/ Published August 13, 2012
Mission to Berlin: The American Airmen Who Struck the Heart of Hitler’s Reich by Robert F. Dorr. Zenith Press, 2011, 336 pp..
In Mission to Berlin, Robert Dorr sets the goal of describing the personal experiences of American aircrews during a bombing mission to Berlin on 3 February 1945. Unfortunately, he diverges from that objective, devoting only about one-third of the text to this particular mission and the remainder to previous ones. As written, using vignettes to share these war stories, the book provides the reader with a history of missions flown and awards earned in various air battles over Germany and the occupied territories.
Digressions quickly frustrate the reader. The author commences the narrative with the early wake-up call of the flight crews, follows with a chapter about earlier missions, and then resumes the story of the Berlin mission in chapter 3, thus establishing the pattern for the remainder of the book. Although this technique is interesting, Dorr fails to follow through on his promise that “the reader is along for the ride on a harrowing mission” (back flap). One sees another example of this digressive tendency in his coverage of the B-29, which never served in the theater.
Furthermore, the book suffers from a lack of thorough proofreading, containing numerous errors—both factual and grammatical. For example, 1,437 bombers and 948 fighters took part in the mission, but the author evidently is at a loss regarding the precise number of aircrew members, referring to “fifteen thousand Americans” (dedication page) and to “fifteen thousand American bomber crewmembers” (p. 139). Spelling errors are both blatant (“ting [tiny] fragments”) (p. 73) and puzzling: “Durkin was certain that the ail [sic] of the fighter appearing, standing on its tail, and then exploding had to be wrong” (p. 135).
Secondary and tertiary sources dominate the bibliography. Dorr documents interviews in chapter notes but does not include the time, place, or means of conducting them. Accordingly, certain data presented as factual as well as other information is difficult to verify. For instance, the author declares (without citation) that “nearly twenty thousand military pilots were killed in the United States during training” (p. 58) and that “three hundred thousand men trained in aerial gunnery schools during the war” (p. 87). Regarding the latter, other sources, such as the Army Air Forces Statistical Digest, World War II, list 309,236 men trained (see table 47, p. 64).
Granted, the anecdotal nature of the narrative makes for easy, pleasant reading. As a scholarly work, however, the book is lacking. As a general historical work, it offers the reader an overview of bomber and fighter missions in the skies over Europe. Additionally, the personal narratives and information about crew members who received the Medal of Honor emphasize the Air Force’s proud heritage. Thus, in spite of the digressions, Airmen can still enjoy Mission to Berlin, whose grim stories of death and suffering will remind them of the sacrifices of those who saw the true face of war.
Aleksander R. Andrzejewski, PE
Rome Research Site, New York
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."