From Publishers Weekly
Historian Miller (D-Days in the Pacific
) chronicles the story of the U.S. Eighth Air Force in this sprawling, authoritative narrative of the "largest aerial striking force in the war." The Eighth arrived in England in 1942 to engage in "a new kind of warfare": unescorted "high-altitude strategic bombing." In addition to destroying Germany's war-making capacity, the Eighth hoped to validate its "extravagant claim that air power alone would bring down the Reich" and to win autonomy for the air force. As Miller demonstrates, the "hubris of the bomber barons" was misplaced, and the "record of the Eighth Air Force is mixed." Not only did victory require boots on the ground but the air war became a bloody "war of attrition." The Eighth suffered 26,000 combat deaths, a 12.3% fatality rate topped only by submarine crews. Drawing on exhaustive research in oral histories, diaries and government documents, Miller evenhandedly recounts the Eighth's successes and failures, emphasizing the stoic heroism of the crews who flew the missions. That diverse lot included celebrities like the actors Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable and anonymous fliers like 21-year-old Lt. Chuck Yeager. This eloquent tribute to America's bomber boys should prove popular among fans of military history. (Oct.)
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Miller's massive, readable volume may prove to be the standard history of the Eighth Air Force. From 1942 to 1945, the men and planes of the Eighth fought the Luftwaffe, English weather, shortages of men and material, and the flaws in the original concept of strategic bombing. Only when fighter escorts all the way to the targets became available did the Eighth and its "little friends" perform the vital task of defeating German airpower. The book pays detailed tribute to the men, from movie stars like Clark Gable to ordinary mechanics, who performed the thousand-and-one tasks, from piloting to cooking, that kept the Eighth flying. It also offers a view from the other side, that of the Germans under the bombs, although in so doing it may not (still!) please obstinate foes of strategic bombing or of the "Greatest Generation" concept. Everyone else may rank this book with Roger Freeman's The Mighty Eighth
(1970; rev. ed., 1986) as definitive about its subject. Roland GreenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved