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Fighter Group: The 352nd “Blue-Nosed Bastards” in World War II  By Lt. Col. (Ret.) Jay A. Stout, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pa., 2012, $28.95.

When he came upon an Arado Ar-234 over Remagen Bridge on March 14, 1945, P-51 pilot Don Bryan already had a history with the German jet bomber. He’d previously encountered Ar-234s three times and had passed along valuable insights to intelligence officers—but he had not yet scored. “Shooting down an Ar-234 while flying a slower, piston-engine fighter obviously required considerable skill,” author Jay Stout points out. Bryan stuck tenaciously on the tail of the Arado until, as Stout quotes Bryan, the German “rolled over on his back and dived straight into the ground and exploded.”

You get a lot when you read about Bryan, George Preddy, Robert “Punchy” Powell and others fighting from the airfield at Bodney, England, and taking on the Luftwaffe’s best in their Mustangs and P-47 Thunderbolts. This tale’s pilots, crew chiefs and armorers are some of the men who made it possible for the Allied air campaign to continue and for the Normandy landings to happen. Bryan himself became an ace, with 13-plus aerial victories. Other skilled shooters in the 352nd Fighter Group included Preddy, the war’s top P-51 ace (26.83 aerial victories), described by another pilot as a “happy-go-lucky type, maybe on occasion even a hell-raiser, who made certain he got the maximum out of life.”

This character-driven narrative enables us to know and to fly with men who might be characterized as a “Band of Brothers with planes”—except that Stout doesn’t sentimentalize war in Stephen Ambrose fashion and he spares us Tom Brokaw’s“greatest generation” pastiche. A former Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet pilot, Stout gives us prose that is lean, fact-filled, fast-paced—and difficult to put down.

Fighter Group is beautifully designed, packaged and bound, and at a time when book prices are soaring like a P-51 on full throttle, reasonable on the wallet.

Originally published in the March 2013 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.