Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW

Title: Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW
Author: James H. Keeffe Jr.
Genre: Military, Air Force
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 098436000X

James H. Keeffe Jr., a World War II and Korean War veteran, went on his first airplane ride at the age of 10 and thus was born his life-long love for flying. This book tells the riveting story of a young airman s journey from enlistment, through training, into battle, and beyond. His story is told with fascinating detail that allows the reader to experience all that he encounters as he bails out of his stricken bomber, is hidden in plain sight of the enemy, eventually betrayed, taken prisoner, and sent into the German POW system. In August, 1942, in the midst of World War II, Jim Keeffe joined the U.S. Army Air Forces and arrived at Aviation Cadet Training. On Thanksgiving Day, 1943, after months of rigorous training, he arrived in England with his crew to begin flying B-24 bombing missions. Then, on the 8th of March 1944, Keeffe s airplane is shot down over Holland, catapulting him into a world squeezed colorless by the ever-tightening Nazi fist of occupation. Moving from safe house to safe house in the Dutch Underground, Lt. Keeffe is able to evade the enemy for five months. Then one day, he is betrayed and sent to Stalag Luft III, a German POW camp near Sagan, Germany. There he spends months in captivity and endures the rigors of a forced march to another prison camp. Keeffe takes us into the difficult life in the POW camps which we see in unfaltering detail. When he and his fellow POWs are finally liberated in late April of 1945, we experience their joy firsthand.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Keeffe Jr., James H.

Safe Landings; Memoirs of an Aviator's Wife

Title: Safe Landings; Memoirs of an Aviator's Wife
Author: Fran McGraw
Genre: Military, Air Force
Reviewer: Larry Wikoff

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1615665633

A heart-warming memoir of an aviator's wife and her successful fifty-year marriage that endured numerous separations and frequent locations related to military service and her husband's insatiable desire to fly. There are vivid descriptions of military quarters and family situations during assignments that included a 3-year tour in Italy, Alabama (4 times), Arizona (3), Georgia (2), New Jersey (2), North Carolina, Hawaii, and New Mexico (2) where the family lived during the Vietnam War years.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
McGraw, Fran

Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe: The U.S. Army Air Forces Against Germany in World War II

Title: Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe: The U.S. Army Air Forces Against Germany in World War II
Author: Jay Stout
Genre: Military, Air Force
Reviewer: Bob Doerr

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0811706591

At the outset of World War II the Army Air Corps numbered only 45,000 men and a few thousand aircraft—hardly enough to defend the United States, let alone defeat Germany's Luftwaffe, the world’s most formidable air force. Yet by the war’s end the Luftwaffe had been crushed, and the U.S. Army Air Forces, successor to the Air Corps, had delivered the decisive blows. The "Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe" tells the story of that striking transformation, one of the marvels of modern warfare, while simultaneously thrusting the reader into whirling, heart-pounding accounts of aerial combat.

The Allies couldn't defeat Hitler's Third Reich without destroying its industry and taking its territory. But before they could do either, they had to neutralize the Luftwaffe, whose state-of-the-art aircraft and battle-seasoned pilots stood ready to batter any attackers. Great Britain's Royal Air Force was only barely holding the line and the might of America was needed to turn the tide. Almost from scratch, the United States built an air force of more than two million men. Thanks to the visionary leadership of Henry “Hap” Arnold, Carl “Tooey” Spaatz, Ira Eaker, James Doolittle, and others, the USAAF assembled a well-trained and superbly-equipped force unlike any ever fielded. And thanks to the brave Americans who crewed, maintained and supported the aircraft, the USAAF annihilated the Luftwaffe as it pounded targets deep inside Germany and elsewhere.

A stirring tribute to these men as well as an engaging history, The Men Who Killed the Luftwaffe vividly describes World War II in the skies above Europe. At the same time it captures the personalities of the men who won it, whether on the ground or in the sky. Stout—a career fighter pilot—brings to this work what few other writers can: The perspective of an airman who knows firsthand the confusion of air combat and the terror of being fired upon.

Jay A. Stout, a retired U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot with twenty years of service, flew thirty-seven combat missions during Operation DESERT STORM and is now a senior aviation analyst for a leading defense corporation. His previous books include Hornets over Kuwait, Fortress Ploesti, Hammer from Above and Slaughter at Goliad.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Stout, Jay

Belle of the Brawl: Letters Home From a B-17 Bombardier

Title: Belle of the Brawl: Letters Home From a B-17 Bombardier
Author: Gary A. Best
Genre: Military, Air Force
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 159299489X

Belle of the Brawl chronicles the WW II experiences of a B-17 bombardier through the Plexiglas nose of his B-17. Based on the 150 letters the airman wrote home to his mom, much of the horrors of what he experienced off the wing of his plane, aircraft destroyed, dismemberment by flak, go unshared. He didn't want her to worry so he couldn't tell her, "I noticed some movement and a flash of light out of the corner of my right eye . . . the plane that had been flying right next to us had exploded and simply disappeared." Using the bombardier's combat flight record, research data, and interviews of former B-17 crewmembers, Belle of the Brawl unfolds, breaking through the barrier of an unwillingness and inability to tell loved ones of the smell and taste of the war. He and others wrote home in generalities but remembered something quite different. Flying over Berlin, circled with more than 700 antiaircraft cannons, the massive air armada of D-Day and the horrendous air battle over Brux are revealed and remembered long after the struggles of combat - After I got home, "I'd wake up screaming and the same FW would be coming after me."

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Best, Gary A.