Hell Hawks!: The Untold Story of the American Fliers Who Savaged Hitler's Wehrmacht / Edition 1by Robert F. Dorr, Thomas D. Jones
Pub. Date: 06/15/2008
Publisher: Zenith Press
Hell Hawks! is the story of a band of young American pilots and their gritty, close-quarters fight against Hitler’s vaunted military. The Hell Hawks were the 365th Fighter Group, three squadrons of fighter-bomber pilots. Beginning just prior to D-Day, June 6, 1944, these pilots fresh from flight training in the United States (most were barely twenty years/i>
Hell Hawks! is the story of a band of young American pilots and their gritty, close-quarters fight against Hitler’s vaunted military. The Hell Hawks were the 365th Fighter Group, three squadrons of fighter-bomber pilots. Beginning just prior to D-Day, June 6, 1944, these pilots fresh from flight training in the United States (most were barely twenty years old), flew in close support of Eisenhower’s ground forces as they advanced across France and into Germany.
They flew the rugged, heavily armed P-47 Thunderbolt—affectionately known as “the Jug”—a big tub of a plane that could absorb a pounding from the enemy and still fly back home. Living in tents amid the cold mud of their front-line airfields, the 365th’s daily routine had much in common with the GIs they supported. During their year in combat, the Hell Hawks paid a heavy price for the Nazi surrender on May 8, 1945. Sixty-nine pilots and airmen died in the fight across the continent. The Group’s 1,241 combat missions forged bonds between these men that remain strong sixty years later. Many of them were interviewed for this book, bringing the Hell Hawks’ fight against the Reich to life in their own words.
Robert F. Dorr is an Air Force veteran (Korea, 1957–1960), a retired senior American diplomat (1964–1989), and the author of sixty books and thousands of magazine articles and newspaper columns about the Air Force and air warfare. In the past year, Bob has written for Air and Space Smithsonian, Flight Journal, Air Forces Monthly, Air Power History, and many other publications. He is a columnist for Air Force Times newspaper and writes the Washington Watch feature for Aerospace America magazine. His recent book, Air Force One, a history of presidential aircraft and air travel, has been praised by critics. Bob lives in Oakton, Virginia, with his family and their Labrador retriever.
Thomas D. Jones, PhD, is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, speaker, author, and consultant. He holds a doctorate in planetary sciences, and during eleven years with NASA flew on four space shuttle missions, totaling fifty-three days in space. Tom is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and piloted B-52D strategic bombers prior to joining NASA’s astronaut corps. He has written about space exploration and aviation history in Air and Space Smithsonian, Aerospace America, and Popular Mechanics. He is the co-author of two young adult books, Mission: Earth and The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the United States at War, as well as The Complete Idiot’s Guide to NASA. His autobiography is Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir. Tom is a regular on-air contributor for Fox News Channel’s spaceflight coverage and lives in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One: Hell Hawks over Normandy
Chapter Two: Over the Beach
Chapter Three: Who Were the Hell Hawks?
Chapter Four: Hedgerow Breakout
Chapter Five: Falaise and the Race across France
Chapter Six: Bradley’s Aerial Hammer: Tank-Busting across France
Chapter Seven: The War of the Regular Guys
Chapter Eight: Stalemate over the Hürtgen
Chapter Nine: Air-To-Air
Chapter Ten: Thunderbolts over the Bulge
Chapter Eleven: Death from Above
Chapter Twelve: “That Is What Is Beating Us”
Chapter Thirteen: Getting Shot Down
Chapter Fourteen: Moving Up
Chapter Fifteen: Into the Reich
Chapter Sixteen: Fighting the Jets
Chapter Seventeen: The Price of Victory
Chapter Eighteen: The New Boys
Chapter Nineteen: Reckoning
Chapter Twenty: Final Flights
Appendix: What Happened to Them?
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This book was even better than I was hoping for. Definitely one you are sad to put down when you finish it. It is a great combination of history and pilot stories weaved together. They take you from Normandy all the way to Berlin. Few historians give the P47 "Jug" and their pilots their due. Less glamorous plane than the P51 Mustang, but had the ability to withstand unbelievable damage. The P47 was to WWII what the A10 Warthog is to modern combat. Neither are the prettiest airplanes, but definitely the one ground troops wanted flying cover. The is a fine tribute to the bravery citizen-soldiers could display, while fighting battle hardened German Army and the Luffwaffe. WWII pilots wrote the book for the close-air-support flying that still is in use today.
In Hell Hawks!, a project four years in the making, Bob Dorr and Tom Jones have crafted a page-turning story of the P-47's indispensable role in winning the war in Europe. It doesn't matter if your interest is strategic, tactical, or personal. It doesn't matter if you're a military historian or if your interest in World War II has recently been sparked by watching Ken Burns' PBS masterpiece, The War. Each perspective, from the names you probably know 'Eisenhower, Vandenberg, and perhaps Quesada', to those you don't 'Steckel, Charles R. Johnson, and a host of pilots and enlisted men' is brought to light with burning clarity, amazing accuracy, and moving narrative. With the 'big picture' always in mind, the reader can find out what was happening on the flight-line, in the cockpit, and behind the scenes as the 365th Fighter Group moved constantly across the continent to plow the way for the allied advance. The courage and valor of the Greatest Generation is brilliantly brought forward to a new generation. You may already know a lot about the big picture but Hell Hawks! tells you why Major David N. Harmon, the assistant group ops officer has added 'The Luckiest Man Alive' beneath his signature for 63 years. You may have heard that the 'Jug' was a tough airframe In this book you will witness a P-47 cartwheel across a field losing the tail, engine, and both wings in a crash landing less than a quarter mile from the fluid German-American lines in October, 1944. After observing this crash learn why the GIs in a nearby Jeep motioned for the stunned and injured pilot, Lieutenant Bob Hagan, to come to them about 100 yards across a field instead of driving over to pick him up. This book is a must read and a great tribute.
Before reading this book I thought I knew much about World War two, I knew the main causes of the war, most of the generals' names and many of the unit's names. I knew where all the major battles of WWII were fought and could draw most of the allied troop movements on a map. However, I never new much about how important close air support was to the war effort. The book mostly fallows a P47 fighter bomber division called the Hell Hawks. They lead a merciless campaign in Europe against Hitler's Whermacht forces from before D day, to the battle of the Bulge, and eventually even the destruction of the Reich. The book depicts the gritty and lackluster lifestyle that the pilots had as well as outlines major Allied plans and the roll of the Hell Hawks in those plans. Most importantly however, it talks about how the pilots and mechanics formed bonds and eventually became an "Ariel Band of Brothers". The books main themes are how horrific war is and the importance of the Hell Hawks. It shows these themes by providing graphic accounts of the destruction left by the planes quick and accurate bombing as well as providing quotes from Germans showing how terrifying and deadly a P47 attack was and the how it overall affected the German tactics. As you read further and further you eventually began to feel the rushes of dog fighting and strafing as well as feel the horror and pain of seeing mutilated horses and men. This book does a very effective job of showing how terrible war really is. This book is very good for Historians and people who like to learn about WWII but I would not recommend it for people who casually read non fiction. You have to have a want to learn about WWII because the book can become dry in some parts when relating to generals and overall plans of the war. It is also very hard to fallow all the pilots in the story because so many names are thrown out at once the reader can really only focus on the action of the group as a whole. On a better note, the historical accuracy and the amount of research in this book is absolutely AMAZING! There are so many quotes from men in the Hell Hawks as well as their German counterparts that really brings to life the devastation and terror caused by the Hell Hawks, and how gritty World War Two was for fighter bomber pilots. Overall, if you love heroic war stories of WWII as much as I do this book is for you! You will be blown away by its accounts of strafing and bombing runs as well as add knew knowledge about commanders and tactics used in WWII.
I'm still waiting for this book to come out. But I was there when Tom was interviewing all these great old timers. At one of there reunions. We plan on being at there next reunion this August 2008. We hope to see Tom and his book there. Then we'll write to you all again. I'm sure it will be very good. Tom knows his stuff.
I agree with the other reviewers. This is one of the best books of ariel combat I’ve had the pleasure to read. Goes into great personal accounts of the brave pilots who flew the P-47 Thunderbolt. Just a great read and ‘ worth every penny. Couldn’t put it down.
Mr. Dorrs description of the Hawks close air support from D-Day to deep into Germany operating from behind the front lines is fantastic. He shows how unique circumstances changes "the guy next door" into a untold hero. An amazing view of history.
Great story for WW 2 fans and those that like airplanes in general. These pilots flew at over 500 mph diving down to the earth, were compressability became a death sentence for the unwary pilot. The pilots courage brought them so close to the ground, that their P-47's returned with tree branches lodge in the cowling. There mission eventually falls into the role of close air ground support, with their own pilots manning forward observation posts from tanks in Patton's 3rd army and pilots flying 3 or more missions on days the planes could get off the ground. The ground crews worked many many hours and their forward operating bases were routinely attacked by the Luftwaffe, they were closer to the combat troops on the front line than most of the other fighter squadrons in the US Air Corp. The bases were not concrete but mud and metal. Many days they were grounded due to bad weather, instrumentation back then was a ball and turn indicator and airspeed dial it seemed to me, as I turned page after page. Very well done and excellent read, highly recommend.
Well written account. Hard to put it down. Only wish there was more!