Screaming Eagle: Memoirs of a B-17 Group Commander
By Major General Dale O. Smith
Hardcover in dustjacket, 241 pages, illustrated
Published by Algonquin Books, April 1990
Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 9 inches
Dale Smith was a Major leading a squadron of B-25 Mitchell medium bombers on the east coast of the United States when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 07DEC41. In the rush to do something, his B-25s were ordered to Mitchell Field to guard New York against attack by the Vichy French fleet. The focus soon shifted to patrolling the coast in an effort to protect shipping against German submarines, a task for which neither the USAAF or the US Navy was prepared. Gradually, effective counters to the submarine threat were introduced, and Smith, now a Colonel, was transferred to England to lead a group of B-17s.
Colonel Smith assumed command of the 384th Bomb Group (Heavy), based at Grafton Underwood, England. The 384th was a “hard luck” outfit, having suffered from more than its share of losses and poor morale. Smith went about improving life for the men on the base and increasing their efficiency while in the air. Trivial as it may seem at first, the quality of the food always comes up as factor in these stories.
Most of the book is about Smith’s experiences leading the 384th and his efforts to make them an efficient bomb group. He describes the difficulties in forming and maneuvering large formations of bombers while maintaining the protective combat boxes. He was able to secure a lot more leave and liberty than I would have thought possible for a Commanding Officer in a combat command, and describes his adventures on the ground, both official and personal. One sad note is his divorce while deployed to England.
Overall, a good read and an interesting perspective on the air war in Europe. Smith went on to become a Major General.