Just picked up this book. One hundred and fifty veterans were consulted during the research for this book. What I like from the outset is that it doesn't appear to try to blow a lot of smoke.
For instance it dispels that account of the P-47 hitting the speed of sound.
As for Bob Johnson's P-47 that supposedly was riddled with 20mm fire and had the German pull along side and salute before fling home, the book indicates that Johnson's plane did have some 20mm holes but that Johnson's imagination ran away a bit and that the part about the German pilot saluting before flying off didn't happen.
There was another story about Lt. Charles Clamp who's Thunderbolt took five 20mm hits and many rifle round hits and still made it back.
An Me109 put 5 20mm cannon shells into 2nd. Lt. Melvin Wood's P-47. He barely made it back. The engine kept cutting out. Two of them went into the cowling and exploded against manifold and oil lines.
An Me-110 exploded from .50 cal fire from Cpt. Eugene O'Neill. He sustained damage from pieces of the aircraft hitting his and the Me-110's control cable got wrapped around his rudder. Back at the base, they made bracelets out of it with little four leaf clovers soldered on for their wives and girlfriends.
Fancis Gabreski was deeply religious and attended mass every day. He didn't spend time at the bar after missions with his hands reliving the combat. He liked to hang out with other Poles. He was not popular with many pilots who thought he lacked compassion and that he was self-possessed. There is a picture of his rudder pedal which was destroyed by a 20mm cannon round. Gabreski liked his plane to be smooth. He said that it made it faster.
After they got the paddle blades, they wouldn't hesitate to engage at low altitudes but they were still at a disadvantage against the Me-109's and Fw-190's.
Airfields were very dangerous as they had an enormous amount of AA protection.
Dave Schilling was quite mechanically minded. He modified a .45 pistol to shoot full auto and designed a larger clip. He also designed an electronic trim tab which the ground crew installed and also a perspex bubble in the side windows to make it easier to see behind the plane. He also experimented with dragging an anchor attached to a cable with a spool underneath his plane to tear up telephone lines. He destroyed the bottom of his aircraft fuselage testing it.
Lt. George Bostwick had 250lb bombs under each wing. He started rolling down the runway before he rceived the word to take off. By the time word was received, he only had a small amount of runway left. He hit a tree stump which tore the pylon and bomb from his right wing. The plane flew fine so he just continued with the mission.
The book indicates that the 56th was told that they would receive P-47N's but the brass wanted a switchover to P-51's for standardization purposes. The 56th was upset about the M being poorly tested before it was given to them. They lost out on a lot of combat because of grounded "M"'s for over a month while they worked the bugs out. They operated a severely limited number of "D" models during this period.
The author states that the bulk of the 56th's air to air victories were obtained with better quality pilots flying for the opposition than other groups flying Mustangs.
All in all a good read.