/ Published September 24, 2015
In Hell's Angels, author Jay A. Stout challenges himself to write the definitive reference book about the Eighth Air Force and the critical operations that occurred in the skies over Europe during World War II. Many authors set similar goals for themselves, and most of them fail. Instead, Stout succeeds by incorporating accurate facts and figures from narratives of the men of the 303rd Bomb Group who were there. By doing so, he holds the interest of his readers, immersing them in the desperate struggle.
Crucially, Stout utilizes an inclusive approach to his study. Although the aircrews manned the planes and flew them into combat, they were but one part of a team that included ground crews and support staff. Additionally, the author weaves in the perspectives of the enemy's military personnel and civilians. This holistic method places readers directly in the flow of information and allows them to determine how all elements influence each other. Stout proceeds chronologically, reviewing the 303rd from its inception through combat operations, thus presenting a unique view of the unit's evolution and utilizing it as a case study representative of European air operations as a whole.
Critical areas in this work are hard to come by. The sheer volume of data can initially appear daunting, but the author's presentation and development of personal connections permit that same data to be digested and circumstantially applied. Further, his establishment of context and his development of relationships among key figures, units, and locations give readers an appreciation of the gravity of what is being said, allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
Given the subject of the European air war, Stout easily could have buried his story in facts or specific narratives, but his skill as a writer shines through in this regard. By developing scenarios with historical context, incorporating the firsthand experiences of veterans, and then reviewing the actions via his own analysis and that of historians, the author builds a resource that supports learning on multiple levels. This methodology demonstrates a framework that satisfies and engages both recreational readers and professional academics alike.
Jason P. Smock, MLIS
Saint Paul, Minnesota
"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."