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The Barnes & Noble Review Master WWII military historian Stephen Ambrose, bestselling author of such classic works as Band of Brothers and D-Day , hits the front lines again with this exciting and compelling look at the courageous young men who flew the massive B-24 bombers over Germany during the last two years of World War II. The focus of the book is on George McG The Barnes & Noble Review Master WWII military historian Stephen Ambrose, bestselling author of such classic works as Band of Brothers and D-Day , hits the front lines again with this exciting and compelling look at the courageous young men who flew the massive B-24 bombers over Germany during the last two years of World War II. The focus of the book is on George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, who, ironically, was lambasted by the right for his anti-Vietnam stance. Here, he shines brightly as an American airborne hero, bravely piloting his huge and awkward bomber through massive German flak bombing. McGovern also comes across as a fine commanding officer, deeply caring about the men under his authority. McGovern, at the tender age of 22, wound up flying 35 missions and ultimately won the Distinguished Flying Cross. The B-24 was not an easy machine to fly. It had a thin aluminum skin, which made it sufficiently airworthy but terribly susceptible to attack from ground-based enemy gunfire. It was a simple machine, though -- built with one purpose in mind: dropping a maximum load of 8,800 pounds of bombs. There were no windshield wipers, so a pilot like McGovern was often forced to stick his head out the window of the plane to see where he was going! Above 10,000 feet, the only way to breathe was through an oxygen mask. There was no heat, which made the bombing runs that much more arduous. And there were no bathrooms, meaning that the pilots and their crews had to use "relief tubes." Ambrose goes into much useful detail on the origins of the pilots themselves. Interestingly, they were all volunteers -- the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the modern Air Force) did not want to make anyone take part in this difficult duty. They came from all walks of life. Some were college graduates, while others were still in high school. Many went straight from the farm to the airfield. The pilots were treated quite well by the AAC, considering that they were part of the same armed forces that tended to dehumanize servicemen in order to get the maximum use out of them. They got to wear winged insignia on their uniforms. They got extra pay. As volunteers, they knew what they were getting into, unlike the typical draftee. Most of all, they wanted to serve -- and they wanted to fly. Once again, Stephen Ambrose has turned his spotlight on a special and unique facet of the U.S. military and brought the heroism and courage of the American soldier back home to us. In his own way, Ambrose himself has done a great service to the American people. (Nicholas Sinisi) Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes&Noble.com History editor.


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The Barnes & Noble Review Master WWII military historian Stephen Ambrose, bestselling author of such classic works as Band of Brothers and D-Day , hits the front lines again with this exciting and compelling look at the courageous young men who flew the massive B-24 bombers over Germany during the last two years of World War II. The focus of the book is on George McG The Barnes & Noble Review Master WWII military historian Stephen Ambrose, bestselling author of such classic works as Band of Brothers and D-Day , hits the front lines again with this exciting and compelling look at the courageous young men who flew the massive B-24 bombers over Germany during the last two years of World War II. The focus of the book is on George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential candidate, who, ironically, was lambasted by the right for his anti-Vietnam stance. Here, he shines brightly as an American airborne hero, bravely piloting his huge and awkward bomber through massive German flak bombing. McGovern also comes across as a fine commanding officer, deeply caring about the men under his authority. McGovern, at the tender age of 22, wound up flying 35 missions and ultimately won the Distinguished Flying Cross. The B-24 was not an easy machine to fly. It had a thin aluminum skin, which made it sufficiently airworthy but terribly susceptible to attack from ground-based enemy gunfire. It was a simple machine, though -- built with one purpose in mind: dropping a maximum load of 8,800 pounds of bombs. There were no windshield wipers, so a pilot like McGovern was often forced to stick his head out the window of the plane to see where he was going! Above 10,000 feet, the only way to breathe was through an oxygen mask. There was no heat, which made the bombing runs that much more arduous. And there were no bathrooms, meaning that the pilots and their crews had to use "relief tubes." Ambrose goes into much useful detail on the origins of the pilots themselves. Interestingly, they were all volunteers -- the Army Air Corps (the precursor to the modern Air Force) did not want to make anyone take part in this difficult duty. They came from all walks of life. Some were college graduates, while others were still in high school. Many went straight from the farm to the airfield. The pilots were treated quite well by the AAC, considering that they were part of the same armed forces that tended to dehumanize servicemen in order to get the maximum use out of them. They got to wear winged insignia on their uniforms. They got extra pay. As volunteers, they knew what they were getting into, unlike the typical draftee. Most of all, they wanted to serve -- and they wanted to fly. Once again, Stephen Ambrose has turned his spotlight on a special and unique facet of the U.S. military and brought the heroism and courage of the American soldier back home to us. In his own way, Ambrose himself has done a great service to the American people. (Nicholas Sinisi) Nicholas Sinisi is the Barnes&Noble.com History editor.

30 review for The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Slow down with that zipping and zooming about, whipper-snapper! This is a far tamer tale. Like the planes Stephen E. Ambrose is describing herein, his prose plods along at a steady, satisfying pace. These are not jet fighters, these are workhorses carrying out a task. The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 is just as much the story of George McGovern as it is of the pilots and crews of those famous World War II bombers. McGovern is most famously known as the Demo Slow down with that zipping and zooming about, whipper-snapper! This is a far tamer tale. Like the planes Stephen E. Ambrose is describing herein, his prose plods along at a steady, satisfying pace. These are not jet fighters, these are workhorses carrying out a task. The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 is just as much the story of George McGovern as it is of the pilots and crews of those famous World War II bombers. McGovern is most famously known as the Democratic candidate who lost to Nixon in the 1972 election, the year the Democratic National Headquarters was raided by Republican operatives in the dead of night during a little incident you may have heard of called Watergate. Prior to that, he piloted one of these finicky, taxing aerial beasts. Ambrose wisely uses McGovern's wartime experience as a template and as the narrative thread for his treatise on the B-24, infusing a dull, non-fiction text with a human element, a technique in vogue with popular, modern day historians. The people like a good story. McGovern's life is perfectly entertaining in this context, but Ambrose heightens his book's readability by adding in the stories of other pilots and those of McGovern's flight crew. All of which turns a book about a plane into something much more humanistic. The reader can't help but develop an attachment to these courageous men. The Wild Blue is a solid niche book for those familiar with WWII, but who want to have a deeper understanding of this specific facet of the war.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rob Kitchin

    From the back cover I thought I would be getting the story of the 741 Squadron and, in particular, the crew of the Dakota Queen. What you actually get is the story of George McGovern from early days through his training and onto the end of the Second World War. Very little time is spent with any of the other crewmen or the wider 741 Squadron. This is very much the war as experienced by McGovern and the reader joins the squadron when McGovern does in September 1944, at the tail end of the war. If From the back cover I thought I would be getting the story of the 741 Squadron and, in particular, the crew of the Dakota Queen. What you actually get is the story of George McGovern from early days through his training and onto the end of the Second World War. Very little time is spent with any of the other crewmen or the wider 741 Squadron. This is very much the war as experienced by McGovern and the reader joins the squadron when McGovern does in September 1944, at the tail end of the war. If you skip the author’s note, as I did, then it’s a long way into the book before we discover why the focus is on McGovern. It turns out that he ran for President in 1972 on the Democrat ticket losing in a landslide to Nixon. I was two at the time and given I live in Ireland I’m not up on my US political history. What this meant was the book was very badly imbalanced and somewhat misleading. I wanted to know the wider history of the 741 Squadron and the diverse lives and experiences of people who flew with it. What I got was McGovern and some general context. And it’s hardly non-biased stuff. As Ambrose says in the author’s note: ‘I have been a friend and supporter of George McGovern for nearly three decades’. If you want to know about McGovern’s early life then this is your book; if you want a more rounded biographical history of the air war over Europe then look elsewhere.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Note that I wrote this review before the plagarism controversy. See my review of Wings Over Morning Ambrose became a widely popular popularizer of World War II history and he has managed to churn out several in the past few years that focus on the common soldier experience. Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22 and himself a bombardier on B-24s, told Ambrose, " never had a bad officer." Ambrose was startled to hear this from the creator of Major Major Major, Colonel Cathcart, and General Dreedle, but Note that I wrote this review before the plagarism controversy. See my review of Wings Over Morning Ambrose became a widely popular popularizer of World War II history and he has managed to churn out several in the past few years that focus on the common soldier experience. Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22 and himself a bombardier on B-24s, told Ambrose, " never had a bad officer." Ambrose was startled to hear this from the creator of Major Major Major, Colonel Cathcart, and General Dreedle, but Heller, when queried by Ambrose, simply replied they were all invention. How they became so good is part of Ambrose' story. The Army Air Corps grew from 26,000 men at the beginning of the war to 2, 400,000 by 1944. American airmen had 360 hours of flight training before entering combat compared with only 110 for the Germans. It was a hazardous business ( four planes went down during a formation flying exercise killing everyone on board, McGovern reported) as the B-24s were very difficult to fly, requiring considerable brute muscle power. Most of the men were still in their teens with only a few officers over twenty-two. Ambrose focuses on the career of George McGovern, a pilot in the 741st Bomb Squadron, based in Cerignola, Italy, who survived flying 35 missions, won several DFCs and was considered a terrific pilot by his crew. Coming from a South Dakota parsonage where airplanes were rarely seen let along flown in, McGovern had extraordinary depth perception that helped him to become such a competent pilot. The plane itself was noisy, unheated, and thin-skinned. By the time he reached Italy, German fighters were not much of a problem as the Germans were running out of fuel and P-51s, flown by the famous African-American Tuskegee squadrons, prevented German fighters from being much of a threat. Flak was another problem. Over the targets the sky would be virtually black except where the shells explosions caused red flashes. The bombers had no choice but to fly right into it, unable to shoot back, make adjustments, or react independently. On one mission, his plane returned with 160 holes, one destroyed engine, no hydraulics — consequently no flaps or brakes — and required every ounce of skill for McGovern to make a safe landing (they tied parachutes to the struts, threw them out the open waist gunner windows, and pulled the ripcords on McGovern' command to slow the plane down after touching the ground). McGovern was 22. The B-24 was manufactured by a consortium of companies that included Ford Motor and Douglas Aircraft. It was called the Liberator and was designed to drop high explosives on enemy positions well behind the front lines — and especially on Berlin. In fact, the B-24 carried a largely payload than the more well-known B-17. The Liberator earned a reputation as an difficuolt beast quite fairly, as Amborses' following description of conditions in the plane attests. "Steering the four-engined airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot's muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain...there was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or 50 degrees below zero...the seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew..." Taking off was always an adventure as even a slight drop in one of the four engine' efficiency might cause a crash since the planes were always overloaded way beyond design capacity. The planes were dangerous places to be — only 50 percent of their crews survived to the war's end. The B-24 Liberator performed better than the B-17 Flying Fortress, but it was less ergonomic and more susceptible to battle damage. They operated out of improvised fields, usually without hangars and formal barracks, surrounded by a civilian population amid ruins and on the edge of starvation There were more B-24's built than any other US airplane and Ambrose says "it would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies. But don't ask how they could have won the war without it."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Silvana

    This is the second Ambrose's book I've read since Band of Brothers. It tells about the experiences of B-24 bomber crews in World War II; 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, to be exact. The stories are from the beginning, i.e. the crews’ background, their vigorous training (the high requirements resulted in many “washouts”), the first mission, until when the war’s over. Thus, it’s quite an extensive piece that offers lots of interesting details. If you love aircrafts (and aerial war This is the second Ambrose's book I've read since Band of Brothers. It tells about the experiences of B-24 bomber crews in World War II; 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, to be exact. The stories are from the beginning, i.e. the crews’ background, their vigorous training (the high requirements resulted in many “washouts”), the first mission, until when the war’s over. Thus, it’s quite an extensive piece that offers lots of interesting details. If you love aircrafts (and aerial warfare), you’ll consider this book as a classic. Ambrose fulfilled my expectation as a war historian, the story just flows with such a flair that makes you feel like want to be in that plane. B-24, or Liberator, is one of the five bombers utilized by the US Army during the war. It requires nine crew members: pilot, co-pilot, navigator/bombardier, flight engineer, radio operator, gunners (nose, waist, tail and ball turret). One can only imagine how heavy and cramped that bomber was. Over 18,000 B-24s were built, more than any other US planes. But they destroyed German refineries, marshalling yards, factories, air fields, thus destroying German’s ability to make war. The first impression I’ve got after finishing this book is that the airmen in World War II suffered less than the infantry soldiers. Yes, the plane is too cramped, they faced those devastating flaks, penetrating cold in 20,000 feet height, but still, they got to sleep in tents with real beds, not in foxholes, helplessly waiting for enemy’s shells and mortars to blast them to oblivion. The Army Air Force also applied a not-so-strict segregation between officers and enlisted men, as well as behaviors. No chickenshits (army term for jack-ass officers) in combats either; a different case with the infantry. Last but not least, as bomber crews they did not have to see the faces of enemy and civilians they killed. My favorite part of the book is the chapter telling about the P-51 (Mustang) black fighter pilots from the 99th Fighter Squadron, or known as the Tuskegee Airmen. The US Army in World War II still practiced discrimination, but those pilots did not discriminate, as admitted by the bomber crews. The P-51 pilots are honored for their bravery, discipline and dedication in their main role to protect the bombers. One must not forget that airplane is the most destructive tool in this war. Not only hundreds of thousands people (including civilians) were killed, but hundreds of historical buildings, residences, infrastructures were destroyed. However, one must not also forget that aerial warfare saved the Western civilization. We can only hope that the currently-used smart bombs can improve their accuracy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    This is an very well documented and well-written book about being a bomber pilot during the Second World War. The main character, George McGovern, is not painted well enough to overcome his embarrasing defeat running against Nixon, but Ambrose makes it clear that while McGovern may not have been the choice for president, he was a good pilot and soldier. Also, the description of the B-24's strengths and weaknesses I personally found interesting, as the plane is one of my favorites. Overall, very This is an very well documented and well-written book about being a bomber pilot during the Second World War. The main character, George McGovern, is not painted well enough to overcome his embarrasing defeat running against Nixon, but Ambrose makes it clear that while McGovern may not have been the choice for president, he was a good pilot and soldier. Also, the description of the B-24's strengths and weaknesses I personally found interesting, as the plane is one of my favorites. Overall, very well-written and worth the time.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Staci

    While the title and cover would lead one to believe The Wild Blue is about B-24s, it is more a biography about George McGovern, U.S. Senator and Presidential Candidate. It was incredibly interesting to learn details about the B-24s and the conditions that the men stationed in Italy lived in during World War II. For those interested in learning more about George McGovern there was a good deal of detail about his training for and time spent as a B-24 pilot during WWII.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Don

    I read this book many years ago and enjoyed. This time I listened to the audiobook version. Stephen Ambrose always told a good story and this one is just as good as any of his fine books. The main character in the story is George McGovern who most people recognize as the South Dakota senator who ran for president against Nixon. Whatever your politics you have to respect McGovern for the skill and dedication he brought to serving as a B-24 pilot.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    This book is good enough to overcome Stephen Ambrose's usual faults. There's a little of the the "breathlessness" that often overwhelms his works, but he manages to keep his style out of the way of the material. Or maybe I was just fine with it, as I have met a few of the men who flew the B-24 Liberators over Europe, and found them to be the soft-spoken heroes that Ambrose portrays. My father was a PTO vet, and one of his business partners was a huge fellow who had flown with the 8th Air Force o This book is good enough to overcome Stephen Ambrose's usual faults. There's a little of the the "breathlessness" that often overwhelms his works, but he manages to keep his style out of the way of the material. Or maybe I was just fine with it, as I have met a few of the men who flew the B-24 Liberators over Europe, and found them to be the soft-spoken heroes that Ambrose portrays. My father was a PTO vet, and one of his business partners was a huge fellow who had flown with the 8th Air Force over Northern Europe, a brilliant gentle giant. A treasured roommate from College had a dad who had flown over Southern Europe with the 15th. So when Ambrose goes on his frothy rants about how great these guys were, in this case, I feel strong agreement. And this time he's less frothy, and more on point. The main protagonist we follow is George McGovern, of all people. I had no idea the "Peace Candidate" of the 60s had been a B-24 Pilot. But he was - and clearly a good one. He completed the 35 combat missions of a full tour, no mean feat. We see all the training an entire crew had to complete, as we meet a myriad of characters and stories along the way in the typical Ambrose style. Tons of anecdotes and a lot of tales of supremely costly mistakes. One is really impressed with the idea of the depth of this training. As personally a very informed reader of the WWII Air war, I did come to appreciate how much more complete and deep this scheme was compared to both enemies and allies. Then its on to Europe and a riveting account of Missions, Accidents and the various ways to land. Crews mainly come home alive, but there are stories of parachutes, POW Camps, Partizans, and random deaths associated with jettisoning bombs. Random death is everywhere, along with rational destruction. War. But there are also trips around Italy for culture. The high sexual energy of a young person's war is glimpsed. How the black market and popular culture bloomed. How the war fit in to the American and European social history gets some play. By comingling dozens of memories, Ambrose gives one a strong insight into the American Experience. His style recedes a little and the story comes to the fore, right where it should be. The fact that we know our hero will come home does help one amid the mayhem. For the Omnivore reader, the highlight of the whole thing might be Joseph Heller , the creator of Catch-22, saying "I had no Bad Officers". But there is plenty here to chew on. A junior reader will be well rewarded for the effort to read this book although the themes are quite adult. For the Military Enthusiast/Gamer/Modeller, this is great on both background and for Scenario/Diorama development. The stories of Cerrignola, the base in Italy that McGovern flew from will spawn a myriad of dioramas alone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    RyanP

    A few months ago I read The Rising Tide, an account on the North African campaign of WWII by Jeff Shaara. That was really the first historical novel that I have read. Obviously textbooks are informative, but I have learned so much more through these novels. I have always loved learning about the World Wars, so I decided to continue with WWII novels. I first discovered Steven Ambrose through his book D-Day. I was amazed with how much information he was able to pull together about just a single da A few months ago I read The Rising Tide, an account on the North African campaign of WWII by Jeff Shaara. That was really the first historical novel that I have read. Obviously textbooks are informative, but I have learned so much more through these novels. I have always loved learning about the World Wars, so I decided to continue with WWII novels. I first discovered Steven Ambrose through his book D-Day. I was amazed with how much information he was able to pull together about just a single day. After finishing D-Day, I decided to look for other books by Ambrose and I found The Wild Blue. The Wild Blue primarily follows the military career of George McGovern, starting with his enlistment in the Army Air Force to the end of WWII. Ambrose goes in depth on what it takes to become a pilot, from intense training at home, to practice runs over enemy territory. George McGovern was not just a pilot during World War II, he was the pilot of a B-24 Liberator, a four engine long distance bomber used by the AAF. More B-24s were produced during the war than any other bomber— in large part because of the heavy losses they suffered. But McGovern was not the only one who made the B-24s so successful. Their fame is credited to all crew members, including pilots, navigators, bombardiers, engineers, and gunners. They flew almost suicidal missions over intense German anti-air defenses and occasionally were confronted by German fighter jets. But regardless of the danger, they still flew and McGovern was only one of tens of thousands of brave men who did the same. I am always impressed with how much detail goes into all of Ambrose’s books. He pulls together hundreds of eye-witness accounts to give the reader the full story with many different perspectives. I loved how he describes the training process for pilots, as well as other crew members. That was an aspect of the war that I have never thought to read about, but it is really interesting to learn what is involved in preparing soldiers for combat. I have read other reviews on this book and I see that some people are commenting that there was almost false advertisement with the title because it is mostly a biography on George McGovern. I have to agree with this, but I will also fight back. Yes, the book is pretty much a biography, but how else can you get so many details on two years of war? You have to start somewhere and I think that Ambrose did a great job getting the whole story from McGovern and then adding accounts from other pilots and crew members.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nolan

    Ambrose had a wonderful ability to take what would seem like an almost-unmanageably large chunk of history and distill it into a tiny sliver that clarified the history and made the events more personal and vivid. That talent shines through in this book. A lesser writer would have tried to write about the entire B-24 flying experience, and you might have gotten at least a taste of what it was like. But by funneling the experience into a single crew, Ambrose is able to zoom in on the experience an Ambrose had a wonderful ability to take what would seem like an almost-unmanageably large chunk of history and distill it into a tiny sliver that clarified the history and made the events more personal and vivid. That talent shines through in this book. A lesser writer would have tried to write about the entire B-24 flying experience, and you might have gotten at least a taste of what it was like. But by funneling the experience into a single crew, Ambrose is able to zoom in on the experience and make it less daunting and impersonal than it might have been had someone else attempted the history. Ambrose chose to focus on George McGovern, a 1972 presidential candidate, and his flight crew. You learn how McGovern became the pilot of the Dakota Queen, and you learn of the respect he garnered from his crew. In a highly readable way, you’ll learn about each function of the members of the crew and the training each one experienced to do that job. This book also explores the horrors of things like bombing accidents. McGovern recalled to the author decades later a situation in which he inadvertently bombed a farmhouse at noon. Having grown up on a farm, McGovern could only imagine that the noon meal was one in which the family would participate in full if possible. They would have thought themselves to be relatively safe in a quiet rural place. The accident and the knowledge that the bomb likely killed the entire family horrified him. While the book is sympathetic to McGovern, it is not a biography. It is, as it claims to be, an account of the B-24 flight crews and how they qualified for their jobs.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Quinn Lavender

    Every time I read a book about a new aspect of WWII I am amazed at how much I didn't know. This time: European bomber crews. I had no idea how exposed bombers were - they just flew straight into whatever German fighter formations / anti-aircraft fire was there, and they held their breath that they'd make it. Their losses (percentage-wise) were far greater than any other armed serviceman. The title and subtitle of the book do not mention the fact that it is focused on Senator and presidential can Every time I read a book about a new aspect of WWII I am amazed at how much I didn't know. This time: European bomber crews. I had no idea how exposed bombers were - they just flew straight into whatever German fighter formations / anti-aircraft fire was there, and they held their breath that they'd make it. Their losses (percentage-wise) were far greater than any other armed serviceman. The title and subtitle of the book do not mention the fact that it is focused on Senator and presidential candidate George McGovern. When I read that in the preface I was kind of turned off by it; I wanted to learn the story of the "average joe" who flew B-24s, not somebody that ended up rising to political prominence later. But I will say that the book still read like a general history and not a trumped-up biography, and for that I am grateful. The book was extremely informative and enjoyable.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Norman Montes

    Damn good book. Always expect good things from Stephen Ambrose.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Wai Zin

    When I bought this book, I thought it was about B 24 operation in WW2. But it turns out it's touch on George McGovern and some of his crew experience from their childhood, their training and their experience in the tail end of Ww2. While the book is well written and skill of the author help you get through till the end of the book, I will not read it again.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nick Fanelli

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book has big planes!!!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Trenton Dove

    Stephen Ambrose has written another amazing book about men flying B-24 planes during WWII, giving the reader an action filled book. The Wild Blue follows the men who gave their lives to protect their country by flying over enemy lines. McGovern always keeps his crew members alive and does not let them down. He always keeps everything in check. He never is in a tight spot. McGovern signed up to be a fighter pilot when he was 19 years old. When he went into training he was traded over to be a b- Stephen Ambrose has written another amazing book about men flying B-24 planes during WWII, giving the reader an action filled book. The Wild Blue follows the men who gave their lives to protect their country by flying over enemy lines. McGovern always keeps his crew members alive and does not let them down. He always keeps everything in check. He never is in a tight spot. McGovern signed up to be a fighter pilot when he was 19 years old. When he went into training he was traded over to be a b-24 pilot. When he finished with school he went to the airbase and saw the plane he was going to fly. He has been hearing about men being killed while flying their B-24s. After he finished with training he met with his crew and was waiting for his first mission to fly out. When he got word about his first mission he told his crew to check all the weapons and bomb bay doors. He got his plane over their target in Europe and they met little flack. He was an amazing pilot who always got his men out of harm when they went out on missions. McGovern came close to being shot out of the air but he knew how to keep his men alive. He witnessed his fellow pilots being shot out of the sky and he always remembered them. He had an amazing crew who always puts their lives in danger. McGovern saw action in his tour and he only had a few more flights till he could go see his wife again. When he went out on his last mission he make sure everything is in check and that nothing is broken or has plenty of gas and hydraulic liquid so when they need to land they can have the wheels ready. Anyone who wants to be in the air force can learn from the wild blue because it gives reports about what the men had to face when they were in war. If anyone wants action filled adventure then they should this book because this book has jet fights bombs going off and tons more. This book will take the breath away from readers when they read this book. The novel gives you the action like your in the plane with McGovern and his faithful crew that stayed with him through the whole thing. The reader will love this book because it just gives awesome facts and events that happen when McGovern was serving for his country.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Austin

    The author of the book was Stephen E. Ambrose, a WWII military historian. Ambrose did a exceptional job on this book and delivers an entertaining account and perspective on The Thousands of young, eager volunteers that lined up to be pilots during World War II, and The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 tells their story by focusing on one bomber, George McGovern. One of the presidential candidates that ran against Nixon in the 1972 election. McGovern, a South Da The author of the book was Stephen E. Ambrose, a WWII military historian. Ambrose did a exceptional job on this book and delivers an entertaining account and perspective on The Thousands of young, eager volunteers that lined up to be pilots during World War II, and The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 tells their story by focusing on one bomber, George McGovern. One of the presidential candidates that ran against Nixon in the 1972 election. McGovern, a South Dakota preacher's son, was a 19-year-old college sophomore when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He immediately left collage and volunteered for service taking the collage dean's car to sign up. "McGovern Quickly rushed to sign up in the near by town"(Ambrose 48) Less than three years later he was piloting one of the big, B-24 Liberator bombers. Completing 35 missions over Europe, McGovern went on to earn a Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. The book as well incorporates facts and stories of other pilots such as his instructor. "I knew of my instructor since I had him once before, he was an older pilot, about in his thirties"(Ambrose 120). The book includes a lot about McGovern's training, landings, situations and his colleagues. Ambrose tells about McGovern's inadvertent bombing of an Italian farmhouse and how troubled him.(bothers McGovern for the rest of his life) . Ambrose, as always, describes things with great detail and tells powerful stories. This book has great meaning and teaches important lessons, such as "don't take things for granite, it won't last forever". This was one of the main themes of the book after much of the people McGovern knew throughout training died. "McGovern heard about a plan crash that had occurred during a training exercise that killed one of his close friends from back home" (Ambrose 207). Over all the Wild Blue is a good collection of significant events in history and told by the people who made it happen and contributed in the War, so it is defiantly worth reading.

  17. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

    This book by Stephen Ambrose offers the reader an opportunity to learn about some of the men who flew the B-24 Liberator during WW2 from Italy. Most books cover the more glamorous B17 Flying Fortress flying missions against occupied Europe from bases in England. I confess that I have a love for the B-17 but always felt that I should try and find something about the B-24 which was still one of the mainstay bombers of the USAAF. This book fits the bill and provides a decent overall snapshot of the This book by Stephen Ambrose offers the reader an opportunity to learn about some of the men who flew the B-24 Liberator during WW2 from Italy. Most books cover the more glamorous B17 Flying Fortress flying missions against occupied Europe from bases in England. I confess that I have a love for the B-17 but always felt that I should try and find something about the B-24 which was still one of the mainstay bombers of the USAAF. This book fits the bill and provides a decent overall snapshot of the B-24, the training of the crews who flew it and their missions from bases in Italy during 1944-45. I would have liked more about the B-24’s combat missions earlier in the war against a highly active Luftwaffe however the focus of this book is on one crew, piloted by George McGovern who started missions with the 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group, 15th Air Force, after the decline of the Luftwaffe, leaving German flak and weather as their greatest dangers. Overall this is still a very good account of what it takes for young men to fly highly dangerous missions against occupied Europe during WW2. The book is easy to read and utilises numerous first-hand accounts and interviews with veterans to high-light the dangers, the camaraderie, the missions and the results of combat flying on these young men, aged between 18 and 25. Well done to the author and well done to those brave men who climbed into their aircraft day-after-day during the Second World War.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    My father was a plane mechanic working on B-24's in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue is probably (at least for now) the closest I can get to reading about my father's wartime experiences, even though the book focuses on the "forgotten war" the Fifteenth Air Force waged out of Italy, rather than the Eighth's operations in England that my father was a part of. In the main The Wild Blue is the story of one particular B-24 pilot, George McGovern, a personal f My father was a plane mechanic working on B-24's in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Stephen Ambrose's The Wild Blue is probably (at least for now) the closest I can get to reading about my father's wartime experiences, even though the book focuses on the "forgotten war" the Fifteenth Air Force waged out of Italy, rather than the Eighth's operations in England that my father was a part of. In the main The Wild Blue is the story of one particular B-24 pilot, George McGovern, a personal friend of Ambrose's and the 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee. However Ambrose weaves the stories of a lot of servicemen into the tapestry of this book. Ambrose is one of my go-to authors when it comes to history. He was a dedicated researcher who knew how to write so he scores very highly on the readability scale. He neither skimps on facts not does he inundate you with them, and he is not afraid to throw in the occasional bizarre tidbit. (I now know why Cheerio's cereal is called Cheerio's, for instance.) I highly recommend anything you can find by this author-so far everything I have read by him has proven interesting and informative.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Travis Ristau

    This book was another great piece that Stephen Ambrose has wrote. It described the life and difficulties that bomber pilots went through in Northern Italy. The main pilot, George McGovern, was a stellar pilot who's crew looked up to him. George and the rest of his crew from the Dakota Queen went through hell and back throughout World War II. It went from seeing countless friends die in front of them to seeing a plane crash into the two plants right next to them. These men were some of the braves This book was another great piece that Stephen Ambrose has wrote. It described the life and difficulties that bomber pilots went through in Northern Italy. The main pilot, George McGovern, was a stellar pilot who's crew looked up to him. George and the rest of his crew from the Dakota Queen went through hell and back throughout World War II. It went from seeing countless friends die in front of them to seeing a plane crash into the two plants right next to them. These men were some of the bravest men of their time and received very little recognition for what they did. I would suggest this book to any adult that enjoys a war story. This was an excellent story from George himself and his crew.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    This is a great history/biography of George McGovern and other pilots typical of those who flew the Liberator during World War II. What surprised me the most was the comparatively high percentage of these pilots who were killed or lost during missions, not to mention the hell it was to be hunted and shot at while one could do very little to defend himself. Numerically, the risk was even greater than that of the front-line soldier...not taking away from their record of sacrifice. A very interesti This is a great history/biography of George McGovern and other pilots typical of those who flew the Liberator during World War II. What surprised me the most was the comparatively high percentage of these pilots who were killed or lost during missions, not to mention the hell it was to be hunted and shot at while one could do very little to defend himself. Numerically, the risk was even greater than that of the front-line soldier...not taking away from their record of sacrifice. A very interesting read about the mobilization, training, and day-to-day life of pilots who, for good reason, always felt it could be their last.

  21. 5 out of 5

    William

    Another great Ambrose story. Contains a conversion with Joe Heller which I found quite pertinent to us avid Historical Fiction readers: I was Joe Heller, a bombardier with the Twelfth Air force, and the author of Catch-22. Heller told me "I never had a bad officer." Astonished, I said, "Joe you created Major Major Major, Colonel Cathacart, General Dreedle, Lieutenant Minderbiner, and so many others. ... How can you tell me you never had a bad officer?" "They are all invention," he replied. "Every s Another great Ambrose story. Contains a conversion with Joe Heller which I found quite pertinent to us avid Historical Fiction readers: I was Joe Heller, a bombardier with the Twelfth Air force, and the author of Catch-22. Heller told me "I never had a bad officer." Astonished, I said, "Joe you created Major Major Major, Colonel Cathacart, General Dreedle, Lieutenant Minderbiner, and so many others. ... How can you tell me you never had a bad officer?" "They are all invention," he replied. "Every single officer from when I went into the service to going over to Italy to flying the missions to when I got discharged, every one of them was good."

  22. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Even before the plagiarism suit was settled I thought this book was well padded with stats and other well known information about the air war. This book was whipped up for a quick profit. I did like the personal stories and the insights on the the B-24, that's worth the reading. With great coincidence, after reading this I met Bob Cook the pilot mentioned in the crash and rescue, pg 186 if you're following along. Since then Bob and I have become friends and I've heard a lot of great B-24 stories. Even before the plagiarism suit was settled I thought this book was well padded with stats and other well known information about the air war. This book was whipped up for a quick profit. I did like the personal stories and the insights on the the B-24, that's worth the reading. With great coincidence, after reading this I met Bob Cook the pilot mentioned in the crash and rescue, pg 186 if you're following along. Since then Bob and I have become friends and I've heard a lot of great B-24 stories. Mmmm, maybe I'll co-write a book?

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I was hoping to read on one of my favorite WWII planes the B24 Liberator. How well did it hold up while being attack by German fighters? What I got was a biography of the late Senator George McGovern and his experiences flying the B24. I found the accounts of flying the B24 in combat very interesting and McGovern's basic decency of how deeply he cared for the welfare of his men, and how perilous these missions were. The downside is that after reading many of Ambrose's works, I guess I expected a I was hoping to read on one of my favorite WWII planes the B24 Liberator. How well did it hold up while being attack by German fighters? What I got was a biography of the late Senator George McGovern and his experiences flying the B24. I found the accounts of flying the B24 in combat very interesting and McGovern's basic decency of how deeply he cared for the welfare of his men, and how perilous these missions were. The downside is that after reading many of Ambrose's works, I guess I expected a bit more.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ed Vaughn

    Many of Ambrose's works read like well plotted fiction. "Wild Blue" however is filled with numerous tiny snippets of the various profiles of the various airmen and officers who flew with George McGovern in WWII. Still readable as he presents a vast mosaic of the brave crews that lived and died over Europe's skies while defining modern warfare.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brooks

    Interesting set of stories on the airmen flying the B-24. Focus is on George McGovern and his crew, but pulls stories from many veterans of the Army Air Corp and Navy fliers. To be honest, there really is no narrative, just a jumble of stories.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    Nice anecdotal retelling of life of AAF bomber crews. It began to feel like a string of stories about individual missions. I would have liked to have more big picture context for the missions and their impact.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Curtis Edmonds

    The place you read Stephen Ambrose's new book, The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew The B-24s Over Germany, is on an airplane, a comfortable passenger jet, say, a Delta 737, built with care and precision by the Boeing folks in their picturesque facility in Seattle. the kind that has the little button that lets you recline your seat, and room for flight attendants to wander up and down the aisles bringing Dr Pepper and orange juice from frozen concentrate and the other wondrous beverages of t The place you read Stephen Ambrose's new book, The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew The B-24s Over Germany, is on an airplane, a comfortable passenger jet, say, a Delta 737, built with care and precision by the Boeing folks in their picturesque facility in Seattle. the kind that has the little button that lets you recline your seat, and room for flight attendants to wander up and down the aisles bringing Dr Pepper and orange juice from frozen concentrate and the other wondrous beverages of the American century, and a little knob that blows cool, pressurized air in your face. You put down the bag of peanuts and the in-flight magazine (the kind that shamelessly touts Buffalo, New York, of all places, as a tourist attraction) and begin reading about the gathering of young men from across the country to remote locations like Liberal, Kansas and Carbondale, Illinois and Pampa, Texas to learn how to fly and beat Nazi Germany into a smoldering pancake. You read the first line of the prologue; "The B-24 was built like a 1930s Mack truck, except that it had an aluminum skin that could be cut with a knife." The 737 has a stout metal hull; as you always do, you tapped nervously on it as you walked from the jetway into the cabin. And the B-24 "Liberator" was not heated, you read, and astonishingly uncomfortable enough to make even the most ambitious masochist decline a checkride, enough to make even the most dedicated Naderite consumer advocate to admit that, maybe, waiting an hour on the tarmac at the Detroit airport for a Northwestern crew to de-ice a plane is not the worst confinement since they closed Alcatraz. Somebody (one of the New Journalists, you don't recall his name exactly, the fellow who wears the white suits) wrote that a pilot making a test flight of a new fighter plane had more chances to die in one takeoff than his wife and children could fantasize in their worst nightmares, but that doesn't tell the half of it. First off, the B-24 was a huge airplane, the biggest airplane in the Army Air Force, thirty-two thousand pounds of aluminum and wiring and guts, hard to steer, difficult enough to fly under the best of conditions, built by the lowest bidder, naturally. (One of the contractors of the B-24 is good old North American Aviation in Grand Prairie, Texas.) You take off from an airstrip in Italy that wouldn't pass muster with the FAA today, your plane loaded with tons of gasoline and bombs, not to mention the crewmen, your special responsibility. You careen down the runway, hoping that this flying boxcar, this... this beast (there's no other word for it!) can manage to rouse its shuddering engines, lift itself into the air and not end up a smoking, smoldering crater at the end of the runway. And then once aloft, you circle around the airfield, getting into a formation so closely packed that one mistake or mechanical failure in your wingman's plane could cause you to crash, through no fault of your own (although you will still be just as dead). And this may be the least dangerous thing you do all day! Your orders are simple enough in theory but damned difficult in execution; fly across the Alps to the heart of Greater Germany (in daylight!) to a ball-bearing plant or oil refinery or other important target, open your bomb bay doors, drop your stick of bombs, and return to base. Of course, it goes without saying that there aren't so many such targets, and those that are there are well-defended, and that the Germans have good enough intelligence so that they can practically read your orders before you do, and that even a teenaged reservist can learn how to fire an 88-millimeter antiaircraft gun into the air, producing those black cotton balls with red fiery hearts that can gash the fragile skin of your plane in ways you hadn't even thought about. And even though your target this time is a German fighter plane plant, and even though such raids have been enormously successful in capturing the sky over Europe for the Allies, one up-close encounter with a Messerschmidt fighter is enough to put a serious dent in your social calendar, maybe for good. Is your parachute operating? If one of those malevolent pieces of flak pierces the skin of your Liberator in just the right way, you may need it. (Your ball turret gunner isn't even wearing one, it won't fit in that space that's small and cramped even by B-24 standards; he'll have to get the waist gunner to help him out before he can put on his parachute.) If the plane is shot up so bad that you have to bail out, can you make it to Switzerland? Or behind the partisan lines in Yugoslavia? Or are you looking at a long vacation as a guest of the Luftwaffe? (Compare that thought, if you can, to the thought of Delta redirecting your luggage from Atlanta to Austin.) And let's suppose you do make it to the target without freezing to death or some other ignominious end, and drop your bombs, hoping that the pattern is right and you're not dropping death and destruction on a school or POW camp, and that all the bombs do manage to make it off the rack (trying not to think of what happens if one gets stuck), and you still have to steer this... beast! home and back over the Alps, every muscle sore, every bone weary, hopefully with enough gas to make it back to base, and land the damned thing, stick it on the runway, hoping that there's enough runway and you're not coming in too heavy and that the engines will hold up and hey, that mountain's not supposed to be there! And if, surviving all the dangers, completing the mission, landing the plane, checking to see that all your crew are safe and well, and you go back to the Spartan tent and latrines and Spam and check to see that everyone else made it back alive, that there weren't any casualties on this run, you slip off into sleep, and wake up the next morning ready and prepared to do it all again, thirty-five times (up from twenty-five!) until you can rotate home... well! Who then has the uncritical willingness to face danger! Who then is walking the sanctified precincts of (you've said it now) the Holy Ziggurat of Flight! Who then are the authentic members of the True Brotherhood!!!! If these men, the 741st Squadron of the 455th Bomb Group of the Fifteenth Air Force, are not the true heirs of Orville and Wilbur Wright, are not exemplars of heroism, are not the forbearers of what a later generation (knowing only that it existed, and that it was holy, but not knowing what to call it, exactly, because it was never spoken of) would name the Right Stuff, then nobody ever had it. It says something (not everything, but a lot) to say that Stephen Ambrose does for the men of the B-24s in The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew The B-24s Over Germany what Tom Wolfe did for the Mercury astronauts in The Right Stuff. In an age without heroes or battles (or, as a cynic might be tempted to say, without honor itself), it is only fitting and proper that we turn to the stories of those who came before. Ambrose has been an exemplar in telling these stories of WWII, and The Wild Blue is another stellar achievement in narrative history in a long line of such achievements. The focus wanders a bit throughout the history, as Ambrose introduces us to auxiliary characters here and there who have stories that were too good to leave out. (Ambrose relies heavily on oral history from WWII veterans, and later generations of scholars will no doubt be grateful for his work in collecting these oral histories.) Most of the time, though, the focus is where it should be, on the crew of the Dakota Queen, a B-24 Liberator piloted by Lieutenant George McGovern. (Yes, that George McGovern, and all of my fellow conservative partisans can put your cudgels down for a few hours to read this.) The Wild Blue manages three important tasks while preserving the characteristic clarity of Ambrose's works. First, it's a detailed story, going in-depth about the armaments of the B-24 and the nuances of Allied strategy and the hardships of bomber combat. Second, it's an analytical story, with Ambrose turning his high-powered perception on the issues of target selection and combat psychology. Most importantly, it is a deeply personal book, capturing the best and most important memories from McGovern and his crew, telling stories ranging from the comic to the heartbreaking. On top of all of this, Ambrose seems to have taken his experience in Hollywood (with Steven Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan, among others) and used it to create a dramatic overlay for The Wild Blue; you almost get the feeling that William Goldman could turn the whole thing into a screenplay while sitting by the pool. The only thing that could mar The Wild Blue is an overly partisan hero-worship on the part of Ambrose towards McGovern; Ambrose even admits that he wanted to write this book because of his longtime friendship and support of the South Dakota Senator and 1972 presidential candidate. And the hero-worship is there, in no small measure. The genius of the book, however, is such that one cannot finish it without the knowledge that any hero-worship of George McGovern or the crew of the Dakota Queen and those brave men, living and dead, who flew the Liberator in the skies over Europe has been permanently and irrevocably earned.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The inspiration for this book was the late Stephen Ambrose's friendship with George S. McGovern, the South Dakota senator who ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket in the 1972 Presidential election. Ambrose wanted to tell the story of the heroism of McGovern and thousands of other fliers from World War II. Among other things, this book would provide the public with knowledge of the significant wartime service of McGovern. Many voters in 1972 just saw the stereotyped campaign picture provid The inspiration for this book was the late Stephen Ambrose's friendship with George S. McGovern, the South Dakota senator who ran unsuccessfully on the Democratic ticket in the 1972 Presidential election. Ambrose wanted to tell the story of the heroism of McGovern and thousands of other fliers from World War II. Among other things, this book would provide the public with knowledge of the significant wartime service of McGovern. Many voters in 1972 just saw the stereotyped campaign picture provided by rival Richard Nixon of the senator as a softy peacenik. In realty, McGovern was never a pacifist. He was known for his vehement opposition to the Vietnam War, but was also justifiably proud of his service in the earlier war. This book is a biography of McGovern, with his wartime experiences forming the central theme and the book narrative's end-point. Ambrose clearly wants to showcase the contributions of the B-24 bomber crews. Without getting too esoteric about World War II aircraft types, the reader of this book becomes aware of the monumental task facing the airmen who had to carry out the strategic bombing war against Germany (this task was split between the Americans, who operated by day, and the British, who flew their bombing missions at night). The American Air Force used two separate strategic, four-engined bombers in Europe to perform the heavy hauling of daily combat, using hundreds, sometimes as much as a thousand aircraft at a time. The public familiar with war movies, and displays of the war's aircraft at air shows, know about the B-17 and may actually think as that aircraft as the sole strategic bomber of the European war. Actually, the B-24 was produced in larger numbers (no type of airplane, military or civil, has ever been built in the United States in greater numbers than the B-24; there were over eighteen thousand built). It was extremely risky, and difficult, to fly these aircraft. The B-24 especially took physical strength to fly it. Both of these aircraft had to be flown, daily, for hours, going to and from targets. The bombing missions required flying at very high altitudes, subjecting the crews to below-zero temperatures while trying to survive destruction inflicted by enemy aircraft and anti-aircraft fire, and navigating in often terrible weather conditions. Ambrose makes the point that bomber crews had the highest (up to 50 percent) casualties in relation to their total numbers, than military personnel engaged in any other type of combat mission in World War II. I read somewhere where five thousand B-17's alone were lost in the war, most of them over Germany; the B-24 losses were surely higher. The dreadful aspect of these statistics was that every time one of these airplanes went down, a ten-man crew, average age around nineteen or twenty years, went with it. Then there were the aircraft that made it back to their home bases, shot to hell, containing dead and dying crew members. Surely, many crews bailed out, to wind up as prisoners of war or to be rescued, but the casualties were horrendous. The book places George McGovern, a twenty-one year old pilot, in the middle of this wartime situation, describing his stateside training and his assignment to a bomb group in Italy. He and his crew flew 35 missions in the "Dakota Queen", mostly against Germany's petroleum resources, experiencing stresses ranging from seeing fellow airplane crews being shot down in flames, to coping with an armed, 500-pound hung up in the plane's bomb bay, to facing the decision of bailing the crew out over enemy territory or the sea, or else trying to fly to home base and land with engines shot out. The book's sub-title is not exactly accurate, however, since it purports to describe the lives of the men and boys who flew the B-24's over Germany. Sure, you could generalize McGovern and his 741st Squadron as representative of the whole effort, but the book is not really as broad in scope as the title indicates. The author includes a Forward in which he talks about his experience riding in one of these aircraft as part of his research into the book. As he tells it, he and his son rode as passengers in a restored B-24 belonging to The Collings Foundation while at the Lycoming Airport in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. (Reviewer's note: The Collins Foundation owns a variety of historic aircraft, including notable types used in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, which it has restored at great cost. Instead of sitting in a museum, these aircraft are displayed, and flown, singly and in pairs, at aircraft events throughout the United States. One of their most popular displays is the two-airplane "Wings of Freedom" consisting of a B-17 and the only flying B-24J in existence). By coincidence, I had seen these aircraft the same weekend as Ambrose. The B-24 had landed at Mountoursville on a Saturday afternoon in October, 2000 on what would be the first of an annual series of visits by these planes to Montoursville. Citizens, aware of the arrival of these aircraft, were on hand to watch them land (actually the B-17 would land later). It was a fun experience for me to be asked by a Collins representative to be among a few guys who helped to push this plane backward on the tarmac after it landed, to make room for the other plane. Although these are fairly large planes, it is amazing how easy a couple guys pushing backward on each under-wing wheel, and on the plane's nose, can overcome the plane's inertia and move it. The Ambroses would have flown on this plane the following day, along with others who would spend the cash to experience this unique thrill. I was back on the last day of the display, Monday, along with numerous other visitors to see the two planes start their engines and taxi out for their departure from the airport. Controversy became attached to this book a short time after its release. Ambrose was accused with recycling the words of other authors in his writing of this book, without proper attribution. It isn't my intention to slam Ambrose for his purported shortcomings; it is just that no one examining the background to the writing of this book can ignore the firestorm of accusations leveled against Ambrose, which grew in time to include his writing of a number of his other books, and which has cast a cloud over his literary reputation. As an example, there is the Forbes.com article by Mark Lewis of 2-27-02, which lays out the accusation of Ambrose's habit of "recycling prose" by literally writing prose sections which are lifted word-for-word from his sources, without using quotation marks. This is not to say that Stephen Ambrose didn't diligently research his book, and produce a most interesting account of George McGovern's military service. In addition to offering a thorough bibliography of written sources, Ambrose interviewed dozens of aircraft crewmen and other people for the book. He also diligently footnoted every piece of source material to match his written record. However, the problem, as Lewis and others accuse, was that Ambrose would literally edit-out the sentences used by the authors of the source material and place it in his book. One such source in "The Wild Blue" was the wonderful "Wings of Morning: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down Over Germany in World War II" by Thomas Childers (De Capo Press, 1996). I remember reading the account of the handling challenges of pilots flying the B-24 in "The Wild Blue" and reminiscing my previous read of "Wings of Morning", then happily noting that Childers book was acknowledged as a source by Ambrose. I never thought about actually comparing the prose in the two books at the time, but others obviously have. Lewis reported that Forbes found six more Ambrose books with the quotation problem to add to the original three books, including of course "The Wild Blue". He suggested that Ambrose's prolific involvement as author, co-author and editor of 35 books in 40 years led to the use of short-cuts in writing the books. Ambrose, for his part, appeared to be defensive and indignant over this criticism, falling back on his demonstrated proof that no background information for his books was ever used without attribution. Ambrose died that October, but his reputation was further damaged by an article from Richard Rayner in the April 26, 2010 "The New Yorker" which accused the author of exaggerating his relationship with Dwight Eisenhower during the writing of his biography on Ike. Rayner had received confirmation from Eisenhower's executive assistant during his retirement that the General's schedule could not possibly support Ambrose's claim of many hours of personal conversations with Eisenhower. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and several others by Ambrose. Granted, I read them before the critical accusations became known, but therein lies the key to Ambrose's oeuvre. There may be a dark cloud hanging over it now, especially regarding its validity as material for original or academic research (especially since it would be hard to believe Ambrose would have accepted this level of documentation from students when he taught history), but I think most of his titles will endure as informative popular history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 Stephen Ambrose was one of the top biographers of the 1900’s. His better known works were Eisenhower: Soldier and President and Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne . He also wrote about the Native Americans and Custer in Crazy Horse and Custer. Any of these books are worth reading if their half as good as “The Wild Blue.” Essentially this biography is of the B-24 and a young George McGovern from South The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 Stephen Ambrose was one of the top biographers of the 1900’s. His better known works were Eisenhower: Soldier and President and Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne . He also wrote about the Native Americans and Custer in Crazy Horse and Custer. Any of these books are worth reading if their half as good as “The Wild Blue.” Essentially this biography is of the B-24 and a young George McGovern from South Dakota. Mr. McGovern went on to become a US Senator and Presidential Candidate in 1972. One of his campaign issues was that he was Anti-Vietnam War. The seeds of this attitude had been planted during his experiences during World War II. Dealing death from altitude insulates men from the realities of the experiences of the targets. Realty reaches all crew-members when hit, disabled or downed by enemy ground fire. Also fighting off the Focke-Wulf Fw 187 or 190, which were the German Fighter aircraft of the time. The B-24 Liberator was an oversized lumbering beast that was only good for bombing. It was designed by Consolidated Aircraft and some 8000 were manufactured by Ford Motor Company . A long distance aircraft, it was manufactured to drop 250, 500 and 1000 pound bombs. ‎Built exclusively for World War II in 1939-1945, there were ‎19,256 produced in total. They withstood extreme punishment from German Fighter Planes, both gas and jet powered. In large numbers they flew through Anti-Aircraft Artillery (flack), routinely. Three B-24s were captured and then operated by the German secret operations unit KG 200, to mingle in to some bombing operations. The purpose was to identify to ground personnel the altitude, speed and direction of the bombing missions. Once the Allies identified their vulnerability they were quickly chased off or shot down by our fighters. Some of the aircraft were abused by the flight crews themselves. Not intentionally but the lack of flight experience or inability to control this brute of a winged machine. Most difficulties came from equipment casualties stemming from ground flack or accidents, incidents or failures in formation enroute to target. Mr. Ambrose details the experiences of Mr. McGovern from High School thru to Flight School. Notable experiences in Flight School to his wedding and the birth of his daughter is of interest. Mr. Ambrose details much of the living conditions at Cerignola, Italy, where Lt. McGovern was finally stationed. The mud, smells, entertainment, socializing and grieving dominated life between combat missions. Even the meals were a new and strange experience for most everyone. What wasn’t consumed was used to repair airplanes. It was a strange existence. Money and meat had to be a shock. Where few had ever consumed SPAM, nobody had ever seen APC or Allied Military Currency. The Americans, by their existence especially, changed local morals and customs. Where the Germans had killed, abused and enslaved, the Americans worked, built, fed and, most of all cared. Music and information via the radio was also new to all of Europe, including Italy. The entire book could be summed up by saying that most all men who had served were willing to give their life, liberty, comfort and careers to win the war. There were very few exception in ‘The Wild Blue,’ or any other theater of conflict. In short, Mr. Ambrose did a fine job detailing the trials, tribulations, heart aches and traumas of this area of World War II. Richard Diaz

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Bascom

    "The Wild Blue" by Stephen Ambrose is about the B-24 Liberator in World War II and its role in the bombing campaign and eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Most of its value comes from its first-hand accounts of bombing missions and daily life of a bomber crew of the 15th Air Force based in Italy in 1944-45. There are also some interesting facts. For example, he says that the Army Air Corps lost more men to combat in World War II than the entire Marine Corps. And that the B-24 flew faster, higher, a "The Wild Blue" by Stephen Ambrose is about the B-24 Liberator in World War II and its role in the bombing campaign and eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Most of its value comes from its first-hand accounts of bombing missions and daily life of a bomber crew of the 15th Air Force based in Italy in 1944-45. There are also some interesting facts. For example, he says that the Army Air Corps lost more men to combat in World War II than the entire Marine Corps. And that the B-24 flew faster, higher, and with a bigger payload than the B-17 (which got more publicity as it was based in England were reporters tended to go). Unfortunately, the book became controversial due to accusations that Ambrose plagiarized certain passages. After more investigation, it turns out that he plagiarized passages in several of his books going back years. Shame on him. I personally don't like Ambrose's folksy style. Pop-history, if you will, written for as wide an audience (and as big a customer base) as possible. He jumps around a lot too. It's almost as if you are watching a movie when you read it. Another aspect I didn't like was that the book is more a biography of George McGovern, a B-24 pilot, than about "Men and Boys" as the title suggests. That ruined it for me. George McGovern, like all combat veterans, certainly deserved much respect at the time. But in my view, his post-war politics sullied his wartime heroics. In 1972 he was a Senator from South Dakota and ran as the Democratic candidate for president against Richard Nixon. He ran as a far-left militant pacifist and promised unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam. Although he lost the election in a landslide, he played a not insignificant role in shifting public opinion and ensuring a Communist victory in the Vietnam War. He was a Communist sympathizer who wanted America to just cross its arms while Communism advanced in the rest of Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Not very different from what Joe Kennedy, Charles Lindberg, and Neville Chamberlain wanted to do in the face of German expansionism in the 1930s. In short, McGovern dishonored himself. Ambrose reveals in the book that he was a lifelong friend of McGovern. That says a lot about what kind of person Ambrose was. Fun fact: I inherited my copy from my grandfather's personal library, who died in 2017 at 92. He too was a B-24 pilot in the 15th Air Force and flew 20 missions over the Third Reich in 1945. But unlike McGovern he wasn't a Communist-sympathizing pacifist.

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