Fighter Group: The 352d "Blue-Nosed Bastards" in World War II. By Jay A. Stout. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2012. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xiii, 418. $29.95 ISBN: 978-0-8117-0577-6
At its peak during World War II, the Army Air Forces (AAF) fielded forty-six fighter groups in the war against Germany. Histories of these units vary greatly from bare and rough wartime official accounts, to more recent efforts that are sleek, well researched, well written, and well illustrated. While all of these outfits deserve a first-rate history to preserve and commemorate their contribution to the Allied victory, unfortunately this is not the case. For a variety of reasons some have received more coverage than others. The 352d Fighter Group is not one of these units although it was successful and in the thick of the action.
In the fight against the Luftwaffe, the 352d Fighter Group registered 504 aerial victories to rank eighth of the AAF fighter groups fighting over Europe and North Africa; the group's 487th Fighter Squadron was the third highest scoring AAF squadron in the entire war. Two of the top AAF European aces, George Preddy (twenty-seven victories) and John Meyer (twenty-four victories), served in the unit and were two of seventeen AAF fighter pilots to score more than twenty victories. Of the five AAF pilots who downed six or more aircraft on one mission against Germany, two were from the 487th. Despite this, the 352d has received little attention.
Jay Stout corrects this in Fighter Group. Having published a macro account of the AAF's fighter war against Germany (The Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe), he turns to this micro effort. He uses a wide range of rich sources, including official documents, interviews, letters, and secondary materials in this effort. There is much on life on the ground, with attention to food, drink, shelter, partying, weather, mascots, natives, and of course, women. Stout also gives context to the story touching on events that occurred some distance from the 352d, but the book centers on the group's combat experience. The story is presented in a chronological sequence with some well-done topical tangents that are informative and often unique in the literature. Noteworthy is coverage of two subjects seldom discussed or even mentioned: claims and charges of shooting at aircrew in parachutes by both Americans and Germans, and aerial and ground-based "friendly fire." Although...