Today’s #TalkTuesday interview is also our #TeaserTuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, all of which feature one of the books below. A joint effort by Elise and I! Enjoy!
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Three recent non-fiction books highlight the bravery and courageousness of the previous generations. These adventure stories bring to the forefront those who seemingly have been erased from history. Thanks to, Corey Mead who wrote The Lost Pilots, Carole Avriett the author of Coffin Corner Boys, and The Odyssey of Echo Company: The 1968 Tet Offensive and the Epic Battle to Survive the Vietnam War by Doug Stanton, people will know about these heroes.
Coffin Corner Boys is a compelling read about a B-17 crew that escaped from Nazi-occupied France after their plane was shot down. This book is a reminder of the Greatest Generation’s spirit, valor, and patriotism. The Coffin Corner is a particular position in the flying configuration where they flew “low squadron, low group, flying #6 in the bomber box formation they were exposed to hostile fire.” Because of their vulnerable position, on March 16th, 1944, the ten-member crew had to bail out of their plane after it was shot down by the Germans over occupied France. Each crewmember had to endure the severe cold, wetness, hunger, and exhaustion, while some of them became POWS.
The Lost Pilots is a fascinating look back into the early days of aviation bringing back to prominence Jessie Keith-Miller, a female pioneer pilot. The story begins in 1927, when World War I pilot, Captain William Lancaster and Jessie Keith-Miller take off from London, aspiring to complete a record-breaking flight to Australia, the first in a light plane. Although they were basically strangers, they bonded over their desire for adventure, fame, and escape from unhappy marriages. But, tragically a love triangle ended up with Lancaster charged with the murder of Jessie’s fiancé in Florida.
The Odyssey of Echo Company is the story of Stan Parker, a member of Echo Company, a Recon Company, in the 101st Airborne Division. He enlisted to fight for his country against the evils of Communism, arriving mid-December 1967 in Vietnam just prior to Tet. Parker speaks to Stanton about the unending list of horrors, losses, and miseries, not just overseas, but also on the home front, which he and his peers endured.
The following are interviews with each of the authors.
Elise Cooper: What were the hardships those you wrote about faced?
Carole Avriett: Crewmembers Irv Baum and Ted Badder had the misfortune of landing by two Frenchmen who turned them into the Nazis for two thousand francs. Baum who was Jewish tried denying that he was ‘A Hebrew,’ and was told ‘you’re lying,’ while at the same moment was backhanded across the face hard enough to break open the corner of his left eye. In addition, many people know of the Japanese Bataan Death March of Filipinos and American POWS, but the Germans also had one, the Black Death March. In February 1945 crew member Dick Morse told how the Germans starved the 6000 POWS and marched them in the cold winter weather. Those lagging behind would be ‘gun-butted’ by the guards and sometimes a German would drop back and take one of them into the bushes or woods. He told of how ‘We would hear a shot-then the guard would return alone.’ They suffered pneumonia, diphtheria, typhus, trench foot, tuberculosis, blisters, abscesses, and frostbite. The march lasted for three months, traveling six hundred miles until rescued on May 2nd, 1945 with only 20% surviving.
Corey Mead: There are many scenes that underscore the dangers of flying during those early days. Having crashed numerous times it became obvious that weather was a character, an enemy with its slashing rain and battering crosswinds, sleet, and fog that could easily bring down these light planes. Their lives were influenced by the era, having lived through World War I, the Roaring 20s, and the Great Depression. WWI taught that generation how to cheat death. They became free-spirits, wanting to escape the Victorian upbringing. I also wanted to show how there was huge bias against female flyers. Jessie was probably a better pilot than Lancaster. But living in the Roaring Twenties also helped her because it was a time where women became more independent and started to enter the male-dominated world.
Doug Stanton: Compassion was something Parker never experienced from many of his fellow citizens. There are numerous quotes in the book about his homecoming from Vietnam. Just a few, “The scariest part of his military career was coming home from Vietnam,” and “It is the hate they felt back home in the states that haunts these guys.” Even to this day, Parker told me how some attended a White Sox baseball game and the crowd booed the guys there in wheelchairs.
EC: Was there any uplifting scenes in the book?
CA: Many of the French civilians risked everything to help them. Captain Starks told of how he was given ‘a share of whatever meager food they had. Anyone who helped me did so at terrible risk to themselves. Any French civilian caught helping a downed Allied airman was summarily taken out of his house by the Germans and shot: man, woman, child, it made no difference.’ There were even some humanitarians among the German soldiers. While Baum was being processed as a POW in March 1944 he had to fill out a form that included his religion. A young German enlisted soldier took the pencil away from Baum and wrote ‘Protestant’ on the form.
CM: The loyalty Jessie felt for Lancaster. She sacrificed her career because of the sensational court case where tragedy and misfortune was exploited for entertainment as the public’s hunger is fed. Her adventures were more impressive than Amelia Earhart but unfortunately the murder trial scandal tanked her.
DS: Stan admitted to harboring anger, fear, resentment, and even hatred for the Vietnamese people. In 2013, we visited the village of Trung Hoa, where he was wounded in 1968 by a grenade. An NVA soldier walked over and pointed the barrel of his AK-47 at Stan’s face as he lay on the ground. Because he played dead the NVA soldier went away. Now years later, as Stan spoke of the incident a Vietnamese villager walked up to us, Mr. Sinh, the enemy. I knew watching both of these guys that they had come to an acknowledgement of each other. Stan thought how ‘the enemy was willing to accept me compared to my own country whose people were not.’ They hugged each other even though years earlier, each tried to kill one another. Mr. Sinh told Stan that ‘we were enemies, but now we are brothers.’
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! Everyone loves Teaser Tuesday
First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
I’m also taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros
Every Tuesday Vicki @ I’d Rather Be at the Beach now hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, where readers share the first paragraph of a book that they are reading or plan to read soon.
So, out of the three books mentioned above I picked:
Coffin Corner Boys: One Bomber, Ten Men and Their Harrowing Escape from Nazi-Occupied France
Looking forward to visiting your blogs and seeing what your Teaser Tuesday and First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, are this week!