Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Volume I: The B-17 Era Book Review

Ken’s Men Against the Empire, Volume I: The B-17 Era

By Lawrence J. Hickey with Steve Birdsall, Madison D. Jonas, Edward M. Rogers, and Osamu Tagaya, Illustrated by Jack Fellows

Series: Eagles Over the Pacific (Book 4)

Hardcover, no dust jacket,  416 pages, 550+ photos, color profiles & artwork

Publisher: International Historical Research Associates 2016

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0913511072

ISBN-13: 978-0913511077

Dimensions: 12 x 9 x 1 inches

Ken’s Men Volume 1 tells the story of the 43rd Bombardment Group from its formation in January 1941 to October of 1943.  During this period the Group was primarily equipped with the B-17E and F model Flying Fortress, although it was beginning to transition to the B-24 Liberator by the end of 1943.  They were heavily engaged in the war in the South Pacific during the Guadalcanal Campaign, striking Japanese shipping and targets in and around Rabaul.  They were pioneers of the skip bombing tactic, used to great effect during the Battle of the Bismarck Sea.

Hickey presents a shining example of how to write a detailed unit history.  The content is well organized, the narrative is rich in detail while still keeping the story interesting.  It is easy to find specifics regarding individual aircraft and missions, many with detailed personal anecdotes and often in the words of the crews themselves.  This is the type of book you pull to research something specific, only to find yourself still engrossed two hours later.  I learn something new every time I open it.

For modelers Ken’s Men is a treasure trove of rare photographs and inspiring stories.  It includes 26 color profiles with nose art details and full descriptions.  There are four color paintings by noted aviation artist Jack Fellows.  A few of the over 550 photographs included are also reproduced in color.  Unlike some publications, this book does not shy away from the more unusual Fortresses camouflage schemes.  The Hawaiian Air Depot and RAF Temperate Sea Scheme Fortresses are well illustrated and explained in detail.  Several appendices provide supplementary details in a well-organized, easily accessible manner.

Overall an outstanding effort.  I can recommend it without hesitation to anyone with interest in the B-17 or the Pacific War.


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