Air Apaches

Air Apaches

The True Story of the 345th Bomb Group and its Low, Fast, and Deadly Missions in World War II

Jay A. Stout

Stackpole Books, Lanham, Maryland, 2019, 432 pages

Book Review published on: July 26, 2019

Former U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot Jay A. Stout provides an engaging account of the 345th Bomb Group in Air Apaches. Comprised of four squadrons that flew North American B-25 Mitchells, the Air Apaches advanced across the Pacific Theater of Operations from 1943 to 1945 during World War II. Stout describes the men and their missions at a personal level that conveys the group’s remarkable contribution to the South Pacific Offensive.

The 345th’s tour of duty was approximately two years and eight months. Initially based at Port Moresby, they began combat operations in July 1943, supporting Allied ground offenses along the north coast of New Guinea, and attacking enemy forces in New Britain later in the year. During 1944, the group advanced northwest, striking targets in Indonesia and eventually the Philippines. Through 1945, the 345th reached out to Indochina, Formosa, and, ultimately, the southern main islands of Japan.

Stout’s experience as a combat pilot serves him well in telling the men’s accounts of their tours. Numerous descriptions of their missions give a sense of being in the cockpit with the aircrews, conveying the high level of risk they assumed while carrying out low-level attacks against enemy harbors, airfields, and maritime shipping. In addition to the hazards of enemy aircraft and antiaircraft artillery, the crews flew across hundreds of miles of open Pacific water, often at the limit of the range of their aircraft, where bad weather, mechanical failure, or navigation error could lead to certain death. In addition to the stress of combat, Stout addresses the other hardships the air and ground crews endured: accidents, primitive living conditions, and the separation from family and loved ones.

In the preface, Stout acknowledges that composing a concise history of several thousand men in a bomber group that flew numerous combat missions for over two years in the Pacific was a challenge. He explains that his choices to write about select events were difficult but necessary to present the men’s stories in a few hundred pages. The result, however, is an excellent account of the 345th Bomb Group, which contributed significantly to the Allies’ victory in the Pacific War of World War II.

Book Review written by: Dirk C. Blackdeer, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas