I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CLOUDS ARE ALWAYS WHITE ON TOP - Flying the Box the B-17 Flying Fortress Came In by Nolan Lewis

One-off Publishing
11 Farmers Heath, Wirral, CH66 2GX, Great Britain
Genre: Fictional WWII Memoir
Rating: Highly Recommended
ISBN: 0952260336, $28.95, 276 pp, 2006

To let you know what this book is about, I will quote from the back cover:

"This gripping story begins in 1943 when the Nazi war machine had subdued most of Western Europe.

A very young Ted Norman pilots an American B-24 bomber of the 448th Bomb Group as part of the Allied effort to win the war in Europe. Casualties are high with 1 in 20 aircraft missing-in-action every mission. As the bombing raids push ever further into enemy territory, Ted is forced to reach the very limit of his own endurance in order to become the Captain his men are depending on.

This is a work of fiction, but the 448th Bomb Group, Very Heavy, was real. The 448th was based for eighteen months in Seething, England, during which time they lost 137 planes to all causes, with a maximum of 48 B-24s assigned at any one time."

Nolan Lewis has created from his own experiences of World War II this fictional novel about a B-24 bomber pilot, Lieutenant Theodore Norman. Ted certainly comes to life for us right from page one as he sits next to Captain Hansen waiting to take off for his first bombing run over Germany. By page 22 Ted has a problem:

"Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The bombardier, who was down under and forward of Ted’s feet is gone, along with the whole front of the plane. The temperature is somewhere around thirty degrees below zero and he has about a two-hundred-mile-an-hour wind blowing up between his feet. The ship begins to fall off on the left wing so he looks over at the Captain.

For the first time he realizes that the left windscreen is also gone, along with most of the Captain’s head.

Next, he gets a panicky feeling. He’s going blind! Everything is going dark. He wipes his hand across his face and realizes that it’s blood running down into his eyes from a scalp wound, but he doesn’t have enough hands to keep it and the ship both under control.

By this time the huge bomber is practically upside down. They are picking up speed real fast. He chops the throttles, hauls back on the wheel, and wracks it to the right, but realizes he’s fighting the weight of the Captain’s body that is slumped over the left wheel. He calls the navigator and says, ‘Jesus Christ, Glen, get up here and give me a hand.’

The spin has progressed to the point where Shannon has to fight his way forward. It seems like hours, but is probably less than half a minute before he reaches the cabin.

Shannon takes one look and says, ‘Holy shit!’ He stands frozen for a couple of seconds before he can digest the mess he has found and begin to move."

Besides describing the dangers of flying B-24s over Germany, the author writes about Ted’s luck with the English ladies, his regular nightmares, his feelings about the men lost to war, and his feelings about flying–the only thing he was really good at. After 42 flights over Germany and shortly after returning to the US, Ted requests a discharge. He thinks he’ll get a job as a pilot and applies at United Airlines.

The interviewer says, "‘Plenty of hours. B-24, B-29. Mostly four-engine. That’s good.’ As he continues to read he suddenly says, ‘Jesus. Is this right?’

When Ted leans forward to check what he’s referring to, the finger is on his date of birth. At Ted’s nod he says, ‘But that makes you only twenty years old?’"

April 1, 1951 Ted is recalled to active duty and assigned to 403rd Troop Carrier Wing to fight in Korea. His response is: ‘Korea . . . What the hell’s a Korea?’

And in conclusion: "Suddenly he’s gripped by a heady exhilaration. He’s going back where he belongs. Back to his world. Where he knows what he’s doing. Back to where he’s the best. Where he doesn’t have to make excuses. Maybe this time he will qualify for the order of the wooden cross and be done with it."

If you like well-written, realistic war stories, you won’t be disappointed by this author. There’s a lot to be learned in subtle ways through another person’s experiences. The book includes a photo of Nolan Lewis at age16 in his Air Force cadet uniform. Nolan currently lives in Ione, WA.

Forty-two flights over Germany and home by age 20. Unbelievable!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 20, 2006 - Copyright


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