The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II
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The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II

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by Gregory A. Freeman
     
 

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Published to glowing reviews, The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys tells the riveting story of a nine-man American bomber crew after they were forced to bail out over Germany in August, 1944. Quickly taken prisoner by a mob of angry farmers, shopkeepers, railroad workers, women, and children, the soldiers were marched into the nearby town of

Overview

Published to glowing reviews, The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys tells the riveting story of a nine-man American bomber crew after they were forced to bail out over Germany in August, 1944. Quickly taken prisoner by a mob of angry farmers, shopkeepers, railroad workers, women, and children, the soldiers were marched into the nearby town of Rüsselsheim and assaulted with stones, bricks, and wooden clubs before being left for dead at the nearby cemetery. Drawing from trial records, government archives, interviews with family members, and personal letters, author Gregory A. Freeman follows two army officers charged with investigating the murders, and brings to life the dramatic story of how the depravations of war led the citizens of a sleepy German village to commit horrific acts.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lucid account of a terrible war crime” —The Washington Post

“A riveting narrative bolstered by frequent, helpful citations.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The book's greatest strength is its ability to convey the simple pain, uncertainty, and raw emotion experienced by the crew's stateside families, who for so long held out the hope that their loved ones were still alive. Three crewmembers survived – and Freeman tells their stories in a particularly effective manner.” —Military Review

“Freeman has once again crafted a gripping, cinematic narrative – one that raises important questions about justice and morality in a time of industrial annihilation of civilian populations. A timely and riveting story of heroism and horror.” —Alex Kershaw, author of The Longest Winter and The Bedford Boys

“With The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys, Gregory A. Freeman delivers a thorough, artful, and absolutely riveting account of a fascinating yet tragic story of war, humanity, and justice. Freeman again proves that he ranks among today's finest historical storytellers.” —Alvin Townley, author of Fly Navy and Legacy of Honor

The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys is the gripping and insightful story of the Wham Bam crews first and last combat mission. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Gregory Freeman expertly weaves the history of the crew with the historic events that followed after they were shot down and captured. This is a fascinating and engrossing book that will be read for many decades.” —Brigadier General Don Harvel, Deputy Commander, Texas Air National Guard

“Gregory A. Freeman's The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys is a compelling, thought-provoking, and harrowing account of how a seemingly minor, brutal incident during World War II touched, and devastated, countless lives. It's a well-written, exhaustively researched, and thoroughly human story that shows how war can bring out the worst, and the best, in combatants and noncombatants alike. Haunting.” —James Carl Nelson, author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War

“The powerful tale of an American bomber crew shot down over Germany.” —The Quarterly Journal of Military History

author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of James Carl Nelson

Gregory A. Freeman's The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys is a compelling, thought-provoking, and harrowing account of how a seemingly minor, brutal incident during World War II touched, and devastated, countless lives. It's a well-written, exhaustively researched, and thoroughly human story that shows how war can bring out the worst, and the best, in combatants and noncombatants alike. Haunting.
Evan Thomas
…[a] cool and lucid account of a terrible war crime…[Freeeman] does not indulge in gratuitous moralizing but rather tells his Gothic tale as straightforward reporting, relying on the trial transcript and the memories of the survivors. He has a reporter's eye for the offbeat as well as the ordinary grotesqueries of war.
—The Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews

Re-creation of "the first war-crimes trial after World War II," which exposed the deep grief and anger at the Allied bombing of Germany.

Shot down on a bombing mission in their B-24 (called theWham! Bam! Thank You Ma'am) on Aug. 26, 1944, eight American airmen were attacked by a mob of angry villagers of Rüsselsheim. Six died, and two miraculously escaped. Freeman (Troubled Water: Race, Mutiny, and Bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk, 2009, etc.) builds his chilling tale backward, from the moment the beaten men were stacked on a tumbrel headed for the town cemetery and Sgt. Sidney Eugene Brown watched surreptitiously as a villager finished each off with a blow by a two-by-four, to the final trial in Darmstadt in July 1945, led by prosecutor Lt. Col. Leon Jaworski (later famous as special prosecutor in the Watergate hearings). Jaworski had reviewed many files in postwar Germany and was convinced that "the Nazis had openly violated long-recognized rules of land warfare, as agreed to by the United States and Germany in the Hague Convention of 1907 as well as in the Geneva Convention of 1929." Mistreatment of airmen shot down over Germany was not unusual, and German police were not obligated to help them. In Rüsselsheim, the guards accompanying the young men to a detention center abandoned them to the fury of the mob, incited by two sisters who sought vengeance for the firebombing of their houses. Jaworski believed this was a history-making trial, setting the tone for Nuremberg, as most of the participants were sentenced to hanging; his statements are as moving as the quotes from participants are shocking (the reverend who watched from his parsonage replied to the question why he had not tried to stop the violence: "It was not my task").

A riveting narrative bolstered by frequent, helpful citations.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780230341166
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
356,874
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Gregory A. Freeman is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years of experience in journalism and historical nonfiction. He has won over two dozen awards for his writing, including the coveted Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists. His books include Troubled Water, The Forgotten 500, and the acclaimed Sailors to the End.

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The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used this book as a conversation point in my class AN INTRODUCTION TO LAW ENFORCEMENT. Coupled with a study of the fictional OXBOW INCIDENT it served as a study in mob psychology and violence. More than that, this book outlined the commitment to justice that Leon Jaworski sought for our airmen. Both as an historical account and as a teaching aid, this book is a great read. /EJW