Top critical review
Factual Inaccuracies and Omissions
Reviewed in the United States on March 28, 2020
I generally like McManus's work but I'm barely a tenth of the way through and already the factual inaccuracies and omissions are piling up. On page 51 he gives the combat radius of the P 38 as "nearly 1,500 miles" when in fact it was 1,300, a difference of 400 miles round trip. On the next page he gives the combat radius of the F6F Hellcat as "nearly 1,500 miles" when if fact it was around 900. Perhaps he meant 1,500 kilometers, which is about the same thing. On page 59 he claims "The typical B-25 had a dozen .50 caliber machine guns in its nose," which is simply preposterous - the crew couldn't have seen past them and the plane would have been ridiculously unbalanced. At most later Mitchells had four 50s in the nose and four well back on the fuselage in blisters, two per side. His discussion of the B-24 Liberator and his comparisons of it with the B-17 ignore the ugly reality that the B-24 had a frightfully high rate of fatal training accidents, resulting in 900 more training deaths all in all than the B-17, which was produced in fewer numbers. One general who led a formal investigation of the extremely high rate of B-24 training crashes called it a highly efficient killing machine - of its crews. Yet McManus focuses solely on the mostly gushing testimony of B-24 crews - obviously the crews killed in accidents couldn't speak.
It's hard to take seriously a book which attempts to take a clear eyed look at the American air war and its crews yet gets so much so wrong so early. I don't think I'll be finishing it. As it is, it mostly relies on inaccurate and inflated performance figures on several models of planes, ignores well-established statistics on operational and training casualties and accidents among aircraft models, and instead selects less than objective quotes from air crew to try to paint a mostly rosy picture of the Army Air Force in World War Two. The crews and the planes deserve better.