killed or wounded on board, and that's if they made it back across the English Channel or North Sea. Many aircraft were seen to leave the target area to make their way home, but simply never arrived. Some of the descriptions of what rescuers found when they entered a damaged or crashed returning aircraft hardly bear description, but they must have been sights which would have remained in the mind of those who saw them for the rest of their lives.
The numbers of aircraft, bombers and fighters, and their many crew members had live changing experiences while many of them never did get to return home. I have to say that when I read histories like this it is the personal stories which bring the whole thing to life, but I can never stop thinking that there were so many stories that other men never had the opportunity to tell. As this detailed history looks at both sides of the adversaries it makes this one I'd consider a must-read for anyone interested in the US day bombing offensive of WW2. We are lucky to see and hear a surviving B-17 such as the Sally B based at Duxford. It is hard to image now the sight and sound of over 1,000 of them flying in the sky overhead.
Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.