WILD BLUE: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s over Germany, 1944–1945

Stephen E. Ambrose, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7432-0339-5

Brought to life by best-selling historian Ambrose (author of more than 20 books), here is one of America's forgotten workhorse weapons of WWII—the B-24 bomber. Carrying a heavier payload than the glamorous B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24, nicknamed the Liberator, also filled the skies over Germany, bombing troops, oil refineries, factories and other strategic targets. South Dakota–born George S. McGovern was 22 when he became a B-24 pilot in the 741st Bomb Squadron, based in Cerignola, Italy. Though basing the book largely on McGovern's 35 missions, for which he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, Ambrose includes many other stories about the men who flew over Germany and eastern Europe. As Ambrose makes abundantly clear, the planes were not fun to fly. The crew faced inside temperatures of 50 below zero, sat in cramped seats and suffered high casualty rates. Ambrose follows pilots and crews from start to finish—where they were from, their backgrounds, training, bravery and heroism as they did their part to help win the war. Today there are only four B-24s left of the 18,300 that once made up the force. While this book leans largely toward hagiography of the everymen it depicts, it also clearly refutes lies spread about McGovern's service during the 1972 presidential campaign. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)

Forecast:Any book with the Ambrose name should do a short stint on bestseller lists; this one should pick up some (largely unrelated) momentum from the Pearl Harbor anniversary and film. The book's release coincides with the airing of a 10-part Dreamworks/ HBO series based on Ambrose's Band of Brothers.

Reviewed on: 06/04/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-7434-5062-1
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