FOR A FIGHTER PILOT IN THE MIGHTY EIGHTH, DEATH WAS ALWAYS A HEARTBEAT AWAY.
When the skies of Europe blazed with the fiercest air battles in history, fighter pilots like Norman “Bud” Fortier were in the thick of it, flying four hundred miles an hour at thirty thousand feet, dodging flak and dueling with Nazi aces. In their role as “escorts” to Flying Fortresses and Liberators, the fighter squadrons’ ability to blast enemy aircraft from the sky was key to the success of pinpoint bombing raids on German oil refineries, communication and supply lines, and other crucial targets.
Flying in formation with the bomber stream, Fortier and the rest of his squadron helped develop dive-bombing and strafing tactics for the Thunderbolts and Mustangs. As the war progressed, fighter squadrons began to carry out their own bombing missions. From blasting V-1 missile sites along France’s “rocket coast” and the hell-torn action of D day to the critical attacks on the Ruhr Valley and massive daylight raids on German industrial targets, Fortier was part of the Allies’ bitter struggle to bring the Nazi war machine to a halt. In describing his own hundred-plus missions and by including the accounts of fellow fighter pilots, Fortier recaptures the excitement and fiery terror of the world’s most dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
About the author
Norman “Bud” Fortier was born in New Hampshire in 1922. In January 1942 he joined the Army Air Corps and became a fighter pilot assigned to the Eighth Air Force’s famed 355th Fighter Group. He flew 113 missions and rose to squadron command. He is officially credited with 5.8 aerial combat victories during the war.
After the war Fortier graduated from the University of New Hampshire and went on to fly for Northwest Orient Airlines. Recalled to active duty in 1947 for the Berlin Airlift, he remained in the air force. After retiring from the air force in 1964 as a lieutenant colonel, he became an elementary school teacher and principal.