Da Capo Press 2001
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|Fortress Against The Sun
The B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific
The famous Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" is usually associated
with "F" and "G" models, flowing by the
8th Air Force in Europe. Yet, the story of the B-17really began in the Pacific -
where it flew for the first years of the war, before being phased out
by the longer range and bomb load of the B-24 Liberator.
Author Gene Salecker tells the story of Pacific Flying Fortresses in
combat in his book, "Fortress Against the Sun"
Pacific B-17's literally flew into WWII, as two flights arrived
over Hawaii as the Japanese surprise attack was in progress. In the
Philippines, America's B-17 force were caught on the ground at Clark
Field. During the first dark months of the Pacific war, despite overwhelming
odds by numerically superior Japanese, violent weather and overworked
equipment. This book does a superb job of documenting some of the "forgotten"
history of B-17's. The story of B-17's in the Philippines, and falling
back to Australia, and flying out of Dutch bases in Java in early 1942.
The later naval battles of Midway and Coral Sea are most famous for
the role of Naval aircraft, but a handful of B-17's had an influential
role in both battles. Immediately, crews acknowledge there was something
special about this airplane and it immediately won the respect of its
crew and pilots.
Early Model Fortresses D's, E's and later F's
The book follows the fascinating developments of the B-17, from the
early model C and D Fortresses at the start of WWII, flying without
spare parts and logging hours of flight an punishment. As the book progresses,
it documents the different models of Fortresses to serve in the Pacific,
including changes in armament and layout, in later model E and F bombers
that had the characteristic armament, ball turret and tail positions.
America's "Europe First" policy insured that only a handful
of Fortresses were sent to the Pacific, and combat units retained older
models flying combat missions out of necessity and lack of spare aircraft
For detail oriented readers, the author docments each fortress crew,
serial number and nickname when mentioned. Each mission is summarized
from start to finish, including results and medals awarded to crews.
Each day of the war is laced into context of earlier and later actions,
and together form the patchwork of Pacific B-17 actions that earned
the plane fame with crews for its durability, while correcting the operational
issue with this otherwise outstanding bomber. Accounts of combat are
told from operational records, diaries and interviews with veterans,
and the occasional recollection from Japanese side, including ace Saburo
Sakai. Every page of the book also emphasis the important work of
ground crews that keep the B-17 flying in the most harsh jungle and
New Guinea, Solomons and the B-24
Throughout 1942 and late into 1943 fighting the
Japanese in New Guinea flying form Port Moresby and Guadalcanal in the
Solomons, with important roles against Buna / Gona, the battle of the
Bismarck Sea and interdicting the "Tokyo Express" in the Solomons
Slot. By the middle of 1943, the longer range, larger bomb load B-24
"Liberator" was replacing the B-17 in the Pacific. The remaining
fortresses were dispersed between transport & troop carrier roles,
private aircraft for the top generals, and others were flown back to
the United States. Although no longer at the forefront of bombing missions,
the legacy and love for the Flying Fortress was not forgotten by the
crews who flew them.
Appendixes & Notes
The book has an extensive section of appendixes and
notes. Included is a reference to all B-17 units in WWII, including
Bomb Squadron, Bomb Groups and Air Forces. Also, a specific appendix
of Pacific B-17's, listing serial numbers, nicknames and comments. Finally,
extensive chapter footnotes, bibliography and index.
For anyone interested in the B-17's this is the book
to read. With an emphases on the missions, pilots, crews, and in the
cockpit accounts of combat. For readers of every interest level, there
is something in this book for everyone, including documenting the largely
forgotten history of the early operations of B-17's in the darkest months
Interview with author Gene
Review by Justin Taylan
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February 4, 2018