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Operation Plum  
The Ill-fated 27th Bombardment Group and the fight for the Western Pacific
By Adrian R Martin and Larry W. Stephenson

Texas A&M University Press, College Station (TX), 2008

No society can exist without a warrior class. These are our firemen, police and military.

Long ignored, the story of the 27th Bomb Group is one of the finest ever written about MacArthur's use of air power. Like his attached Navy ships, they have been regularly ignored by historians of the Pacific War.

With almost a spell-binding ease, the authors drop you into the long battle for the Philippines. The confusion is real, the communication systems in disarray, bombs exploding, streams of Japanese bullets lacing the airfields and you are there.

Were this a novel, it would be a page turner. Alas, it is history - but so personalized that the men become your friends and you mourn their loss as much as their fellow aviators.

For the men who escaped to Australia at the start of the war, you live their resurrection as a fighting bomb squadron that helps MacArthur turn the tide, destroying Japanese shipping and adapting their planes for close air support on the fighting fronts. With the audacity of a war healer politician, they stole (misappropriated an "earmark" for another command) some two dozen B-25 Mitchell bombers, modified them for low level bombing, strafing and close battle support.

For those men captured on Bataan and Mindoro, you live their experiences as prisoners of war, made into slaves of the Japanese industrial war machine.

You will not finish this book without saying to yourself, "My God, where did we find such men?"