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Aces of the 78th Fighter Group (Aircraft of the Aces) [Paperback]

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Sep 2013 Aircraft of the Aces (Book 115)
Dubbed the 'Eagles of Duxford', the 78th Fighter Group (FG) was unique in being the only fighter unit in the 'Mighty Eighth' to fly the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and P-51 Mustang operationally. Arriving in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) in November 1942, and eventually committed to combat five months later, the 78th, along with the 4th and 56th FGs, 'wrote the book' on long-range fighter escort by VIII Fighter Command in the ETO. This volume charts the group's highs and lows during its two years in action from Duxford, focusing on the exploits of the 51 pilots who achieved ace status with the 78th during World War 2. These men included Capt Charles London, the very first Eighth Air Force ace, and Maj Quince Brown, who was the 78th's most successful aerial ace prior to being murdered by the SS after he was shot down over Germany. By VE Day, the 'Eagles of Duxford' had downed 316 aircraft and destroyed a further 320 machines on the ground during strafing attacks on German airfields.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey (20 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780967152
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780967158
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 18.3 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 41,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


This book is very well written and carefully researched. The period pictures show many P-47s and some P-51s of the 78th FG. The color profiles are inspiring, to say the least. I know I feel like building a checker-nosed P-47 now. Highly recommended. --Ipms/USA

About the Author

Thomas McKelvey Cleaver has been a published aviation writer for the past 35 years, his work appearing in Air International, Air Enthusiast, Plane and Pilot, Air Force Magazine and Aviation History magazine. He is also a regular contributor to Flight Journal magazine. Additionally, he is Senior Contributing Editor to Modeling Madness Webzine, where his weekly reviews include extensive history writing introducing the model reviewed in that article. He is considered to be one of the leading model reviewers on the internet. He is also a published book author, with Air Combat Annals being recently published as an e-book by Pacifica Military History Press. Artist Chris Davey has illustrated more than 20 titles for Osprey's Aircraft of the Aces, Combat Aircraft and Elite Units series since 1994. Based in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, and one of the last traditional airbrush artists in the business, he has become the artist of choice for both USAAF fighters and RAF subject matter.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Kindle Edition
Another excellent example from this series, one you wish was longer it is that interesting.
Readers will be familiar with the format and at around a 100 pages it works well. Maybe something of a starting point for further reading because it intrigued me on several levels. It is not as one reviewer points out, just a collection of unit details and war stories; it reveals a lot of how the war was prosecuted in the latter half of WW2 over Germany.
The evolution of aerial response is fascinating and I learned a few things about drop tanks and how the pilots loved the Jug when ordered to go over to the P51.
I have visited Duxford several times, on occasion seeing a P47 and Mustangs there. This book should be included in the ticket price I think. Some stuff about what went on at the airfield was new to me, some of it quite saddening but on other occasions the humour of these brave young men shines through.
An excellent tribute to a generation to whom we owe so much.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Aces of the 78th fighter group 11 Nov 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A comprehensive study of the 78th fighter group and its pilots.The colour illustrations will be of great benefit to aero modellers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rare perspective 27 Sep 2013
By Barrett Tillman - Published on
First things first. Cleaver's book is not limited to the aces of the 78th--that's apparently a publisher's marketing angle to fit into Osprey's immensely popular aces series. In fact, the volume is a thorough history of the unit, so don't pass it up just based on the title.

The author touches upon a rarely-mentioned subject in the realm of VIII Fighter Command politics. Some groups, more famous than the 78th and based closer to the Channel, often received juicier assignments than those flying from farther inland. The amount of backdoor politicking in who got what missions cannot be fully known at this late date, but give credit to Cleaver for raising the topic.

I was fortunate to know the 78th's last combat commander, the late Colonel John D. Landers whose "Big Beautiful Doll" has become an iconic P-51. "Big John's" tenure as the CO is an eye-opener for XXI century military pilots--a group commander and lieutenant colonel at age 24. (I doubt if you'll find many 1st lieutenants that age in tactical units today.) He'd already made ace the hard way in the Pacific--Darwin-based P-40s--and commanded previous squadrons and groups in the 8th AF. His strafing footage is perhaps the most impressive I've ever seen. The book easily could have added other JDL stories, but every publisher has a word count and page limit!

Few glitches were noted, one being the statement that Lt Gen. Ira Eaker was transferred from the 8th AF to the 15th in Italy. Actually he was "demoted upstairs" to become the Mediterranean air supremo. After Jimmy Doolittle rolled out in early '44, Nathan Twining took over the 15th and remained in command through the rest of the European war.

As typical of Osprey titles, photo selection and quality are good to excellent, and the artwork is fully up to standard.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best of the genre! 17 Sep 2013
By Jay A. Stout - Published on
This is an exciting yet conscientiously written history of one of the Eighth Air Force's iconic fighter groups.

ACES OF THE 78TH FIGHTER GROUP is one of the standouts of this series. Although Cleaver writes within the constraints of the publisher-mandated format, he squeezes a wonderful amount of detail and anecdotal interest into this sleek little volume. He moves through the book chronologically and puts the actions of individual pilots into context. When available, he uses the pilots' own words to lend immediacy and color to the accounts.

The old warriors are almost gone, but Cleaver was fastidious about finding the 78th's last survivors and winkling from them stories that had almost perished. For this, he is to be commended.

The photo selection is outstanding. Although there are some "oldies but goodies," there are many I had never seen. Bob Hope staring at me from the cockpit of a P-47 is not something I expected.

Consistent with all the books in this series, the cover art is top-notch. I would never represent a P-47 configured with a large ferry tank as a graceful animal, but Mark Postlethwaite used his skills to prove otherwise. Likewise, the color profiles by Chris Davey are fantastic.

What I like best though, are the personal stories that help punctuate the history of this group and make it more real.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Duxford Aces! 11 Oct 2013
By Michael OConnor - Published on
The 78th FG - dubbed the 'Eagles of Duxford'- was one of the 8th Air Force's best-known groups with its distinctive checkerboard cowl markings. Though not one of the highest scoring 8th AF groups, the 78th produced its own slate of aces. Their exploits are the subject of Thomas Cleaver's ACES OF THE 78TH FIGHTER GROUP, #115 in Osprey's AIRCRAFT OF THE ACES series.

In all, the Group downed 316 e/a and destroyed another 320 on the ground; total score being 636. Though the book claims the Group produced 51 aces, only a dozen actually shot down five or more e/a. The remainder made ace through combining air and ground claims, a policy which only the 8th AF allowed.

The Group did well despite some setbacks. Just as it was about to become the first long-range bomber escort unit in the 8th, all its aircraft - then Lockheed Lightnings - and pilots were shipped to North Africa to make up for P-38 losses there. So, the Group made to be reformed from scratch, this time with Republic Thunderbolts. Once the Group began flying escort, they religiously adhered to the 'close escort' policy demanded by 8th AF HQ. When General Doolittle took over the 8th AF in January 1944 and 'unleashed the escorts,' the 78th continued its close escort policy while other groups followed Doolittle's order and, consequently, ran up higher scores than the Duxford Eagles. Other factors also contributed to the Group's final score.

In any case, 78th pilots like Alwin Juchheim, Quince Brown, Pete Pompetti, Gene Roberts, Jack Price, Charles London, Jack Oberhansly and John Landers scored against the Luftwaffe in their black-and-white checkerboarded P-47s and later P-51s. Cleaver's lively text is supplemented by a good selection of b&w photographs and Chris Davey's always excellent color side-profiles.

ACES OF THE 78TH FIGHTER GROUP is a good addition to the Osprey AIRCRAFT series, offering an engaging and insightful guide to the combats ops of what was the only 8th AF FG to fly the P-38, P-47 and P-51 in combat. Recommended.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read. 4 Nov 2013
By Bryan W. Bernart - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Depth of research coupled with personal accounts always makes for spirited reading, and Cleaver is a master at providing both. Great for the historian as a reference source, and concise enough to complete while flying coast to coast.
Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By MONTGOMERY - Published on
On the whole, this is a well-written book about one of the United States Army Air Force's (USAAF) veteran fighter groups, which, between the spring of 1943 and VE-Day, established a fine combat record during the Second World War. Unique among other USAAF fighter groups in Europe, the 78th Fighter Group flew, at various times, the P-38 Lightning, the P-47 Thunderbolt, and the P-51 Mustang.

There are also lots of interesting photos and color illustrations of several of the planes flown by some of the 78th Fighter Group's outstanding pilots.
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