P-47 Thunderbolt Units of the Twelfth Air Force
Osprey’s newest volume in their “Combat Aircraft” series, Number 92, covers P-47s of the Twelfth Air Force. The book is in the standard Osprey format – softcover, chronological text (with lots of accompanying photos), and several pages of nicely done color profiles.
This is not a topic that has had extensive coverage, so I was very much looking forward to reading and reviewing this book. The 12th AF had been using P-40s and A-36s for various ground support and bomber escort missions early on in the US involvement in WW2, serving in the Mediterranean theatre. By 1943, the 15th AF was formed and tasked with strategic bombing missions in the area, leaving the 12th AF primarily as a tactical, ground support force. P-40s and A-36s were traded in for P-47s. The P-40s were too susceptible to ground fire, and the A-36s (given up reluctantly by their pilots) were running out of spare parts. After full conversion to the P-47, units of the 12th AF became adept at creating and implementing ground attack doctrines that became standard throughout the rest of the Army Air Forces by the end of WW2. Units of the 12th transformed the P-47, designed as a high-altitude fighter, into a highly effective close-air support and ground attack aircraft.
The author of this book does a very good job with the narrative, and brings the reader from the early days of the 12th AF in Africa all the way to the final missions in Italy at the end of the War. Units of the 12th did a lot of airfield hopping, first in North Africa, then to Italy, up into southern France, and then back again to Italy. An interesting part of this history, discussed by the author, is that Brazilian P-47 squadrons were also incorporated into the 12th AF. In addition to the timeline and organizational discussions, there are many combat narratives that are extremely well written. While there were no P-47 aces in the 12th, the pilots definitely got their share of air combat, and the ground attack missions were just as harrowing. Some of these missions are described in high detail by the author. Throughout the book are loads of clear black and white photos, many previously unpublished.
Despite really enjoying this read, I must point out two things I found lacking. First, this book would have greatly benefitted from some maps. These units moved around a lot, and I would certainly have been able to follow along better if some maps had accompanied the text. Not a major gripe, more of a “would have been nice” type of thing.
The second thing is along similar “would have been nice” lines. The color profiles are extremely well rendered, and that leaves me wishing they were more than just side profiles. Some of these P-47s carried interesting schemes, and the side profiles leave me wanting more. This is common to all the Osprey books, so it is not a criticism directed only at this particular volume. Granted, this is not titled “Camouflage and Markings” of these P-47 units, so I can’t really expect to have detailed 3-views, but it sure would have been nice. A case in point is the P-47 featured on the cover (and in a side profile). Without the benefit of the cover art, and one mention in a photo within the book, the side profile alone would not be enough to let one know that this particular aircraft featured a camouflaged fuselage with natural metal wings.
My small criticisms are really more wish list items, so I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the subject. The narrative, photos, and overall information presented are well-written and highly informative. The color profiles make and excellent starting point for researching model schemes.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy, and to IPMS for allowing me to review it.