Combat Crew: The Story of 25 Combat Missions Over Europe From the Daily Journal of a B-17 Gunner

Combat Crew: The Story of 25 Combat Missions Over Europe From the Daily Journal of a B-17 Gunner

by John Comer

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What People Are Saying About Combat Crew:

"I find your remarkable book, Combat Crew, engrossing. It's one of the best records of aerial combat in World War II I've ever read, and I want to tell you how impressed I am."
-Charlton Heston, actor

"Combat Crew was a very special experience for me to read. You certainly put it down the way it was."
-James Stewart, actor

"The author flew on many of the most violent air raids flows by the United States 8th Air Force during World War II. Combat Crew gives the reader an accurate, dramatic, and firsthand, on-the-scene account of the way it was. It is a book that cannot be aside once started."
-George G. Shackley, Colonel, USAF (Retired), C.O., 533rd Squadron

"John was kind enough to let me have a sneak preview of his manuscript, and it brought back a lot of old memories. He has a knack of relating our feelings and experiences in combat. It is a great book, and I recommend it highly."
-Lieutenant Colonel William Cahow (Colonel Cahow participated in most of the combat action that is described in this book.)

"An accurate, gripping portrayal of a combat-crew member's thoughts and actions while participating in twenty-five of the toughest missions flown by the 8th Air Force over Europe. A genuine account of aerial warfare from the top turret of a B-17."
-Lieutenant Colonel Stuart S. Watson, C.O., 533rd Squadron


Combat Crew is one of the best memoirs about the air war over Europe ever written.

John Comer kept a journal of the twenty-five missions he flew in 1943 when the casualty rate on his base was close to 80%. After each raid Comer gathered the crew together and pieced together the air battle from a 360-degree perspective. His book is handwritten history, recorded within hours after the battles occurred.

Comer vividly creates his experiences as top-turret gunner/flight engineer in a B-17 Squadron that was thrown against the best pilots the Luftwaffe could offer. In 1943 the Germans were more experienced than the Americans and the Army Air Force had no long-range fighters to protect the B-17's as they flew deep into enemy territory. That Comer survived is a testament to his crew's skill and his luck; his 533d Squadron (8th Air Force, 1st Division, 381st Group) lost three out of every four men on combat status during the six months Comer flew his first twenty-five missions.

Comer's powerful narrative is devoted to the men who flew the planes, dropped the bombs, and fired the guns. Their everyday life was filled with terror, friendship, and fatigue. Comer recorded it all in his diary. The reader shares the fears of flight crew as they wonder if their heavily loaded bomber can actually lift off the runway. Many planes didn't make it. Then there are the freezing temperatures in unheated planes--63 degrees below zero with the bomb-bay doors open and 200 M.P.H. winds blowing through the aircraft. There are missed targets, faulty equipment, red-hot shrapnel from antiaircraft fire, and what it was like to look German fighter pilots in the eye as they barreled in with cannons blazing. Above all, there is the horror of watching friends being shot down on every bomb run--no matter how "easy" the mission might have been.

Immediate, straightforward, compelling, Combat Crew is destined to become a classic of aerial warfare.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013724938
Publisher: John Comer
Publication date: 12/16/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 53,173
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

John Comer flew twenty-five combat missions over occupied Europe and Germany in 1943, including the infamous raid on the Schweinfurt ball-bearing plant that is still referred to in the Air Force as Black Thursday. After completing his tour with the 8th Air Force, Comer returned to the States and was assigned to train new pilots. Believing this duty to be the most hazardous of all, he volunteered to return to combat and flew fifty more missions in Italy for a total of 75. He retired in 1974 after a successful career in sales and lived in Dallas, Texas. He published his World War II memoirs in 1986 and found a worldwide audience. He died at the age of 95 in 2005.

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Combat Crew 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Absolutely compelling...couldn't put it down.  With the passage of time, those who lived through these dramatic and desperate air battles are reaching the end of their lives.  Only they could tell the real story.  Not stylized or embellished historical fiction, but the true picture. Reading a book like this is both inspiring and a bit horrifying at the same time.  We should never forget what these "citizen soldiers" did for us, and Mr. Comer has done a great job getting it down on paper for us all. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A story about how young men dealt with their emotions and the politics of war.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be interesting and informative. The author was a flight engineer and gunner on a B17. He provides a very raw view of what it was like to the fly the skies of Europe in a B17 during World War II. His depiction of his crew mates, and the bombing mission he flew in the early days of the 8th Air Force were enlightening. These were the days well before long distance fighters provided cover protection for the bombers. His description of the bombing missions are gripping. He gives one a good idea of the hopes and fears of a crew member.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
About two days after I found out my girlfriend's dad was a belly gunner on an American heavy bomber in WWII, B&N brought this book to my attention. Needless to say, it was a must-read for me. Because of my profession (history teacher), I already knew a fair amount about the American bombers of WWII. However, this book gave those heroes, and I do mean heroes, faces. The only short-coming was the fore-knowledge that the author survived the war in order to write this fantastic book. Other than that, you were right there in the planes and the hut and the town with these guys, and you never knew who was going to die the next day and who was not. In that way, it was riveting. I highly recommend this book, especially to those who think football players and movie stars are heroes. THESE people were heroes!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wide_RIght More than 1 year ago
Really a great  book that tells you the ‘inside’ story of was it was like to fly a B-17 over Germany ..    felt  like I was flying with them.  Very enjoyable to read if you’re a WWII history   buff.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read a great deal of second hand accounts about the 8th AF in WWII, so when I found a book based on first hand experiences, I was bought it. You see everything John Comer saw from training, to the 25th mission. His detail and graphic descriptions of combat took any glamor out of war. The boredom and loneliness between missions is captured so well, I empathized with him. Well worth reading and sharing with the youth of America.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An unvarnished story of the young men on a B17in WW2. Told from a first person perspective about the terror and humor these young men felt while literally saving the world. A great book that is hard to put down.
Mongobear More than 1 year ago
I am a History Buff, and this gets right to the heart of the matter. No Fluff just the details. Well written and such an engrossing read to see what they went through on those missions. I don't think the current generation would be able to hack this. As someone said "The Greatest Generation" and they were right.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extroidinary perspectve of what teorror over Germany was like in a 10 man, B-17 crew; remarkable read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago