Hit the Target
Eight Men who led the Eighth Air Force to Victory over the Luftwaffe
NAL Caliber, New York, 2015, 384 pages
Book Review published on: March 17, 2017
The combat history of the men and operations of the Eighth Air Force has been told many times; however, author Bill Yenne found a new approach in Hit the Target. Yenne has woven the exploits of eight key figures into the narrative of the Eighth Air Force’s operations during World War II. His technique makes for a lively and quick read.
The eight individuals chosen by Yenne are Carl Spaatz, Ira Eaker, James Doolittle, Curtis LeMay, Hubert Zemke, Robert Morgan, Robert Rosenthal, and Maynard Smith. The first three represent the early Air Corps experience, and each would command the Eighth during the war. LeMay and Zemke, respectively, commanded bomber and fighter groups in the Eighth and were “accomplished prewar pilots.” Morgan, Rosenthal, and Smith add not only the crew level experience to this narrative, but also the perspective of those whose lives were interrupted by the war. Smith is the only enlisted man and Medal of Honor recipient on the list. Through the experiences of these eight men, the reader gets a glimpse into all echelons of the unit that carried the heaviest load in trying to prove the efficacy of high-altitude, daylight, precision bombing.
Yenne is a best-selling author with dozens of works of fiction and nonfiction. Along with aviation, his diverse topics include Sitting Bull, beer, and railroading. With such an eclectic catalog, the author has developed an easy-to-read style. Yenne deftly guides the reader through the chronology of the Eighth Air Force, seamlessly moving from the strategic issues Spaatz and Eaker faced to the trials and tribulations of the crews as represented by Morgan and Smith. The author, thoughtfully, follows through with a postscript of each man’s postwar life and career, warts and all. Suffice to say, Smith, unfortunately, proves another Medal of Honor recipients observation: “show me a hero and I’ll show you a bum.”
Nevertheless, this is not a scholarly work; however, that is not meant as a slight. Even though he relies heavily on secondary sources, including the official biographies of these men, Yenne has produced an insightful and enjoyable read. I would recommend this book as a good introduction to the men and operations of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.
Book Review written by: Marlyn R. Pierce, PhD, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas