Volume II: War in the Air: From the Great Depression to Combat—The Things Our Fathers Saw, Volume II [2017]

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Featuring eight American veterans of the heavy bombers in the air war over Europe during World War II, explaining what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression as the clouds of war gathered, going off to the service, and into the skies over Europe, sharing stories of both funny and heartbreaking, and all riveting and intense. Includes photos and never before seen portraits.

304 PAGES.

Volume 2 in the series deal with the Air War in the European Theater of the war. I had a lot of friends in the heavy bombers; they tell you all about what it was like to grow up during the Great Depression as the clouds of war gathered, going off to the service, and into the skies over Europe, sharing stories of both funny and heartbreaking, and all riveting and intense. It actually begins with my quest to learn more about a 20-year-old relative's death in the skies over Germany. I was told the entire crew perished on July 29, 1944. I could not be more wrong...

From the Book:


— “I spent a lot of time in hospitals. I had a lot of trouble reconciling how my mother died [of a cerebral hemorrhage] from the telegram she opened, announcing I was [shot down and] ‘missing in action.’ I didn’t explain to her the fact that ‘missing in action’ is not necessarily ‘killed in action.’ You know? I didn’t even think about that. How do you think you feel when you find out you killed your mother?” —B-24 bombardier, PoW


— “I was in the hospital with a flak wound. The next mission, the entire crew was killed. The thing that haunts me is that I can’t put a face to the guy who was a replacement. He was an eighteen-year-old Jewish kid named Henry Vogelstein from Brooklyn. It was his first and last mission. He made his only mission with a crew of strangers.” —B-24 navigator


— “The German fighters picked us. I told the guys, ‘Keep your eyes open, we are about to be hit!’ I saw about six or eight feet go off my left wing. I rang the ‘bail-out’ signal, and I reached out and grabbed the co-pilot out of his seat. I felt the airplane climbing, and I thought to myself, ‘If this thing stalls out, and starts falling down backwards, no one is going to get out...’” —B-17 pilot


— "I’ll be 93 on February 11. I don’t get around good like I used to; fell three years ago and broke my pelvis and hip. But it was just me and the co-pilot who survived that day.’

"I was burned in the eyelid by flak a couple days before. I was in the hospital and didn’t go on the last mission."

Because of a snafu, his mother got a telegram stating that he was missing in action.—"The Army didn’t know I was in the hospital. It took three months to clear up; she thought I was missing for two weeks before I was able to get word to the family that I was not on the plane."

The plane went down on July 29, 1944. This weekend, the 73rd anniversary is upon us as we speak on the phone. "The name of the plane was Pugnacious Ball. Flak got it. Blew it up. But I think they recovered a body bag to send home to his mother."

"I watched for the planes coming back; you always do when they are out on a mission. You count them. We waited and waited. They didn’t come back."

"It was the worst day of my life. Still is." Sgt. John Swarts, tailgunner on the Pugnacious Ball