Tender moments followed by horrific combat
Jerri Gibson McCloud neatly packages a love story, a family drama, and a hard-hitting shoot 'em up war action into a book that entertains and informs. At various moments, The Liberators makes one misty-eyed, sympathetic, euphoric, and cringing in horror at the vivid up-close experiences of aerial combat during World War II.
The author's knack for grouping words in a dramatic, descriptive fashion makes the reader feel he is in an airplane being shot to pieces by German fighters. While reading, one feels he is inside the airmen's minds as they fight to control fears so the mission can be completed. Your adrenaline pumps with a gunner's desperation of destroying an enemy plane before it destroys your plane. You feel the terror of watching your buddies go down in flames.
The Liberators follows Andrew Walters from telling his family he has dropped out of college to join the Army Air Force and train as a B-17 bomber pilot, to combat in Europe where he meets a hometown girlfriend serving as a Red Cross Nurse, to being shot down over Germany, and to surviving the deprivation of being a prisoner of war. Walters struggles to overcome his own insecurities as he holds his crew together, completing one harrowing mission after another until their luck runs out. Captured after being shot down, Walters faces different leadership challenges against adversaries in a POW camp.
Although the bulk of The Liberators follows the adventures of Captain Walters, his war experiences are skillfully interwoven with the different issues faced by his family back home in North Carolina and their emotions after receiving the dreaded telegram: Your son is missing in action.
I recommend The Liberators.
Review by Joe Epley, MWSA Reviewer
Winter 1943. WWII is full blown. USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress pilot, Capt. Andrew Walters who has an unstoppable drive and undeterred command of leadership, flies his crew through horrific missions over Germany and Austria to slow the surge of the Luftwaffe and liberate people from the devastation of Hitler’s Third Reich.
In this fast-paced debut novel, German Luftwaffe burst through clouds at 12 o’clock with blinding sun preceding them, unleashing their weapons on an out gunned—out maneuvered—overloaded B-17 on one of three treacherous missions to destroy ball bearing plants over Germany. Capt. Walters leads his crew through torturous flak, 8mm guns peppering the Flying Fortress, and 20mm cannons barreling through the plane while holding a steady course toward their initial point to release bombs on German targets. A web of bloody human debris splayed across the B-17’s windshield—an eyeball stars back at them.
During his thirty-month journey, Capt. Walters is determined to become the man his perfectionist father can be proud of—a man alone in his secret plight, his leadership would turn frightened, petrified, ashen boys into men.
Along the way, the Captain falls in love with a spirited Red Cross nurse from his hometown. She rescues an orphaned toddler and becomes extremely attached creating multiple problems as a result. The pilot’s family in Fayetteville, North Carolina, suffers tremendously when their son becomes Missing in Action.
Rarely does a WWII novel deal with the fears of its airmen or take you back home where the families cope by serving their country in other ways while their men fight for freedom for all. The Liberators covers it all.