Review of "Bluenoser Tales"

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Review of "Bluenoser Tales"

Postby Parson » Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:51 am

This is from the 5.3 edition of WWII Quarterly.

Bluenoser Tales: 352nd Fighter Group War Stories.
Robert H. Powell, Jr., ed. Tucker, GA: United Writers Press, 2007. Illustrations. Index. Cloth. Pp. 374.

Among the most successful and best-known American aviation units in World War II was the 352nd Fighter Group, variously known as the "Bluenosers" (for their colorful P-51s) and the "Bodney Bastards" (for their English base.) The group's luminaries include names familiar to most aviation historians: Major George E. Preddy, Lieutenant Colonel John C. Meyer, Lieutenant John F. Thornell, and Captain William T. Whisner being among the top aces of the 8th Air Force. Though the 352nd story has often been told, Bluenoser Tales takes another approach.1 The book is edited by one of the group's successful hunters, Robert "Punchy" Powell, who flew Thunderbolts and Mustangs. He and his crew have produced a fascinating anthology of Bluenoser recollections, including not only pilots on escort, strafing, or dive bombing missions, but the devoted, unheralded men who kept the fighters up and running for twenty months of nonstop combat. The selection is excellent, with frequent reminders that behind each of the group's twenty-seven aces were dozens of wingmen and support personnel, each making his own contribution.

One of the group's noteworthy pilots was Edward Gignac, a champion pre-war ski jumper who first flew P-39s in the Pacific. He was killed in action in June 1944.

Another pilot not widely appreciated outside the group is Virgil Meroney, a gifted aviator who rose from infantry private to United States Air Force colonel. His chapter describes his days as a P-47 ace, then flying combat in Korea and Vietnam as well.

The 352nd benefited from some hard-nosed leadership, most notably from Colonel Joe L. Mason, who assumed command at the age of twenty-eight and led the group until July 1944. (Some historians assume that Meyer rose to group CO, but in fact he rotated home as deputy commander in February 1945.)

Some tales are well known, including the death of George Preddy by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944, and the epic low-level fight over Belgian airfield Y-29 on New Year's Day 1945. In fact, the latter event was featured in the History Channel Dogfights series in 2008. Additionally, there are dozens of other slice-of-life accounts that will be of interest to World War II historians, such as stories of POWs and those who evaded capture in occupied Europe.

Also woven into the story is the view from Bodney Tower, and if any aspect of wartime aviation is overlooked, surely it is the men (and occasionally women) who oversaw airfield operations in the words of the late Grover C. Hall, "without pride of Air Medal or hope of DFC." Amid the 352nd's laurels, the first UK-USSR shuttle mission is almost taken for granted. However, Bluenoser Tales provides an in-depth look at the mission in all its complexity, including cooperating with the B-17s and the 4th Fighter Group. (One pilot opines that the 4th Fighter Group's well-regarded Colonel Don Blakeslee got too much credit for long-range navigation since "We were just following the bombers!")

A recurring theme in the book is the high degree of professionalism among those who flew and maintained the aircraft. Few had pre-war experience with aviation, let alone with combat aircraft, yet the 352nd - like the entire Army Air Force - met every challenge. One of the best examples is related during the overnight transition from P-47s to P-51s. The book's editor, Robert H. Powell, recalls that the Mustangs arrived without flight or maintenance manuals, requiring some intuitive engineering and basic stick-and-throttle logic. But it had to be done quickly, because the first P-51 mission was scheduled two days later.

With only one additional 8th Air Force fighter group - the 361st - the Bluenosers operated from the continent for several months before returning to England just before VE-Day. Adapting to one of the harshest winters in European history was part and parcel of the group's saga. In addition to providing hours of reading pleasure, Bluenoser Tales includes more than 400 illustrations, nearly all of excellent quality and many previously unpublished. This splendid work also includes twenty-four pages of color photographs and paintings.

1. Additional works related to the 352nd Fighter Group include: Tom Ivie and Bob Powell, The Bluenosed Bastards of Bodney (Dallas: Taylor Publishing, 1990); Tom Ivie, 352nd Fighter Group (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2002); Joe Noah and Samuel L. Sox, Jr., George Preddy, Top Mustang Ace: The complete combat biography of a 27-victory ace (Greensboro, NC: Preddy Memorial Foundation, 1999).

The Parson
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Postby Dduck » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:32 am

Great review! I'm going to have to check out that book!!

Thanks, Parson!

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Postby dBeav » Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:47 am

I've checked the usual suspects online (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc) and haven't been able to find it in stock anywhere. If anyone runs across a connection be sure to pass it along.
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Postby Tyson » Mon Oct 27, 2008 11:43 am

right off the 352nd home page. It's a must have for any Bluenoser. It's a book you can re-read the re-read with story after story. Flat out Awesome!

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