DEAD RECKONING: Experiences of a World War II Fighter Pilot by Alan K. Abner

DEAD RECKONING: Experiences of a World War II Fighter Pilot

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Abner writes of his long, hairy journey from an Oregon farm to the controls of a P51 Mustang in the Eighth Air Force during WW II. Unlike the men in bomber crews, fighter pilots flew alone and had to fill the roles of navigator, gunner, bombardier, and radio man. Abner describes his demanding training and testing, and the camaraderie between combat officers and enlisted men in aerial warfare. Master sergeants took charge of meticulous safety maintenance and the preparation of the plane for combat. Officers would come and go, replaced, transferred, promoted, or killed, while the experienced ground crews carried on and kept planes in top condition. Abner notes that, despite the risks of a crash or of sudden death in a flaming plane, no combat flyer would change places with his comrades on the ground--who often lived on K rations, took shelter in filthy foxholes, and slept on the cold, wet earth. Airmen, in contrast, returned to a secure base after a mission, had a change of clothes, a few drinks, a hot dinner, a card game, perhaps even watched a movie, and slept between sheets. Called to action in the Battle of the Bulge, the fighter pilots in Abner's group endured strafing and bad weather to repeatedly attack enemy troops--and they lost many comrades. Combat scenes and narrow escapes are vividly drawn here, and the climax is a description of a great air baffle during which Abner's group set a WW II record of 56 confirmed enemy planes downed in one day. A fine, frank memoir of WW II air combat in the European theater.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1997
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Burd Street/White Mane