4.5 out of 5 Stars
Genre: Military Word count: Unknown
Where to Purchase:
The author, Gerald Thomas, served in the US Navy Reserve as a pilot for Torpedo Squadron 4. He gives a firsthand account, along with official reports of the various operations of which his squadron took part in both Europe, and Asia. Including the invasion of Iowa Jima and Okinawa.
In addition, as a memorial to the men of Torpedo Squadron 4 Thomas includes his own experiences, along with others, as a pilot or crewman of a torpedo bomber plane. Thomas gives us the entire gamut of what it was like to be a torpedo bomber pilot from that first desire to fly till the end of the war.
The sudden loss of a cockpit hatch was demoralizing to our crew. As the pieces of plexiglass flew by, our turret gunners, facing backwards in the dive, never knew if AA fire had killed the pilot or if the plane was out of control. That few seconds of push-over, dive, and questionable pull-out seemed like an eternity to the crew.
“One time over Manila, I thought Scott, my pilot, had been hit. I t seemed that he would never pull out — we just kept going down. I thought he was dead, so I snapped on my parachute, kicked the hatch, but it wouldn’t open (I was too excited to pull the pin.) About that time, Scott pulled out.”
Though this book is not without its faults: the transition from commentary to personal experience is not always smooth, and the images do not always match the subject at hand; the author, Thomas, more than accomplishes what he set out to do which was to make a “historical record” of Torpedo Squadron 4 as a “way to recall and acknowledge those who made the sacrifice.” To that end he has included much, if not all, of the major action that the squadron saw; the tactical organization of each run; operational reports; extensive photos; and occasionally the contrasting viewpoint of the enemy.
To complete the picture of what it was like to be a torpedo bomber pilot in WWII Thomas includes his own personal experiences. These range from his first sight of an airplane when he was a young man, through flight school, serving as a pilot on an aircraft carrier, and home again. It is these descriptions, and those of his fellow pilots and crewman, that enhances the rest of the text by giving a firsthand account of the operations. As Thomas not only includes the living conditions on board an aircraft carrier, problems taking off and landing, the effect of weather conditions, problems with equipment, and morale issues it really brings home what these brave men had to endure to accomplish those missions. It was a privilege to read it, and I’m thankful the Mr. Thomas took put in so much time and effort to leave this historical memorial.
Formatting (for Amazon Kindle only):
The ebook is formatted very nicely. It contains hyperlinked footnotes and table of contents. In addition, navigation points that allow you to move from chapter to chapter are included. However, while there is an index it is not hyperlinked, and references the page numbers in the paper version, and not location numbers for the ebook version.
About the Author:
Gerald W. Thomas was born at home in Small, Idaho, in 1919. He grew up on a ranch during the Great Depression. His rural school went only to the 10th grade, so his Mother took his brother and him to California to finish High School and attend Junior College. He graduated from the University of Idaho just in time to volunteer for Navy service following Pearl Harbor. After training, he was assigned as a pilot to Torpedo Squadron VT-4. Following World War II, he earned a Ph.D in Range Management, and after stints as professor at Texas A&M University and Dean of Agriculture at Texas Tech University, he became president of New Mexico State University. He retired after serving as president for 14 years.
Thomas was awarded 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2 Air Medals, and 2 Presidential Citations for his combat actions in WWII. He retired from the Navy Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.He is the author of numerous books, including “A Winding Road To The Land Of Enchantment” and “The Academic Ecosystem.”
While Thomas does not maintain a personal webpage he has set up a site at http://airgroup4.com/index.htm that contains articles by members of Air Group 4 of which Torpedo Squadron 4 was a part. Having this site available has been instrumental in helping family members learn the circumstances surrounding their loved ones MIA or KIA status.
You can download a sample of Torpedo Squadron 4 at the following address: