One of the many reasons for the Allied victory over Germany was air superiority. Once the Allies invaded France, the Allies owned the sky with only a few instances of where the Luftwaffe was able to send up a significant number of aircraft. This dominance allowed the P-47 Thunderbolt to provide timely close air support to the advancing Allied armies. Robert Dorr and Thomas Jones chronicle the exploits of one of the P-47 fighter groups, the 365th, in Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler’s Wehrmacht.
As with a lot of histories being written today, the authors focus on the lives of the men who flew in the day to day operations (as opposed to focusing on the description of the air battles). The authors are able to convey the thrill and excitement of bombing and strafing the Wehrmacht convoys that tried to reinforce the defenses in Normandy – many times the convoys were completely destroyed. They also are able to relate the fear of air to air combat and flying through antiaircraft fire – the pilots experienced heavy antiaircraft fire when they flew against targets in Germany.
The book is well written. It is a relatively quick read at 298 pages with several pages of black and white photographs.
I will make one note on this style of history – you do get a great sense of what life was like for the average pilot, but I think it is easy for authors to get lost in the details and lose the perspective of where the unit’s actions are with regard to the war. Dorr and Jones do provide some perspective on the actions of the unit in relation to the war, but sometimes I think they do get lost in the details.
Overall, this is a great book about the actions of the pilots and their ground crew that helped bring Germany to its knees.