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Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II (and what happened to 2nd Lt. Robert Woolfolk?)

14 December 2014

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II (and what happened to 2nd Lt. Robert Woolfolk?)

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II, Nicholas A. Veronico, 2014, ISBN 9780811714556, 208 pp with 255 b/w photos

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico (front cover)

Bloody Skies is history revisited with images and elegant as well as concise captions, yet told by an author with deep understanding of both this history’s import and its personal impact upon untold numbers of combatants and their people back home. The expected photos are there — as in many other books — but, unusually, with captions detailing the missions, their crews as well as their fates. So many stories are told and some amazingly in only a single photo. Veronico has set this book apart using these photos as well as photos not often seen in publication but no less significant for their visual impact. This book grabs the reader in ways few history books are capable. Veronico must have dug for these images in the archives with head lamp and pick-axe to obtain these gems. Bloody Skies shows the reader incredible battle damage, dying aircraft, happy crew faces and how lives were lived in the unforgiving skies — as well as how men were mangled and lost in them, along with those on the ground.

Veronico’s captions are rich in information and so wonderfully done going beyond the obvious — telling so much more of the story than most authors or copy editors are willing to spend their time and effort to do. The 255 superbly reproduced black and white photos encapsulate the world of the 8th Air Force as experienced in World War II. Veronico‘s book is especially important in today’s world since most citizens have not experienced war — either directly or as a family member ceaselessly worrying while safe at home.

The evolution of daylight strategic bombing by the Eighth Air Force is accurately portrayed and includes the largely failed experiments in the B-40 and B-41. Veronico describes the tactics and flying challenges presented to fighter and bomber crews in a way which leaves the reader with an intuitive understanding — having the effect of having this history leap off the pages into the reader’s imagination.

This book sits apart from most history books on Veronico’s artisnal ability to interweave facts within the context of their times as well as the human dimension. The last chapter crystallizes his love for aviation’s history with visceral human emotion familiar to all of us as he describes his serendipitous learning of the last moments of a relative lost over hostile territory during a bombing mission of the 390th Bomb Group. This exemplifies the extraordinary final actions of an officer to save his crew in the doomed B-17G Flying Fortress known as “Decatur Deb” after a terrifyingly brief  duel which was marked by extreme violence.

Bloody Skies personalizes the statistics, for the reader, of the Eighth Air Force’s experiences which were shared by the hundreds of thousands who served in it over thousands of missions in Flying Fortresses, Liberators, Lightnings, Thunderbolts and Mustangs. Detailed information regarding statistics and units are also significant in Veronico’s Bloody Skies — this book belongs in the hands of historians, museum libraries, historical diorama makers and students of strategy.

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico

Bloody Skies: U.S. Eighth Air Force Battle Damage in World War II by Nicholas A. Veronico (back cover)

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Stackpole Books loaned a digital file of this book as an opportunity for an objective review

Cobra in the Sun

19 November 2014

Cobra in the Sun

U.S. Marine Corps Bell AH-1A Super Cobra on a sunset pass by the USS Tarawa (LHA 1) — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 3rd Class Danial A. Barker

U.S. Marine Corps Bell AH-1A Super Cobra on a sunset pass alongside the USS Tarawa (LHA 1) — U.S. Navy photo by Mass Comm Spec 3rd Class Danial A. Barker

 

Historic comet soft-landing — 1–2–3

17 November 2014

Historic comet soft-landing — 1–2–3

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Philae lander, the first robot geologist to soft-land (as opposed to impacting) onto a comet, made its historic landing recently on 12 November 2014. It made three landings  due to apparent failure of two redundant systems which were to firmly fix the lander onto the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (67P, for brevity). One system is rocket thrusters firing to force the lander onto the surface to counteract the landing bounce and the other, a harpoon system, to firmly anchor the lander onto the surface. The lander rebounded due to the extremely low gravity (about 1/50,000 that of Earth) quite high, and with a hang time which American football punters can only envy, to land and again bounce though in much less spectacular fashion. Less spectacular but if there was video to witness it would have been no less exciting since that bounce nearly had the lander leave the confines of the comet entirely!

Philae's rough landing infographic from Space.com

Philae’s rough landing infographic from Space.com

ESA caught a fortunate break though and the lander found its way to the comet’s surface though not quite on all three legs and in a shadow which will greatly reduce the solar panel recharge rate. Although the lander performed experiments, sending its precious and unique data to the mothership Rosetta, the batteries are now drained placing Philae in standy mode. Who knows, as 67P continues on its orbital path around the Sun the shadow may diminish allowing Philae to accomplish its drilling and increase the amount of data gathered.

It is remarkable to think of the Wright Brothers flight barley over a century ago and we are now landing probes on comets after their years of travel across millions of miles. Well done ESA!

 

Who owns that history?

12 November 2014

Who owns that history?

Last week Ross Sharp (of Shortfinals’s Blog) tweeted this photo, below, of the splendid de Havilland DH60 Gipsy Moth which was, at the time, in the Milestones of Flight exhibit in the RAF Museum Hendon (now RAF Museum London). Ross is a dear friend of aviation’s history and energetic advocate as well. So, it was amazing to read a certain aeronautical group demand that everyone remove that group’s name from all the retweets. There was no explanation for their action though except their previous behaviour of usurping the role of Gipsy Moth patriarchs may have something to do with it.

DH.60 Gipsy Moth, another hugely successful design by de Havilland — photo and copyright by Ross Sharp

DH.60 Gipsy Moth, another hugely successful design by de Havilland — photo and copyright by Ross Sharp

How odd that this group, in one of the countries on the Allied side of World War II,  demand a restriction on the freedom of speech? We could understand a request of course — but what was sent was a demand as blatant as having a bucket of water sloshed into the face to recall tweets for editing. We do have them to thank, however, of reminding us of this freedom even though it might be exercised to act the fool. Also, to illustrate that history belongs to everyone to caretake but to no one in particular.

Ross has been tweeting more photos than can be imagined…follow him on Twitter using @GRossSharp to see and enjoy them.

Veterans Day 2014

11 November 2014

Veterans Day 2014

Fallujah 09 Nov 2004. An unidentified Marine and Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Shane (center) recover a fatally wounded Marine. Shane was wounded moments later. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri.

Fallujah 09 Nov 2004. An unidentified Marine and Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Shane (center) recovering a fatally wounded Marine while under fire with Shane wounded just moments after this photo was taken — U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joel A. Chaverri

Here we are at another Veterans Day where most of us welcome a day of sales or, perhaps, a day off of work. Only a few percent of our population in the U.S. have connection with military service with the vast majority neatly isolated from its dedication, professionalism, danger, and vast distances between loved ones. Enjoy the holiday, it is natural to do of course,  but recall those who serve in the military today and give thanks.

Seabees at a memorial for seven fellow Seabees killed in combat in Fallujah between 30 April and 2 May in 2004. Rifles on bayonets and tools on boots — U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Eric Powell.

Seabees at a memorial for seven fellow Seabees killed in combat in Fallujah between 30 April and 2 May in 2004. Rifles on bayonets and tools on boots — U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Eric Powell

Alan McElhiney passes, leaves a significant legacy

10 November 2014

Alan McElhiney passes, leaves a significant legacy

Allan McElhiney — photo by Joe May

Allan McElhiney in June 2011 — photo by Joseph May

Alan McElhiney, the driving force behind the creation of the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum, passed away early in the morning yesterday on his 91st birthday while in hospice. Although infirm when he agreed to an interview for Travel for Aircraft he generously and gracefully gave his time in support for the museum — which was only months from opening at the time after several years of effort.

He tirelessly labored to preserve what is now the Ft. Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport early, as well as surprisingly rich, aviation heritage. Alan did so not for fame or for money — truly his was the noble quest done without prideful arrogance but with a sure hand and with dignity.

Alan McElhiney leaves a legacy with the area’s only military museum as well as a nexus for aviation history research and conference. Though, naturally, we are sad to hear of his passing we are at the same time happy for him able to see his goal realized in the opening of the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum.

Our thanks to Minerva Bloom, also of the museum, for sending this news in such a timely manner. More of the museum can be read here:

Seahawk coasting along Kauai

5 November 2014

Seahawk coasting along Kauai

A UH-60 Sea Hawk of the Black Knights (Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron [HSC] 4 aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) coasts down the island of Kauai (Kaua'i in the Hawaiin language) — U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Joseph Pfaff

A SH-60 Seahawk of the Black Knights (Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron [HSC] 4 aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) coasts down the island of Kauai (Kaua’i in the Hawaiin language) — U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Joseph Pfaff

There are times when people get paid to enjoy life — as this Black Knight crew must be :)

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