John Radzilowski and ‎ Jerzy Szcześniak
ARRSE Rating
1 Mushroom Head
Operation FRANTIC was the overall name for shuttle bombing missions carried out by the 8th and 15th US Air Forces between their bases in the UK and Italy and outstations in the USSR. The operation was conceived not only to extend the striking range of US aircraft by flying directly on to the USSR after their targets, but also for political purposes, providing an example of practical cooperation between the Western Allies and the USSR. As a result, the fact that the seventh mission in the series involved dropping supplies to the Warsaw Uprising hastened the end of this cooperation, as support for an independent Polish administration or the Home Army ran directly counter to Soviet interests. At the time, the Red Army had halted its offensive just short of Warsaw, waiting for German forces to wipe out the last elements of independent Polish resistance before proceeding.

“Frantic 7” is made up of two books. The first, originally published in Polish, follows the mission itself in detail, focusing on a single B-17 that was shot down during the resupply effort, and the fates of its crew. This account has subsequently been given an introduction and conclusion by a US author providing some of the political context for both the attempts to supply the Uprising by air and for FRANTIC itself, and the short and long-term consequences of the mission – although not, frustratingly, any information on the preceding six missions in the sequence, which leaves a confusing gap in the narrative.

Unfortunately the seams between the contributions of the two authors are all too obvious. The contextual bookends are clear, coherent, well-organised, and although they provide only a limited introduction to the topic do read relatively easily and would be useful for anybody who is entirely unfamiliar with the background to the Uprising and to the FRANTIC missions. The core of the book, unfortunately, is entirely different in style and approach. It takes an exhaustive approach to cataloguing every available piece of information about the mission and the crew, sometimes in no particular order, and consequently resembles a collection of author’s notes ready to be selectively written up rather than a finished narrative.

The book badly needed the attention of an editor, not only to smooth the abrupt shift between its different sections and to render the account of the mission more readable, but also to deal with the many errors of translation and terminology that suggest that whoever translated the original material from Polish was not familiar with aviation or even military terminology. Many simple terms are mangled, for example "bomb chamber" for bomb bay and "speedometer" for ASI; but in addition, nonsenses have been introduced where terms have been translated from the original English to Russian, to Polish, and then back to English again – which is the route by which we get "young lieutenant" when what the author actually means is "Second Lieutenant". The mistranslations are so prevalent that they will not only annoy the purists but actually repeatedly get in the way of comprehension.

A competent editor could take the mass of material presented here and turn it into a fascinating and informative short book. It is a shame that wasn't done. As it stands, I would only recommend this book to a reader that is collecting source material for detailed study of this one specific mission. Anybody else is likely to find the text as a whole annoying, incomplete, and at times barely readable.

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