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Hell Above Earth: The Incredible True Story of an American WWII Bomber Commander and the Copilot Ordered to Kill Him Kindle Edition

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Length: 321 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews


"After the twists and turns in Goering's many missions, Frater finishes with a stunning revelation. . . the author delivers an exciting read full of little-known facts about the war. A WWII thrill ride." ---Kirkus

From the Author


"Is not God in the height of heaven? And behold the height of the stars, how high they are!  And thou sayest, How doth God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of heaven." Job 22:12
"For a long time we hated the idea of the heavy bomber...We now know that the champion, that the backbone of air power is the heavy bomber." - John Steinbeck, 1942

     While writing a non-fiction book review about the Battle of Britain, I stumbled across newspaper articles, books, and military web sites which categorically stated that Nazi Luftwaffe head Herman W. Goering, Adolf Hitler's legal successor, had American relatives including a nephew, Werner G. Goering, who was a WWII  bomber pilot in the European Theater.
     Army records confirmed that Werner, a twenty-one year old "Mighty Eighth" Army Air Force captain in early 1945, commanded forty-nine "Flying Fortress" combat missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, well beyond the 30 sorties which then constituted a squadron lead-pilot's tour of duty. He could have gone home by Christmas of 1944 as most of his original crewmates did, but at the peak of the bloody air war, Werner signed on for a second tour with the British based 303rd Bombardment Group, famed as The Hell's Angels, one of America's most storied warrior fraternities and the single most active bomber group in the Army Air Force. He fought until the bitter end - the Nazi surrender on May 8, 1945. Among a fistful of other medals, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the nations's highest military decorations.
     Gary Moncur, the 303rd Bombardment Group's historian and son of Captain Vern Moncur, a WWII Hell's Angels pilot, features Werner's story on the unit's web site where a page is devoted to the irony of the Goering Crew fighting against the Luftwaffe led by Werner's infamous Uncle Herman. When I contacted him for information about Werner, Gary's reply was "Good luck, I've never met, corresponded, nor spoken with him." Werner would have been 85 and Gary thought he was still alive.
     During the sixty-five years following the Nazi capitulation, Werner attended only one annual reunion of The Hell's Angels, in 1992 in Boise, Idaho - the hometown of his co-pilot Lt. Jack Rencher. Goering's appearance was a singular tribute to his lifelong friend. He is the unit's reclusive, legendary specter and prodigal son who served his country well beyond a full measure and then seemed to vanish.
     It took months to reach Werner for a brief phone call. Taciturn and wary- - he hated reporters - and didn't want to talk about the war or his family with a stranger yet consented to meet if I was willing to come to Tucson.  But, he warned "It will be a waste of your time and money, since I didn't do anything special and left the war behind a long time ago."

     Days later, while flying to meet the reclusive Goering who avoided the spotlight for nearly seven decades, it hit me that it was the chronological equivalent of meeting a Civil War veteran in 1930. He is among the very last of his peers - a man who saw and did things the world had never previously experienced, and never will again.
     He quietly carried the burden of his blood-soaked surname throughout the war and beyond; battled the Nazi war machine in the war's longest and deadliest battle for Americans, and was nearly assassinated by a suspicious U.S. government as the Luftwaffe was killing his comrades by the tens of thousands.
     Being an aloof, quiet, loner and non-drinker didn't help. He avoided the officer's club, the center of WWII military social life, which just heightened the mystery surrounding the "damn reservist" American pilot with the infamous surname. "What the hell was Werner Goering doing piloting an American heavy bomber over Germany?" It was a question military and civilian intelligence had struggled with and prepared for, with extreme prejudice, if and when the need arose.
Stephen Frater
Narragansett, Rhode Island
June 24, 2011

Product Details

  • File Size: 879 KB
  • Print Length: 321 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (March 13, 2012)
  • Publication Date: March 13, 2012
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00633W57Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,253 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Stephen Frater is Writer in Residence at the University of Rhode Island's Harrington School of Communication and Media. A graduate of Brown University, he was honored as a "Global Leader of Tomorrow" by the 1995 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful By R. Morris on March 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Hell Above Earth is a prime example of a World War Two story where truth is stranger than fiction. Who would have imagined that the nephew of German Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering would be flying bombing missions over Germany as an American B-17 bomber pilot? Author Stephen Frater has crafted a gem about Werner Goering, (Herman's nephew), and his co-pilot Jack Rencher, a tough Arizona sharp-shooter who was hired to fly with Goering and kill him if necessary. This truly is one of the most bizarre stories of the air war over Europe. When I tried to write about it in detail in my own book, most of the late Jack Rencher's comments were off-the-record at his request, and Mr. Goering dismissed any close link to his infamous uncle. Somehow, Frater was able to get Jack on the record and also to gain Mr. Goering's trust so that he would open up and discuss a relationship that he probably is none too proud of. So here, finally, the story is told in full. It is a story of unlikely friendships, unusual loyalties, and breath-taking revelations that readers will find impossible to put down. -- Rob Morris, author of Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crews over Europe in World War II .
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67 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Thomas G. Matowitz Jr. on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this book's basic premise difficult to believe. An Army Air Forces B -17 aircraft commander is deemed a security risk because of his close family relationship to a leading Nazi. His co -pilot is therefore armed with three M1911 Colt .45s and authorized to shoot him if he thinks it necessary.
Couldn't all this drama have been avoided by either assigning Lt. Goering to the Pacific theater or retaining him stateside as an instructor ? Also, wouldn't the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been able to establish definitely whether the pilot was actually related to Hermann Goering ?
All this aside, the book is literally filled with errors regarding aviation. For instance, student pilots soloed during the primary stage of their training, not basic.Also, any student pilot seen flying under a bridge would have found himself in the infantry before noon the next day. An aircraft engine starved for oil would not carry a pilot twenty miles upside down to a destination leaving mechanics to marvel over a red hot, glowing engine.
In the case of Richard Bong's fatal accident, his P -80 didn't " stall ". The airplane crashed on takeoff due to a failed fuel pump inducing an engine failure, and Bong died because he jumped from the airplane at an altitude that was too low to permit his parachute to deploy.
There is also a reference to a B-17's " tail rudder". The correct term is rudder. Finally, an airplane is refered to as a C-47 Skytrain Dakota.The airplane in question is either a Skytrain or a Dakota depending on whether it was operated by the USAAF or the RAF. It cannot be both at the same time.There was plenty more where all this came from. I agree with an earlier reviewer who stated that this book could have really used a ruthless editor, and preferably one with a strong background in aviation.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By ejc on May 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have to say that the WWII theme is one of my favorites to read about. And when it touches WWII AND the air war over the skies of Europe, even better. That's why I picked up this book. The added premise of the unlikely story of the Hermann Goring's nephew being a B-17 commander fighting against him, was the cherry on top of the cake. But... what a dissapointment. If there is an example of a great story botched in the middle of bad writing, glaring lack of editing, and a complete hodge-podge of irrelevant facts, as well as dubious facts (already mentioned here by other reviewers), this is it.

I can't recall reading a book that has gotten to my nerves as much as this one due to all the repetitions and fillers throughout the book. Here's an example, from page 188 of the hard cover when the author is quoting from Hell's Angels' archives: " (...) Later Captain Eisenhart was known as the only Captain who had urinated in the face of a General and got away with it." Immediately after the quote, the author writes: "Eisenhart became known as the only captain who had pissed in the face of a general and got away with it." I mean... why? Why restate the obvious? It's like telling a joke and keep repeating the punch line. This is a small example, but the book is riddled with such examples. It's maddening!

As for the facts, many reviewers have already mentioned some of them. A glaring one that I caught was the fact that the author attributed the nickname "Iron Ass" to William C. Heller, which is in fact, incorrect. The nickname "Iron Ass" belonged to Heller's mentor, General Curtis LeMay.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Laura P. Barnett on May 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I want to first credit the author for his attempt at telling an interesting and little known bit of WWII Air Force history and for ultimately uncovering some very important truths. I also want to thank him for telling the story of some our nation's greatest heroes whose story deserved to be told.

Unfortunately, the story-telling is a scattershot disaster of writing. As others who have rated this book (besides the usual friends-of-the-author who ridiculously gave this book 5 stars) have said, the book is replete with redundancies, so much so that at one point I thought there was something wrong with my iPad and I was being taken back to the same chapter over and over. Then, also as others have stated, the text is rife with anecdotes and side-stories which have no relevancy to the tale. It's as though the author was being paid by the page rather than by the content. Was there even an editor for this book or was it self-edited? If there was an editor it's time for him or her to find another line of work. While the book starts off well with some interesting background into the main characters, it quickly veers off into a select history of the 8th Air Force and other select ruminations of the author's mind that has nothing really to do with the main story. I'm guessing that in part this is because this story would have made a great magazine article but just doesn't have the depth for a complete book. Finally, the author jumps around between the main story and complete asides so much that it's practically impossible to follow what's going on. It's just a mess.

I think if Mr. Frater could take the manuscript to a competent editor and publisher this could be made into a short but fine read about some great men. If he would stick to the real heart of what we readers thought we were buying into when we purchased this book the end result would be far better. Unfortunately I could not recommend this book as it is written now.
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