on 28 April 2004
William ”Bill” Dunn’s book ”Fighter Pilot” is his recollection of hisparticipation in WWII and to a lesser extent, the Chinese Nationalist Warand Vietnam. There is no doubt that Dunn was a military man through andthrough, and his book is chock full of anecdotes and insights into theseconflicts. Dunn’s biggest claim to fame is the fact that he was the firstAmerican ace of WWII and from his account he appears to have been anaggressive and brave pilot.
A member of one of the (in)famous RAF “Eagle” Squadrons (RAF units made upof American volunteers) and then the USAAF 4th Fighter Group, Dunn is astraight talker and the reader will enjoy his matter-of-fact manner andconversational tone. His views of the US high command are very interesting(and quite scathing in parts) and overall I had the impression that Dunnheld a higher admiration for the RAF than the USAAF. This was heightenedby the book losing its way a little after his leaving the RAF and therebeing less detail to his recounting of his USAAF time and experiences ofthe Chinese civil war and the Vietnam conflict.
Two of the chapters, “The Ace”, and the Appendix are superlative. Thefirst being devoted to Dunn’s combat of 27th August 1941 whilst being inthe RAF and when he scored his fifth and sixth aerial victories. The toneof this chapter is very much along the lines of Pierre Clostermann’s “TheBig Show” with the reader being “pulled” into the cockpit with Dunn, andfor me this was the high point of the book. The thirty or so pagesupplementary appendix will prove to be fascinating reading for the WWIIaviation enthusiast as Dunn describes his thoughts on the various aircrafthe flew during the War (Hurricane, Spitfire, Thunderbolt, etc) and alsohis views on the aircraft of his German opponents.
All in all this is a good book and should be of particular interest toWWII memoir buffs.
on 23 July 1999
I first became interested in Bill's story while I was doing research for a painting I was preparing for an American Society of Aviation Artists annual seminar. We talked many times on the phone when I needed some detail or other for the painting, and he offered to send me a copy of his book. When I started to read it, I couln't put it down. He even autographed it for me and is now one of my treasured possesions. Since the seminar was in the same town he lived, I invited him to the show to see the painting I had done of the Hurricane he flew in No.71 Sguadron of the Eagle Squadron RAF. It was a very emotional for both of us, especially when he turned to me and said,"that's just the way it was".He really was America's First Ace of WW2.