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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Wild Blue : The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 » User review

So Courageous...and So Young

  • Sep 21, 2001
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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.

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More The Wild Blue : The Men and Bo... reviews
review by . April 29, 2008
Not up to par with the classic Ambrose WWII books.     Citizen Soldiers: The U. S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany  Band of Brothers : E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest    Ambrose seemed to mail this one in. It reads like a first draft that needs polish and upgrades.    The interesting part of the book is when it centers on George McGovern, …
review by . September 02, 2001
Stephen Ambrose is one of my favorite writers of history, and my definite favorite when it comes to World War II. In addition, I have a personal interest in this book, because my father-in-law was a navigator on a B-24, and was stationed in Cerignola at the same time as George McGovern and his crew. I asked my father-in-law if he knew McGovern, but he said that he didn't, even though they (sort of) shared a nickname: McGovern's was "Mac", and my father-in-law's was "Lucky Mack", since his last name …
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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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

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ISBN-10: 0743203399
ISBN-13: 978-0743203395
Author: Stephen E. Ambrose
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

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