SCREAMING EAGLE: Memoirs of a B-17 Group Commander by Dale O. Smith

SCREAMING EAGLE: Memoirs of a B-17 Group Commander

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An American airman's understated account of service in WW II England, which is notable more for an unsparing recital of personal home-front problems than any new light it sheds on the rigors of aerial combat or the efficacy of strategic bombing. Though married and the father of two small children, West Point grad Smith (Cradle of Valor, 1988) was eager for overseas duty once the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Instead, the US Army Air Corps kept him flying antisubmarine patrols off the East Coast. Toward the end of 1943, however, he was given command of a four-squadron bomber group. When Smith (then a full colonel) took over, the outfit's morale and effectiveness had slipped badly as a result of severe losses in the hostile skies over German-occupied Europe. By dint of example, strict discipline, a demanding attitude, esprit-building additions to base facilities, and other gambits, Smith (who flew a full measure of missions in his own B-17) achieved a signal improvement in the group's performance. He also picked up many war stories centering on narrow escapes from lethal flak barrages, engine failures, Luftwaffe fighters, clear ice, hang-fire ordnance, and other high-altitude perils. In the meantime, Smith had to cope as best he could with the news that his wife had left him, all but abandoning their children, for a merchant mariner. The author's stiff-upper-lip recollection of how he handled this added stress (with the support of his close-knit family) rings true and offers intriguing insights into the character of a career military officer who went on to become a major general in the space-age Air Force. A different--as well as affecting and rewarding--sort of war memoir.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1990
Publisher: Algonquin