This incisive World War II novel skillfully brings readers along on nerve-wracking bombing runs in German-held territory.
More importantly, Durham’s (Wade’s War, 2013, etc.) fourth WWII–based book introduces the men behind such daring raids—and the war’s effect on them. Based in Bassingbourn, England, the B-17 crews in the 91st Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force voluntarily fly into unknown, frequently terrifying situations to deliver their payloads and then pray they make it back to base. Lt. Bob Foster is the pilot of one such 10-member crew, until he suddenly isn’t any longer. That’s because, in a public-relations maneuver, Lt. Harmon Roberts III, son of a key U.S. senator, is appointed the pilot of Foster’s crew, with Foster reluctantly becoming the co-pilot. Naturally, Foster isn’t too thrilled with this development: “He’d stolen my crew, my airplane and now, my medal….I was getting the short end of the stick on this deal and I was sore about it.” Eventually, Foster comes around in his opinion of Roberts, which is the key to the narrative of this novel, as the pair will have to work together well to survive in the daunting months and years that follow. In his author’s note, Durham explains his motivation for writing: “I…have worked to present an accurate if fictional look at the conditions in which the brave crews flew and fought.” He’s met his goal; the research fueled by Durham’s passion shines through in the terrifying battle scenes that he brings alive for readers, successfully capturing the overwhelming attacks such bombers faced. Other than Foster and Roberts, Durham’s characters aren’t as well developed, but that doesn’t detract much from his story. The deliberate pacing of the novel’s action and the development of the friendship between the two main characters also sustain this enjoyable military thriller.
An admirable addition to World War II fiction that highlights the contributions of heavy-bombing crews.