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Two-Man Air Force

Don Gentile and Johnny Godfrey formed one of the best lead/wingman teams of WWII. Between them they destroyed over 50 German aircraft, in the air and on the ground. Gentile’s P-51, named “Shangri-la”, is one of the most famous Mustangs of the war. When I saw this on the shelf at the local Books-A-Million, I couldn’t wait to get home and begin reading about these two amazing pilots.

One problem- the book fell far, far short of what I think it could’ve been.

I really enjoy reading pilot biographies/autobiographies. I’ve read quite a few lately. Even if the writing is not the best, it’s always interesting to hear about the lives of these folks.

Two-Man Air Force” covers the basics- flight training, arriving in theatre, combat missions. But it skips around, jumps from one time frame to another, goes off into whole chapters about other characters, and basically ended up leaving me feeling like I’d read the summary of the book.

I guess the best way to characterize it would be to say it’s more like a rambling conversation that is loosely centered on Gentile and Godfrey. There’s info on the history of the development of the P-51 Mustang, the 4th Fighter Group, the Eagle Squadrons, other pilots in the squadron.

If the book would’ve had more photos, and perhaps been organized differently, the effect would’ve been better. As it is, you can almost pick up the book and begin reading at any point, and it doesn’t lose much.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive book on Don Gentile or Johnny Godfrey- this ain’t it. If you don’t mind reading it in spurts, and seeing it as more of a reference on the 4th fighter group and the Eighth fighter command in general, with some specific pilot detail- it ain’t a bad book.

But biography it ain’t.

2 thoughts on “Two-Man Air Force”

  1. A good read on the dynamic duo is hard to find. Insight into Gentile is scarce. John Godfrey, while suffering from ALS, wrote his biography before he passed away. It’s called, A Look of Eagles, and was published by Random House in 1951. Grover C. Hall, Jr.’s, 1000 Destroyed, The Life and Times of the Fourth Fighter Group, relates his time serving as public relations officer. It’s a marvelous work that puts you right there at fair Debden. If only Old Man River had written the definitive history of the Blakeslee-waffe.

  2. After reading this book, I was left feeling that the author simply didn’t plan this one out prior to publication. Lots of general information, skipping around, introducing individuals that had some bearing on the story, but he missed a lot. More photos, of which there are an abundance, would have been a nice addition. The volume lacks structure and a sense of direction. It’ll stay on my shelf until something better comes along. If you want a great read about the 4th FG and it’s men, read Steve Pisanos’ “The Flying Greek”. You’ll even find pics of Gentile 🙂

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