Books by John Lawrence Stewart

Released: June 1, 1998

An I-was-there authenticity buoys one man's recollections of deadly combat with the famed US 8th Air Force in WWII Europe over 50 years ago. Luckily, first-time author Stewart kept a diary (against regulations) of his 31 missions over targets in France and Germany as a 19-year-old navigator in a B-24 Liberator bomber. His are blow-by-blow, stress-and-strain accounts of raids and of flying through unnerving anti-aircraft flak where the chances of survival were far less than 100 percent. Many airmen, he relates, entered denial merely in order to subdue their fears. When not flying, they kept busy with partying and military practice sessions to improve their professional expertise. Some of the religious simply withdrew emotionally. Stewart argues that the November 1940 German raid on the medieval town of Coventry had strategic purpose—much heavy industry was located there, despite British propaganda meant to arouse sympathy and indignation. He didn't find American bomber crews to be any more or less effective than the enemy. Regardless, a reader feels the brutality of war on both sides, even though the author stresses the heavy casualties suffered by Americans. Stewart believes that passing years have muddied our memories of the war, aided at times by intellectuals with preconceived ideas who were not present for it. He cites what he views as the often biased treatment of the atomic bombing of Japan, arguing that without the bomb to end the bloodletting, many more lives would have been sacrificed (in part as a result of likely Japanese atrocities). Stewart, who earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering after the war and taught at the University of Arizona, includes a detailed discussion of military technology in his later chapters. His book ably charts the hard times of American WWII flyers. (100 illustrations) Read full book review >