Birds from Hell. By Wilbur H. Morrison. Central Point, Ore.: Hellgate press, 2001. Photographs. Bibliography. Pp. 274. $34.95 ISBN: 1-55571-550-8
Mr. Morrison is well qualified to write about B-29 operations in World War II. As a bombardier-navigator, he served with what would become Twentieth Air Force from mid1943 until after V-J Day. He underwent early B-29 training; participated in India, China, and Marianas operations; and served in both line crew and squadron/group staff positions. Much has been written on B-29 development and the aircraft's conventional and nuclear bombing of Japanese targets, but the author provides the operational crew perspective. He has written several other books (most notably, 1979's Point of No Return: The Story of the 20th Air Force) using as primary sources interviews with many of the important players such as Gens. Curtis LeMay, Haywood Hansell, and John Montgomery.
The story starts with the almost desperate efforts to forge a combat-ready weapon system in the face of aircraft and training-hour shortages, immature engines, hundreds of ongoing engineering changes, and political and operational needs to get the aircraft into action. Morrison describes the long flights to India and China where XXth Bomber Command commenced operations, fighting logistics and geography almost as much as they fought the Japanese. He provides a crewman's view of not only operations, but also the environment in which XXth lived--his recollections of bases, local towns, and "tourist" sites in India and China add depth to the story.
Early B-29 operations achieved relatively little: not enough aircraft, inexperienced crews, almost insurmountable logistics, and weather thwarted the best efforts that could be put forth. But the Marianas were soon in US. hands, and a remarkable building program transformed them into the world's busiest airfields. Early XXIst Bomber Command bombing results...