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THE 4th FIGHTER GROUP IN WWII - UP & AT 'EM!

4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' - Chris Bucholtz, Chris Davey

"4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' " perfectly epitomizes the high standard Osprey Publishing has established in its Aviation Elite Units Series for concise and comprehensive accounts of distinguished air force units across the world.

The 4th Fighter Group came into being in September 1942 from the transfer of 3 Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter squadrons (made up mainly of American pilots who had been in combat since late 1940) to the United States Army Air Force (USAAF). Along with the transfer, the Group retained the Supermarine Spitfire Mk V fighters, which it flew operationally against the Luftwaffe until it transitioned to the P-47 Thunderbolt in early 1943.

The book, besides relating details of the combat missions flown by the 4th Fighter Group between September 1942 and war's end in May 1945, sheds considerable light on the outstanding fighter pilots in its ranks. Men like Don Blakeslee, who had begun his combat service flying Spitfires with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) in 1941, and became, by sheer force of personality, the bold, intrepid leader of the unit; Don Gentile from Piqua, Ohio who began his combat service with the RAF and later became a prime exponent of the P-51B Mustang; John Godfrey - who for a time served as Gentile's wingman in 1944, forming one of the best air fighting teams in history - indeed, Winston Churchill dubbed Gentile and Godfrey "the Damon and Pythias" team of the air; Ralph "Kid" Hofer - a bold, brash figure who became one of the Group's top aces; Duane Beeson - a consummate, courageous pilot who might have emerged from the war as the Group's top ace had his P-51B Mustang not been brought down by flak over Germany in April 1944 - he spent the remainder of the conflict as a PoW; Pierce McKennon; the Greek Spiros "Steve" Pisanos; the Pole "Mike" Sobranski who began the war as a soldier in his homeland resisting the German invasion; and Nicholas Magura.

There is also a generous profusion of photos and illustrations throughout the book, which enriches the reading experience.

The 4th Fighter Group came out of the war as the highest scoring fighter group in the USAAF, having shot down 550 German planes and destroyed 461 planes on the ground. For any aviation enthusiast, "4th Fighter Group: 'Debden Eagles' " is a winner.