A young World War II airman learns hard-won lessons in bravery and generosity during an extended stay behind enemy lines in occupied France in Woodrum’s affecting, low-key memoir.
The author’s remembrance opens in the spring of 1944, as he prepared to fly his 35th mission as a bomber pilot over German positions in France. He was warned by a superior officer to avoid bailing out over Paris due to increased German activity, but he found himself unable to follow that advice, as his plane was shredded by anti-aircraft fire shortly after he finished his run. After avoiding early capture by a stroke of luck and some friendly assistance, he fell in with the French Resistance, which kept him tucked away in a succession of safe houses for three months. Eventually, thanks to the daring of many Resistance members, Woodrum was reunited with Allied forces, but the cost was far higher than he expected or imagined. Despite the incredible danger Woodrum and his Resistance allies faced every day, the author downplays the tension of that time, instead focusing his skillful prose on the heroism and quiet dignity of those he met. His gratitude and respect shine through on every page; he ably shows his appreciation for what he learned and experienced in those long-ago days. These emotions didn’t stop when he sailed for home; as illustrated in an epilogue, he made several efforts to re-establish contact with those who helped him, and he details the fates of as many people as he could find. This sense of closure gives the memoir a weight that belies its low-key affability and effectively underlines the sense of good fortune that the author carried with him for the rest of his life.
An understated, uplifting memoir that shows the best of humanity in a time of war and horror.