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by Wiley O. Woods, Jr
Turner Publishing 1997
Index, photos, maps
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|Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group
"The Jolly Rogers"
The skull and crossed bombs is the motif of the 90th Bombardment Group (90th BG) "Jolly Rogers". A group that flew B-24 Liberator in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) from the start to the finish of the Pacific War, and participated in some of the most infamous combat of the Pacific theater, including the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, to the longest missions of the war to Baliapapan, Borneo. This book covers the war from the day the unit was activated to the end of WWII, when the Jolly Rodgers had fought their way across the Pacific.
From the group's humble beginning on January 28, 1942 at Key Field, Mississippi, where the group had no planes and only one officer. The war had just started for the United States, and it would take many months before the group was read to depart to join the 5th Air Force with the heavy bomber, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Theater.
Mixed Blessing with the B-24 Liberator
While the group was training at Willow Run Bomber Plant in Michigan. There were labor problems at the factory, and it was though that the presence of the men flying the bombers nearby would boost morale. Early in the war, many were skeptical of the B-24 Liberator, including Charles Lindbergh who was a consultant for Ford at the factory, who stated "I would certainly hate to be in a bomber of this type if a few pursuit planes caught up with it. There are many improvements which can and should be made before American fliers are sent out to fight in these ships."
The book goes into many details about the aircraft that the group would fly for the duration of the war, exploring both positive aspects of its design and impact on the crew, like its greater fuel and bomb capabilities than the B-17 Flying Fortress. Also, many of its drawbacks, like the fact that it was very difficult to ditch the plane without crew fatalities, the fact that bombs often hung up in the bomb bay and that improved nose turret was badly needed.
Overseas - Hawaii then to Australia
As the group's ground echelon departed, the ship was remembered as a "floating crap game" during the long overseas journey that brought the group first to Hawaii, while the group's aircraft were flown by the officers. In Hawaii, additional training on search missions was accomplished, and some bombing practice but by this point, none of the gunners had ever fired their guns - many never would until their first missions from Australia.
In Australia, the group moved to the north where it was based at a strip south of Darwin called Fenton Airfield. Far out of the range of Japanese aircraft, the bombers were able to fly from here against targets in New Guinea, or stage up to Port Moresby.
This thick hardcover volume is full of photographs, maps that list targets of the group for each month and complete casualty lists in the index. Part unit history, but unlike the usual far of this type inserts many anecdotal stories from officers and enlisted men, while highlighting specific stories of particular aircrew's expediencies when appropriate. This makes for a good read, that covers an entire bomb group and the nine bomb squadrons that made up the famous 90th Bomb Group - "The Best Damn Heavy Bomb Group in the World".
Review by Justin Taylan
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