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

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

by William Ash, Brendan Foley
     
 

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.

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312338329
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/01/2005
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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