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Thunderbolt Triumphant

Thunderbolt Triumphant

Chris Bucholtz
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
Thunderbolt Triumphant by Chris Bucholtz

The 367th Fighter Group USAF was formed in the USA during 1942 and trained in various locations there, This must have been a very exciting time for the young pilots. Firstly the flight training, then ground attack training, followed by bombing training before embarking on the Troopship ‘The Queen Elizabeth’ before arriving in England in January 1944. Their aircraft was the P47 Thunderbolt, though they lusted after ‘Mustangs,’ they never came their way.

The 376 fighter Group became operational during the Spring of 1944 and spent much time over the channel in France, mainly knocking out ground targets or escorting bombing missions of the ‘Mighty Eighth’ to all the famous targets in Germany, and then came D Day. I was always of the opinion that the Luftwaffe were very thin on the ground in Normandy, but not the case so it seems, with ME 109s being the main threat to the fighter group. They encountered daily air battles with sometimes up to 20 German opponents mostly the ME 109s.

After the breakout from Normandy the group fought on into Germany. Pilots were given certain targets but with the brief ‘ If you can’t find your target due to weather or whatever, then pick your own targets on the way back to base. They certainly took the war to the German troops on the ground, the favourite targets being the German 88s which worked in groups, the 88s were mainly positioned on the RAF/ USAF Bomber Route corridors to the Rhineland.

The ‘Battle of the Bulge’ gets good coverage especially after the fog cleared, it then became, in the pilots own words ‘A Turkey Shoot.’ Where they claim to have destroyed the whole of the 6th Panzer Army.

After the Bulge the war was taken on into Germany, whereby meeting Luftwaffe ME 109s was a regular daily event. The US pilots could tell within minutes if their German opponent was an ‘experienced pilot or not,’ those that were experienced, gave a very good account of themselves. One US pilot that met a 109 on Valentines Day 1945 said "The bastard wrote 'Happy Valentine' right across my fuselage"

The book is mainly an enlargement of the details of the Group’s pilot’s log books, the reader will have to give thought to the US pilot’s expressions, they are sometimes hard to follow. Casualties for the fighter group was very high, aircraft losses were colossal, on occasions they made one good aircraft out of three damaged ones, while working in a field of a foot of snow behind the American Lines.

The armaments carried by the Thunderbolts was very impressive: Cluster bombs, Napalm, 500 and 1000 pound bombs, also multiple machine guns; no wonder the Germans feared them. The Thunderbolts often worked at treetop level and was able to see camouflaged German positions before returning to beat them up!

There are some good escape and evasion stories from the many ‘downed’ pilots that made their way back to allied lines from behind the German lines, there were surprisingly at least twelve of these.

The job of the pilots was straight out of the ‘Boy’s Own’ version of books, they certainly had a very exciting war. Sadly the casualties of Thunderbolt pilots was very high, this of course comes with such a dangerous task. Bless them one and all!

The story lines within the chapters are not really in chronological order, but tell various stories of different pilots and different actions, there is no real story line to follow, but mainly battles and pilots involved, but it’s good reading.

The book is priced at £30, an expensive buy! Unless of course you are very keen on the Thunderbolt and those who flew them.
I award the book 4 stars.


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