Strikes: 323rd Bomb Group in World War II by Ross E. Harlan. Oklahoma Cavanal Publishers (http://www.okcavanal-publish.com), 2639 N. Eagle Lane, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 731271166, 2005, 144 pages, $24.95 (hardcover).
As each day passes, we are losing members of America's "Greatest Generation," and with their passing we are losing their recollections of untold service and sacrifice during World War II. Ross E. Marian's book about his unit, the 323rd Bomb Group, preserves a part of this combat-aviation heritage. An executive officer and intelligence officer with this Martin B-26 medium-bomber group, Harlan has written a first-person account of the group's movement and actions and showcases his personal collection of strike photographs. The memoir serves as a very brief chronological unit history, but its real value to the airpower historian lies with its insight into the effectiveness of the B-26.
In his introduction, the author clearly states that Strikes preserves "the splendid contribution this Group and its heroic members made to the great cause of defeating Nazi Germany." Although Harlan traces the activation, training, and movement of the group to England and France, he provides meager details about the missions themselves. As an intelligence officer, his view of the bombing missions mostly takes the form of poststrike analysis and conversation with the group's pilots and aircrews, but he recounts these only in the most general terms. He describes the weather, base conditions, and mission results as well as illustrates the impact of occasional changes in leadership and unit morale but offers little else in this sweeping history. Harlan even admits in his introduction that his approach is "fragmentary," a fact born out by the lack of detail in chronicling the efforts of the 323rd's Marauder aircrews and ground crews. For example, he rightly points out with pride that the group received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its role in retarding the German advance during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944-but he does not discuss in any detail how it earned this prestigious award and contributed to the reduction of German communications and supply lines. Interspersed throughout are both official and personal photos depicting operations of the group at that stage of the war. Uniquely framed and annotated, the photos provide the reader with a visual understanding of the effectiveness of mediumaltitude bombing operations and the difficulty of conducting damage assessment. …