The Bomber Boys: Heroes Who Flew the B-17s in World War II - Travis L. Ayres Ayres covers five 8th AF veterans: 305th BG bombardier Tony Teta, 384th BG waist gunner Peter Seniawsky, 301st BG navigator Art Frechette, 351st BG ball turret gunner George Ahern and 385th BG navigator Bob Valliere. One of his early contacts who helped him find other crew died before Ayres could get enough information from him to be included in the book.

The one-star reviewers of this book on Amazon have totally missed the point. This is NOT a book about B-17s or strategy or tactics. Nor is it intended to be "definitive nor highly accurate." It's a successful attempt to get the stories of several B-17 crew recorded for their families and the rest of us. He's taken the oral histories of five crewmen and molded them nicely into a very readable collection that provides a "slice of life" to help those of us who were fortunate enough not to have to experience what they went through and to give us a sense of their wartime service. For that he deserves our thanks.

Some remarkable stories here. I will summarize only one, but all are equally amazing. Art Frechette was the navigator on a B-17 flying missions out of Foggia, Italy when his plane was hit by flak, caught fire and then exploded blowing him and the other crew out into space at fifteen thousand feet. Frechette was knocked unconscious by the blast and awoke too late to open his chute. He was fortunate that their mission when they were hit was over the alps and he hit a mountain covered in deep snow at an angle which save his life but caused numerous injuries. He managed to slide, crawl his way down the mountain part way to a hut from which he saw smoke coming out the chimney. He was then taken to a small town and eventually to Moreno (a beautiful little town in the southern Tyrolean Alps that I must visit some day) where he recuperated with the help of reasonably friendly German doctors and nurses. Friendly that is until the day when the allies fire-bombed Dresden. Many of the staff had family there. (Ayres' comments regarding the bombing of Dresden are a bit simplistic, but no matter.) After several months of recuperation, Frechette was shipped out with other captured airmen to Stalag 18 where he remained, still partially crippled, until the camp was liberated in May 1945.

I really liked the followup at the end of each chapter in which Ayres reports how they all managed after the war, their children, jobs, where they are today, if still alive. It’s a nice human touch if a bit Pollyannaish (“he met a nice wholesome girl and married her,” that kind of thing - does anyone really talk about wholesome girls anymore? I mean, shucks, folks and golly-gee.)

Very enjoyable book especially for anyone interested in wartime personal experiences.