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"WW II Pilot Memoirs" Topic

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highlandcatfrog Inactive Member28 Oct 2012 4:09 p.m. PST

Inspired by this thread:

TMP link

Here's a list of some of the best (IMO) memoirs I've got from WW II pilots, leaving out any mentioned in the original thread. To keep it short I'm only listing a few of the ones I have but I hope other people will chime in with their favorites as well.

Dauntless Helldivers by Hal Buell. Buell was a pilot of the two named aircraft, flying from Guadalcanal in '42 and from the Hornet in '44. One of the best memoirs around (IMO).

A Wing and A Prayer by Harry Crosby (sp.?) The author was a B-17 navigator with the 100th BG of the 8th AF, later rising to lead navigator for the Group. He flew on some of the "Bloody Hundredth's" toughest missions.

Air Combat At 20 Feet by Garrett Middlebrook. He was a pilot flying B-25s in the 38th BG, conducting low-level bombing, strafing, and skip bombing missions out of New Guinea in 1943, including the Battle of the Bismarck Sea and raids on Wewak and Rabaul.

Stuka Pilot by Hans Ulrich Rudel. The Stuka pilot sans pareil, nonetheless the book is sometimes hard to get through due to the author's frequent use of disgusting terms such as "Slavic hordes". Worth a read, but be warned.

The Big Show by Pierre Closterman. A Free French fighter pilot serving with the RAF, Closterman's story is pretty incredible.

Bringing the Thunder by Gordon Bennett Robertson, Jr. B-29 pilot flying out of the Marianas against Japan in 1945.

Skipper by T. Hugh Winters. CO of VF-19 and later CAG of Air Group 19. Poignant in that even 50+ years later Winters still found it very difficult to write of the loss of his best friend over the Philippines in Nov. 1944.

A 20th Century Guy by Jim Pearce. Hellcat pilot with VF-18 in '43-'44 then with VF-17 in 1945. Pearce became a USN test pilot for many years after the war.

The Jolly Rogers by Tom Blackburn. CO of VF-17 when they were flying Corsairs out of the Solomon Islands when the Zero was still a potent weapon because the JNAF still had skillful pilots.

An Ace of the Eighth by Norman "Bud" Fortier. P-47 pilot and 8-kill ace with the 8th AF.

The First and the Last by Adolf Galland. If you haven't heard of Galland you've probably never read anything about WW II aerial warfare. Enough said.

I Flew For the Fuhrer by Heinz Knoke. Luftwaffe fighter pilot; amongst other exploits he battled B-17s on their first Berlin raid March 6, 1944.

The Grim Reapers by John Henebry. B-25 pilot and later CO of the 3rd BG flying low-level skip-bombing missions out of New Guinea in 1942-1943.

Bomber Pilot by Philip Ardery. He was a B-24 pilot on the infamous Operation Tidal Wave mission against Ploesti.

We Band of Brothers by R.E. Peppy Blount. Pilot with the 345th BG "Air Apaches" flying low-level B-25 missions over the Philippines and Formosa in '44-'45.

The Wrong Stuff by Truman Smith. B-17 copilot with the 385th BG of the 8th AF.

Sky Giants Over Japan by Chester Marshall. B-29 copilot in the 20th AF flying out of the Marianas.

Giorgio Italiano by Harry D. George. B-25 pilot in the MTO, shot down over Italy and rescued by Italian Partisans.

Tumult In the Clouds by James Goodson. Spitfire pilot in an RAF Eagle Squadron, Goodson became one of the leading aces in the 4th FG while flying P-51s.

Wreaking Havoc by Joseph W. Rutter. An A-20 pilot over the Philippines, Rutter never ran into airborne enemy fighters but still became a battle fatigue case after 130+ (IIRC) missions.

Fist From the Sky by Peter C. Smith. Not truly a memoir as the subject of the book, Soryu Val pilot Takashige Egusa didn't survive the war. The author used material provided by Egusa's wife, and since memoirs by Japanese pilots in English are rarer than hen's teeth I've included it.

O.k., that's it for now. I'll let other people weigh in before I dive back into the bookshelves again.

Phil Hall28 Oct 2012 5:04 p.m. PST

God is my Copilot: Robert Scott. Flying with the Flying Tigers

Samurai: Saburo Sakai

gweirda Inactive Member28 Oct 2012 5:51 p.m. PST

Hell in the Heavens. John Foster

zippyfusenet Inactive Member28 Oct 2012 6:23 p.m. PST

Not an individual memoir, M. G. Sheftall Blossoms in the Wind/Human Legacies of the Kamikaze is a compilation of Sheftall's interviews with Japanese WWII survivors, including family members of men who died as Kamikazes, non-flying members of Kamikaze organizations, flying trainees who were never dispatched on their final missions, and one man who, amazingly, survived his final sortie when Hellcats shot him down. Well written, insightful, highly recommended.

benglish Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2012 6:26 p.m. PST


B-17 Pilot and later fighter pilot. Sadly KIA. Absolutely amazing book if you can find it.

delta6ct Inactive Member29 Oct 2012 2:22 a.m. PST

I'd add Fighting Squadron by Robert Winston and Arise to Conquer by Ian Gleed.


highlandcatfrog Inactive Member29 Oct 2012 7:39 a.m. PST

Blossoms In the Wind is indeed a good book. Along the same vein (though not dealing with tokkotai pilots) are The Last Zero Fighter by Dan King and Beyond Pearl Harbor by Ron Werneth. Considering the dearth of English language stories from Japanese aircrew these are (all 3) good books to have.

God Is My Copilot is a decent book but you have to bear in mind that it was written and published during the war, meaning that there were things that couldn't be said and it has a high "Rah rah! Yay us!" factor.

I really can't recommend Samurai. Originally published in English, it wasn't translated into Japanese until a few years later. Sakai read it after it was translated and immediately disavowed it, claiming he didn't say any of those things and that the book is a tissue of lies. A much better book (very good in fact) on Saburo Sakai is Winged Samurai by Henry Sakaida. Sakaida, unlike Caidin, actually conducted extensive interviews with Sakai (unlike Caidin, who wrote his entire book after a single 30-minute interview conducted through a translator) and had his full help and cooperation writing the book. It's expensive, but worth it.

On Martin Caidin, I would advise readers to steer clear of everything he wrote. His books are cracking good reads, but his penchant for invention is now well-known. Realistically, his books should be classed as historical fiction, as the vast majority of the material in them consists of stories he made up with little or no historical accuracy.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member29 Oct 2012 9:06 a.m. PST

Thanx for the tip re Caidin, Steve. Too bad, he's a favorite author of mine, but he's not the first writer to prefer a good story over the facts.

boy wundyr x Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2012 11:15 a.m. PST

Hmmm, so his story of the ghost-piloted P-38 in "Fork-Tailed Devil" might not have been true? Damn, that's one of my favourites, along with the Lancaster that flew itself to land in farmer's field with only an unaware tail-gunner on board (not a Caidin story).

Some of my own favourites are Johnnie Johnson's "Wing Leader" and Peter Townsend's "Duel of Eagles". There are probably more, I seem to come home with some almost every time I'm around a used book store. Some other favs have already been listed.

I appreciate the suggestions for books from the Japanese side, they are definitely rare as hen's teeth.

Any good Italian perspectives?

Brian Bronson Inactive Member29 Oct 2012 11:25 a.m. PST

My Christmas/wish list just got quite a bit bigger! Thanks everyone.

Mainly28s Inactive Member29 Oct 2012 11:33 a.m. PST

I'll add a few:

I Was a Kamikaze by R Nagatsuka

Luftwaffe test pilot: Flying captured allied aircraft of World War 2 by Hans-Werner Lerche

Wings on My Sleeve: The World's Greatest Test Pilot tells his story by Captain Eric Brown

The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies by Colin D. Heaton and Anne-Marie

Over Fields of Fire: Flying the Sturmovik in Action on the Eastern Front 1942-45 (Soviet Memories of War) by Anna Timofeeva-Egorova

Swastika in the Gunsight: Memoirs of a Russian Fighter Pilot, 1941-45 by Igor Kaberov and Peter Rule

German Fighter Ace Walter Nowotny: An Illustrated Biography by Werner Held

KG 200: The True Story by P.W. Stahl

boy wundyr x Supporting Member of TMP29 Oct 2012 12:14 p.m. PST

The KG 200 is one I'll follow up on, I read/own a novel based on the concept (a B-17 is used to crash-land spies in England). I've always thought I'd do up some 1/600 Allied a/c in German markings if I had some spares.

The Sturmovik book sounds interesting too.

BattlerBritain31 Oct 2012 12:48 p.m. PST

'First Light' by Geoffrey Wellum is a good read.

As is 'Spifires, Thunderbolts and Warm Beer' by Philip D Caine.

DBS303 Inactive Member01 Nov 2012 5:21 a.m. PST

Roald Dahl's Going Solo is worthy of mention, along with Tim Vigors' posthumously published Life's Too Short To Cry.

Dahl covers his experiences in Greece, Crete and the Lebanon – very bitter about the Vichy French. Whilst Vigors covers the Battle of Britain, then flying a Buffalo in Malaya up to the point he was shot down and casevaced with burns.

Oberst Radl Inactive Member01 Nov 2012 7:51 p.m. PST

Thanks, all -- what a fantastic list. Already ordered a few titles.

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