Review: US 9th Air Force Bases in Essex 1943-44
- Published: 19 December 2010 19 December 2010
- Last Updated: 12 July 2013 12 July 2013
Martin W. Bowman
Martin Bowman’s latest offering, the US 9th Air Force Bases in Essex 1943-44, follows the same format as previous titles within the Aviation Heritage Trail series, which this author has previously written. Thus this book retains the informative and intelligent narration about the subject matter that was evident in other titles.
The book concentrates on the activities of some 16 air bases, whilst giving a briefer comment on a dozen or more air bases, plus some of the local amenities that were frequented by base personnel in their periods of R&R.
The introduction gives a good overall picture of the type & scale of operations undertaken by these elements of the 9th Air Force, and so enables the reader to formulate their own vivid imagery from Bowman’s narrative.
Each of the 16 featured air bases, or more accurately Stations, is described from its inception, through its operational life and finally to its fate post-1945. All of the stations have several B/W photographs showing the usual array of aircraft associated with the relevant medium bomber or fighter units stationed there, plus a few of the personalities within these squadrons. However I found the less glamorous or less exciting photographs of the airfield construction, with its less well known machinery types of greater interest. In addition the photographs of the Black construction troops were a welcomed acknowledgement of their efforts within the scope of this book.
When the roar of the aircraft engines fade into history, one is often left with the poignant reminders of deserted billets, hangers, runways and other associated buildings. Naturally we wonder what happens to these testaments of human endeavour, and here also the author doesn’t disappoint. He describes with fact and emotion how these former bustling miniature towns have been quietly returned to the agricultural fold from which they came, or how they have been re-developed for other uses. The memorials that sprang up after the wars end, either at the now re-claimed stations or in local towns, villages or church is noted.
For example near the former station 485, known as Andrews Field, a plaque in the local church commemorates the memory of Mrs Elizabeth Everitt, a local farmers wife, who saw an A-20 Havoc of the 409th Bomb Group crash in a field during 1944. She attempted to rescue the crew but the blazing aircraft exploded killing them and Mrs Everitt. This along with a few pictures of the stained glass windows in local churches marks the events & people whose lives were so deeply touched & moulded by these times.
The book ends with some 4 appendices and a bibliography. In all a book of some 208pages, with almost a picture plus per page to help illustrate the unfolding dramas within. Overall a great book introduction to the subject matter, and though I feel a few schematic maps of the stations wouldn’t have gone amiss , it’s still a 4 out of 5 star book in my opinion.
(Reviewed by Andy H)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.