THE WAR OF THE COTTONTAILS: Memoirs of a Bomber Pi by William R. Cubbins

THE WAR OF THE COTTONTAILS: Memoirs of a Bomber Pi

Email this review


Barely 20 when he was sent into action as a WW II bomber pilot, Cubbins experienced enough danger and adventure to last most men a lifetime before reaching his majority. In this distinctly personal and engrossing chronicle, the now retired Air Force officer provides a vivid account of what it was like to fly the deadly, flak-filled skies of eastern Europe. Posted to Manduria (in the heel of Italy's boot) during the spring of 1944, Cubbins and his crew were assigned to the 15th Air Force's 450th Bombardment Group. Flying four-engine B-24 Liberators, the author participated in some of the ETO's toughest raids, including assaults on the Ploesti oil fields. Even on so-called milk runs, however, casualties were substantial; antiaircraft fire and Luftwaffe, fighters both took terrible tolls. Cubbins and his men were shot down twice. The first time, they were fortunate enough to bail out over the Adriatic island of Vis, garrisoned by Allied troops who returned them to Italy. The author's luck ran out soon after he returned to active duty. Forced to parachute from another burning plane, Cubbins was captured and interned in Bucharest. When Romania pulled out of the Axis, he and his fellow POWs got a taste of their own medicine as the Reich launched savage retaliatory strikes against its erstwhile ally. Evacuated once again to Italy, he ends his story on a runway in Bari, the first stop on a long journey home. Largely eschewing such larger issues as whether the results achieved by US bomber squadrons justified the staggering losses of men and aircraft, Cubbins focuses on the routine valor displayed by air crews whose principal preoccupation was surviving 50 missions. The author faithfully records the terrors of aerial combat, the tedium that typically brackets it, and the leaderless captive's angst. Throughout, his anecdotal saga (which includes a full ration of shavetail gripes against superior officers) is leavened with humor. A sawy, human-scale journal then, of more than average interest for the account of the author's Rumanian sojourn.

ISBN: 912697-96-2
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online: