Review by Nicholas A. Veronico
This is most definitely in the ‘not a page turner on the beach’ category! It is, however, an incredible addition to the historical record and a prime source of research for those interested in the European air war. Written by Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken, and Marco Cillessen, this is a six-volume series of books, each more than 600 pages in length and each including an average of more than 200 photos.
The meat of these books has been distilled from Eighth and Ninth Air Force squadron, group, and wing records, cemetery and memorial registers, documents on temporary US military cemeteries in Europe, Missing Air Crew Reports (MACRs), Reports of Aircraft Accidents (Form 14s), station record books, and the US Dead List (A-Z), along with an extensive list of books of the era. Distilling all of those sources gets the reader/researcher a day-by-day chronology of aircraft missing in action, giving aircraft type, serial number, fuselage code and nose art (where known), crew details, and a profile of the loss from the MACR. In addition, aircraft that returned to base and were subsequently salvaged, or those salvaged for other causes, are listed. The photography ranges from nose art and crew photos to images of crashes described in the text. Before and after accident photos are often shown and the coverage achieves a good balance between fighters and bombers.
Appendices vary in each volume. In volume five, they detail casualties, Medal of Honor awardees, aircraft losses by group and squadron (June 1942 to 31 December 1944), and aircraft transferred to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, to the Royal Air Force, or back to the United States. These detailed appendices include dates and aircraft serial numbers as well.
The scope of this work is mind boggling when one considers losses of bombers alone on a number of missions exceeded fifty aircraft. In volume five, on 24 December 1944, the Eighth Air Force put up a maximum effort, dispatching 2046 aircraft – 1400 B-17s, 646 B-24s, and more than 850 P-51s – and lost only 27 aircraft. The amount of material that had to be reviewed to prepare these books is overwhelming.
The first five volumes have been published and volume six, covering 1 January to 31 March 1945, is expected this spring. They are not cheap – averaging £60 (about US$82) – but the books are an incredibly valuable addition to the historical record. Available from the publisher, East Anglia Books, online at www.eastangliabooks.com.