The 56th Fighter Group justified its nickname of 'Zemke’s Wolfpack' by the aggressive attitude and tactics instilled by its original wartime commander Hub Zemke. This attitude continued through to VE-Day under the auspices of his successors Dave Schilling and Lucian Dade, and it became the top scoring 8th Air Force group for victories in air-air combat. Justifiably considered one of the greatest tacticians and leaders in VIII Fighter Command, Zemke’s leadership engendered an esprit de corps that was second to none.
Fighting High Publishing brings together historians Nigel Julian and Peter Randall to tell the story of the ‘Wolfpack’, complimented by a Foreword from the Group’s wartime leader’s son Hub Zemke Jnr. The two authors are the owners of the websites at 56thfightergroup.co.uk and littlefriends.co.uk respectively, universally acknowledged as the two finest sites on the 56th and VIII Fighter Command. Having researched the 56th Fighter Group for many years, they have established an international reputation for their expertise in the history of this famous unit.
Looking beyond the Thunderbolt flightline, the authors have delved deep into their own extensive collections, along with the 56th Fighter Group museum archives and the many private photograph albums, made available to them by veterans and veteran’s families, in order to product the most in-depth photographic record of the Wolfpack and its associated service units published to date.
More than 400 photographs, the majority of which are previously unpublished, show vies from behind the scenes alongside newly discovered aircraft nose art, social events, maintenance and repairs which, together with detailed captions, make this a visual and information feast. The modern day legacy is recorded with a section depicting memorials to the 56th Fighter Group.
A full honour roll of those who made the ultimate sacrifice is included along with details of all confirmed claims by the Group’s air-air ‘Aces’.
Authors: Nigel Julian and Peter Randall
Foreword: Hub Zemke Jr.
Hardcover, 208 pages. Published July 2015 by Fighting High Publishing Ltd.
Over 400 images (300 plus previously unpublished)
Foreword – Hub Zemke Jnr
- 1. Logistical Support
- 2. Mission Planning – All in a Day’s Work
- 3. Ground Crews – Keeping ‘em Flying
- 4. The Republic P-47 Thunderbolt – Cave Tonitrum!
- 5. Armament – Our Flying Shermans Pack a Punch
- 6. Babies: Gas, it’s All about Gas – The Quest for Longer Range
- 7. Maintenance – Stripping Engines and Knuckles
- 8. Accidents, Battle Damage and Crashes
- 9. Wolfpack Nose Art
- 10. Dogpatch – A Morale Boost thanks to Al Capp
- 11. Off Duty, Rest and Relaxation
- 12. Visitors to the Wolf’s Lair
- 13. Air-to-Air Aces of the 56th
- 14. Honour Roll
As the title suggests, this book is a photographic odyssey and not a technical volume with page after page of text. That being said, the text is concise and very readable, and represents a page or two of introductory information, prior to between 10 and 25 pages of images in each chapter.
The captions for each image are extensive, in themselves a wealth of information, an arrangement which I found preferable to wading through pages of text with references to images that might be several pages away.
I have read a couple of negative reviews relating to the fact that the captions are printed in grey text rather than black, but I didn’t have any problems reading them and this did not detract from the value of the book in any way.
Rather than a simple chronological diary of the 56th, the chapters relate to significant events and/or activities that were a part of the day-to-day life of the group, which makes each chapter a useful reference in its own right, but also simplifies the task of finding a specific image or detail if required.
The images are the focus of this book, and they are exceptional! Over 400 images with over 300 previously unpublished. Behind-the scenes black and white images and incredible action shots are interspersed with full page colour plates.
Captions are detailed and well written.
Most of the chapters are self-explained from the title, but several can use a brief outline here.
Chapter 10 is a dedication to Roger Freeman, his “outstanding contribution to the preservation of 8th AF history” and his research into identifying all of the P-47s that made up “Dogpatch Flight” within the 62nd FS.
Chapter 12 details the amazing variety of visitors to the various airbases that were home to the 56th.
These included Cub Scout Groups, family members, Senior Officers from several branches of the military, entertainers, press, aircraft from the RAF and the “Rafwaffe” and even British Royalty.
Chapter 13 consists of a brief introduction followed by a simple list of all of the air-to-air aces of the 56th FG, all 39 of them! Turn the page and there begins a series of images of each airman, along with a list of the date and type of each claim.
Chapter 14 is the Honour Roll, listing in chronological order those who died in the service of their country along with the circumstances.
This chapter also includes images of various memorials to the pilots of the 56th FG.
This book is a definite must-have, not only for fans of the P-47, but for anybody interested in the Second World War. It traces the history of the famous 56th right from its beginnings in Savannah Georgia on 14 January 1941 and looks at every aspect of the unit through immaculate images and detailed captions which make up the bulk of the text.
As a reference for modelers, this volume is invaluable. I couldn’t put it down until I had read it through cover to cover twice, and then picked it up again the next night.