During the air battles that destroyed Nazi Germany's ability to wage war, one bomb group was especially distinguished.
The Hell's Angels.
At the outbreak of World War II, the United States was in no way prepared to wage war. Although the US declared war against Germany in December 1941, the country lacked the manpower, the equipment, and the experience it needed to fight. Even had an invasion force been ready, a successful assault on Nazi-occupied Europe could not happen until Germany's industrial and military might were crippled.
Because no invasion could happen without air superiority, the first target was the Luftwaffe - the most powerful and battle-hardened airforce in the world. To this end, the United States Army Air Forces joined with Great Britain's already-engaged Royal Air Force to launch a strategic air campaign that ultimately brought the Luftwaffe to its knees. One of the standout units of this campaign was the legendary 303rd Bomb Group - a.k.a. Hell's Angels.
This is the 303rd's story, as told by the men who made it what it was. Taking their name from their B-17 of the same name, they became one of the most distinguished and important air combat units in history. The dramatic and terrible air battles they fought against Germany changed the course of the war.
©2015 Jay A. Stout (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
It's difficult to say--I sure didn't like to stop listening.
Although the stories of air combat are told in a way that's both exciting and personal, it's not just about air combat, which, when overdone, can get numbing or overwhelming. The fighting is woven into a total story of strategy, tactics, equipment and people. And it tells the story of the support personnel as well--these are the folks who made sure the aircraft and men were ready for each mission. And it includes lots of personal stories and vignettes that make the men and what they did that much more real. Altogether it makes a very engaging story.
Robertson Dean performs this amazing story with the gravitas it warrants while simultaneously drawing the reader into the gut-wrenching action that typified the air war over Europe. His timing and tempo, together with his ability to apply nuance and heart, move the book along perfectly. It's difficult to imagine this book read by anyone else.
Terror, heart and sacrifice at five miles high.
There is probably no better start-to-finish narrative history of a World War II Bomb Group.
Very well-narrated. The actual "story" of the 303rd and it's men is only about half the book. The other half is about the B-17 bombers, emerging technologies, and mission experiences. While I enjoyed this level of detail and background, it may appear more like a text book to many readers. The most important part of this book is that it does not shy away from the personal and physical impacts of combat.
Definitely. As a former combat fighter pilot, the author has an in-depth knowledge of the subject, and he is a master storyteller.
Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer. They complement one another and Hell's Angels is largely about the personal reflections of flight crews and Half a Wing goes into technical aspects and covers the aftermath of the war on former combatants who meet one another.
BG Robert Travis, Commander 41st Bomb Wing
Saddened by all the carnage
January 14, 2016
"Hell’s Angels" is a true story about "20 something" youngsters who became men overnight. They volunteered as pilots and crew members in many of the most important and dangerous aerial missions in WWII. Jay Stout, the author, is a former combat fighter pilot who has "been there, and done that," and now plies his skills as a master story teller.
A true account of what it was really like to be in a B-17 crew in the dangerous sky's of Europe. They fought as a team and died as a team while slowly eroding the Nazi industrial complex. A great historical account of the Army Air Force.
Unable to choose one over the next. The book rubs the readers nose right into what the air war was like.
No, but I will look for more of Mr. Dean's writings.
As a former Airman, I had noting but respect for the men that got into those B-17's each day knowing that a large percentage would not return.
One of the best overall accounts of the air war I have read.
We owe these men a debt of gratitude, the history is enthralling along with the men and their stories. You get to know some of the thousands and thus become involved in their lives.
Aviation geek, computer & database geek, bad hockey player, recovering CPA
Wow! Just finished Hell's Angels this morning. What a great book, especially if you're an aviation history fan. It's almost like Mr. Stout used the 303rd as a mechanism for describing, in general, what life in the 8th air force, and what bomber operations were like. So, you get the 303rd's history but end up much better educated about what the air war was like for all of the 8th air force personnel.
Here are things I really appreciated:
- The author does a really nice job of chronologically following the group's history. However, this isn't a dry recounting of events - it's got a lot of life.
- There are a huge number of compelling first person accounts. The author clearly did a ton of research.
- Sometimes I read aviation history and it's clear that some authors don't have a strong grasp of the facts and of flight concepts (e.g. one book talks about how Rickenbacker turned his plane by pulling the stick left and applying right rudder - really?). However, I didn't encounter anything in this book that seemed questionable. I think that, perhaps, this comes from the fact that the author is a pilot.
- There are technical details but I didn't find them overwhelming. For example, the description of what it was like to be a ball turret gunner, and how the ball turret actually worked, was educational. On the other hand, if you aren't interested in it, that material was over in about 15 minutes. Also, these technical items don't all come at once; Stout manages to weave them in at appropriate points during the overall chronological narrative.
- Narrator was perfect - he was clear and applied just the right amount of accent to the characters through the book. He, also, got the pronunciation right (which I can't say for all aviation history narrators)
Here are some things that aren't necessarily failings so much as ideas / a wish list for a future Stout work:
- It would be nice to hear similar (perhaps shorter) perspectives from 8th AF units that flew B24s and other hardware
- It would be nice to hear similar perspectives from fighter pilots
- I guess I would have liked a bit more detail about what flying the B17 was like from the pilot's perspective (i.e. to a pilot, what was different about flying a 17 than flying a 24? What were things they had to be careful of? What did they really like?)
- What about a similar work from groups in other theaters?
Anyhow, I loved this audiobook. I really started to dread the end as we got into late 1944 and I knew it was coming. Highly recommend!
My father was a R waist gunner on Warewolf with Oxrider and on Yankee Doodle Dandy with O'Connor he completed 25 missions. I knew Van R White and was saddened to hear of his passing in May. Many of the names mentioned in the book were familiar but I didn't know them. Anyone is lucky to return from a war but to hear of the many things like the cold and youth of the 303rd among many other things and I realize my father was indeed blessed to have returned home to marry and have children. I didn't realize just how fortunate he was when he bailed out to come home alive. My only regret in getting this book now is that my father has passed and I cannot discuss it with him. This is a very enlightening story.
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