About 40 years ago, when I was an avid model airplane kit builder, I put together a Revell replica of the P-51B Mustang fighter that was flown in combat by Don S. Gentile of the 4th Fighter Group, United States Army Air Force (USAAF), during 1944. Along with the kit, was (within the instructions) a short history of the plane and a terse account of Captain Gentile's combat record with the Mustang. That was enough to whet my curiosity about Gentile and the other great American fighter aces of the Second World War.
So I was keenly anxious to read this book, which was the author's way of offering a tribute to Gentile the man as well as courageous fighter ace. But, as I began reading in earnest, it was hard to ignore the sloppy writing and several glaring errors in terms of conveying incontrovertible fact and thorough knowledge of events and aircraft of the period. Here I cite the following examples:
“It took a long time for the Luftwaffe pilot to die, and Don prayed he would die soon. With tears streaking down his cheeks, he started to position his craft to help end the agony of his opponent, when the burning mass slumped in his seat, followed by an enormous explosion. The sky was filled with swirling bits of metal, dismembered limbs, and pieces of flesh. Don’s visceral juices churned and his oxygen mask filled with half-digested food, the stench of it assaulting his nostrils.
“He was shocked back to reality by voices in his earphones. The frantic calls for help penetrated his grey matter and caused his adrenaline to pump. He was low on ammunition and fuel and had earned the right to head home. Without hesitation he pulled up in a starboard climb and flew back into the tempest. Now Gentile was all over the sky, twisting and turning, climbing and breaking up attacks, calling out warnings for the enemy approaches to his fellow Mustang pilots. He was everywhere in the battle.” – p. 178.
"While the American fighters were credited with the destruction of nine enemy aeroplanes, seven for the P-38s and three for the P-47s, this mission was unlucky for the P-38s…” p. 149. [7 + 3 = 9?)
“The bombers unloaded their bombs through heavy flakit was everywhere.” – p. 187.
Furthermore, the author cites on p. 179 that, as a result of a dogfight Gentile had in March 1944 over Germany against a skilled Luftwaffe ace that he eventually managed to shoot down, the name of the downed pilot was a "Kurt von Meyer" who had 150 victories to his credit. In truth, there is no record of a Luftwaffe ace or 'Experte' (the name the Germans gave to their veteran fighter aces) with the name of von Meyer who flew in the West at that time. The author should have been more scrupulous in his research. Given that almost 60 years had passed since the end of the war at the time of publication, the author could have consulted combat reports and U.S. and German military archives, and contacted at least a couple of reputable aviation historians to verify some parts of his research.
So, while I appreciated learning more about the remarkable man and superb fighter pilot that Don Gentile was, the overall quality of this book left much to be desired. Hence, the 1 STAR.