Hell Hawks

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Author, Robert F. Dorr

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4 Responses to Hell Hawks

  1. Don Struke, Balto, MD says:

    As the owner of many of Bob Dorr’s books, I have come to expect that anything he produces will be well-researched, well-presented, and very well-written. “Hell Hawks!” is right up there not only with Dorr’s other works but with the best in Be There combat writing. Here’s an example: “The German pilot ran flat-out low…threading the needle between a church steeple and tall brick smokestack. Narrow streets raced under the wings of Kraman’s P-47 as he engaged the throttle button triggering emergency water injection. His Pratt & Whitney surged as Kraman squeezed off short bursts at his quarry, the enemy banking abruptly left and right to throw off the American’s aim. Across the Rhine, farther into Germany, the pair raced east…”

    Dorr and co-author Thomas D. Jones (USAF Academy grad, ex-B-52 driver, veteran of four NASA space shuttle flights) also rightly recognize the guys who weren’t strapping into the 365th Fighter Group’s P-47s: “The men with stripes on their arms didn’t pilot Jugs, but they made warfare in the Jug possible.” We tend to forget that the aircraft of WW II, after all, were just 15 years removed from Lindbergh’s Ryan NYP of 1927 but were very complex machines. The authors salute the men with the stripes well.

    The results of close to 200 interviews of 365th FG veteans, other combat vets, family members, and more, plus four years of research, “Hell Hawks!” is loaded with the day-to-day details of fighting a tenaciously fierce enemy, demonstrating throughout the book that ground attack combat was a deadly way to earn your flight pay. The authors bring the personalities of the young pilots alive as well as provide a big picture of Allied strategy and the pace of war from D-Day to victory. This is an excellent book not only for military historians but for anyone who enjoys aviation writers at the top of their game. Splendid!

  2. James Jones says:

    365th veteran Charles Johnson wrote his comprehensive “History of the Hell Hawks” in the early ’70s but only a limited number were published and if a copy can be found, it is very expensive. This new look at the group reasserts the history of this important outfit into the public eye. More importantly, the authors captured more personal stories of the 365th members that otherwise would soon be lost forever. For those who don’t want to read through a long boring group history, this is the book for you! It is very well written and fast paced. I thank the authors for this wonderful work. Jay Jones, author of “The 370th Fighter Group in World War II”.

  3. Michael Shakespear says:

    The P-47 fighter-bomber story and all that surrounds it — the plane and the men that it served — are brought to life in Robert F. Dorr and Thomas D. Jones’s new book, “Hell Hawks!” Mr. Jones, a veteran astronaut, B-52D pilot, on Kindle see his Marine Air: The History of the Flying Leathernecks in Words and Photos, and Mr. Dorr, a former senior diplomat, are veteran authors in the field of aviation history and space exploration. In this book, they give us drama and emotion, a powerful sense of history combined with illuminating action.

    Dorr and Jones’s well-told story belies the cliche about Flying Fortresses and Mustangs winning the war: Their narrative is absorbing and enjoyable to read.

    Introducing the voices of numerous pilots, ground crewmen, and enemies, Dorr and Jones blend a trove of original interviews to create an air men’s history of the 365th Fighter Group and the vast destruction it wrought.

    Chronicling the Thunderbolt’s interdiction war makes for an exciting narrative. It brings new light to the historical importance of ground attacks by fighter-bombers that wielded great devastation on German military forces.

    The term for fighter-bombers — or what authors Dorr and Jones, using the German’s own coinage, have called “Jabos” — are tactical ground attack aircraft such as the Soviet Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, RAF Hawker Typhoon, and the USAAF Republic P-47 Thunderbolt.

    But, for all its familiarity and indisputable greatness, the P-47 Thunderbolt’s beginnings and the development of its mission are not generally understood in comparison to the glamous North American P-51 Mustang.

    The P-47’s calling as a fighter-bomber spanned thousands of missions against Hitler’s armies. But three episodes stand out as decisive in the victorious campaign: The breakout in Normandy, the race to the Rhine, and the Battle of the Bulge.

    Riddled with anecdote, fortified by detailed accounts of exciting air action stories, “Hell Hawks!” is an enthralling read, equal parts victory and defeat. Dorr and Jones’s writing is sharp, their approach sharper: they write “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 glamor for the readers. The authors counter, “The pilots took a fatalistic attitude toward the work, which was gritty, dangerous, and frequently terrifying.”

    It is important to understand, as Dorr and Jones do, that the Allied armies’ role in defeating Hitler’s panzers would not have been possible without the Ninth Air Force’s relentless tactical ground attacks.

    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,” 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: “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.”

    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.”

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

  4. Jeramy Nagle says:

    I am looking for more information about my grandfather who flew in the 388th FG Hell Hawks. His Name Was Clyde Nagle from Watertown WI. Any info or links, or to become a member would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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