The Hat in the Ring Gang--The Combat History of the 94th Aero Squadron in World War I, by Charles Woolley, Schiffer Military History, 2001; 271 pp., 11-1/4" x 8-3/4", hardcover, profusely illustrated with photos, also includes maps and color profiles, appendices and index; ISBN 0-7643-1427-0; $49.95 (publisher's Fax: 610-593-2002).
When they can be found, original published histories of U.S. Air Service squadrons are usually very expensive and often disappointingly lacking in perspective. Happily, that situation has changed in recent years with the advent of the Schiffer Military History Book series. 'Camel Drivers' by Otis Lowell Reed and George Roland, covering the 17th Aero Squadron (reviewed in Over The Front, Vol. 14 No. 4, p. 376), and 'First to the Front' by Charles Woolley, chronicling the 95th Aero Squadron (reviewed in Over The Front, Vol. 14 No. 3, p. 284), remain as outstanding examples of American air unit histories of World War I. Now Woolley has done another fine job with 'The Hat in the Ring Gang--The Combat History of the 94th Aero Squadron' in World War I.
Edward V. Rickenbacker (the 'V' was a post-war affectation), reputedly the highest-scoring U.S. fighter ace, is a well-known member of the 94th Aero. This hefty volume, however, gives generous coverage to Douglas Campbell, the first American-trained ace of World War--as well as Reed Chambers, James N. Hall, Raoul Lufbery, James A. Meissner, Alan Winslow, and other Hat-in-the-Ring notables. Indeed, a complete squadron roster is one of the helpful appendices to the book.
Woolley notes in his introduction that a primary source for any USAS squadron history is the History of the American Air Service, A.E.F., commonly known as The Gorrell Report, available from the U.S. National Archives. Then he proves to be a judicious historian by finding other (often-neglected) sources at the U.S. Air Force Museum, the Hoover Insitute, the Smithsonian, and the Airman's Museum. The result is a month by month account of the 94th's combat history, augmented by thoroughly-researched personal letters that include names blotted out of the originals due to wartime censorship.
The book's nearly 400 photos are well presented and, thanks to the large-size format, are big enough to enable readers to find important details. Especially noteworthy are side-view color profiles of various squadron Nieuport 28s and SPAD XIIIs.
'The Hat in the Ring Gang--The Combat History of the 94th Aero Squadron in World War I' by Charles Woolley is highly recommended.
submitted by Peter Kilduff