Friday, November 25, 2011

Book Review: Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler’s Reich By Robert F. Dorr

Robert F. Dorr's “Mission to Berlin” documents the mission that took place on February 3, 1945 to bomb Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany.  The author does a very skilful job of telling the stories of the men who flew on it. He shares the incredible story of American fearlessness in the last months of World War II. The size of the air battle challenges our belief as in excess of 1,000 bombers and multiple-hundreds of fighter aircraft originating from Allied bases journey to the heart of Nazi Germany. You also get a good overview and understanding of the structure and operations of the United States Eighth Air Force.

Author Robert F. Dorr gives a detailed report of its evolution. He takes us from the pre-takeoff preparation and activities to the concluding landing.  The book is well paced. The basic structure of the book is spellbinding narrative. The storyline presents a mesmerizing description of many of the aviators on this historic mission. His use of primary source references such as first person interviews and personal letters adds warmth and the human touch to the narrative.

I found the way Mr. Dorr combines his interviews and letters with the detailed duties of each member of the crew a great way to explain the duties and procedures of the B-17 crew. The way he tells the story you feel as if you are there from take off to landing seeing the point of view of each member of the crew. He does an amazing job of drawing the reader into the life of the crew. This alone is reason to read the book.

Another reason to read the book includes the good picture of how the war affected the young crews, the technical side of the B-17 and its development and deployment as well as the evolution of fighting strategies. It was fascinating to see the change in philosophy as to the use of the fighters and to see how the Thunderbolts and especially the P-51s made a great difference in the  survival rates of the B-17s once they were able to escort all the way to Berlin.

I enjoyed the appendix that explained “What Happened to Them?” It told us of what key personalities mentioned in the book did after the war. It was a pleasant addition to the book.

This is an outstanding book.  Every World War II buff as well as aviation enthusiast will want it in their library. This is the second book I have read written by Robert F. Dorr. The first was “Hell Hawks!” which I also strongly recommend.  Zenith Press is the publisher.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy by Mark A. Bando

"101st Airborne: The Screaming Eagles at Normandy" by Mark A. Bando is a well presented book. It has a nice blend of photography and prose. It is organized into ten chapters. They detail the training, preparation as well as the jump into Normandy of the 101st Airborne Division. 

The 10.5 x 10.5 inches format allows for an excellent presentation of the photographs. The pictures cover the entire spectrum. Some are very familiar. Some are rare. Some are disturbing. The photograph on page 73 of a double row of dead German paratroopers is an example. There were so many dead in the photo than I could count them all!  I was surprised at the large amount of color pictures in the book. Amazing best describes the collection of photographs.

As good as the pictures were I especially enjoyed the story. The book chronicles the 101st in a way that blends a well-written narrative with first person testimonials of the veterans. Their recollections illustrate and explain the events of the chapter with a human touch.

Interestingly Bando includes one chapter on the 82nd Airborne Division and a chapter about the true story of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” titled “Saving Sergeant Niland”.  The book also contains a glossary of terms and an abbreviated index.

The book would be a great addition to the library of a military historian and is ideal for inclusion in a community or school library.