Mustang Aces of the 357th Fighter Group
Author: Chris Bucholtz
Publisher: Osprey Publishing
The 357th Fighter Group had more than its fair share of aces. In fact, it was the top USAAF unit in the Second World War, with 42 aces. The 357th featured some big names in aviation, including the first person to break the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager. Other notable incidents include the first unit to fly the P-51 Mustang and the highest number of victories in a single mission, 56. With this impressive a unit, it is quite difficult to compact its history down to a mere 96 pages, but the author of this new title from Osprey does an admirable job of doing just that.
Given its impressive record, it is surprising to note that the 357th Fighter Group didn't exist until almost a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Formed on December 1, 1942, the 357th started training in California. The unit remained stateside until October 1943, when they sailed for England. Their first combat mission did not take place until January 14, 1944, leaving the 357th with a little more than a year and a half to rack up their impressive record. This book takes the reader through the daily missions, putting you in the cockpit with those pilots on their tough missions over Germany. The careful research coupled with plenty of personal anecdotes and recollections makes for a delightful read.
Complementing the text are the expected photographs and color illustrations. For photographs of USAAF P-51s there seems to be no shortage, and often times the same photos are published over and over again. While I am sure some of those with more extensive libraries will recognize some of the photos in this book, most were new to me, which was a refreshing experience. The color profile illustrations help bring some of the extensive nose art to life. Like many USAAF fighter units, the 357th did not shy away from decorating their aircraft, from simple names to ornate artwork.
This is an excellent addition to the Osprey Aircraft of the Aces series, and should be welcome in any WW2 library. My thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy.