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Pegasus Bridge: June 6 1944 Europe France Stephen E. Ambrose Simon & Schuster


31st October 2011 History Books 52 Comments

Los Angeles Herald Examiner All the vividness of a movie, and all the intelligence — in every sense — of fine military history.

Drew Middleton The New York Times Book Review An illuminating account of an operation as strategically important as any fought on D-Day.

James Pitts New Orleans Times A little gem. One that will be drawn from by historians of the future.

Noland Norgaard The Denver Post The best war story this reviewer has ever read.

6 1-hour cassettes –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

In the early morning hours of June 6, 1944, a small detachment of British airborne troops stormed the German defense forces and paved the way for the Allied invasion of Europe. Pegasus Bridge was the first engagement of D-Day, the turning point of World War II. This gripping account of it by acclaimed author Stephen Ambrose brings to life a daring mission so crucial that, had it been unsuccessful, the entire Normandy invasion might have failed. Ambrose traces each step of the preparations over many months to the minute-by-minute excitement of the hand-to-hand confrontations on the bridge. This is a story of heroism and cowardice, kindness and brutality — the stuff of all great adventures.

Los Angeles Herald Examiner All the vividness of a movie, and all the intelligence — in every sense — of fine military history.

Drew Middleton The New York Times Book Review An illuminating account of an operation as strategically important as any fought on D-Day.

James Pitts New Orleans Times A little gem. One that will be drawn from by historians of the future.

Noland Norgaard The Denver Post The best war story this reviewer has ever read.

Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944

The Wild Blue : The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

Long before he entered politics, when he was just in his early 20s, South Dakotan George McGovern flew 35 bomber missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery under fire. Stephen Ambrose, the industrious historian, focuses on McGovern and the young crew of his B-24 bomber, volunteers all, in this vivid study of the air war in Europe.

Manufactured by a consortium of companies that included Ford Motor and Douglas Aircraft, the B-24 bomber, dubbed the Liberator, was designed to drop high explosives on enemy positions well behind the front lines–and especially on the German capital, Berlin. Unheated, drafty, and only lightly armored, the planes were dangerous places to be, and indeed, only 50 percent of their crews survived to the war’s end. Dangerous or not, they did their job, delivering thousand- pound bombs to targets deep within Germany and Austria.

In his fast-paced narrative, Ambrose follows many other flyers (including the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who gave the B-24s essential fighter support on some of their most dangerous missions) as they brave the long odds against them, facing moments of glory and terror alike. “It would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies,” Ambrose writes. “But don’t ask how they could have won the war without it.” –Gregory McNamee –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Stephen Ambrose is the acknowledged dean of the historians of World War II in Europe. In three highly acclaimed, bestselling volumes, he has told the story of the bravery, steadfastness, and ingenuity of the ordinary young men, the citizen soldiers, who fought the enemy to a standstill — the band of brothers who endured together.

The very young men who flew the B-24s over Germany in World War II against terrible odds were yet another exceptional band of brothers, and, in The Wild Blue, Ambrose recounts their extraordinary brand of heroism, skill, daring, and comradeship with the same vivid detail and affection. With his remarkable gift for bringing alive the action and tension of combat, Ambrose carries us along in the crowded, uncomfortable, and dangerous B-24s as their crews fought to the death through thick black smoke and deadly flak to reach their targets and destroy the German war machine.

The Wild Blue : The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45










  • 52 responses to "Pegasus Bridge: June 6 1944 Europe France Stephen E. Ambrose Simon & Schuster"

  • HS Tan
    11:05 on October 30th, 2011
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    Having been stationed in Germany for three years I was fortunate enough to travel to many of the WWII battlegrounds that exist in Europe and the beaches that made up Operation Overlord is one trip that I will never forget. Before making the trip I read “Citizen Soldier,” “D-Day” and “Pegasus Bridge” all written by Stephen Ambrose. I carried “D-Day” and “Pegasus Bridge” with me during my trip to use as a reference as I visited 4 of the 5 beaches involved in the D-Day invasion.
    “Pegasus Bridge” is the story of the men from D company from the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry Regiment of the British 6th Airborne Division. Ambrose does a masterful job of relating the story of these men and tying to results of the battle to the overall operation of D-Day. Ambrose gives the background on the training of the men, personal insights of many of the men, and the man who held them all together Major John Howard.
    As good as Ambrose tells the story of D company nothing compares to actually standing on that bridge and the feeling that you get thinking that right here is where the D-Day invasion began! Ambrose has included some great photos and drawing of the gliders landing site. When you visit the bridge itself you will find markers indicating the locations of the first three gliders and it is only then you will realize what a magnificent job of piloting Staff Sergeant Jim Wallwork did in landing the nose of his glider “to break through the barbed wire” as requested by Major Howard. Some the machine gun nest are still there beside the bridge and gives you an idea of what the men faced. The original bridge, replaced with a modern bridge, but thankfully was saved and is located nearby as part of a museum.
    “The first place liberated in France” is what the Gondrée’s café has as a label according to a plague affixed over the entrance to the café. If you do not go inside you will miss a stunning collection of “Pegasus” military memorabilia! If you are lucky, you might even meet Madam Gondrée, who was a child at the time of the battle, and was still running the café at the time of my visit. She sat with friends and me and related a few stories concerning the story of the bridge and their current fight with the local government to preserve the café and other local building from a campaign to broaden the canal.
    As I walk around outside the café and bridge site, I used Ambrose’s book to take me through the battle almost moment by moment. I could almost hear Lt. Brotheridge’s Sten gun rattle off as he killed one of the two guards on the bridge that night and sadly wonder if he knew what he and his men accomplished that night as he lay dying only moments after engaging the Germans.
    If have any interest in the D-Day invasion then you cannot go wrong with this book. Ambrose does a wonderful job in presenting the story. The book is easy to read; I finished it in two days, yet does not insult your intelligence. If you do visit the Normandy region make sure you block out at least half a day to visit the bridge and Madam Gondrée’s café you will not be disappointed. Ste.-Mère-Église is another place not to miss, but that is another story.

  • TrafficWarden
    11:30 on October 30th, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose takes us inside the cramped, cold and courageous flights of B-24 ‘Liberator’ bombers over Europe during WWII. A few highly selected men, but mostly boys, battled fighters and flack in order to destroy Nazi oil reserves and other strategic targets. Due to their staggering losses, bomber crews became one of the most dangerous assignments during the war.

    Ambrose takes us close to these heroes by chronicling the 35 missions of former Senator and Presidential candidate, George McGovern and his crew. Put the politics aside and learn about the intense training and miserable flight conditions. Discover the very personal battles each crew member fought with fear. See how 10 strangers bonded as one team at 25,000 feet.

    As a youth, my brother and I built models of B-24′s and B-17′s, inspired by war stories and movies, like “12 O’Clock High”. We mistook the leather flight jackets and cool shades as glamour. “The Wild Blue” demonstrates war has little glamour. Ordinary people accepted dangerous positions and performed extraordinary tasks. Ambrose is informative and passionate in bringing us their story.

  • John Baxter
    14:24 on October 30th, 2011
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    This is vintage Stephen Ambrose storytelling from the days before he became a cottage industry and became caught up in arguments over who wrote what and when. It is also the rarely told story of a single company sized unit in a single important combat, specifically D Company (or Coy as the Brits often say) of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Regiment here identified as “the Oxs and Bucks.”

    The regiment was assigned the role of glider-borne infantry as part of Britain’s 6th Airborne Division. Their mission on D-Day, the 6th of June in 1944, was to seize and hold two bridges – one over the Orne River and the other across the adjacent canal. These waterways marked the left flank of the British landing beaches on D-Day and therefore the left flank of the entire Normandy invasion force. It was considered critical that these two bridges be captured intact and held in order to deny them to the use of German tank units in the vicinity and to preserve them for the eventual use of the Allied breakout from the initial beachhead. In the words of John Wayne as the American airborne’s General Gavin – this mission was strategic.

    Ambrose tells the story not just of the battle but of the preparations for the battle being made by both sides for some two years before D-Day. While his focus is primarily upon D Company and its commander, Major John Howard, through good research and a little luck he is also able to include in his narrative the viewpoint and experiences of the German troops and of the local French Resistance members in the vicinity of the bridge.

    In part because they have long since disappeared from warfare, the glider troops do not seem to get the full share of credit they deserve. As is cited in a number of books on the subject, including this one, those paratroopers who found themselves riding the gliders came away unanimously prefering to parachute and some arguing that the glider troops weren’t paid enough. Neither the glider troops nor the glider pilots wore parachutes, reflecting a bond between the cockpit crew and their passengers that whatever happened they were all in this venture together. Losses among the glider troops were high and often resulted from midflight failures of their aircraft or friendly fire from anti-aircraft guns on Allied ships or ground units that in the heat of combat failed to recall their orders or to recognize the aircraft as friendly. And then, of course, there were the losses in combat with the Germans. Ambrose does an excellent job in the story of this one company of setting out the arguments for using gliders and the details of how to use them successfully. This is a history, a biography and memoir, and almost a textbook on glider operations.

  • nedendir
    15:50 on October 30th, 2011
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    As a military officer I have had the great good fortune to meet the author and two of the protagonists in this account of a pivotal moment in the opening of the Battle of Normandy as well as being fortunate enough to travel to the site of most of the action. While Ambrose captures some of the exuberant personality of Maj John Howard, he most certainly excelled at recounting the herculean efforts leading up to the event — the training, the organization, the bureaucracy — and leading the reader through the night of hell endured by the troops on both sides as well as the terrified, suspicious, yet grateful civilians caught in the middle.

    What I liked most about the book (being an avid WWII history buff) is the immediacy of Ambrose’s writing. When I traveled to Caen and saw the bridge’s modern replacement and the adjacent glider landing fields where “Rommel’s Asparagus” had been “planted” I knew instantly where I was and where the actions took place. I could easily trace from memory what had happened, to whom, and where. Ambrose has the capacity to make his spare prose come alive and cause the reader to see the panzers lumbering into the targeted intersection, only to be knocked out by a man’s phenomenally skillful use of a woefully inaccurate weapon. It’s all there in this small, rather inconspicuous book.

    I highly recommend this book for anyone who may be interested in learning some detail about what happened in one small area of the Norman countryside shortly after midnite, in the wee hours of the 6th of June, 1944. I might also recommend viewing a representation of Maj John Howard’s exploits as a part of the movie, “The Longest Day.” For those who have seen that film, this book will provide wonderful detail for enhancing their comprehension of the stunning complexity of the invasion by illustrating this one tiny piece of the invasion scenario.

  • Satish KC
    20:31 on October 30th, 2011
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    If you’ve seen “The Longest Day” you may recall the scene in which a small band of glider-borne commandos seizes a bridge and defends it until relieved by Lord Lovett and his commandos. What you may not know is that this was a singular event- the very first combat engagement of D-Day and the first and only use of this technique by the Allies in the war.

    Ambrose is one of the best contemporary historians to write about World War 2, always managing to be both accurate and entertaining. Here, he gives us profiles of the men involved on both sides of the battle, the development of the glider assault technique, a detailed minute-by-minute account of the fighting, and the story of the aftermath of the battle and the lives of the men (and women) after the war, up to the 50th Anneversary D-Day ceremonies in France.

    If you’re a history buff, this book is a must-have for your library. If you’re interested in a more accurate verison of the details surrounding the battle than the movie presented, read the book. And if you simply want to understand a little better how ordinary men can acheive the extraordinary when called on to do so, read this book.

  • PaulTheZombie
    21:40 on October 30th, 2011
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    exciting and interesting story though some parts about the preparation and training for the mission a bit teidous at times. This book sparked me into purchasing a Dvd copy of the “longest Day”.

  • Ripel
    23:33 on October 30th, 2011
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    WILD BLUE vividly recreates the life of B-24 bomber crews in World War II. Historian Stephen Ambrose (1936-2002) focuses on pilot and future Presidential candidate George McGovern and his comrades from the 15th Army Air Force stationed in Italy from 1944-45. These men trained, worked, and sometimes died while performing hazardous duty under incredible stress. We sense the utter fear they felt from anti-aircraft fire (flak), German fighters, and accidents. We read of their reaction to homesickness, lost comrades, bombs that fell lethally off target, and tent life in the Italian countryside. McGovern’s crewmembers salute him as highly skilled, courageous, and steadfast under fire – ironic given later attacks on his patriotism for his anti-Vietnam political views. My father was a B-24 navigator in the marginally less dangerous Pacific theatre, and his tales mirror many that appear in this book. Readers may note that this book is more memoir than general history, and it barely mentions the larger 8th Army Air Force stationed in England.

    Some say this volume lacks the polish found in Ambrose’ best efforts. Also, the author was accused of plagiarizing certain sections of this book – a charge some believe, but others attribute to jealous colleagues tired of seeing the readable Ambrose on the best-seller list while their academic treatises collect dust. Whichever is the case, WILD BLUE makes pretty good reading.

  • TrafficWarden
    23:57 on October 30th, 2011
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    I will leave the literary criticism to others, but THE WILD BLUE faithfully tells the story of my experience. I was a member of the 301st Bomb Group, 5th Wing (B-17s),15th Air Force. I flew my “50th mission,” 30th sortie, on December 26, 1944. I feel that I can speak with some authority when I say that this book gets it right-our naivete, our training, the food, the plight of the Italians, the fact that we were often scared, and the fact that we did what we were trained to do. All of my combat experience was in B-17s. I have considerable experience in B-24s also, a frightening Air craft. Major Onan A. Hill, Navigator, USAFRes Ret

  • John Baxter
    2:52 on October 31st, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose has done it again. One of the best and most prolific historians has produced another epic account of “The Greatest Generation,” this time from the airmen’s point of view. Centering on George McGovern’s service with the 455th Bomb Group which was part of the 15th Air Force stationed in Italy. Ambrose transcends the boundaries and his book manages to show the day to day grind of the airmen, where one day they’re flying through flak and dying horrible deaths, the next day, they’re sitting in their tents utterly bored. The men who crewed the B-24s were truly the “dogfaces” of the air, and their contributions to the Allied victory cannot be denied. Even when the air war seemed won, there was much danger, whether it was from flak, the Luftwaffe, flying accidents, mishandling of bombs or just plain fate, these men, boys really, served their country well. Stephen Ambrose has given them a beautiful tribute that will stand the test of time.

  • nedendir
    4:18 on October 31st, 2011
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    This book is only about 150 pages short but it is long on information and eyewitness accounts of one of the most pivotal battles of D-Day.

    The British 6th Airborne was tasked with the mission to secure the left flank (the easternmost flank) of the Normandy Beachhead. Major John Howard and 181 members of the 2nd Ox and Bucks Regiment were ordered to capture and hold a bridge over the Orne River and an adjacent canal. It was the key strongpoint in defending this flank.

    This is the story of how Howard’s men trained and trained and executed the plan with a daring glider assault, landing only yards away from the bridge. How they seized this bridge and held on until reinforced is the stuff of legend.

    The book is fully indexed, well sourced and contains the original orders given to Major Howard. Not much has been written about this exploit so this is a must read for anyone curious about the battle of Pegasus Bridge.

    One can only wonder what might have happened at Arnhem if a group of gliders had dared to land as close to “the bridge too far”.

    John E. Nevola
    Author of The Last Jump: A Novel of World War II

  • Satish KC
    8:58 on October 31st, 2011
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    Those hoping for the story of the sub-title “The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany”, will come away disappointed. This story primarily tells the story, and it is a good one, of one pilot, his upbringing, training and combat experience during WWII. That pilot is George McGovern, a long time friend of Ambrose. The 2 men have known each other for decades, and for a while, in the 1980s and perhaps early 1990s, both taught at the University of New Orleans, McGovern lecturing on Political Science, Ambrose on History.

    This history is too much from the pilot’s perspective, with all too little input from the enlisted men. McGovern started flying combat missions with the 15th Air Force in late 1944, from Army Air Forces (AAF) bases in Italy. By this point, the war had been won, and air supremacy had been achieved.

    If you’re interesested in finding out about bombers undergoing heavy attacks from fierce German fighter resistance, you won’t find it in this book.

    This book works well as a history of McGovern during the war. The man who was against the Vietnam War, and the bombing in North Vietnam flew 35 combat missions, the maximum limit allowed by the AAF. Yet even here, Ambrose doesn’t follow-up. McGovern relates the story of how a live bomb failed to drop on the target, getting hung up in the plane. Landing with a live bomb would have been suicidal, so the crew worked to get rid of it. It finally got loose, and landed onto a peaceful Austrian farm house. When McGovern got back on the ground, he was greeted with the news that his wife had given birth to a baby girl.

    Ambrose doesn’t address the obvious question as to how this incident might have shaped McGovern’s later political views, despite McGovern’s statement that the incident had haunted him. This should have been addressed.

    This book is incomplete. That Ambrose tells a history of the oft-forgotten B-24 is to be lauded. But, ironically, although Ambrose discusses how the B-24 has been forgotten, his book gives short shrift to this important plane, ignoring the B-24s flying from England as part of the 8th Air Force, and concentrating so heavily on one perspective, pilot George McGovern. McGovern served ably and well, and others have contributed to this book as well.

    But the story of the air war is incomplete. It’s as if Ambrose has only told the story of a single rifle squad of Easy Company. This book is of value to read, but it should have been much more that it ends up being. Too many stories are left untold, most especially the terror of the bombing war of 1943 – early 1944.

    This is *A* story of the bomber war. *THE* story of the bomber war has yet to be told, at least by Ambrose.

  • PaulTheZombie
    10:07 on October 31st, 2011
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    Having read all of Ambrose’s previous books, I began to read this one with certain expectations: That the nature and extent of his coverage of the subject, for example, would be comparable with his coverage of the Lewis and Clark expeditions and the construction of the Intercontinental Railroad. In fact it is not. What we seem to have is more of a briefing on rather than a definitive analysis of “the men and boys who flew the B-24s over Germany.” It is a great read, combining a lucid and lively writing style with exceptionally interesting information. I had no idea how dangerous the B-24 was to fly. (Ambrose characterizes it as “sternly unforgiving.”) Nor how unpleasant it was to fly in it. (According to Ambrose, the temperature in its unheated cabin was frequently sub-zero). It was called the Liberator or “Lib” for short but also had several other nicknames which included “Flying Box Car”, “New York Harbor Garbage Scows with Wings”, “Spam Can in the Sky”, and “The Old Agony Wagon.” I had forgotten that almost all of those who flew it as well as the B-17 (the “Flying Fortress”) were in their early twenties. I was reminded of that fact, portrayed so vividly in the film Memphis Belle and ignored in an otherwise flawless film, Twelve O’Clock High.

    Ambrose devotes much of his attention to pilot Lt. George McGovern (age 22) and his crew as they struggle to stay alive long enough to fulfill their strategic obligations while completing the required 35 missions. (McGovern later served as a U.S. Senator and was the Democratic Party’s candidate for President in 1972.) This is a brilliant narrative device, first because McGovern and those who flew with him in the Dakota Queen are obviously representative of thousands of B-24 bomber crews but also because the historical and technical information provided by Ambrose is anchored within a human context, one which is often poignant and at times tragic. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has read one or more of Ambrose’s previous books; also to those who have a special interest in World War Two; and finally, to those who share my amazement and admiration when introduced to unexceptional people whose accomplishments are anything but.

  • Ripel
    12:00 on October 31st, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Having visited Normandy including Pegasus Bridge and Ranville in August 2001 I decided to do some more reading on D-day and read Pegasus Bridge by Stephen E. Ambrose.
    I couldn’t put it down, it was fascinating to read how these soldiers were trained and the precision with which they were expected to carry out their capture of the bridge.
    I read this book cover to cover in 2 days, I haven’t read a book that quickly for about 15 years so believe me this is a big recommendation.
    I will certainly read more books by this author on this subject as soon as possible. Read it even if you don’t have an interest, you will learn something about what another generation did for us so that we could live in freedom.

  • TrafficWarden
    12:24 on October 31st, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose states in “Band Of Brothers” that as an honorary member of D Company Ox and Bucks and of E company,506,101st,he has both his flanks covered. Indeed so. “Pegasus Bridge” should probably be read in conjunction with “Band of Brothers” although it is much more the story of a single action on a single night than the odyssey that is the record of Easy Co. Ambrose writes vividly of the night of the 5th June ,his style ideally suited to his subject. One feels the elation ,the fear ,the shock of the combatants as the events unfold.The death of Den Brotheridge ,the key destruction of a mk4 Panzer and later a patrol boat by men armed with only the erratic and makeshift PIAT,the discordantly amusing destruction of a German OP situated on a water tower by means of a captured AT gun, all clearly recreated in the mind of the reader by the concise prose and carefully chosen eyewitness accounts. There are some minor gripes.Most non-American readers will feel that Ambrose has more understanding of the pysche and motivations of G.Is than of Tommies, but this is understandable. While wholeheartedly agreeing with his assessment of the Sten and PIAT as erratic and alarming weapons to use, he errs when describing the Bren in like terms as inferior to the German equivalents. These are not major issues. “Pegasus Bridge”, with “Band of Brothers”, stands as a wonderful read and a fitting tribute to the young men of 1944 who gave so much for freedom.

  • John Baxter
    15:19 on October 31st, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose’s book tells the story of D company, 6th para. and the taking of the bridges over the Orne canal and river. It is an excellent, if skimpy, telling of one of the facinating stories of WWII. I have always found the incident interesting since seeing it portrayed in “The Longest Day” It is a quick read, and I’d have liked more detail, but it is a good book none the less.

  • nedendir
    16:45 on October 31st, 2011
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    Narrating George McGovern’s WWII service in B-24s, Stephen Ambrose also tells the story of the B-24 strategic bomber and the men who served as B-24 crews. Included are succinct accounts of some crew members who flew in other B-24s. These airmen were a cross section of the United States; i.e. good and bad and stupid and bright, each a slice of humanity.

    After McGovern signed-up for the Army Air Force (AAF), he waited a year before called to active duty in February 1943. In 1942 the AAF lacked sufficient airfields, airplanes, instructors, and barracks to immediately start training the large number of airmen the war would require. In 1939 the Army Air Corps had only 1,700 aircraft and 1600 officers. By 1944 the AAF had 2.4 million personnel and was almost one third of the total Army strength. The book gives a short account of pilot training. Like the rest of the Army, air-crews had to go through army basic training before proceeding to flight training. The author noted “It was almost universally agreed that the B-24 was the hardest plane to fly. The AAF knew that and its training program reflected the fact.” The B-24 pilot required physically stamina with McGovern stating that his pre-flight Phys-Ed coach “made a bigger contribution to saving our lives than any single person.” After B-24 transition training, aircrews were assigned to aircraft. The book notes “It was critical for each crew to develop and maintain a close bond.” Most were twenty-two years old or younger.”

    In September 1944, McGovern and crew were judged ready. They were assigned to the Fifteenth Air Force based at Cerignola, Italy. They didn’t fly a B-24 over but took a long ship trip to Italy. Chapter Four contains an informative discussion of bomber strategy. The British went to night bombing, making German cities and their civilian population the target.” The AAF wanted no part of the British policy, adopting strategic daylight bombing in the summer of 1942, but as the author notes “they had been rushed into battle prematurely.” Rarely were the missions decisive because the Germans could repair damage almost as fast as they were bombed-out. Strategic bombs results were flat and casualty rates were high so that by mid-1943 the situation was critical for strategic bombing as conducted by the Eighth Air force in England. By late 1943 loss rate started declining as experience was gained. Also in December 1943, the Fifteenth Air Force was formed so that Germany and Austria were being bombed from the South and in the East.

    After Chapter Five’s brief discussion of Cerignola, Italy, Chapter Six narrates how McGovern and other new crews learned to fly in combat. AAF’s policy in late 1994 was for the pilot to fly their first five combat missions as co-pilots with a veteran and experienced crew. McGovern’s first mission was November 1, 1944. AAF takeoff procedures would drive today’s air traffic controllers nuts. McGovern later admitted “Every takeoff made in World War II was an adventure.” As a co-pilot McGovern learned much noting that flak was almost always dangerous. McGovern’s B-24 was never attacked by German fighter aircraft as few remained in service late in the war. After completing his five co-pilot missions, McGovern took command of his own crew as aircraft commander. While missions were flown against a variety of targets, the strategic emphasis was on oil refineries and railroad marshalling yards. The text provides succinct accounts of the missions McGovern and his crew flew. On one mission, McGovern’s aircraft lost the right wheel on takeoff. They flew the mission and McGovern said regarding his return landing “….made the best landing I’d ever made in my life.” Enroute to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia on a mission, his aircraft lost an engine and lost a second engine to flak over the target. On the return McGovern made an emergency landing on an Adriatic island.

    Chapter Nine is devoted to The Tuskegee Airmen who in P-51s flew cover in 1945 for the Fifteenth Air Force bombers. They were greatly admired, and appreciated by the bomber crews as the Tuskegee Airmen effectively prevented any German fighter plane attacks. McGovern’s last mission was to Linz, Austria on April 25, 1945. Less than two weeks later the Germans surrendered and the war in Europe ended. During the last fifteen months, McGovern’s group had flown 252 combat missions, lost 118 B-24s and suffered nearly 1,000 casualties-killed, wounded, missing or taken prisoner.

    In the chapters on combat, the text relate the effects of combat on the aircrews who were almost always exhausted after a B-24 mission. In addition, the flying officers were well thought of by theirs crews as these officers looked after the well-being of the entire crew. The book’s reporting of the various post-war assessments of the effectiveness of strategic bombing was interesting. Luftwaffe commander Goring said target selection had been excellent. Albert Speer, the minister of production, emphatically stated that strategic bombing could have won the war without a land invasion. Other German leaders said that the Allies had underestimated German industrial capacity.

    After the war, McGovern and his crew flew several missions carrying food to war ravaged areas including Germany. On June 18,1945 McGovern and his crew flew a B-24 back home. Some returning veterans, including McGovern, when to college. Regarding B-24s, the author relates that in less than a year after the war, virtually all B-24 had been salvaged with only three aircraft remaining in museums today, only two still flying.

    This is a very readable account of an aircraft and its crews who have been somewhat overshadowed by the more famous B-17.

  • Satish KC
    21:25 on October 31st, 2011
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    “Wild Blue” is the story of a young George McGovern and of a plane called the B-24 and the role they both played in winning WWII for the Allies. Ambrose does a very nice job of drawing you into the whole experience of particiapting in WWII as a bomber pilot. He brings a lot of issues to light that you simply don’t tend to think about including training and the differences in flying different aircraft. As always, Ambrose does a wonderful job of capturing the comaraderie of the men and the importance of those among them who accepted roles as leaders.

    The book will give you a greater appreciation for what these men did and endured and will entertain you at the same time.

  • PaulTheZombie
    22:34 on October 31st, 2011
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    Review Summary: The Wild Blue is a five-star book from each of several perspectives. First, you will learn about how the United States went from having few aviation resources to fielding a larger air force than that of all the other nations combined in World War II. The complexities and careful thinking through of what needed to be done are most impressive. Second, you will learn about the role that strategic bombing played in the European theater of operations during that war. Third, you will learn what it was like to become a B-24 pilot, from the day a man volunteered to the day he returned home to the United States. Fourth, you will experience combat conditions against German fighters and flak in a lumbering, sluggish bomber in extremely difficult conditions. Fifth, you will find out how such a war-time experience changes a persons view of themselves and others. Sixth, you will also learn about the formative influences of war on one of the most prominent American peace advocates, former senator George McGovern. If you are like me, you will never see the war in Europe in quite the same way again after you read The Wild Blue.

    Review: My father served on the ground in England as part of the famous Eighth Air Force in World War II. My father-in-law was a navigation instructor for bomber pilots during World War II. Although both men are proud of their service, they only tell the positive side of the air war in Europe. During rare moments over the years, they have alluded to some of the more personal and challenging sides of those years. My mother shares hints of some recurring nightmares from what other wives have told her at Air Force reunions. Although Professor Ambroses account is not as dark as the worst that I have heard, his lively and thorough narrative helped me to fill in many spaces where I lacked understanding of what these men had shared with me. For example, my dad had told me that the Fifteenth Air Force often had it worse than the Eighth late in the war. Since The Wild Blue focuses on the Fifteenth, I was able to understand what he was describing for me. I look forward to sharing this book with both my father and father-in-law and hearing what their reactions are to the material here. Very few books have ever helped me to understand these important men in my life as much as this one did.

    I have always been impressed by former senator McGoverns commitment to peace and humanitarian concerns. I knew that he had been a bomber pilot in World War II, but little else about his war-time service. The book contains many interesting insights into his character that added to my admiration, and increased my understanding of the stands he has taken. As he characterized his experience of being a pilot, I literally exhausted every resource of mind and body and spirit that I had. You will find these revelations more interesting if you read about them yourself, but I encourage you to pay close attention to stories about bombs dropped inadvertently.

    Professor Ambrose has used accounts from many different people to capture the full dimension of the air war. I learned so much that I find it hard to believe that the book was so brief. Normally, I wouldnt learn this much from a book of 1000 pages. The mechanism of primarily following former senator McGoverns squadron was a good way to capture the grit of the small details while using them to illustrate the important, larger picture. Each perspective enhances the other.

    The book also contains some excellent black-and-white photographs that usefully elaborate on the written materials.

    I liked the way that Professor Ambrose took on the moral issues involved in the bombing. The civilian deaths were enormous from these raids, even though civilians were not the targets. Briefings described the important cultural sites in each area, and ordered the bombers to avoid them. Some bombing raids went near the death camps, but did not target them. At various times, the rate of lost crews approached suicidal levels. How much risk was it fair to ask these brave crews to take? Without imposing his own answers, he provides lots of room for your own thoughts on these and other important ethical issues.

    I was powerfully moved by imagining myself in the various cramped positions in a B-24 over enemy territory, being exposed to danger and observing serious losses of my friends all around. Although I have seen many movies and television shows on this subject, The Wild Blue took my understanding of this experience to a much different and more personal level.

    After you have finished learning from this outstanding book, I suggest that you think about ways that your most private experiences can be captured and shared with your children and grandchildren . . . so that the important lessons will be available to all those who need them in the future.

    Learn from the challenges of the past to overcome the hurdles of the future.

  • Ripel
    0:27 on November 1st, 2011
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    I do not in any way want to diminish the actual bravery or skill of the personnel depicted in this book. But, as a book, this was disappointing. Ambrose’s other WWII books are generally better, as books about WWII. If you want a serious look at the bomber war, go elsewhere. Finally, if you want a “popular” work on the “feel” of the bomber war, the video/DVD “Memphis Belle” (despite some Hollywoodization) is more moving. And, if you just want to read something good by Ambrose, try “Undaunted Courage” or his book on D-Day.

    Summary: This is OK, but reads like a series of longish magazine articles stitched together. So — the 3-star rating is “average” for an average book. For young teens interested in WWII, I would rate this higher; it is a good, quick read; my 11-year-old loved it.

  • TrafficWarden
    0:52 on November 1st, 2011
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    This is a book about glider troops from the UK. I wondered if I would be able to be engrossed in this book to the same degree I was engrossed with the story of E company in Band of Brothers.

    I was.

    This is a fascinating story about our allies and their preparations for D-Day. Great stuff. If you like Band of Brothers, you’ll like this one as well.

  • John Baxter
    3:46 on November 1st, 2011
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    I found The Wild Blue to be a gritty, skillfully-wrought description of the rigors and horrors of the US air war in 1940′s Europe. It is as far from the fluff about “the glamorous flying men” as it’s possible to be. From the sheer bodily torment of being on one of these formidable but highly uncomfortable bombers with their unpressurized cabins, to the fact that less than half of all B-24 crews survived to finish their tours of duty, Ambrose serves up an intricate but easily-read work on a theater of military operations too often ignored.

    Ambrose died of cancer shortly after he wrote this book, and as some have commented, its tone has none of the expansive quality of so many of his past works. No doubt writing against time constraints, Ambrose, who found widescale celebrity late in his distinguished career (he also wrote, among many other things, the book Band of Brothers, and was a consultant on the film Saving Private Ryan) did not own the luxury of excess years in the creation of this excellent account of the air war as fought by crews of B-24′s: that workhorse of a flying machine, an instrument which contributed immeasurably to the defeat of the Nazi military. This book is in large part the story of South Dakotan George McGovern, later a United States Senator and candidate for the White House, who, with his crew, flew 35 bomber missions from Italy into the skies of Germany.

    What The Wild Blue lacks in the depth that might have come with a longer production time, it compensates for by being an honestly-related memoir of an era when Americans one and all got behind a noble cause and achieved a world where democracy was made possible for scores of millions once ruled by cruelty and tyranny.

  • nedendir
    5:12 on November 1st, 2011
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    Why does the company under John Howard deserve special mention? I found the story much less inspiring than 82nd airborne’s taking of Nijmegen bridge for example.

    Howard’s company had merely to brush aside drunks and other reluctant garrison troops. I don’t like these books that glorify a certain company above other more deserving companies. Stephen Ambrose does it again for Easy Company of 2nd battalion of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Millions of allied soliders fought in this war. It is unfair to glorify a handful over the millions, especially if there are groups more deserving of praise.

  • Satish KC
    9:53 on November 1st, 2011
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    Great learning tool. I was made aware of the story of the “Pegasus Bridge” through playing Call of Duty. I guess that smacks in the face of the “high mindeds” that suggest that gaming is a detriment to the human mind. From an american perspective it shows the unquestianable contributions made by our British brothers and sisters in arms during one of the most pivital times on earth. This is a story brought to you through the the pen of premier historian/author Stephen Ambrose. I love history and especialy WW2 history. I got to know the characters on a personel level. Stephen writes in laymans terms. For someone like myself who does not have military back ground, it offers easily understood nomanclature that makes the story all that much more authentic. “The Pegusas Bridge” is a wonderfuly accurate document of history, pulling back the curtain to reveal maps, actual military orders given to various officers, as well as recon photos of the bridge and surounding areas to give the reader the whole picture of the entire operation. A definite must read to any authentic WW2 enthusiaste.

  • PaulTheZombie
    11:01 on November 1st, 2011
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    While I enjoyed this one, it certainly was not the author’s best work. It did draw attention to a group of very brave men, the B-24 crew members in the European Theater, which was good as this group and this plane is often overlooked. It did seem to me though that the author, on one side was trying to write a biography of George McGovern, or if he was trying to cover the air war during the last part of WWII. I did enjoy his trade mark technique of telling the stories of different men who participated, but he would always go back to McGovern. Perhaps if he had stuck to one or the other the book would have had more of an impact. Parts of this work did drag and were rather repetative. On the other hand, the author did not try to over dramatize McGovern’s part in the war. The work was well crafted and you certainy would not waste your time in reading it. I suppose it is not quite fare to compare this work with other works by this author. After all, no one bats a thousand all the time. Overall, recommend this one with reservations. It is about very brave young men and we do need to know as much about them as possible.

  • Ripel
    12:54 on November 1st, 2011
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    I was with the Eighth Air Force in England and flew bombing missions over Germany in a B-17 in 1943-44. I hoped that Stephen Ambrose would use his excellent command of prose to describe the horror of those missions, whether in a B-24, B-17, Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, or Eighth Air Force in England. But it didn’t happen. His description of combat is like sipping a glass of milk, when actual combat is like choking down a glass of tequila. It is probably asking too much of someone who wasn’t there, but I didn’t get the feeling of intense cold, frozen oxygen masks, altitude sickness, planes exploding around you, boys losing arms, legs, or heads, and men driven mad by fear. In four months of missions, my ten-man crew had five killed and two, including me, wounded. I lost so many friends that I stopped making friends because it hurt too much when I saw them die.
    The book is mostly a story of former Senator George McGovern, as he trained and flew a B-24 on bombing missions at the end of the war against Germany. He apparently didn’t have to face German fighters coming at him, but he flew many times through the awful box barrages of antiaircraft fire above German cities. I still don’t know how any of us survived those.
    The book has errors, but what book doesn’t? Thus, I’ll point out the first one, on the first page of Chapter One and let it go at that. He says, “They were all volunteers. The U.S. Army Air Corps – after 1942 the Army Air Forces – did not force anyone to fly.” That is nonsense. Four members of my crew were draftees, and many other combat crews contained draftees. I was headed for a nice, safe job as a ground-based officer, when the Air Force sneakily gave me a flight physical.
    Still, it’s an enjoyable book. It’s low-key and will be welcome if you don’t like to read about the blood and gore of combat. I particularly liked learning that, after eating canned Spam for months, a U.S. Senator and candidate for President of the United States grew to hate the stuff as much as I did.

  • TrafficWarden
    13:19 on November 1st, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose has written a concise tactical story that deserves to be told, that of the superbly planned and executed commando raid by the British on 6 June 1944.

    Ambrose is no stranger to the stories of D-Day, but readers of his works might be surprised by something so concise (another one of his books on Upton is equally concise and insightful). Ambrose does a stellar job of presenting the importance of intelligence, secrecy, surprise, mass and logistics in any military operation. He further demonstrates the value of a small attack in the grand scheme of maneuver.

    The story of Pegasus Bridge, since so re-named by the French in honor of the Pegasus shoulder crest worn by the British, is a thrilling one of specially selected men, precise training, superb small unit leadership, and the role of fate in battle. Like the more well known Rangers at Pont du Hoc, the British were all volunteers, specially selected over a year in advance for a mission of which none of them knew anything. They worked hard at cross training in all of the infantry specialties of small unit tactics, teamwork, weapons handling, communications and that intangible, espirit de corps. The local French Résistance provided precise intelligence to the British so that, in conjunction with photo reconnaissance flights, the British knew exactly what they were facing in the dark night of 5-6 June 1944.

    In keeping almost iron clad secrecy about the mission, and using silent gliders in small numbers to disguise the hit as a diversion of some sort, the British achieved total surprise and took both bridges almost without a hitch. What they lacked was the same as all amphibious and airborne assault forces: mass of numbers and logistical supplies. They made up for both of these the way that paratroopers and marines, and centuries ago grenadiers, always have: élan, dash, toughness, resolute will and purpose, unflinching courage. They carried it off so well that armored Germans, admittedly not first rate Panzer Truppen, probed, were hit, and backed off to wait for daylight, reinforcements and more guidance. No doubt that had a ethnically pure German leadership group commanded this operation with their traditional leadership from the front and dogged determination, this might have turned out very much differently, but it is always better to be lucky than good, and in that last measure, the British were once again well served.

    The British participation in OVERLORD is frequently overlooked, and in fact, their failure to seize Caen and break into the French countryside decisively before the Germans could regroup must be regarded as a costly failure. Especially in lieu of the fact that they held Pegasus Bridge which offered exciting penetration and flanking exploitation possibilities, the British reluctance to attack fast and hard should be studied as a failure in command. With the stunning technical success at Arromanches with the Mulberries, and the dash and verve of the successful bridge seizure, though, it is time to also study the great British successes of OVERLORD: commando ops, intelligence, and logistics.

    Pegasus Bridge is a good quick read, and worth re-reading and contemplation for what it does not tell you, but indicates in absebtia.

  • John Baxter
    16:13 on November 1st, 2011
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    I’m a firm believer that no one can weave together a battle, invasion or engagement that took place in the European Theater quite like Stephen Ambrose. He has a knack for understanding the soldiers, getting inside their minds and allowing them to tell the tale for him. Pegasus Bridge is no different. It’s a fascinating account of how one British unit seized the most critical objective in the wee hours just prior to D-Day. Much like Band of Brothers, Ambrose starts with the beginning of the unit — how it was formed, its commanders, its training regiment and it soldiers — transitions to the climax of seizing the bridge and holding it and finally flows into the denouement of D-Day plus one. I highly recommend this book as well as Ambrose’s other works on the subject of WWII. As a twentysomething who has never experienced combat or war on a worldwide scale, I personally credit Ambrose for my newfound respect for the fighting men and women who have participated in all of our wars.

  • nedendir
    17:39 on November 1st, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose has yet again compiled a masterful book on Worl War II. He takes you into the seat of many different Bomber pilots own expierience of Bombing runs over hostile territories. You will feel like you are actualy there with the pilot, Anti-Aircraft shells blowing up all around you. Hunkering down in your favorite reading chair you will try to make youself as small as possilble to avoid the flak. Holding your breath all the while, hoping that the fatal piece of metal will not come whistling toward you. This is what happened to me when I read this book. Even the boring parts will pull you into this book. If you are a history buff and have not read any Stephen Ambrose books on World War II. You are missing out on the read of your life!

  • Satish KC
    22:20 on November 1st, 2011
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    Celebrity historian Stephen E. Ambrose couldn’t have gone wrong with “The Wild Blue,” for the subject matter is just so incredibly fascinating. I agree with other reviewers that the book doesn’t measure up to his earlier works (I highly recommend “Undaunted Courage,” “D-Day,” and “Citizen Soldiers.”). First of all, it doesn’t contain very much material (the first thing I noticed when it came out was how thin it is). Second, I couldn’t understand if it was a book about George McGovern’s experiences flying B-24s over Europe, or about B-24 crews in general – Ambrose awkwardly flip-flops between the two. Nonetheless, the experiences about which he writes are incredible. I can’t imagine the sheer terror of flying through flak bursts or forming such tight formations that invite inevitable mid-air collisions. Ambrose aptly describes the B-24 as a bomber that could take a pounding and still deliver. I appreciated his description of the flight training that was required before air crews could get over to Europe – I had no idea it was so thorough. I have a very high regard for the men (boys, really) who were able to help defeat Nazi Germany from the air. All in all, this book is a exciting read, though not necessarily because Ambrose wrote it.

  • PaulTheZombie
    23:29 on November 1st, 2011
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    Yea, I agree, it’s not D-Day or Citizen Soldiers, but it’s a good book. Let’s say a book of lesser strengths, not greater weaknesses.

    Mr. Ambroise will always tell a great story, he can’t help it. “I don’t make heroes” he said, “I write about them”. Enter John Howard! Ambroise let’s the reader learn a lot about the man, and the men, that are assigned, eventually, to the mission named in the title. You’ll read a lot about the Brits training, and training, and training, then you’ll say as I did, “I don’t want to read about the Brits training”. But, when the book gets to the eventful evening of June 6, the entire training sequences (as in the movie Rocky) make perfect sense. I found myself totally understanding the situation, danger, and thoughts of the attackers. Great words that give you the feel of the action, and even the smell. It’s not a book of fighting and battle, but of the men involved in the fight. The fight is not the main thrust, it’s people. Remember D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, it’s the people from those books you remember as well as the events.

    A fine short read of under 190 pages, a few nights in front of the fireplace and you’ll knock this one out. The shape of the book bothered me, but I got over it. A very good book, it’s of lesser strengths then it’s other family members. Stephen, you’ve done it again.

    Final words: John Howard will live on in your memory as a fine and brave man. Thank him also for D-Day and it’s aftermath. Darrel Zanick, you’re good, but you’re no Steven Spielberg! Get the book now, know the people, and enjoy the time.

  • Ripel
    1:22 on November 2nd, 2011
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    A small book about a small but important WW2 episode. The people in the story are real heros not made up so that makes it well worth the reading but it is not one of this authors best outings.

  • TrafficWarden
    1:46 on November 2nd, 2011
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    The author, Stephen E. Ambrose is considered one of if not the leading American historian concerning our involvement in World War 2. He has recently received some bad press about “borrowing” information from other authors, and that is a shame he let this happen to his image, but this issue does not effect his wonderful writing style. This book takes the reader through the full story of what it was like to be in a bomber crew during the European U.S. effort during World War Two. He takes the reader from the training, planning and preparation all the way to the actual bombing runs. We also get about 40 % of the book that covers the career during the war of George McGovern, which is an interesting story in its self. The book is just wonderfully detailed and really paints a picture in the minds eye.

    The thing that I loved the most about the book was the immense amount of detailed information he gave us. Ambrose is such a skilled writer that he can dictate lists in a compelling manner. The story has much more then endless list of facts, Ambrose does a wonderful job of describing what the American aircrew went through, and from the food they ate to first hand accounts of some of the worse air battles in the war. I highly recommend this and his books “D-Day” and “Citizen Solders” to get an accurate, detailed and very easy to read documentation of the American war effort in Europe. There is no better American author on the topic.

  • John Baxter
    4:41 on November 2nd, 2011
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    “Pegasus Bridge” was the first Ambrose book I read. I had known the story of the British assault on the bridge forever known as Pegasus Bridge after reading and viewing “The Longest Day”, but it was not until I read this book I really understood the rest of the story. The story of this small group of paratroopers is an important one for all who wish to read and study WW2 as it is a real test of the airborne force in this type of commando role and terribly important to the invasion of Normandy. Ambrose is in fine form in this, one of his earlier WW2 books, but he does not get that last star from me becuase he turns around and steals from himself, a lot from this very book, much later in his career. A good companion to this would be ” Pegasus Bridge/Merville Battery” by Carl Shilleto for the Battleground Europe series.

  • nedendir
    6:07 on November 2nd, 2011
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    Securing the eastern flank of Overlord (D-Day) was the British Airborne. Between them and the British 3rd Infantry Division coming ashore on Sword Beach were two bridges fifty years apart across the Orne Waterways. These bridges had to be held or the airborne troops would have been cut off from relief coming inland. Pegasus Bridge has been at times called the Caen Canal Bridge, the Orne Canal Bridge and the Benouville Bridge. Now it bears the proud name Pegasus Bridge in honor of the valiant men who took it, held it, died on it and who wore that emblem on their shoulder: The 2nd Ox and Bucks. Lead by Major John Howard after months of detailed rehearsals, D Company landed in Horsa gliders minutes after midnight on D-day. Landing within yards of the enemy held bridge they seized it in a short, well-rehearsed and bloody firefight. This extremely brave action was just the beginning of a daylong, tense struggle to hold out against seasoned troops and tanks with only small arms. They held and later joined the other Ox and Bucks near Escoville. When finally relieved on Sept.5th, D Company had fallen from its D-day strength of 181 men to 40. Colonel Von Luck, 21st Panzer, contends that had those bridges been available to him, his regiment would have been able to join the 192nd Regiment of the 21st Panzer and their combined strength would have surely allowed them to drive to the beaches. And the result of that could have spelled disaster for the beachhead troops if not the entire invasion.

    As expected, Ambrose weaves his talent for detailed research, oral histories and gifted writing into a great account of this major link in D-Day’s chain.

    Richard Todd, the actor, was a Captain in the 1th Airborne and is mentioned several times retelling some of the activities of that unit on the other side of the Orne River. In the movie “The Longest Day”, he portrayed Major John Howard.

  • Satish KC
    10:47 on November 2nd, 2011
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    This book has two central characters and is mostly a story about their shared experiences. The first subject is 2nd Lt. George McGovern, who in 1944 was just a typical US Army Air Force pilot; nothing here hints at the man, who, nearly 30 years later, would run for US president. The second is a machine, the B-24 Liberator, and one plane in particular – McGovern’s “Dakota Queen”, which he piloted on 35 bombing missions over Germany from his base in Cerignola, Italy, as part of the 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group. THE WILD BLUE then has a narrow focus and is less about the broad role of the bomber in the air war over Europe – that story about the more famous and glamorous B-17 and the 8th Air Force – has been told already in books like THE MIGHTY EIGHTH, a book which Ambrose himself read and rated highly.

    The Liberator comes by it’s neglected treatment in history, and it’s earned reputation as an ugly duckling quite fairly, as the following description of conditions in the plane attests. “Steering the four-engined airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot’s muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain…there was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or 50 degrees below zero…the seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew…” Yet, as with all ugly ducklings, it had it’s day and earned it’s admirers. There were more B-24′s built than any other US airplane and Ambrose says “it would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies. But don’t ask how they could have won the war without it.”

    The greater emphasis of the book is on McGovern and his crew’s experiences and it’s in the telling of these stories where Ambrose’s skills always shine; allowing the personal recollections of the participants to make the events come alive for us the readers. We follow the crew from induction through training to their arrival in Italy in 1944. There was danger from the outset. The book reveals that in basic and advanced flight training over 3,500 men lost their lives, 824 in 1943 alone; survival was an issue even before entering combat.

    McGovern and his crew experienced their fair share of adventures on missions. On one flight an engine quit, then another was hit by flak; on two engines he was losing altitude rapidly but McGovern managed to nurse the bomber down for an emergency landing on an airstrip less than half the length the B-24 normally required. For this feat McGovern earned the Distinguished Flying Cross. By highlighting McGovern’s experiences are we to believe that the book is portraying him as exceptional? Not at all. The reality is that when he arrived in Italy in 1944, McGovern was a 21 year old pilot. His co-pilot and navigator were the same age and half his crew were teenagers. What Ambrose sees as extraordinary is that these stories of survival, skill, courage, fortitude, bravery, and duty, are all, each and every single one, the exploits of very young men – even boys. Indeed he says “in the twenty-first century, adults would hardly give such youngsters the key to the family car, but in the first half of the 1940′s the adults sent them out to play a critical role in saving the world.”

    They are now our aging parents and grandparents and all we can do is honor them and thank them for being men while they were still boys. We can only hope that written tributes such as THE WILD BLUE or the verse below are sufficient to show our appreciation to them.

    “They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not grow faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

  • PaulTheZombie
    11:56 on November 2nd, 2011
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    Brilliant book- informative, detailed and painstakingly researched. I would also like to share my sadness at John Howard’s passing…however, even Ambrose admits that not all the veterans who took part in the action agreed on what happened, but it is said that John Howard himself was not very happy about the amount of inaccuracies there were over the details of what happened that day. However, this should not overcloud the fact that this is a brilliant book and a must read for any historian. Stephen Ambrose has done it again…

  • Ripel
    13:49 on November 2nd, 2011
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    Like many reviewers have stated here it’s a good story the battle that the AAF had in WW2. Learning about McGovern’s war record was very enlighting. The book doesn’t go much on his Presidentital run but his experience in war certainly help explains his political positions he will have later in life.

    For me this is a quiet hero who did his job the best he could. Just like many people that fought WW2. The only problem I have with the book is that it is put up together a little haphazard. Other books such as Bands of Brothers we really get to know everyone really well. This book it doesn’t really happen.

    Nonetheless the McGovern story alone is worth getting this book. As always Ambrose does include great details how life was in camp and in the planes. For a history teacher (like myself) the details are crucials. It helps me explain how WW2 was fought in the sky over Europe.

  • TrafficWarden
    14:13 on November 2nd, 2011
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    This is the story of the Ox and Bucks regiment who captured Pegasus bridge on D-Day. This book is superb it gives an excellent account of the importance of the mission and the training of the men leading up to the actual assault and capture of the bridge. The book then goes on to explain how the bridge was held and includes good detail of when the re-enforcements arrived. The book is written very well and it has lots of eye witness accounts in it by people who were actually there. I recently visited the bridge during the 60th anniversary of D-Day and I would certainly reccommend reading the book if you are to visit the bridge ( I would also reccommend a visit to Pegasus bridge). This book has inspired me to purchase another book titled “The devils own luck” which is about the Ox and Bucks regiment after Pegasus bridge up to the end of the war.

  • John Baxter
    17:08 on November 2nd, 2011
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    Hats off to Capt. John Howard and D Company of Britain’s “Ox and Bucks” regiment. As the first Allied unit to land in France on D-Day, these glider borne men had the job of capturing two bridges that would help secure the flank of Operation Overlord.

    Stephen Ambrose makes a good case that had these men failed, the German panzers may have had the opportunity to crush first the British 6th Airborne Division and then roll up the invasion beaches. We’ll never know, because these men did not fail. Silently landing within yards of their target, they quickly secured the Caen Canal Bridge and an adjacent span fifty yards away over the Orne River. Both had been wired for demolition and were guarded (although not by boys from the Fatherland but forced conscripts from occupied Eastern Europe the Germans had rounded up to fill their need for men). Howard’s men literally stole the bridges in a manner of minutes with minimal fighting. They then established a perimiter to beat off any German counter-attack until they could be relieved by paratroopers who dropped shortly after D Company pulled off their coup de main. While waiting for relief, they faced a tank counter-attack. Holding only one Piat, a hand held anti-tank weapon that was not held in high regard by the troops, a sergeant nailed the lead tank at a distance of forty yards. This persuaded the rest of the German column to retreat and wait — thinking that Howard’s men possessed larger anti-tank weapons. Thus less than two hundred glider borne air troopers were able to attack, take and hold two critical bridges — and right under the nose of a nearby enemy tank regiment.

    This is a delightful book that moves along at Ambrose’s usual fast pace. He fills it with first hand accounts from British, German and French participants — luckily many of the principals were alive when he wrote the book which gives it an unparralled directness and detail. Ambrose goes into the personalities of the principals and discusses the training and planning that went into making D Company a premeir fighting outfit. Capt. Howard deserves much of the credit for sharpening his unit into what must have been one of the most effective small units in the war. Over a period of almost two years, he put them through his own designed training regimen that earned for them the mission.

    This is a short book at less than two hundred pages (and oddly shaped — I’ve never read a book as tall and skinny and am curious as to why it was published in these dimensions). Perfect if one has the hours to dive into and finish a good war story in one sitting.

  • nedendir
    18:34 on November 2nd, 2011
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    First off, I must say that I really did enjoy reading this book. I am not a World War II buff, and had previously known almost nothing about the AAF’s role in the war except that they existed. Here Ambrose follows the 15th Army Air Force, based in Cerignola, Italy, through the years 1944 and 1945. The book is easy to read and requires little or no previous knowledge of the AAF or its planes to understand. Ambrose explains the history behind the 15th, the B-24 “Liberator” (and touches on the smaller B-17 “Flying Fortress”) bombers, and the men who made up the flight crews. He also discusses the structure and mechanics of the B-24, and the tactics relating to strategic bombing. There is, however, room for improvement.

    The book is largely centered on George McGovern’s experiences in the war, as a B-24 pilot, and I would have liked to read more about the other pilots, co-pilots, and flight crew members. Ambrose mentions a plethora of other men, but merely skims most of them. The reader does not really get to know most of the characters, as they did in Band of Brothers (Ambrose’s work concerning the 101st Airborne division, which I consider to be a better book).

    I also wish Ambrose had gone into more detail overall. As some other reviewers have commented, the book does seem a bit rushed. Perhaps this stems from the fact that the concept for the book was not originally his – Ambrose picked up the project, on the recommendation of George McGovern, from another author who had already started it. Again to compare with Band of Brothers, I did not feel, when I finished this book, that I had as in-depth a knowledge about the AAF as I gained about the 101st Airborne. And while I have certainly gained respect for the B-24 bomber pilots and their crews, I did not come away with the overwhelming feeling of awe and admiration that I did for the paratroopers of E-Company in Band of Brothers.

    I was also disappointed to see a lack of good editting. There are numerous typos throughout the text that should have been caught and corrected before publication. This bogs down the text in some places, as the reader takes a few moments to realize that “so” is supposed to be “do” and so on. The book is certainly not worthless – as I said I did learn from and enjoy it – but does leave something to be desired. It would probably be best recommended to casual World War II readers, like myself, and not to true scholars and history buffs, who I’m sure could find more useful references elsewhere.

  • Satish KC
    23:14 on November 2nd, 2011
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    “The Wild Blue”
    Stephen E. Ambrose
    2001
    ISBN 0-7432-0339-9

    When I heard a radio interview with George McGovern and Stephen Ambrose about the Wild Blue, I was eager to read it. The book follows the life of George McGovern from college in South Dakota when World War II broke out, through entry into the service, through various military schools and camps, and eventually into piloting a B-24 over Germany and Austria.

    Although the time period and subject matter are similar, this book has little of the emotional feel of Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation”. This is probably because the book is more a military history than a commentary on generational values, as is the former. For example, toward the end, there is a discussion as to whether or not air power won the war. The military tactics are not as interesting to me as the cultural and social values with which relate to the war. In fact, I have to admit that I thought I would enjoy this book a lot more than I actually did. I admire Mr. Ambrose’s clean, unfettered writing style. But this book lacks the inherently interesting quality to be found, for example, in the work of the historian, Barbara Tuchman.

    George McGovern comes across in this book as a very admirable and courageous man, who, as Ambrose points out, made nothing at all of his exemplary service record when he ran for president as a peace candidate during the Vietnam War. McGovern seems to have had a remarkable ability to maintain his equanimity during the process of participating in thirty-five bombing raids against Nazi Germany. The crew of his plane regarded him as one of the best pilots in the Army Air Force, whose greatest concern was the well being of his crewmembers whose fate, had been placed in his hands.

    Stephen Ambrose’s book also documents the darker side of some of the Americans who flew in World War II in Europe. One evening, McGovern encountered two American fighter pilots at an officer’s club bragging about having machine-gunned two Italian non-combatants fishing from a bridge. One of McGovern’s own crew reported to him that their new bombardier, instead of jettisoning his bombs in open countryside, after a failed bombing run, had waited until the plane was over a farmhouse and dropped the load on it. The man was accused of being a murderer by the crewmember, and he was never allowed to fly with McGovern again.

    An interesting epilogue in this book to McGovern’s wartime role has to do with his learning forty years after the war that a bomb which stuck in his bomb bay doors on a mission, only to destroy an Austrian farmhouse when pried loose, did not kill the occupants as he had thought. This accidental bombing had haunted him since the day it happened.

    The scope of “The Wild Blue” is not broad about the air war in Europe, and it has some of the shortcomings that I have noted. However, it is still a worthwhile book to read. I would also conclude that George McGovern from the gallant way, in which he conducted himself in the war, in addition to his later political career, is a much-underrated American hero. He had learned the lessons of war and might have saved the nation a great deal suffering in the Vietnam War had he been elected president. The voters, however, chose, as you may recall, Richard Nixon.

  • PaulTheZombie
    0:23 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Stephan Ambrose has written something that verges upon legend. His accounting of the B-24, and George McGovern’s time while assigned to the 455th is really a study in history. It also shows the tenacity with which he strives to include every detail.

    The B-24 is the “lost sheep” of airpower in WWII. Everyone seems to be fascinated with the B-17, primarily because of the press it received. Also at the top of the list is the B-29, primarily because of the atomic bombs. However, the role that was played by the B-24 was, in fact, much larger, and amassed more scope. It just had the poor luck not to be identified as an icon.

    One of the most important air raids in WWII was the raids on the Ploesti oilfields. B-24′s handled this raid brilliantly. However, as history would have it, this one small fact has often been overlooked. Ask a handful of people today which bomber was used in this raid, and a large majority will not be able to tell you.

    In his telling of the B-24, Stephan Ambrose has gone all-out. His descriptive tone of narration is exquisite, making you feel that you are actually in every inch of the aircraft. His in-depth look at the more famous raids puts you right there with the crew . . . so much that you can almost feel the shock wave from the flak, and hear the sounds of the cannon rounds as they whiz by.

    All-in-all, this book is one for the ages. Finally, as the Tuskeegee Airmen book (and movie) did for those brave flyers, this book has finally given credit where it has been long overdue. The B-24 was aptly named “The Liberator”, and it truly lived up to its name – liberating Europe and the world.

  • Ripel
    2:16 on November 3rd, 2011
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    “At a maximum, failure at Pegasus Bridge might have meant failure for the invasion as a whole, with consequences for world history too staggering to contemplate.” ~Stephen E. Ambrose

    Pegasus Bridge is a lesser known book by Ambrose on a lesser known battle on D-Day. It is likely lesser known to me because the British are the heroes of this story. This book tells of the British airborne troops that landed in gliders in the early hours of D-Day. They were the first to arrive on this historical day. They took over this bridge as it was a key bridge for the Nazi army. The Brits’ mission was to seize the bridge to protect the Allied flanks on the beaches. If the Nazis would have been able to cross that bridge with their tanks they could have just parked on the beaches and made life a lot worse for the Allied forces. It was also a key bridge to bring the Allied forces deeper into France so they had to take it without it being destroyed.

    As usual, Ambrose’s writing style is superb. His account reads like a story or even a movie script. The armies on both sides had been training for two years for this very day. The Nazis had the better guns and artillery and they had already deeply entrenched themselves ready for an attack. The Brits had two key advantages: the element of surprise and a just cause. I heartily recommend this book on heroism and true grit. I have read a handful of Ambrose books and none have disappointed. I plan to eventually read them all.

  • TrafficWarden
    2:41 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose has shown a real talent for capturing the essence of a conflict through the actions of individuals. He shows this nicely in The Wild Blue. He chronicles bomber pilot George McGovern and crew not because they are the best or the bravest or because their missions were the most glamorous. Rather, he chose them because what they went through typified what thousands of others went through. Ambrose follows McGovern and his crewmates from their hometowns to training to Europe to the final mission.

  • John Baxter
    5:35 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Unlike other Ambrose WWII books which focus primarily on the European ground war, Wild Blue focuses on the bombing runs ran from Italy.

    In attempts to crush the supply and manufacturing capabilities of German petroleum, Allied leadership called upon the young men of America to fly B-24s and bomb the German industries. It was the shortage of fuel that crippled the German Army and the Luftwaffe. Another advantage of the German fuel crisis was their inability to use their new jet technology which could have devastated the Allied offensive.

    While the book was very interesting to read, some aspects of the book have left me slightly dissatisfied. From accounts of a B-24 pilot I know there were gross exaggerations of the difficulty of flying the B-24. I also noticed that this book is essentially a wartime biography of George McGovern, and as a result does not mention the air fought from England.

    Another criticism of this book is the way it was written. This book does not seem to even be written by the same author of “Citizen Soldiers” and “Band of Brothers”. This book seems to be less thoroughly researched and written more hastily than this other works.

    Whereas this is not a great book about WWII itself, I reccommend this book for anyone who is intensely interested in WWII bombing missions, or the B-24 craft itself.

  • nedendir
    7:01 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose is one of those authors that I would give anything he wrote a chance. In the past I have not been disappointed with his work. That positive track record came to an end with this book. To be fair this book was written a number of years ago and before his best World War 2 works – D-Day and Citizen Soldiers. This book also covers an event that was performed by UK soldiers and the author’s real strength has been with American forces. With those two books in my mind I grabbed this book hoping for the same detailed account of this particular event.

    Unfortunately for me the detail level was just not there. He briefly touched on the training and lead up to the event but not in the kind of detail that would really give me some insight into the men. He covered the assault on the bridge, but his coverage of the importance of the bridge to the overall D-Day effort and the German response was a bit lacking. And finally he also touched on what happened to the group for the rest of the war but in such a general way that it left me wanting more and frustrated at the extremely brief overview. I do not want to come off too harsh, overall this is an interesting and easy to read book that gives the reader a better then average coverage of the event. I was just thinking it would be better based on the author’s track record.

  • Satish KC
    11:42 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose has done a remarkable job in giving the reader a front row seat to the fighting at Pegasus Bridge. His writing takes you right to the action and flows over into the heat of battle as if you were there at the time of the attack.

    He vividy describes the training leading up to the assault on bridge in such detail that you may need to set aside the book to rest, and catch your breath from the rigors of the last double time march.

    Even though this aspect of the invasion (Pegasus Bridge) encompasses such a small area, the high level of detailed research lends itself to a wonderful account of the early morning hours of 6 June 1944.

    This book is very easy to read and is a must for those intrigued by the battle that took place at this simple stone bridge over the Caen Canal in the Norman countryside.

  • PaulTheZombie
    12:50 on November 3rd, 2011
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    “Pegasus Bridge”, describes 6th Airborne Division’s planning and execution of the seizure of a crucial bridge near Caen in the British invasion sector. Originally written in 1984 in time for the 40th anniversary of Neptune/Overlord, it is a straightforward retelling of this mission, relying extensively on participant’s reminisces and memoirs. The most interesting part of the book is the first few chapters, where the commander Major Howard relates how he overcame the personal and institutional obstacles to train his company, and get this mission. In short that mission was to seize the bridge in a coup-de-main operation, and hold it until relieved by ground forces moving forward from the beaches. Otherwise, the story is really not much more than an extended magazine article in terms of what we learn about this operation, and the 6th Airborne Division’s role in D-Day. While there’s nothing quite like first-person accounts to give immediacy and personalize the action, they are always fret with dangers for historians. Memories fade (especially after some 40 years), chronologies can get confused, and sometimes one’s own participation becomes somewhat more important than it was historically. (We’re all the stars of our own lives-deservedly so.) At least two other popular histories, “The Longest Day” and “Overlord: D-Day and the Battle for Normandy” describe this battle and its relevance much better. The work itself is idiosyncratic as the author, an American historian, adopts British expressions and terms throughout his narrative-not just in the quotes and citations. Maybe his publisher insisted on this to aim the book at a British audience, but this seems like pandering to sell books to me.

    As a way to get a post-”Saving Private Ryan”/”Greatest Generation” American readership to realize that the Allies also had a pivotal role in this campaign, and capture some oral-history it succeeds well. As far as adding anything significant to the battle or campaign, it’s a mediocre work at best.

  • Ripel
    14:43 on November 3rd, 2011
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    This story of B-24 pilots–George McGovern in particular–is riveting. The only problems? Ambrose’s godawful writing (and all-too ardent flag-waving), the publisher’s complete lack of editing and proofreading, and a narrative sometimes marred by Ambrose’s lack of depth in the subject. The latter is painfully clear when Ambrose tries to explain what bomber operations were all about, how the aircraft worked, and so on. Once he steps out of the way and lets the story of McGovern’s service in Italy come out, the book earns its keep. But like flying a Liberator, Ambrose has to “horse the yoke” around a lot to keep this baby in the air.

    –Robert Luhn

  • TrafficWarden
    15:08 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Loved it because it brought me that much closer to understanding what my late father went through: he piloted (and survived) a B-24 (Fairy Belle II)in the 577th BS, 392nd BG out of Wendling, England (June – November ’44). The book is rich with details on the selection process, training, preparation, and actual battles. Intense and educational. But in many ways, this is an anthology of the war experiences of George S. McGovern, straying from that theme only with anecdotal references to other squadron members and GSM’s friends, so the focus is a bit narrow in that regard. GSM flew in the 15th AF out of Italy and the book is almost entirely focused on the 15th AF and very little mention is made of the more ubiquitous 8th. But that’s a rather small complaint. Overall, this is an easy read, without flowery prose or metaphor. In some parts, it reads like Ambrose simply decided to do a narrative version of the abbreviated flight logs. That content though, is sufficiently stimulating to give an intimate overview of what a horrific and difficult job it was to fly these sometimes desperate missions over Germany. Thanks, Dad. Thanks, guys.

  • John Baxter
    18:02 on November 3rd, 2011
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    This is a well researched and well written small book about one of the smallest yet most important parts of the invasion plan, Operation Overlord. From the author’s point of view, the operation was almost too smooth, as things went almost exactly according to plan. Major John Howard and Glider Pilot Jim Wallworth pulled of one the most important feats of the invasion, capturing two vital bridges on the west side of the D-Day landing area. With these bridges in British hands, the German counterattack, particularly the armored counterattack, was forced to detour many, many miles around the city of Caen, which not only slowed the attack, but exposed the German to additional devastating Allied air attacks. The book not only covers the attack, but the struggle the British glider troopers and airborne reinforcements went through to hold the bridge until British armored units showed up to reinforce them.

    Jim Wallworth deserves more credit, in my opinion, than he got. Not only did he land his glider in the exact right spot, in total darkness (they landed just after midnight), he actually managed to get the nose of the glider across a barrier of barbed wire that separated the landing zone from the bridges themselves. Howard, months before, had told Wallworth that was exactly where he wanted to end-up, and Wallworth, in what Air Chief Leigh-Mallory, commander of all allied air forces on D-Day, called the greatest flying feat of the entire war, literally put the glider with 1-2 feet of the exact spot Howard wanted. By comparison, most glider pilots used in the invasion were often off-target by many miles, yet Wallworth landed exactly where he was supposed to, within a few inches!

    The book reads fast, despite the detail that Ambrose puts into it. Recommended.

    In a fun aside, this attack is portrayed in the movie The Longest Day. In the movie, actor Richard Todd played Major Howard. Richard Todd was actually involved in Operation Overlord and was one of the first airborne reinforcements to reach Pegasus bridge, and played a vital role in helping to hold the bridge against German attacks!

  • nedendir
    19:29 on November 3rd, 2011
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    Stephen Ambrose, who has written many books about the war, has now covered the B-25 Liberator in _The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany_. Like some of his previous books, it is filled with wonder that regular American boys were able to get the job done: “From whence came such men?” This book (like Ambrose’s _Citizen Soldiers_) answers the question, but doesn’t diminish our sense of wonder. It is not really a history of the plane. Ambrose concentrates on one squadron flying out of Italy, and even more particularly on the plane of one pilot, George McGovern. There were those who loathed McGovern’s anti-Vietnam War stance when he ran against Nixon in 1972. Some rabid right-wingers even circulated stories of his Army cowardice. Nothing could be further from the truth; McGovern was as tough as the plane he piloted.

    “The B-24 was built like a 1930s Mack Truck,” writes Ambrose. Over eighteen thousand of the planes were made, more than any other airplane ever built. It was designed simply to carry lots of heavy bombs a long distance and fast, and so it did, but there was little it offered in the way of subtlety or comfort to the crew. There was no power steering; the pilot came back from flying maybe ten hours with exhausted arms and legs from muscling the plane to behave. The seats were cramped and unpadded. There was no pressurization, so above 10,000 feet, the nine men in the crew had to wear oxygen masks. There was no heat, despite temperatures of 50 below zero at higher altitudes, and if the bomb bay doors were open, the wind cut throughout the plane. The crew had to plug their suits into electrical outlets for heating. Oxygen masks often froze to faces. There were urinals in the form of fore and aft relief tubes, but heavy layers of clothes made these hard to use without leakage, and the tubes often froze. Ambrose spends a third of the book detailing the training of the pilots and their crews to fly these primitive, effective machines, and then takes them to Europe. The crews were to fly thirty-five missions before being cycled back to the States. The odds were not good; the Fifteenth Air Force had 5,000 bombers and the Germans shot down almost half of them. The anecdotes he tells are vivid and exciting.

    Astonishingly, McGovern was twenty-two years old at the time, and some of his crew were teenagers. This is just the sort of tale Ambrose serves up well, that of hero worship for ordinary guys showing extraordinary heroism in an unambiguously patriotic effort against evil. When he writes, “Along with all the peoples of the Allied nations, they saved Western civilization,” there is admiration, but no hyperbole. As the crews that fought the war are now leaving us, Ambrose has performed superb service in helping us acknowledge once again what we owe them. The B-24s have already left us. Of all the thousands manufactured, almost all were scrapped within a year after the war. Three are in museums, and one is still flying.

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