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Posted February 20, 2013
I approached this book as a courtesy to the author, whose service in World War II deserved, in my opinion, some attention. What a marvelous surprise and delight to find it an entirely engrossing, well-told story of several slices of American History, some of which are not often told.
While the main story chronicles Bill Ash's experience flying Spitfire fighter planes for the RAF, his day of reckoning when he was shot down, and his remarkable experiences hiding from the Nazis in occupied Europe, and then, after captivity, his numerous escape attempts, other aspects of the story were very interesting too. He grew up in Depression-era Texas with a spirit of wanderlust and adventure. As a youth, he joined the transient hobo community, hopping trains and learning to survive with quick wits, creativity, and courage. Little did he know how well this would prepare him for his experience as an escape artist from Nazi prisons.
Unlike many WWII books that recount the horrors of prison camp and the brutality of the enemy, Ash and his co-author, Brendan Foley, have opted for an emphasis on the spirit and resourcefulness of Ash and his fellow prisoners and their ability to find humor even in the midst of their terrible situation. The author's observations about the changing behavior of the Germans as the war got closer to the end was also very interesting.
The voice of this book was genuine and honest. Brendan Foley has undoubtedly worked wonders with his journalism skills and his excellent telling of Bill Ash's story. This is a remarkable, fascinating book that shines a spotlight on that small, rare breed of soldiers who were willing to take extraordinary risks for the sake of freedom. I hope they make this into a movie, and I'd go so far to suggest it is a "must-read" for anyone interested in WWII real-life stories.