Welcome! To this week’s Friday56 and
Happy Friday !
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May your books be with you!
Luv Sassy X
Silver Wings, Iron Cross by Tom Young
THE INTERVIEW WITH TOM YOUNG
With Silver Wings, Iron Cross, Tom Young has transitioned from writing military books about the War on Terror to writing about World War II. Through his descriptions the plot becomes very believable. An American pilot and a German submariner, in November 1944, become allies as they battle to survive the elements, the German civilians, and the Gestapo.
The plot has World War II Lieutenant Karl Hagan parachuting deep into German territory after his plane was shot down. Being of German heritage, growing up in a German culture in Pennsylvania, he hopes his knowledge of the German language will help him avoid capture. Meanwhile, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Albrecht who wore his Iron Cross with pride abandons the U-boat he commanded after a devastating air-raid. Both men happen to stumble upon each other and decide to form an unlikely alliance with a goal to reach the allied forces.
Besides an action-filled story, Young also shows how each man is conflicted. Hagan must bomb a U-boat base in Bremen Germany, where his aunt and uncle live. He hopes the bombs will be on target without leaving any civilian casualties. Albrecht receives a suicide order for the U-351 and his men while the boat’s in dry dock in Bremen. He decides to desert during Hagan’s B-17 raid on the city, having become completely disillusioned with the government.
The plot is thrilling and tense. The setting and detail are very authentic. The characters come alive and readers take a journey with them hoping beyond hope that they will be rescued. One of the most interesting parts of the story is seeing how their relationship evolved from enemies to friends. Anyone enjoying a military thriller will enjoy this story.
Elise Cooper: Why transition from the War on Terror to WWII?
Tom Young: I always had a fascination with WWII history considering my grandfather was a WWII veteran. He served in the 8th Air Force. I wanted to write a story intertwining the 8th Air Force, WWII, and German U-boats. The U-boats in the story came about with my interest in them from the days I was on the scuba team in college where I actually dived on one. Many do not know that the naval combat came very close to American shores, in my case the North Carolina outer banks. It became a hunting ground of German U-boats.
EC: It was very interesting how you describe German civilians?
TY: I tried to portray them realistically. I put in how a deserter was hung, farmers were loyal to the troops and helped feed them, mobs stormed downed American parachuters, and many gave information to the Gestapo. Many leading citizens in Germany at the time were ceremonial members of the SS. A large segment of the population could not have pleaded ignorance to what was happening.
EC: There was a scene with a German civilian that reminded some of the incident where four SEALs were killed in Afghanistan?
TY: You are referring to Marcus Luttrell who survived, while his three buddies died because they let an Afghan civilian live after he happened upon them. I did think of that incident, and it probably did influence me. Both my characters and the SEALs might have made it to freedom had they shot the civilian. By just tying him up, and allowing him to live, they also allowed him to notify the enemy. But all the military men had a strong sense of right and wrong, a code of honor. This is why they did not kill the civilian.
EC: There were plenty of details about survival skills?
TY: Some of it comes from my own training when I was in the military. This subject has always interested me ever since I was in survival school. I also researched it to find the kinds of survival equipment that WWII pilots used. For example, the scene in the book about the fishing instructions that said it is no more than a pep talk is true. I found on the Internet that was actually in the survival kit given to WWII pilots.
EC: How did your experience help you to write the story?
TY: I was a flight engineer for the Air National Guard that logged more than 5000 miles. I really believe that those in the 8th Air Force during WWII had much more dangerous missions than I faced. I watched on You-tube actual training sessions that were made by top Hollywood talent brought in by the Defense Department. One that was particularly helpful, “How to Fly the B-17 Fortress” showed how an instructor taught the crew. But then and now what was the same was the bonding of the crews, and what goes through someone’s head while under fire, the crew dynamics.
EC: How would you describe Karl, the American pilot?
TY: He came from a German-American family living in Pennsylvania. His loyalties were not divided. He feels a cultural identity with his family in Germany but is very much loyal to the mission. I think he was an optimist, which is why I had the German U-boat executive officer say to him that Americans are always optimists finding solutions to every problem. But he also was filled with grief for his crew members that were always in the back of his mind.
EC: How would you describe the German Wilhelm Albrecht?
TY: In a lot of ways he was a stereotypical German officer. He is wrapped too tight and believes in rules and procedures. He is not a committed Nazi, and is disillusioned. He has loyalty to country, but not to his government. He is intense, calm, confident, and cool in a crisis.
EC: Compare their views on patriotism?
TY: For Karl, his patriotism and duty pull him in the same direction. For Wilhelm, there is conflict between patriotism and duty. After U-boats received suicidal orders to attack allied shipping by ramming he deserted. He decides the cause is not worth lives.
EC: What are the similarities between each mission?
TY: U-boat missions are to stop supplies going from North America to Great Britain. The strategic American bombers missions are to stop the access of materials. Both are operating on a strategic level. I wanted to explore after they no longer have weapons how they can mentally handle being disarmed.
EC: Can you explain the quote, “And the fact that they’re losing the war isn’t making the Krauts any easier to get along with”?
TY: At the end of the war there are always bitter people who will not accept the reality they see coming. There is an uptick in atrocities. It is a truism in military history that it is the most dangerous time in the beginning and the ending of the war. In this case the Germans eliminated POWs as the war was coming to an end.
EC: Your next book?
TY: It will be a WWII book with different characters. It is based on a real-life event and the working title is The Magnificent Rescue, out next summer. It is based on how 500 airmen downed in Germany occupied Yugoslavia in WWII were rescued.
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