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review 2017-08-19 14:48
DEFYING THE ODDS: PADDY FINUCANE & THE KENLEY WING (1941)
’Paddy’ Finucane and the legend of the Kenley Wing: No.452 (Australian), 485 (New Zealand) and 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadrons, 1941 - Anthony Cooper

1941 was a critical year in the Second World War for both the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Allies. RAF Fighter Command, which had helped to keep Britain afloat throughout the summer and autumn of 1940 following the fall of France, represented one of Britain's few effective blunt instruments to keep Germany off balance. As early as December 1940, it had begun engaging in 'lean-to' or shallow penetration missions over Occupied France where small units of RAF fighters attacked German airbases and military installations. By the following summer, this undertaking had been expanded into 'Circuses', which entailed the use of bombers escorted by, on average, 16 squadrons of fighters on both shallow and deep penetration missions (at least 50 miles inland) into France. Missions of this magnitude the Luftwaffe could hardly ignore. With the majority of the Luftwaffe now engaged in military operations in support of the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union, 2 fighter wings (Jagdgeschwadern 2 & 26) were tasked with defending the airspace above France against the RAF.

 

Here is where the experiences of the Kenley Wing of RAF Fighter Command, who came to play a significant role in the RAF Non-Stop Offensive of 1941, are described in "PADDY FINUCANE AND THE LEGEND OF THE KENLEY WING." The Wing, one among 6 in the RAF, was made up of 452 (made up mostly of Australian fighter pilots), 485, (mostly New Zealanders), and 602 Squadrons. It was representative of the RAF itself, which contained in its ranks, many airmen from the farthest reaches of the British Empire and Commonwealth. There were also a few Irishmen like Finucane, a veteran of the Battle of Britain, who, during the summer and autumn of 1941, was making a name for himself as one of the RAF best known and top-scoring aces while serving as one of 452 Squadron's flight leaders. Indeed, 452 Squadron, of all the squadrons in the Kenley Wing, would develop a reputation with pilots of the caliber of Finucane and Keith 'Bluey' Truscott (Australian) as one of the top-scoring units in RAF Fighter Command. It seemed that whenever the Kenley Wing took part in sweeps over France that 452 Squadron would find itself involved in many a scrap with German fighters while the other 2 squadrons in the Wing encountered fewer or no enemy air opposition.

 

The book describes in considerable detail the intensity of the air combat the Kenley Wing experienced over France, as well as the standards the RAF had for assessing victory claims by its fighter pilots. What became increasingly evident is that there was a lot of overclaiming on the part of RAF Fighter Command during 1941. Much more so than had been the case during the Battle of Britain. This couldn't always be helped because air combat is a life-and-death affair, carried out by fast moving fighters --- requiring constant alertness on the part of the individual fighter pilot --- fought in three dimensions. One wrong move --- sometimes measured in seconds --- could mean nursing a badly crippled Spitfire across the Channel to Britain, riding a flaming aircraft to either a watery death in the Channel or a fiery crash inland, or being shot down and forced to bail out over France. The latter for an RAF fighter pilot usually meant becoming a prisoner of war or evading capture and - with the help of the Resistance - getting to Southern France and across the Pyrenees Mountains to neutral Spain and a sure passage back to Britain and the war.

 

It also became clear from reading this book that while the RAF was able to provide a widening pool of trained fighter pilots (the EATS or Empire Air Training Scheme was crucial in this regard in which large numbers of RAF aviation cadets received their training in Canada) to replace its losses in France during 1941, it had not given most of its pilots much (if any) gunnery training. Lacking this vital skill was, along with aircraft mis-identication, another key reason behind overclaiming kills in air combat. Indeed, "... the root of the overclaiming problem seems to have lain in the tendency of some pilots to make forced links between purported cause and effect, in the context of an overstimulated combat environment where in fact no-one could see it all, and where many pilots did not see much at all - or anything at all. Despite this uncertainty principle, some pilots repeatedly drew definite causal links between, on the one hand, their gunnery attacks upon fleeting targets' and on the other, subsequent fleeting impressions of flashes, smoke, splashes, hunts, and dives. These putative causative connections were too often accepted by the intelligence officers at squadron, wing, and group level who assessed and confirmed the claims, and too often by the squadron COs, wing leaders, station commanders, senior air staff officers, and air officers commanding who signed off on the paperwork before sending it up to the next level of command. Moreover, all of these officers permitted such claims to be confirmed despite the lack of corroboration --- sometimes pilot claims were supported by reported sightings from other pilots, but they were also routinely accepted on the claimant's testimony alone."

 

I developed a deeper appreciation for the pilots of RAF Fighter Command from reading "PADDY FINUCANE AND THE LEGEND OF THE KENLEY WING."  It's an inspiring account into how these men, through sheer determination, skill, guts, and dedication to duty, helped pave the way to eventual Allied victory in May 1945.

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review 2017-06-18 21:01
The Paris Spy
The Paris Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal

I cannot get enough of this series so when I saw this latest installment on Netgalley I just had to request it. No matter what is happening in my life I am always up for reading about Maggie Hope. This time Maggie is in Paris trying to find a spy that she believes might have been compromised and also trying to find her half-sister Elise.

 

While this was was not as dark as some previous books in the series this is still pretty dark and filled with heartbreak for Maggie and readers. As with the other books in the series this follows not only Maggie but other characters. You really grow close to the agents in Paris the more that you read and can't help but feel despair at what happens to certain characters.

 

One of my favorite parts of this book was the growing relationship between Maggie and her sister. They were able to really bond in this book and I hope their relationship gets a chance to grow even further in the future.

 

I was not expecting the ending and it has left me dying to know what happens next.

 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the galley.

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review 2017-06-18 01:17
The Jagged Edge of Duty: A Fighter Pilot's World War II - Robert L. Richardson

"THE JAGGED EDGE OF DUTY: A Fighter Pilot's World War II" resulted from the extensive efforts made by the author (Robert Richardson) to tell the story of Lt. Allan Knepper of Lewiston, Idaho, along with his friend Herman Kocour, a fellow flight school classmate with whom he later served in the same combat unit overseas. Knepper, a university graduate and schoolteacher, had joined the United States Army Air Force (USAAF) as an Aviation Cadet shortly after the U.S. had entered the Second World War. He was already a licensed pilot through having received his training via the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program. Both he and Kocour successfully completed their training as fighter pilots, and after receiving transition training in handling the sleek and powerful twin-engined P-38 Lightning fighter, were sent overseas to North Africa in the Spring of 1943. There, both men were assigned to the 14th Fighter Group, a P-38 unit that had recently been withdrawn from combat owing to heavy losses it had sustained in action. Within a short time, both men would be flying long-range missions against the Axis over the Mediterranean in preparation for the Allied invasion of the island of Sicily, which took place on July 10, 1943.

Richardson provides information about the types of missions flown by the 14th Fighter Group at the time Knepper and Kocour served with it, USAAF tactics and strategy as they were evolving during 1942-43 in North Africa and the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), some aspects of the war itself, as well as descriptions of the day-to-day stresses experienced by several other pilots in the unit.

Sadly, Knepper's war proved to be short one. His P-38 was downed by ground fire while flying a low-level strafing mission over Sicily against a German Army unit on July 10, 1943. Neither his body nor any wreckage of his plane was ever found.

Richardson also goes on to describe postwar efforts that have been made - and continue to be made - to find Knepper's remains.

While I cannot recommend "The Jagged Edge of Duty" to the general reader, I think anyone with an interest in World War II and combat aviation would enjoy reading it. He/she will learn something of what the average P-38 fighter pilot in the MTO experienced while on active duty during the spring and summer of 1943 as the Allies began their push from North Africa into Europe - with Sicily as the vital stepping-stone.

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review 2017-06-05 04:37
He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front - John Weal

This book examines the uses to which the Heinkel 111 bomber was put by the various bomber units (Kampfgeschwadern) on the Russian Front between June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa, Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union) and the end of the war in May 1945. On almost every page are numerous eyewitness accounts by aircrews, as well as illustrations and photos of Heinkel 111s in their varied roles as bomber, torpedo bomber, ground attack and air supply/transport aircraft.

I highly recommend "He 111 Kampfgeschwader on the Russian Front" to anyone with an interest in aviation and the Second World War.

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review 2017-05-25 03:30
Me 262 Bomber and Reconnaissance Units - Robert Forsyth, Jim Laurier (Illustrator)
I finished this book a few minutes ago. It read like a daily diary, detailing the combat activities of the various Luftwaffe units which flew the ME 262 jet as a bomber/ground attack aircraft and in the reconnaissance role on the Western Front during 1944 and 1945. On the whole, a very good book. Fascinating stuff.
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