The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany
Author: Stephen E Ambros
Stephen E. Ambrose is the acknowledged dean of the historians of World War II in Europe. The very young men who flew the B-24s over Germany in World War II against terrible odds were an exceptional band of brothers, and, in The Wild Blue, Ambrose recounts their unique brand of heroism, skill, daring, and comradeship with vivid detail and affection.
Ambrose describes how the Army Air Forces recruited, trained, and then chose those few who would undertake the most de-manding and dangerous jobs in the war. These are the boysturned pilots, bombardiers, navigators, and gunners of the B-24swho suffered over 50 percent casualties.
With his remarkable gift for bringing alive the action and tension of combat, Ambrose carries us along in the crowded, uncomfortable, and dangerous B-24s as their crews fought to the death through thick black smoke and deadly flak to reach their targets and destroy the German war machine. Many went down in flames.
In 1985, George McGovern, best known for his failed presidential campaign of 1972 and for his committed opposition to the Vietnam War, told Austrian television a striking tale of his experience piloting a B-24 during World War II. During one of the thirty-five missions that McGovern flew, a bomb had gotten stuck in the bomb bay door, a situation that placed the lives of all ten men aboard the plane in jeopardy. McGovern and his crew managed to dislodge the bomb, but to their horror, they watched it fall directly on an Austrian farm. It was high noon, he recalled, and as a farm boy himself, he knew that in all likelihood, the bomb had just wiped out an entire family gathered for their midday meal. It was a moment, McGovern told the interviewer, that helped teach him about the "savage enterprise" of war that he has regretted ever since.
When the report aired on television, a farmer called the station to say that it was his farm that was hit, and he wanted to absolve McGovern's conscience. As it turns out, the farmer had seen the plane approaching and rushed his wife and children to safety. What's more, so deeply did he despise Hitler that he was happy to sacrifice his property on behalf of the Allied effort. For McGovern, the call yielded "enormous release and gratification." As he later told Ambrose, "It seemed to just wipe the slate clean." McGovern's memory of those events serves as a fitting conclusion to Ambrose's new book, which unilaterally celebrates the young men who flew America's strategic bombers during the European air war.
In recent years, Americans have been engaged in a heady romance with "the greatest generation." This rediscovery of the men who foughtin World War II has been fueled in no small part by Ambrose's prodigious labors. In a remarkable string of vivid historiesmost notably, Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers and D-DayAmbrose has done more than anyone else to remind us of the heroic struggles American soldiers endured during World War II and of the valiant cause for which they fought. "I want young people in America...to understand that freedom doesn't come free," he has said. "The blessings they've got by being Americans were paid for. And I want them to know who paid and how and what they did."
Telling the story of the U.S.' creation of an enormous air force and its massive campaign of strategic bombingan unprecedented feat of technological innovation, industrial production and military organizationAmbrose chooses to focus not on top-ranking officials but on the young men who manned the planes. Though the book draws from the recollections of many bombardiers, navigators and gunners, it centers mainly on the fresh, young men of the Fifteenth Air Force; men such as George McGovern, a twenty-two-year-old pilot from South Dakota.
Like Ambrose's previous books, this is a work of unapologetic, patriotic history. He patiently describes the grueling training that the American airmen underwent and the terrifying missions they endured. He emphasizes the fact that dropping bombs was neither a safe nor a simple task and documents the airmen's memories of flying into black clouds of lethal flak, of seeing their friends and colleagues blown from the sky and of watching countless deadly mishaps and miscalculations. By its very nature, the air war tended to be faceless and abstract, and the tasks these men performed were intensely frightening. And while the book rarely has the gripping drama of Ambrose's earlier works on paratroopers and infantrymen, the author nevertheless makes sure to reiterate that to be a crew member of a B-24 required not just great skill and extraordinary stamina but profound courage.
By focusing so closely on the young men who flew the planes, however, Ambrose downplays issues that are less given to the bold colors and strong emotions he seems to prefer. Honing in on the Fifteenth Air Force that flew out of Southern Italy, he need not address the far uglier air war in the Pacific, where American actions didn't always seem so virtuous. Similarly, by focusing on the young men at the bottom of the chain of command and on American forces in particular, Ambrose avoids the larger questions that other historians and military thinkers have raised: Just how effective was the Allies' campaign of strategic bombing? Did it really impair the German war effort? And to what extent did the official preference for attacking only military targets prevent American planes from engaging in the terror bombing of civilian populations?
As the anecdote about McGovern's recollection of the war suggests, Ambrose isn't interested in the careful parsing of difficult issues, but rather in unabashed hero worship and nostalgia for a day when the line between good and evil seemed clearer. "McGovern, his crew and all the airmen had spent the war years not in vain," Ambrose concludes, "but in doing good work. Along with all the peoples of the Allied nations, they saved Western civilization."
A distinguished author whose recent works include Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers, which also focus on World War II, Ambrose prefers to tell history from the average soldier's point of view. This book follows that formula. Ironically, the main character in this war book is George McGovern, who flew 35 combat missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross but would later become a dovish Democratic candidate for president in 1972. The book follows the training of the 22-year-old McGovern and his friends through their deployment into Italy in 1944-45. Those who made it through the demanding and often dangerous training courses would have to face the even more perilous routine of flying a B24 bomber into the heavily defended skies over Germany. Many B24 flight crews never returned. The mental fatigue of flying so many stressful missions was almost as bad as the physical danger. With books like this, Ambrose has certainly struck a popular chord. The World War II generation is thinning daily, and everyone's story should be told including McGovern's. Ambrose's narrative flows smoothly, even as he manages to cover each man's story. Recommended for public and academic libraries and subject specialists. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/01.] Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Another paean to the "greatest generation" of young Americans, this time focusing on the B-24 bomber crews-with special attention to the crew of the Dakota Queen, piloted by future US Senator and 1972 presidential candidate George McGovern. Ambrose (Nothing Like It in the World) took over this project from reporter Michael Takiff, who had begun work on a book about McGovern's wartime experiences. Ambrose and his editor decided to broaden the scope, and the result is this highly anecdotal biography-cum-military history whose purpose seems more to celebrate than to scrutinize. The author acknowledges that he is a McGovern partisan, so seldom is heard a discouraging word about the young South Dakota pilot's 35 combat missions-or about his character. Ambrose begins with a brief chapter about the B-24 (called the "Liberator"), describing its spartan design and the rigorous physical and psychological demands it placed on those who flew and maintained it. (He notes wistfully that only one of the craft is currently flying; virtually all were recycled after the war.) He then goes on to answer one of his questions: "From whence came such men?" He describes McGovern's background (his father was a preacher), then follows him (and others) through the arduous and highly competitive training process. McGovern arrived in Naples in September 1944 and proceeded to the base at Cerignola, where the B-24s launched their assaults on the Nazi assets, principally oil refineries and manufacturing centers. (Ambrose mentions that McGovern's group once attacked very near Auschwitz but elects to summarize FDR's position rather than enter the should-we-or-shouldn't-we? debate about bombing the deathcamp.) McGovern emerges as a skilled, courageous pilot (he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross) who made a couple of spectacular landings in perilous situations and enjoyed the respect of his colleagues. His inadvertent bombing of an Italian farmhouse troubled him for a half-century. Ambrose, as always, finds poignant details, tells powerful stories. Much nostalgia and admiration; very little analysis; virtually no censure.
Table of Contents:
|Cast of Characters||25|
|Ch. 1||Where They Came From||27|
|Ch. 3||Learning to Fly the B-24||77|
|Ch. 4||The Fifteenth Air Force||105|
|Ch. 5||Cerignola, Italy||127|
|Ch. 6||Learning to Fly in Combat||153|
|Ch. 7||December 1944||173|
|Ch. 8||The Isle of Capri||199|
|Ch. 9||The Tuskegee Airmen Fly Cover: February 1945||209|
|Ch. 10||Missions over Austria: March 1945||225|
|Ch. 11||Linz: The Last Mission: April 1945||237|
Fire Officer's Handbook of Tactics
Author: John Norman
Features & Benefits:
*A new chapter addressing fires in garden apartments and townhouses, a growing problem throughout the country.
* A new chapter on the fire department's role in terrorism and homeland security -- the first fire service text to address the new roles first responders play in detecting, preventing, and responding to the newest threats America faces.
* The chapters on high rise office building fires and sections on building construction have been expanded to included the lessons learned from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.