Hell Hawks

Hell Hawks

By: Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones

A book review by, JR Hafer

Hell Hawks is a book co authored by Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones. Mr. Dorr is an Air Force veteran of the Korean “conflict” a retired senior American diplomat and has authored over sixty books and thousands of articles for other publications and resides in Oakton, Va. 

A NASA astronaut Thomas D. Jones, PhD of planetary sciences is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He was a pilot of a B-52 bomber with the strategic Air Command, a well read author and news contributor for Fox news. Dr. Jones autobiography entitled, Sky Walking; An Astronaut’s Memoir. Tom lives in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. his website is www.AstronautTomJones.com.     

Hell Hawks is the story of a gaggle of young American pilots fresh from flight training back in the states that came to fly The P-47 Thunderbolt fighter-bomber with the 365th fighter group just before D-Day June 1944. The authors bring life to the narrative and tell the story of these brave men as they fly against Hitler’s best. In this book, they give us so much emotion and drama, with a powerful sense of history steeped in rousing action. This is very a well told story about winning the war with air power and it should be told by those who understand the way it was. That it absolutely is… 

The Introduction of the voices of many pilots, ground crewmen and even the enemy, Bob Dorr and Tom Jones blend the history of the 365th Fighter Group and the destruction of that war, chronicling the Thunderbolt’s interdiction in an exciting narrative. Hell Hawks definitely brings to light the historical importance of the attacks by fighter bombers that wielded great devastation on German military forces.

 “Jabos” are attack aircraft like the USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, and the RAF Hawker Typhoon is the term for fighter bombers or what authors Dorr and Jones, used for the German’s own coinage, for what they called them…

The P-47 Thunderbolt’s which were affectionately referred to as “Jugs” because it was a big tub of a plane and could really take a beating and from the enemy and still return it’s pilot home safely to fly again another day. In the beginning its’ mission was not generally a good comparison to the glamours P-51 Mustang.

The P-47′s outstanding pronouncement as a fighter bomber spanned thousands of missions against Hitler’s armies. But 3 battles stand out as decisive victories: 1-The breakout in Normandy, 2-The race to the Rhine, 3- The Battle of the Bulge.

A former Hell Hawk proudly states, “Our pilots never got the credit they deserved. In my opinion, going down to fifty feet, at 350 miles per hour, and putting two five-hundred-pound bombs on a Tiger tank was a greater contribution to the war effort than shooting down an Fw-190.”

Detailed accounts of exciting air action stories, “Hell Hawks!” is a interesting read, it captures your attention and won’t let you go, telling of the proud parts of victory and sad parts of defeat;  writing “All too often, they saw their planes return with bent propellers, holes in wings and fuselage, and traces of the battlefield, dirt, stones, shrapnel, branches, leaves embedded in the wings and cowling. But it was precisely the P-47′s ability to limp back to base with seemingly fatal damage that made it the ideal aircraft for ground attack.”

For those who find comfort in believing a fighter pilot’s role in western Europe was noble, impersonal, and detached mainly machine against machine or at the least a gentleman’s duel, like the First World War’s classic dogfights, this book will disappoint, indeed, its look at ground attacks carried out by the Hell Hawks offers no glamour. Understanding, the Allied armies’ role in defeating Hitler’s panzers would not have been possible without the Ninth Air Force’s relentless tactical ground attacks.

“The combination of skilled pilots, a rugged, capable aircraft, close and reliable communications between the air and ground teams, and the courage to fight a brutal, dangerous war at close quarters created an irresistible force that overwhelmed one of the most successful armies in history.” “Hell Hawks!” pays tribute to an iconic beast of a fighter. As crew chief Charles Johnson, states, “That P-47 was one tough airplane, and I guess so were we.”

“Hell Hawks!” contains a gallery of forty-seven interesting photographs, two ETO maps, and a Ninth Air Force Fighter-Bomber Organization Chart.

When Dorr and Jones make the statement, “The 365th pilots were justifiably confident in their ability to deal with whatever opposition the Luftwaffe might throw at them,” and they have the evidence to back it up. Their kill ratio was 8 to 1 in air-to-air combat.

What makes this book worth reading is the author’s compilation of vivid Ninth Air Force experiences. However, also of importance to the reader is the realization that: “Few if any of the men in the Hell Hawk’s group relished being in the war, but circumstances beyond their control made them participants.”

In the book’s concluding chapter, “Final Mission,” Dorr and Jones salute the achievement of Hell Hawks:

Their narrative is absorbing and enjoyable to read. Dorr and Jones’s writing is sharp, their approach sharper. I highly recommend this book, it is a great read for the aviation historical “buff” and the factual accuracy is right on.

JR Hafer, aviation writer

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