Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

With the Possum and the Eagle: The Memoir of a Navigator's War over Germany and Japan

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

With the Possum and the Eagle: The Memoir of a Navigator's War over Germany and Japan

Article excerpt

With the Possum and the Eagle: The Memoir of a Navigator's War over Germany and Japan, North Texas Military Biography and Memoir Series no. 2, by Ralph H. Nutter. University of North Texas Press (http://www.unt.edu/untpress), P.O. Box 311336, Denton, Texas 76203-1336, 2005, 368 pages, $29.95 (softcover).

Memoirs are usually interesting and almost always as weak on historical underpinnings as are the works of journalists. The general practice is to cite just enough sources to cover one's backside or to fill in the blanks-find a readable volume on the battle-of-anywhere to flesh out those memories of being pounded by antiaircraft fire while trying to hold the plane steady enough to drop a load of bombs into who-cares-where. Unsurprisingly, the bibliography is a scant two pages.

Author Ralph Nutter had an interesting war. He might well have had a short war because his first plane drew the backside of the B-17 formation and went down early (the crew spent the war in a German POW camp), but by then he was navigator in Col Curtis LeMay's lead bomber. Was that better? The attrition rate for bombers flying over Germany in daylight without fighter escort in 1942 and 1943 was so high diat, statistically, it was nearly impossible to complete a tour without injury or death.

Nutter was lucky, extremely so, but he was also skilled at his profession, which allowed him to move into a relatively sheltered position-but not until after he had finished more than his full complement of missions as group navigator under LeMay in Eighth Air Force over Europe. His move was not really all that sheltered because he volunteered for Pacific duty with Brig Gen Haywood Hansell in Twentiedi Air Force. As head navigator for Hansell's B-29s, he was adviser to the commander and head of navigator training. Although finished with combat flying, he served in a war zone rather than taking the fully safe option of heading stateside. …

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