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Ill-conceived strategy dangerous

Look at raid that prompted changes

BY CHRIS MULDROW

A WORLD WAR II-era B–17 bomber bristled with defensive 50-caliber machine guns at nose and tail, top turret, waist and belly.  Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold, commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, believed that with those guns, massive formations of the bombers could conduct precision daytime bombing raids on Germany without long-range fighter escorts.

Robert J. Mrazek’s “To Kingdom Come” details a disastrous raid on Stuttgart that proved Arnold wrong.

The problem with daylight raids becomes  apparent as Mrazek walks through the mission. At the time, Allied fighters didn’t have the range to escort the bombers all the way to their targets.  German fighters were free to attack the bombers when they were most exposed: when they had to fly straight and true on their final bombing runs.

Mrazek does an amazingly good job of shifting focus from the generals arguing over mission doctrine, to the pilots driving the big Flying Fortresses, to the gunners keeping their eyes open for approaching Focke–Wulfs and Messerschmidts.

Several of the men whose planes were shot from the sky were able to parachute to safety, and Mrazek follows their dangerous flight to the French Resistance and freedom.

The book also details the arguments at the highest level of the Army Air Forces that led to stepped-up efforts to get fighter escorts that could hang with the bombers all the way to their targets.

 Chris Muldrow is chief digital officer of The Free Lance–Star Publishing Co.

TO KINGDOM COME

By Robert J. Mrazek

(NAL, $16, 400 pp.)

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/books/2012/05/13/ill-conceived-strategy-dangerous/

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