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Hit the Target
Cover of Hit the Target
Hit the Target
Eight Men who Led The Eighth Air Force to Victory over the Luftwaffe
Selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Reading List
From Bill Yenne, author of the military histories Big Week and Aces High, comes the stirring true story of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.

Less than a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army formed its first air force designated to operate overseas, the Eighth. Within four months, they had set up base in England. Three months later, they were bombing German targets in occupied Europe.
The Eighth was the first bomber command on either side to commit to strategic daylight bombing. It was a major change in tactics—and the men of the Eighth paid the price in both lives and blood. But it was that very sacrifice that led the Allies to victory.
Hit the Target introduces readers to those who made the Eighth Air Force the formidable juggernaut it soon became. Men of all ranks, from General Tooey Spaatz, the hard-driving founding commander, to Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the hero who led the first air raid on Japan, to Maynard "Snuffy" Smith, the irascible first airman in Europe to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal, who survived his time with the "Bloody Hundredth," which lost airmen at a horrifying rate, and who went on to serve as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.
The story of the Mighty Eighth is told through these men, whose careers paralleled the early history of aviation and who helped to revolutionize airborne warfare and win World War II.
INCLUDES PHOTOS
Selected for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Reading List
From Bill Yenne, author of the military histories Big Week and Aces High, comes the stirring true story of the Eighth Air Force in World War II.

Less than a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army formed its first air force designated to operate overseas, the Eighth. Within four months, they had set up base in England. Three months later, they were bombing German targets in occupied Europe.
The Eighth was the first bomber command on either side to commit to strategic daylight bombing. It was a major change in tactics—and the men of the Eighth paid the price in both lives and blood. But it was that very sacrifice that led the Allies to victory.
Hit the Target introduces readers to those who made the Eighth Air Force the formidable juggernaut it soon became. Men of all ranks, from General Tooey Spaatz, the hard-driving founding commander, to Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, the hero who led the first air raid on Japan, to Maynard "Snuffy" Smith, the irascible first airman in Europe to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Robert "Rosie" Rosenthal, who survived his time with the "Bloody Hundredth," which lost airmen at a horrifying rate, and who went on to serve as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.
The story of the Mighty Eighth is told through these men, whose careers paralleled the early history of aviation and who helped to revolutionize airborne warfare and win World War II.
INCLUDES PHOTOS
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    EIGHT OF THE EIGHTH

    NOTE ON ORGANIZATION

    The Eighth Air Force was one of 16 numbered air forces that comprised the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) during World War II. Numbered air forces were composed of "commands," defined by function and typically designated with a Roman numeral that was the same number as that of the air force. The Eighth was composed of the VIII Bomber Command and the VIII Fighter Command—long-range heavy bombers and the fighters to escort them—as well as the VIII Air Force Base Command to manage its base infrastructure. The VIII Air Support Command was added to operate medium bombers in a tactical role, but was later peeled off to form the nucleus of the Ninth Air Force.

    Within the USAAF table of organization, the "group" was the basic building block, and was contained within the commands. Groups initially contained three squadrons, although larger organizations, such as the Eighth Air Force, later added a fourth squadron to many groups. As the numbers of groups increased in 1943–1944, "wings" were activated to contain multiple groups, and "divisions" were later activated to contain multiple wings. Both wings and divisions were technically contained within commands, although, beginning in 1944, those within the Eighth Air Force answered directly to the Eighth Air Force headquarters.

    INTRODUCTION

    The Eighth Air Force is not the subject of this book but the stage upon which the climactic act of eight stories takes place. It was the wartime home of these eight individuals, whose lives intersected beneath its roof.

    These are eight parallel lives chosen from among those of around 350,000 men who were part of this unique organization during a crossroads of world history. These eight came from widely varied backgrounds, in a dozen states, from North Carolina to Alaska (then a territory).

    Tooey Spaatz, Ira Eaker, and Jimmy Doolittle each served as commander of the Eighth Air Force during World War II, but their careers were much more than their time with the Eighth. Their aviation careers were closely intertwined with one another and with the early evolution of American aviation and American airpower.

    Curtis LeMay and Hub Zemke were also accomplished prewar military pilots, and they became important leaders in the middle tier of command at the Eighth. With LeMay commanding bomber units and Zemke commanding fighters, both led large numbers of men, but both also flew combat missions themselves.

    Maynard "Snuffy" Smith, an anomaly among the eight, was the only enlisted man. He was the first living airman in the European Theater to receive the Medal of Honor, but his medal was a shining island in a lifetime of mischief and failure. Recalling Smith's life is like looking at a train wreck. Though it is unsettling to watch, we cannot avert our eyes. Yet he is an icon of the Eighth who is not forgotten, and who symbolizes how service with the Eighth brought out the very best in even the most unlikely people.

    Bob Morgan piloted the Memphis Belle, probably the best remembered of the tens of thousands of B-17 Flying Fortresses that were operated by the Eighth—and he later served under LeMay in the Pacific. Just as Doolittle led the first American raid on Tokyo in 1942, Morgan led the next mission to Tokyo in 1944.

    Rosie Rosenthal flew Flying Fortresses with the 100th Bomb Group, known as the "Bloody Hundredth" for the terribly heavy losses that it suffered in combat. On his third mission with the Bloody Hundredth, Rosenthal was the only member of the group on that mission who came back. He interrupted his career as an attorney to fly with the Eighth,...

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  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2015

    Shortly after the beginning of World War II, the U.S. Army formed a field team, Eighth United States Army, the first air force expected to operate overseas. A few months later, the Eighth embarked on a strategic mission to bomb Germany by daylight. By 1945, the Eighth, in concert with the Royal Air Force's night bombing campaign, had crushed much of Germany's productive capacity and, consequently, turned dozens of cities into rubble heaps. Yenne (The Imperial Japanese Army) demonstrates how eight men drove the development and eventual triumph of the Eighth. Some are well known: Carl Andrew Spaatz, Ira C. Eaker, Jimmy Doolittle, and Curtis LeMay. Others are less famous but played crucial roles. Interweaving the eight stories into the complex history of the bombardment force is at times confusing, as there was a great deal of job changing and movement, as well as appearances by other figures such as Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, General Hap Arnold, and Hollywood director William Wyler. VERDICT Likely to be popular with World War II and aviation readers. The author overcomes the narrative problems with perceptive vignettes of personalities and relationships among the lead subjects.--Edwin Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Hit the Target
Eight Men who Led The Eighth Air Force to Victory over the Luftwaffe
Bill Yenne
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