Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and Cooler King

Overview

From the lean days of Depression-era Texas to the thrill of being one of the few who flew Spitfires, from a death-defying crash landing in Occupied France to capture and torture by the Gestapo, imprisonment in the Great Escape camp, Stalag Luft III, and years spent becoming a serial escape artist, this is the wartime memoir of a true hero, a real-life "Cooler King."

Recounted in a wonderfully honest and self-deprecating voice, William Ash's Under the Wire is a classic in the ...

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Overview

From the lean days of Depression-era Texas to the thrill of being one of the few who flew Spitfires, from a death-defying crash landing in Occupied France to capture and torture by the Gestapo, imprisonment in the Great Escape camp, Stalag Luft III, and years spent becoming a serial escape artist, this is the wartime memoir of a true hero, a real-life "Cooler King."

Recounted in a wonderfully honest and self-deprecating voice, William Ash's Under the Wire is a classic in the making—a riveting story of bravery by one of the last of his generation.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Memoirs of an American pilot during WWII, famous for his escape attempts as a Nazi prisoner. Born in 1917 and now living in London, Ash has often been mentioned as one of a half-dozen or so Allied POWs who inspired the role created for actor Steve McQueen in the genre movie nonpareil, The Great Escape. Yet, in this somewhat halting narrative, he is careful to point out that no American, in fact, did escape in the daring, tediously organized breakout that became known as The Great Escape. (Ash himself had been moved to another camp prior to the event.) Nonetheless, his resourcefulness in, as he puts it, "diverting Germans from the war effort" in order to repeatedly thwart his escape schemes and clap him in the "cooler" (solitary confinement), is no less heroic. Ash's hardscrabble youth during the Depression is sketchily recalled but gathers relevance as preparation for later POW ordeals. With a degree "in arts" from the University of Texas, he wanders through hobo jungles in the late '30s, eventually realizing, although the U.S. remains neutral, that fighting Hitler might be a step up from the treadmill of odd jobs he seems stuck on. He walks from Detroit into Canada, fails his initial physical as a pilot candidate (he was underweight), but bulks up on Depression stew (all-you-can-eat, for a quarter) and is accepted for training on the second try. Arriving in England after the 1940 Battle of Britain, but with plenty of air action ongoing, Ash recalls classic Spitfire duels led by (mostly) British aces who helped him hone his skills until he was shot down in France and survived, sheltered by citizens, until his eventual capture. Formulaic and self-effacing nearly to a fault-the adventuresspeak for themselves.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312338329
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.74 (w) x 8.52 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Texas in 1917, WILLIAM ASH joined the Canadian Air Force on the outbreak of war, went to England and flew Spitfires. Shot down over France in 1942, he became a POW. Now in his mid-80s, he lives in London. An award-winning journalist, BRENDAN FOLEY also lives in London.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2006

    Bravos Ash and Foley!!

    This is a riveting and fascinating tale of true heroism and adventure!! I stayed up way too late because I simply could not put the book down! What a hero Mr.Ash is--but it is his humanity that comes through the strongest. My congratulations to Mr. Foley on capturing Mr. Ash's unique voice and telling this inspiring story so well. In a time in sore need of real heroes, Mr. Ash is one for the ages. I highly recommend this gripping, entertaining book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    World War II Readers Stop and Buy This Book

    Under the Wire is a terrific account of an Allied flier's attempts to escape his Nazi captors. Though it becomes apparent that William Ash will probably face the remainder of the war in a POW camp, readers will find themselves hoping that Ash's next escape attempt will again tie the Nazis into knots. Readers will also learn from the author's spirit that his most recent failure to escape will not be his last. This account is eminently readable and is a testimonial not only to Ash, but to his fellow POWs. Simply put, this is a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 15, 2005

    Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and Cooler King

    When I began reading UNDER THE WIRE, I expected a story of heroic 'derring-do', recalled with a sort of misty, stiff-upper lipped nostalgia by a Grand Lion in the winter of his remarkable life. Instead, I got so, so much more. Bill Ash's life is remarkable by anyone's yardstick. From his earliest childhood in Depression-era Texas, he was a hero, ready and eager to take on any bully. While America watched as Europe fell to a maniacal Hitler, he made a decision to personally take on the biggest bully in modern history. Remarkable? Brave? Courageous? Yes, all of these adjectives describe the heroic life of Bill Ash. But his life, and his story -- told so extraordinarily well by Ash and his co-writer, Brendan Foley -- is also funny, human and a lesson in living one's life with heart and a true moral compass. There is as much Huck Finn and Jack Kerouac in Ash's war stories, as there is John Wayne. Like all great tales of history, UNDER THE WIRE does more than offer adventure after adventure (and WOW, what adventures Bill had!) The book offers a sense of the times, a sense of the politics, insights into the dangers, the choices, the cat-and-mouse existence of a Prisoner of War. Bill played cat-and-mouse with the Third Reich, and did it brilliantly. And I have never read an adventure story with so much genuine humor! UNDER THE WIRE is a glorious tribute to the sort of person we long for, but never really see anymore: a true hero. And it's a great, entertaining read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2005

    Under the Wire: The World War II Adventures of a Legendary Escape Artist and Cooler King

    Bill Ash tells an amazing story - full of humor, humility and excitement. He conjures up days gone by from hoboing before the war to Spitfire battles over Britain and then numerous battles to escape POW camps in occupied Europe. The book has real depth but never takes itself too seriously. The best of all worlds. Thanks to Bill for helping us to live in a world where we can write book reviews.

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