I frequently flew in formation with Garrett Middlebrook. He was a good flight leader and I respeced his ability and judgement. We went overseas at the same time and returned at the same time-I lived through and saw most of the events about which he wrote.
The book brings out the fact that a "Strafer Pilot" developed special skills some older "Bomber Pilots" failed to master. He was quick to notice the advantage of attacking in pairs rather than as a 4-ship formation since nearly all of the aircraft lost were flying in #4 position except for the two lead aircraft flown by Bob Herry and Ralph Chelli. As I recall, all 3 aircraft lost on 9/2/43 were flying in the #4 position.
Obviously a great deal of time and effort was expended in developing the book and much depends on the authors personal interpretation of the events. On the 9/2/43 mission he stated he was happy to see 60 P-38s above him. I had never seen so many fighters at one time and was expecting a maximum of 16-it seemed to me to indicate someone expected lots more opposition than we had been briefed to expect-and so it was! With all of those p-38s above the clouds and apparently unwilling to enter them, we had the 80 Zeros under the overcast all to ourselves. Th photgraph in the book was taken from the tail of my aircraft and appeared in Newsweek 9/23'43. Phillip Kelsal, my co-pilot and bomb releaser, put one bomb at the ships waterline and sank it while another bomb bounced over the ship. I went between the masts and brought the ships radio antenna home on my right wing. Two fighters made a rear quarter attack and Charles Barber , my wingman, tent-mate, classmate and my friend was shot down.
My aircraft and 10 Zeros battled off their front quarter attacks for 10 or 12 minutes. As I caught up with MIddlebrook and Latham, we went around a mound that rose above the trees and an in line "Tony" came around the hill at tree top level. The pilot had a choice of going over our formation which would have certainly meant death from our turrett guns, or go through my aircraft. He seemed to understand the situation as did I. I lifted up a few feet and the 'Tony" went under me. I looked down and saw a pilot with a leather helmet and wearin goggles who did what anyone else would have done in his place. We both seemed to understand we both would live or we both would die. He chose to live when I gave him a way out of his impossible situation.
I shared MIddlebrook's fear when going to a target but the adrenalin gave me a sense of power and the battle became a challenge. It seems that was a common experience of all of us. Garrett Middlebrook wrot a good book and I congadulate him upon stimulating to feel emotions I had forgotten