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In Defense of Freedom - Stories of Courage and Sacrifice of World War II Army Air Forces Flyers

In Defense of Freedom

Stories of Courage and Sacrifice of World War II Army Air Forces Flyers

By Wolfgang W. E. Samuel
Foreword by James F. Tent
Hardcover : 9781628462173, 492 pages, 111 b&w photographs, April 2015

An honor roll and an indelible remembrance of sacrifice, courage, and brotherhood in World War II


The twenty-seven stories in this book serve as a graphic reminder of the selfless heroism of America's World War II Army Air Forces flyers and how necessary they were to achieve Allied victory. Wolfgang Samuel and the pilots he interviewed reveal the peril these men faced to achieve a daunting task, impossible without their bravery. And their sacrifices were stunning—American bomber crews suffered the highest casualties (KIA, MIA, POW, wounded) of all American armed services in World War II. The stories preserved in this book bear that grave danger out. A member of a heavy bomber crew in the 8th Air Force in the period from mid-1942 to spring 1944 was less likely to survive than a US Marine fighting on Iwo Jima or Okinawa.

The stories in this unique book are about men who went face to face with their adversaries, who saw their buddies die, who crashed planes, and who became prisoners of war. Many later went on to become the backbone of the postwar Air Force, serving in Korea and Vietnam and during the Cold War.

Young Ken Chilstrom led a flight of eight A-36 fighter bombers on a low-level foray in Italy. Only he and two others came home. Bob Hoover thought he could take on the entire German air force, but on his first mission he was shot down, nearly perished, and suffered the remainder of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp. Wolfgang Samuel's new book is all about men like Ken, Bob, and the many friends they lost, who saw World War II through to the end and gave freedom to so many others.


"This is a gripping account of the lives of twenty-seven airmen who served in the US Army Air Forces during World War II in Europe, the Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters of operation. Wolfgang Samuel has captured the anxiety, intensity, fear, and pain endured by these men in aerial combat the likes of which had never been seen before, and which we will never see again. Some survived the requisite number of combat missions to return stateside, others were shot down, captured, and interned for the duration of the war. Still others remained behind in Europe as test pilots to participate in Operation Lusty, the recovery and shipment to the United States of the best German aircraft that the Luftwaffe had to offer. The work concludes with an essay which places the entire air war in the context of its magnitude and cost--both in material and in lives. Those wishing to know of aerial combat in World War II in its gritty, often horrifying details will want to read this book. "

- R. Cargill Hall, emeritus chief historian of the National Reconnaissance Office, Department of Defense

"From Doolittle's Raiders to low-level Thunderbolt pilots to the men who braved flak and fighters in their B-17s, Wolf Samuel effectively conveys the courage of America's World War II flyers. Told in their own words, their gripping stories of air combat remind us of the price our fellow citizens paid to secure our freedom. Wolf's book is both a tribute to the 'greatest generation' and a call to service to today's Americans. "

- Tom Jones, veteran astronaut, Air Force pilot, and author of Sky Walking: An Astronaut's Memoir

"In Defense of Freedom is an immensely valuable book as well as an exciting and entertaining read. Colonel Samuel once again delivers the goods, selecting meaningful episodes from our nation's rich military aviation history and presenting them with his usual storytelling skill. He weaves the strategic situation and personal touches, and he blends technical descriptions with heart-pounding action. The reader comes away informed, entertained, and with great respect for those who have helped keep this country free. "

- Dave "Bio" Baranek, former US Navy TOPGUN instructor and author of Topgun Days