The Forbidden Diary: A B-24 Navigator Remembers

John Lawrence Stewart, Author McGraw-Hill Companies $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-07-158187-5
A genre of WWII writing stronger in the U.S. than anywhere else--the ""trunk memoir""--grows stronger still with this contribution. These works are based on letters, diaries and similar personal papers stored in trunks by veterans who were ""forbidden"" by regulations to keep records of their missions. Stewart was a B-24 navigator with the 8th Air Force, flying his first mission (at age 19) on December 2, 1944, and his last on April 25, 1945. His story, based primarily on the contraband diary of the title, is a useful corrective to ""big-picture"" accounts that dismiss the strategic bomber campaign after D-Day as a series of milk runs. Even in decline the Luftwaffe was a dangerous opponent. Stewart and his crewmates particularly feared the new jets that could outfly the best piston-engined escorts. Stewart, who later became an aeronautical engineer, is also worth reading for his description of aerial navigation methods in a pre-electronics era, and for his useful insights into the institutional behavior of a newly mature military organization. Flexibility minimized the consequences of errors like a takeoff into fog that cost Stewart's group four aircraft before someone in his crew drained the gas from the auxiliary engine starter and bought enough time for the base commander to cancel the mission. The 8th Air Force never turned back from a strike, because it had men like John Stewart--and because it learned how to sustain the best in those men. B&w photos and diagrams throughout. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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