A fine bittersweet memoir from a man who survived 25 combat missions as a B-17 flight engineer and top-turret gunner....



A fine bittersweet memoir from a man who survived 25 combat missions as a B-17 flight engineer and top-turret gunner. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Comer (then a 31-year-old industrial-equipment salesman) enlisted in the Army. Trained as an aircraft mechanic, he surprised himself by volunteering for gunnery school; in mid-1943, the author wound up on a Flying Fortress crew based in England, from where he participated in some of the war's toughest raids, including two assaults on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing plants deep in Nazi Germany, Command decisions also took Comer over military targets in occupied countries, many of which he had visited as a civilian. Despite ""serious reservations, about the bombing of population centers, the author soldiered on, trying without notable success to ignore his own mortality. Even on so-called milk runs, death, and destruction were seldom more than an instant away in the hostile skies above the Continent. Antiaircraft fire and Luftwaffe fighters were constant dangers, as was the high-altitude environment where temperatures plunged to more than minus 60 degrees. To wile away the tedious hours between the tense traumas of aerial combat, Comer began keeping a journal. His log touches on larger issues, e.g., whether the results achieved by Allied bomber squadrons were justified by the staggering losses of men and planes. In the main, however, he focuses on the workaday activities and routine valor of B-17 crew members who did the flying as well as dying. After a full measure of close calls, Comer made it home. Assigned to a training command, he quickly decided combat was a less hazardous option--and survived another 50 missions over Italy. Comer offers a vivid, human-scale account of what it was like to serve a six-month tour of duty aboard B-17s in the flak-filled skies of WW II Europe. The engrossing text includes photographs, plus schematics from Boeing on the interior layouts of various Flying Fortress models (not seen).

Pub Date: March 15, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988