Hell's Angels: The True Story of the 303rd Bomb Group in World War II. By Jay A. Stout. New York: Berkeley Caliber, 2015. Map. Photographs. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. 454. $27.95 ISBN: 978-0-425-27409-5
Jay Stout, a former Marine Corps pilot and veteran of Desert Storm, has established himself as one of the leading chroniclers of military aviation. He has had eight previous books published in the past fifteen years or so. This most-recent effort follows Fighter Group: The 352nd "Blue-Nosed Bastards" in World War II. In Hell's Angels, he tackles the American portion of the Combined Bombing Offensive from the perspective of the men who served in the 303rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), one the many bombing outfits equipped with the Boeing B-17.
Writing unit histories is a tricky proposition, since there is a tendency to become bogged down in a repetitious litany of missions. In this instance, Stout, for the most part, avoids this trap by interjecting into virtually every chapter a discussion of various facets that routinely effected either the mission or the lives of those involved. Using letters, diaries, and interviews intertwined with official records, he weaves together the unit's combat history.
He selected the 303rd because it was among the very earliest groups based in England to enter combat. Along the way, it achieved numerous firsts (e.g., first unit to fly 200 missions). One of its aircraft, nicknamed Hell's Angels, completed ywenty-five...