Fighting Hitler's Jets: The Extraordinary Story of the American Airmen Who Beat the Luftwaffe and Defeated Nazi Germany. By Robert F. Dorr. Minneapolis Minn.: Zenith, 2013. Photographs. Notes. Appendices. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 298. $30.00 ISBN: 9780-7603-4398-2
Deployed late and in small quantities, the Me 262, Me 163, Ar 234, He 162, and other jet and rocket aircraft in the Luftwaffes ranks in 1944 demonstrated a potential to alter the course of aerial warfare. Quick work by Allied air forces' units provided the strategies and tactics needed to blunt the new weapons' edge. Understandably, these aircraft are irresistible research topics and, accordingly, have been well covered from a technical and design perspective. But what of the people involved in the fight? What about dealing with an enemy whose weapons yield a seemingly asymmetric advantage? How does the fighter pilot, squadron or group leader, or senior leadership react and adjust to effectively deal with unforeseen and novel developments? What qualities, inclinations, inherent skills, and motivations go into an individual who successfully conquers these issues?
This timely and welcome book plugs a gap in historiography of the jet war over Europe, focusing foremost on the pilots, designers, engineers, and leaders involved on both sides. The backgrounds, training, experiences, and thoughts of the American airmen yield insights into the life and motivations of fighter pilots. A primary theme is to communicate to the reader an understanding the essence of a fighter pilot. Yet, beyond the title, Dorr covers enemy pilots and jet designers, engineers, and manufacturers. These jets were a revolution, not an evolution. Their development, manufacture, and fielding (as imperfect as that was) were extraordinary achievements. Here, too, the book tries to impart some sense of what set apart these designers and engineers as they turned out a plethora of designs that postwar designers plumbed for years.
Dorr effectively frames the narrative by beginning and ending the book with two...