The Forbidden Diary: A B-24 Navigator Remembers

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9780071581875: The Forbidden Diary: A B-24 Navigator Remembers

From the author's blow-by-blow diary kept during his tour of duty with the Eight Air Force, thirty-one bombing missions over Europe during WWII are described. Discussions of the art and skill of combat navigation and tales of R&R between missions round out the read. Striking photographs as well as other illustrations (maps & diagrams) add vivid depth to the narrative. Rain or heavy flak, bombed targets and sights of destruction, Air Base scenes, maps and insignia, and pub gatherings are depicted. Songs and poems of the era are also included. In an interesting appendix, portions of an Army Air Force manual, "Navigator's Information File, " are featured. Equipment, procedures and methods utilized are detailed-some of which retain importance today, and some of which ultimately served as prototypes for the technology evolved since.

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From the Back Cover:

Against regulations, he kept a journal recounting the truth beyond memory's reach. As a World War II combat navigator, John Stewart was the "tour guide" for a B-24 Liberator, launching from England to strike tactical and strategic targets in Occupied Europe and Germany. While surviving 31 missions flown with the 467th omber Group, Stewart broke two rules: he kept an accurate private diary documenting the specifics of those missions; and he retained several of the maps and charts issued only to navigators just prior to takeoff. With their assistance, he offers an engrossing, pointedly candid description of grueling aerial combat and of one man's uncensored observations as he shepherded his crewmates through nerve-crushing enemy flak to their targets--then safely home. Stewart vividly depicts the hazards he routinely confronted each time the live action departed from the manual's page...which was nearly every mission. Witness what occurs when precision guidance instruments fail and a navigator's aptly named "dead reckoning" is called upon to salvage a flight. And feel what it's like to learn your 37-mile-long bomb run requires youo to plot a course directly into the teeth of a 130-knot headwind...leaving you to linger over enemy flak guns at a leisurely relative ground speed of just 80 knots! The navigator's voice is one seldom heard in memoirs regaridng the World War II missions of the celebrated 8th Air Force. Stewart's unvarnished recollections fill an enormous void with his painstakingly faithful reconstruction of that experience, and of that era.

From Kirkus Reviews:

An I-was-there authenticity buoys one mans recollections of deadly combat with the famed US 8th Air Force in WWII Europe over 50 years ago. Luckily, first-time author Stewart kept a diary (against regulations) of his 31 missions over targets in France and Germany as a 19-year-old navigator in a B-24 Liberator bomber. His are blow-by-blow, stress-and-strain accounts of raids and of flying through unnerving anti-aircraft flak where the chances of survival were far less than 100 percent. Many airmen, he relates, entered denial merely in order to subdue their fears. When not flying, they kept busy with partying and military practice sessions to improve their professional expertise. Some of the religious simply withdrew emotionally. Stewart argues that the November 1940 German raid on the medieval town of Coventry had strategic purposemuch heavy industry was located there, despite British propaganda meant to arouse sympathy and indignation. He didn't find American bomber crews to be any more or less effective than the enemy. Regardless, a reader feels the brutality of war on both sides, even though the author stresses the heavy casualties suffered by Americans. Stewart believes that passing years have muddied our memories of the war, aided at times by intellectuals with preconceived ideas who were not present for it. He cites what he views as the often biased treatment of the atomic bombing of Japan, arguing that without the bomb to end the bloodletting, many more lives would have been sacrificed (in part as a result of likely Japanese atrocities). Stewart, who earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering after the war and taught at the University of Arizona, includes a detailed discussion of military technology in his later chapters. His book ably charts the hard times of American WWII flyers. (100 illustrations) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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