Sunday, 31 March 2013

Book Review of 'The American Bomber Boys,' by Martin Bowman.

Asked why he was in Britain, a US serviceman, fighting the war in the skies over Germany with the US 8th Air Force quipped, 'We're here to win the war for you'. The men of the US 8th AF dropped more bombs on Germany and Italy than any other air force, with most of their raids being in daylight. Martin Bowman has spent much of the past two decades recording the memories of hundreds of American airmen who came to Britain to fight the Germans and Italians. Giving a unique insight into both combat missions and life back at base, he has managed to compile a fascinating oral history of the war through the words of the men who took it direct to the heart of both Germany and Italy, men who risked their lives daily in the search for freedom for occupied Europe. A fascinating history from the voices of the American airmen who flew daily from bases in East Anglia to the heart of Germany.

Review: For anyone with an interest in World War Two, especially the war fought from the air. The book is well written, interesting and the author does not bombard you with technical information. Instead, it's filled with personal accounts which serve to deliver a picture of what it was really like to be part of the mighty American Air Force during those last few years of the war.  

There are a number of fantastic images which give a real sense of the period. I loved the chapter about GI Brides and I also loved hearing about the language barrier the Airmen encountered when they first arrived in England. Common day phrases that were used here meant something completely different to the American Airmen. Rest and recreation invariably detailed outings to the local pub or up to London, visiting clubs and restaurants and going to shows. Female company was always sought and grappling with cycles along darkened country lanes devoid of sign posts could be interesting.

There are some poignant stories, some of which detail tragic losses of life and one learns about the daily fears those brave men endured and fought with, day after day, in order to fly one operation after another. One such story details a young Bombardier from New York who has just become a father for the first time and is killed on his next operation when his B-17 'Baby Doll,' is shot down. Blunt and sudden, it serves to illustrate how short life can be and just how precious it is to live.

All in all the book is a great insight into their daily life and one which I definitely recommend.