Coffin Corner Boys: One Bomber, Ten Men, and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France

Coffin Corner Boys: One Bomber, Ten Men, and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France


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As a young band of brothers flies over German-occupied France, they come under heavy fire. Their B-17 is shot down and the airmen—stumbling through fields and villages—scatter across Europe. Some struggled to flee for safety. Others were captured immediately and imprisoned. Now, for the first time, their incredible story of grit, survival, and reunion is told.

In 1944, George Starks was just a nineteen-year-old kid from Florida when he and his high school buddies enlisted in the US military. They wanted to join the action of WWII. George was assigned to the 92nd Bomb Group—in which the median age was 22—and on his crew’s first bombing mission together received the most vulnerable spot of a B-17 mission configuration: low squadron, low group, flying #6 in the bomber box formation.

Airmen called George’s position the “Coffin Corner” because here exposure was most likely to draw hostile fire. Sure enough, George’s plane was shot down by a German Fw190, and he jumped at 25,000 feet for the “first and only time,” as he tells the story. He landed near Vitry-le-Perthois to begin a 300-mile trek through the dangers of war-torn France towards the freedom of neutral Switzerland.

Through waist-deep snow, seering exhaustion, and close encounters with Nazis, George repeated to himself the mantra “just one more day.” He battled to keep walking. His comrades were scattered all across Europe and experienced places as formidable as German POW camps and as hospitable as Spain, each crew member always wondering about the fate of the others.

After the war, George made two vows: he would never lose touch with his men again and one day would attempt to thank those who had risked their lives to save his. Despite passage of time and demands of career and family, he accomplished both. He reunited with his crew then twenty-five years later returned to France to locate as many of the brave souls who had helped him evade the enemy as he could.

Join George as he retraces his steps to freedom and discover the amazing stories of sacrifice and survival and how ten young American boys plus their French Helpers became heroes.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621576266
Publisher: Regnery History
Publication date: 05/14/2018
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 251,184
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Growing up in a family steeped in military history, Carole Engle Avriett often heard her uncle—chief mechanic for Gen. Claire Lee Chenault’s Flying Tigers—insist, “Ain’t no fake stories ever gonna outdo the real ones.” Convinced that he was right, Avriett pursued a career as an editor with Southern Living Magazine for nearly fifteen years recording real-life stories, then as an author at the intersection of true-life narratives and military history. Coffin Corner Boys is her sixth book.

Avriett graduated from the Uni. of California, Davis, with a BA of double majors in English and History, specializing in Military History. She received a Masters of Education with a concentration in English Composition from the Auburn Uni. where she taught Advanced Composition while working on doctoral level course-work in Literature.

Table of Contents

Foreword, Lieutenant General E. G. "Buck" Shuler, Jr. xi

Remembrances Paul Mike Starks xv

Introduction xix

Part I Beginnings

1 Reconnecting: The "Search" Trip 3

2 Beginning at Sixteen 11

3 Only One Jump…Ever 17

Part II The Crew and First Days Down

4 A Whistle Signal 27

5 Betrayed by the Gendarmes 33

6 "Are You Hebrew?" 39

7 Cognac and Eggs 45

8 Meeting Up with Buddies 53

9 Meeting in a Shack 57

10 A Casket and a Bicycle 61

Part III The Helpers and the Enemy

11 Processing in Frankfurt am Main 69

12 Living with the Videls 75

13 "Get the Hell Out of Here" 81

14 Sitting Around a French Fireplace 87

15 An Engineer's Home, a Dress Shop, and a Root Cellar 91

16 A Squeaky Wheel 97

17 Life in Stalag Luft III 103

18 11, Rue de Saussaies, Gestapo Headquarters, Paris 109

19 Fresnes Prison, Paris 113

20 Dulag Luft and the Forty-and-Eights 117

21 Stalag Luft IV, Deeper into Germany 121

22 Angels Watching Over 125

23 Troop Train and a Brave Man 127

24 The Captain 133

25 "Frisco" 137

26 The Theater and the Stress of POW Camp 141

27 One More Day 145

28 Steaming Clothes on a Stove 149

29 The Chief of Police and Giselle 153

30 A Train Full of Germans 159

31 Maurice Baverel, a Spy for All Seasons 163

32 Dr. Charlin and the Five-Horsepower Peugeot 167

Part IV The Final Push Out

33 Worsening Conditions 173

34 The Black Death March 179

35 A Small Miracle 185

36 Swiss Surprise 189

37 Enough of Switzerland 195

38 Rowboat Ride at Midnight 199

Part V Going Home

39 George Starks and the Green Hornet 207

40 Irv Baum and Ted Badder 209

41 Dick Morse 211

42 Bill Wyatt with Don Edgerly and Bob Williams 215

43 Andy Brenden with Wally Trinder 217

44 Dale Beery and William Wallace 219

Part VI Finding Old Friends

45 Reconnecting, 1969 223

46 On to Pontarller 227

47 The Boillots and Dr. Charlin 231

48 Back with Mike, 1970 237

49 More Visits with Friends 241

50 Reunion with the Crew 243

Epilogue: One More Time to France 245

Acknowledgments 249

Notes 253

Index 263

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