“With longevity came even greater superstition, especially for the ground crew. There was a desperate awareness of the odds, of fate. Thirty-one successful missions was an unnerving statistic by now, rarer by the week. It the reason for all the rituals, the most religious among them believing that God must somehow be paying particular attention.”
The third novel in Jeff Shaara’s trilogy of World War II in the European theater is, in my opinion, the best of the three. The book begins with a bombing mission over Germany, and as a reader, I was right there with the bombardier, freezing cold and nerves on edge. From those first pages, there is no letting go. This is partly due to Shaara’s expertise in writing, but also partly due to the story of this part of the war itself. Following the story of the B-17 bomber crew, the reader is carried into the Ardennes, to be surrounded by German artillery in the middle of winter. I have heard this story many times, and yet I still learned something new.
I thought there was more emotion in this novel than in the previous, but of course the fighting was more intense and the brutality of the enemy more fierce. When the American forces enter Germany and liberate their first concentration camp, the horror stuck with me – despite the fact that I, as a reader, already knew what to expect.
It is impossible for an author to tell everything there is to tell about the war in Europe. But Jeff Shaara manages to get across the most important events. Not just facts and figures, but the human side as well. That’s why Shaara is one of my favorite authors. I look forward to reading his next novel dealing with World War II in the Pacific – it’s available in bookstores now!
4 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Published in 2009