Forty Missions and Home
Author: Maurice "Vic" Duvic, Lisa Uzzle Hadden
Publisher: Llumina Press (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 204 pages
It was a gutless, unprovoked attack on the United States and all it stood for. The hatred shattered the early morning calm and moved a nation from a time of peace to years of war and hardship. It prompted young men to offer their service, and many their lives, to defend their country and everything it stood for. It was a time of great uncertainty and fear. It was the original "day that will live in infamy."
Maurice "Vic" Duvic remembers it well. He lived it. He was twenty-two years old, standing on a Florida beach with his buddies the first time he heard the words "Pearl Harbor." He had no idea what those words would come to mean, but the uniform he wore assured him he would get a front row seat.
He went on to become a pilot in the Army Air Corps, traveled across the world and became a part of the Allied forces that would prove too much for Italy and Germany. While the words "Pearl Harbor" had a life-changing meaning for him, there was a number that would prove to be even more important: forty.
That was the number of combat missions he had to complete before he could get back home. While that sounds simple enough, he learned there is much truth to the saying, "It's not about the destination, but the journey." And what a journey it was.
In the typically understated fashion of his generation, Maurice "Vic" Duvic and his co-author, Lisa Uzzle Hadden, recount his service as a B-26 pilot during the early part of the Second World War.
The title, "Forty Missions and Home: One Man's 'Simple' Equation for Surviving World War II" describes how the typical Army Air Force aircrews' overseas combat tour length was determined. As the author explains, after forty combat missions, crews were deemed to have "combat fatigue" and allowed to ship back to the States. Once they returned home, many pilots joined stateside units responsible for training replacement crew members as the author did. The author may have been describing one man's "simple equation for surviving World War Two;" but the his experiences were certainly not simple in execution.
Relying primarily on a diary he wrote during the war years to flesh out the details, Duvic relates how he was drafted just six months before Pearl Harbor, completed pilot training, and then took part in intense combat operations in the skies over North Africa, Italy, and Southern France. He vividly recreates the details of his B-26 combat operations from June of 1943 until he reached the all-important 40-mission milestone on January of 1944.
In addition to combat missions, the author describes the new and exotic world he encountered, far away from his Louisiana home. He also deftly describes--with an appropriately dry sense of humor--many of his antics during non-combat and off-duty hours. The book's short epilogue provides a short recap of Duvic's life upon returning to the US: his short stint as an instructor pilot, his marriage, and eventually, his recall to active duty during the Korean War.
Duvic's written wartime remembrances are complemented with a large and helpful selection of documents, photos, and other mementos from his files. Spread throughout the book, these images are thoughtfully laid out and add a personal touch to the book's story.
Forty Missions and Home is a quick and fascinating read and is recommended for anyone interested in learning more about the B-26, its crews, and their role in early part of America's involvement in the war.
Reviewed by: John Cathcart (2010)