Howard Fogg is best known as a very successful railroad artist, but before that he served as a fighter pilot in the USAF, based in the UK and mainly providing fighter escorts for American bombers.
We start at the start of October 1943, with Fogg still in the United States. During the month his unit sailed across the Atlantic, and moved to their new base at WW, where they remained for the rest of Fogg's time with them. We end on 15 September 1944, one week before the end of his combat tour.
Each chapter begins with Fogg's diary entries for the month and ends with the official history as written by the Office of the Group Historian, giving us two points of view on events. The group historian's style is rather less formal than one might expect, so the two parts mesh rather well. Fogg begins as a novice pilot, but ended up in charge of a flight and also of training new pilots.
Fogg's experiences aren't quite what one might expect from reading many accounts of the fighting in this period. Many missions end without any German aircraft coming into sight, even when the Luftwaffe was still a strong force. Fogg mentions plenty of other combats, but not any of his own although he does talk about ground attacks. Mechanical problems also play a surprisingly large part in his life. We also get to see the pilot's eye view of a change in aircraft, from the P-47 that Fogg's unit entered combat with to the P-51 Mustang.
One also gets an insight into the glamour of life as a fighter boy when Fogg visited London and found himself in the company of Lawrence Olivier, Vivian Leigh and a number of other celebrities, after writing to Sid Field, another star of the day. His interest in trains also emerges from time to time, with notes on different engines striking an unusual note in a wartime memoir!
Rather amusingly Fogg soon gains the British obsession with the weather, reporting endless grey days and rain, even during the summer of 1944. There are a few good sunny days in there, but few and far apart. Thankfully his general impressions of Britain are still positive.
Fogg's last words were a list of the twenty six original members of his unit and their fates when he completed his tour. Seven were already back in the USA having completed their tour. One was an instructor, one at wing HQ. Four were POWs, three missing in action, four killed in action and two accidental deaths. Only four of the twenty six were still in combat having not yet completed their tour.
Fogg's diaries provide a fascinating window into the world of an American fighter pilot in Britain in 1944, and is of interest even if you aren't interested in Fogg the artist (those who are will be pleased with the inclusion of a section of colour plates of his paintings).
1 - October 1943: England at Last!
2 - November 1943: The Calm Before the Storm
3 - December 1943: Operational!
4 - January 1944: Oh, This English Weather!
5 - February 1944: The Bombing Intensifies
6 - March 1944: First Ground Attacks
7 - April 1944: The P-51s Arrive
8 - May 1944: The War Hits Home
9 - June 1944: Operation Overlord
10 - July 1944: Deep Into Germany
11 - August 1944: Winding Down
12 - September 1944: Changing of the Guard
13 - October 1944 through August 1945
Summary of Action: Captain Howard Fogg
Summary of Action: 359th Fighter Group
The Postwar Career of Howard Fogg
Political Sketches by Howard Fogg
Rough Sketches by Howard Fogg
Art by Howard Fogg (colour plates)
Author: Richard and Janet Fogg