Wild Blue

Ambrose, Stephen E. The Wild Blue: the Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany.New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Soap box: As a 21st century society we are so far removed from the horrors of war. For several different reasons the word ‘war’ does not strike fear into our hearts. Our soil hasn’t had World War magnitude bloodshed for generations. Even overseas, our method of battle with the enemy is by and large impersonal; remote control, if you will. Gone are the days of brutal look-you-in-the-eye hand to hand combat. Gone are the days when killing was typically up close and personal. Now it’s distant missile and drone strikes. We wince along with millions with what we witness on television but it can be as benign as watching a movie; as if it is complete with actors and ketchup. It is easy to forgot the contributions of soldiers who fought in World War II. Thankfully, there are authors like Ambrose who are here to remind us; to make our heroes flesh and blood again.

The prologue to Wild Blue illustrates the constraints to flying a B-24. The very first sentence sets the stage, “The B-24 was built like a 1930s Mack Truck, except that it had an aluminum skin that could be cut with a knife” (p 21). Ambrose goes on to describe the lack of windshield wipers, heat, bathrooms, pressurization, kitchen facilities, or even room to move. Sometimes the airmen are too large for their assigned compartments and had to remove their parachutes in order to fit. Immediately upon reading this you sense the difficulties these airmen faced just flying these planes – never mind the additional dangers of flak, combat, even the weather. Chapter One introduces you to the men (in some most cases, mere boys) responsible for flying these dangerous machines. While Ambrose lists many different individuals, his main focus is on the pilots, bombardiers, navigators, radio operators and gunners. With the help of interviews with veterans like George McGovern, Ambrose takes you into the cockpit of every “Dakota Queen” McGovern flew. Subsequent chapters of Wild Blue take us through training, combat missions, D-Day, and the final mission of April 1945. There is a semi-Cinderella happy ending to Wild Blue that was almost too good to be true, but I believed it.

Reason read: Stephen Ambrose was born in the month of January.

Author fact: Wild Blue is one of six books I have on my Challenge list. I made the mistake of poking around websites and learned that there is controversy surrounding the authenticity of Ambrose writing Wild Blue. Not wanting to contaminate my enjoyment of reading the book, I stopped poking around websites.

Book trivia: Wild Blue has a total of 15 black and white photographs clustered in the center of the book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War II Fiction” (p 252).

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