VALOR, GUTS AND LUCK: A B-17 Tailgunner's Survival Story

VALOR, GUTS AND LUCK: A B-17 Tailgunner's Survival Story

WILLIAM SMALLWOOD    Book Number: 85158    Product format: Hardback

Statistically a B-17 tailgunner stood a 26% chance of surviving the standard 25 mission tour of bombing raids over Germany in 1943 - a fact of which Staff Sergeant Lowell "Slats" Slayton was unaware until he was about to undertake his first mission. A regular kid from a poor family from Fargo, North Dakota, he was in his final year at school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and, drawn to the glamour of the "wild blue yonder" of the newsreels, he enlisted with the Army Air Force, arriving in Britain in January 1943 as the tailgunner of a B-17 crew known as "Fridgen's Pigeons" after the pilot, Lt. Frances Fridgen. All went relatively well until mission 13, an attack on the main FW-190 fighter factory in Oschersleben. Hit by a 90lb rocket through the tail that missed Slats by a whisker, Fridgen was forced to leave formation whereupon they were swarmed by German fighters and brought down. Although seriously wounded, miraculously Slats survived the crash landing and was taken prisoner, spending time in three hospitals and two PoW camps before being force marched 300 miles from Stalag Luft IV in Poland to Western Germany in the winter of 1944-45 as the Nazis retreated and Germany disintegrated. This appalling and inhuman ordeal has been described before, but never before in such graphic and terrible detail as Slayton does here. After reading his harrowing description of the disease and starvation, then the ecstasy of his first warm shower in two years, one can only marvel at the strength of the human spirit. We end the story with his return to Fargo, which had changed greatly - but not as much as he had. Using Slayton's own recollections (he died in 2013, aged 90) and those of his family, William Smallwood skilfully and memorably conveys both the drama and horror of war and imprisonment and the relief of survival. 176pp.
Published price: £17.99
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Additional product information

ISBN 9781612346922
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