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SPITFIRES, THUNDERBOLTS, AND WARM BEER: An American Fighter Pilot Over Europe  Philip D. Caine, Potomac Books, 1995, $17.55

What was it like, day by day, to be one of the Americans who went into aerial combat during the early days of World War II, before the United States entered the fray? LeRoy Gover was one of the young men who signed on to fly for the Royal Air Force, in one of three Eagle Squadrons that were formed for the flying Yanks. He went on to make his name as a recognized combat leader in the RAF and, later, with the American air forces.

Gover faithfully kept a diary of his flying activities, and it is from this that historian Philip D. Caine skillfully excerpts the facts with feeling. Readers will find themselves climbing with Gover into the tight cockpit of the svelte Spitfire, wandering with him between rigorous combat flights as he explores the countryside of England and Wales and, yes, also enjoying the new experience of drinking beer that is not quite so cold as the American variety during visits to smoky pubs in London and the countryside.

By the end of the war, during which he had switched to the P-47 Thunderbolt and flown its first European mission, Gover had completed 159 combat missions and had been awarded several major medals. His story is an enthralling personal account of courage, humor and a bit of luck.