Fortress Against the Sun Book Review

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Fortress Against the Sun: The B-17 Flying Fortress in the Pacific

By Gene E. Salecker

Hardcover in dustjacket, 488 pages with appendix, chapter notes, and index

Published by Combined Publishing February 2001

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1580970494

ISBN-13: 978-1580970495

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.4 x 9.0 inches

The B-17 Flying Fortress is best known for its role in bombing Nazi Germany during the Second World War.  Lesser known is the story of the Fortresses which fought against the Japanese in the Pacific.  Salecker goes a long way to fill this void with this epic reference work, detailing the important missions of every Fortress assigned to the Pacific Theater.

In the Pacific the U.S. heavy bomber units fought against a competent foe, along with disease, fatigue and the weather.  They found themselves at the ragged end of an unreliable supply chain with little hope of significant reinforcement or replacement.  While individual aircraft and crews did dribble into the forward airfields, it wasn’t until 1943 that significant numbers of B-24 Liberators began to arrive which allowed the B-17 units to be relieved.  Even then, many of the veteran Fortresses remained, being modified to serve as armed transports delivering supplies or the personal aircraft of Generals.

The book offers several anecdotes gathered first hand from reports and interviews.  The Fortresses involved in the actions described are identified by serial number and name if one was given, making it easier to follow the story of individual aircraft.  Sources for information are credited in the chapter notes and there is an extensive bibliography.  While there is a lot of detailed factual content, the narrative flows well with many first-hand descriptions of the combats to keep things interesting.

Damage assessment is difficult under the best of circumstances and over-claiming in combat is something which is common to all air services.  One thing I would have liked to have seen was more cross-referencing of Japanese records.  Often the ships which are claimed to have been hit are not named, but only described by type or tonnage.  Defending fighters are almost always described as Zeros and suffer greatly in the action reports.  While this would have added another layer of research to an already detailed account, it would have been interesting to know the Japanese units involved and what actual damage they may have suffered.

Overall I can highly recommend this book to anyone interested in B-17s or the first half or the Pacific War in general.  There is a lot of detailed information here, and I know I’ll be using this book for reference for years to come.