The Best in the Southwest:
The 380th BW in WWII


Glenn R Horton Jr.


Mosie Publications: 1995


$80.00 when available


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 512 pages, hardbound. Out of Print.

The B-24 is not an aircraft that readily comes to mind when I think of WWII aircraft. Though built in larger numbers than any other Allied bomber, it quickly disappeared into the aluminum smelters of the post war period.

Though used quite a bit in Europe, it was the Pacific theater where its abilities were most appreciated. Unlike the B-17, the B-24 was a long-ranged aircraft, capable of carrying a prodigious load over distances that the B-17 could only dream of. This ability was not eclipsed until the introduction of the B-29 in mid 1944.

'The Best in the Southwest' is a unit history. Specifically the history of the 380th Bomb Group. It covers the history of the unit from November 1942 until the end of the war. Initial equipment was the B-24D and unlike Europe, most of their planes were modified prior to deploying overseas. This consisted mostly of installation of a turret in the nose, this modification being carried out at either Hawaii or Oklahoma City. An additional modification was made by deleting the lower ball turret on those planes so equipped and installing a scarf ring with twin 50 caliber machine guns. The relatively low level of bombing and the general lack of aggressiveness of defending Japanese fighters compared to what was met in Europe made this a logical modification.

This is a self published book, inspired by the author's father's involvement in the group and the vast amount of information and images made available by group survivors. This is all well arranged into a 512 page tome that will probably never be equaled. Added to this are 48 color profiles, several paintings and dozens of period color photographs.

It is a day to day operational record of the group. Each chapter covers a specific time period and gives a strategic overview of what was happening during that stage of the war. Then there follows the monthly events and mission logs. This is all followed by five appendices. The first is a list of group and squadron commanders, followed by personnel killed or captured. Appendix three is on aircraft markings with the fourth being a listing of all known aircraft by serial, name and disposition. Section five is specific information and additional photos of the aircraft in the profiles. Finally, there is a section dedicated to the support personnel, many of whom spent the entire war with the 380th.

Unknown to this reviewer is that the 380th spent a great deal of time in Northern Australia and operated in the area around the Dutch East Indies for much of the time. It spent some time flying missions over and in New Guinea, finally moving to the Philippines and eventually to Okinawa where it ended the war. It was the lone US bomber group to be under Australian command while based in Northern Australia and had a number of Aussie crews. When the RAAF finally got enough crews and aircraft for its own squadron, it  was  attached to the 380th unit enough crews were available for an all Australian Group.

In addition to being a superb unit history, there is more than enough information to make this a useful book for modelers. The author goes into detail on the differences between all the different subtypes and other variations, even as much as window arrangements and other minutiae. Of course, this info is spread throughout the book as this is a unit history!

The 380th is now history. The last time the unit was active was when it was flying FB-111As. With those gone, the unit name was retired until needed again.

I can heartily recommend this book both to modelers and to those who like a great unit history. However, it seems that finding a copy will be difficult.  Only a 1,000 copies were printed. According to Mr. Horton, they are all gone. And a reprint? Forget about it.

Review book courtesy of my library.

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