In 2013, Warbird Digest Associate Editor & WarbirdsNews contributor Stephen Chapis interviewed World War II fighter pilots who had shot down Luftwaffe jets over Europe. These interviews were for a simple magazine article, but after hearing the stories from Dr. Roscoe Brown (332nd FG: 1 Me 262), Wayne Coleman (78th FG: 1 Me 262), and Huie Lamb (78th FG: 1 Me 262 plus 0.5 Ar 234), he decided to write a book focused solely on American fighter pilots who had downed Luftwaffe jet and rocket-powered aircraft. Stephen is a fan of the “Combat Aircraft” and “Aircraft of the Aces” series of books from Osprey Publishing, and after two years of research he felt his manuscript was finally ready for submission to the publisher. He did so with the gracious assistance of established Osprey author Mark Stille.
Osprey considered the book for quite some time, so long in fact that Chapis thought they were going to turn him down. Happily, on June 1st, 2016, while on vacation in Tennessee, Chapis received an email from Osprey editor Tony Holmes that they had commissioned his book and would publish it in November 2017. However, Osprey wanted him to include British and Soviet pilots who had scored jet victories as well! Luckily, Andy Thomas was going to handle the chapter on the British side.
The deadline for having all material turned in was May 31st, 2017. Eleven months is plenty of time right? Not really…. Now that he had a contract with Osprey the work really began. Chapis had to locate additional photos, secure permission to use them, and then select 50 images for final submission… plus write the captions for each of them, which is no small task. Chapis also had to select 22 aircraft to feature in the color profile section, gather references on each aircraft and send them to artist Jim Laurier, so he could create the artwork. In his two years of work, Chapis had written nearly 100,000 words, but Osprey only needed 30,000 so he got to work cutting and honing the text, while also adding information about the handful of Soviet pilots who had shot down jets in the waning months of the war.
Now that Chapis’s work is complete, what can we expect from the book? Between July 29th, 1944 and April 30th, 1945, over 200 Allied pilots shot down German jet and rocket aircraft with many more claimed as probable or damaged. Of these pilots, nearly 50 were aces, but due to the relatively low number of Allied victories over Me 262s, Me 163s and Ar 234s when compared with victories over German piston-engine fighters, many of the engagements with the Luftwaffe’s jets have never been detailed in print until now. Although the main focus of the book is on well-known aces like Dick Audet, Urban Drew, Tony Gaze, Freddie Glover, and Ivan Kozhedub, we’ll also read about lesser known aces and near-aces like Wayne Blickenstaff, John Mackay, Hilton Thompson, and Arsenii Vorozheikin, who all pushed their Thunderbolts, Mustangs, Spitfires, Tempests, Lavochkins, and Yakovlevs to the limits of their performance in order to down the Luftwaffe’s ‘wonder weapons’.