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The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45 Hardcover – August 14, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203395
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #930,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Long before he entered politics, when he was just in his early 20s, South Dakotan George McGovern flew 35 bomber missions over Nazi-occupied Europe, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery under fire. Stephen Ambrose, the industrious historian, focuses on McGovern and the young crew of his B-24 bomber, volunteers all, in this vivid study of the air war in Europe.

Manufactured by a consortium of companies that included Ford Motor and Douglas Aircraft, the B-24 bomber, dubbed the Liberator, was designed to drop high explosives on enemy positions well behind the front lines--and especially on the German capital, Berlin. Unheated, drafty, and only lightly armored, the planes were dangerous places to be, and indeed, only 50 percent of their crews survived to the war's end. Dangerous or not, they did their job, delivering thousand- pound bombs to targets deep within Germany and Austria.

In his fast-paced narrative, Ambrose follows many other flyers (including the Tuskegee Airmen, the African American pilots who gave the B-24s essential fighter support on some of their most dangerous missions) as they brave the long odds against them, facing moments of glory and terror alike. "It would be an exaggeration to say that the B-24 won the war for the Allies," Ambrose writes. "But don't ask how they could have won the war without it." --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Brought to life by best-selling historian Ambrose (author of more than 20 books), here is one of America's forgotten workhorse weapons of WWII the B-24 bomber. Carrying a heavier payload than the glamorous B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24, nicknamed the Liberator, also filled the skies over Germany, bombing troops, oil refineries, factories and other strategic targets. South Dakota-born George S. McGovern was 22 when he became a B-24 pilot in the 741st Bomb Squadron, based in Cerignola, Italy. Though basing the book largely on McGovern's 35 missions, for which he won the Distinguished Flying Cross, Ambrose includes many other stories about the men who flew over Germany and eastern Europe. As Ambrose makes abundantly clear, the planes were not fun to fly. The crew faced inside temperatures of 50 below zero, sat in cramped seats and suffered high casualty rates. Ambrose follows pilots and crews from start to finish where they were from, their backgrounds, training, bravery and heroism as they did their part to help win the war. Today there are only four B-24s left of the 18,300 that once made up the force. While this book leans largely toward hagiography of the everymen it depicts, it also clearly refutes lies spread about McGovern's service during the 1972 presidential campaign. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)Forecast: Any book with the Ambrose name should do a short stint on bestseller lists; this one should pick up some (largely unrelated) momentum from the Pearl Harbor anniversary and film. The book's release coincides with the airing of a 10-part Dreamworks/ HBO series based on Ambrose's Band of Brothers.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


More About the Author

Dr. Stephen Ambrose was a renowned historian and acclaimed author of more than 30 books. Among his New York Times best-sellers are: Nothing Like It in the World, Citizen Soldiers, Band of Brothers, D-Day - June 6, 1944, and Undaunted Courage.He was not only a great author, but also a captivating speaker, with the unique ability to provide insight into the future by employing his profound knowledge of the past. His stories demonstrate how leaders use trust, friendship and shared experiences to work together and thrive during conflict and change. His philosophy about keeping an audience engaged is put best in his own words: "As I sit at my computer, or stand at the podium, I think of myself as sitting around the campfire after a day on the trail, telling stories that I hope will have the members of the audience, or the readers, leaning forward just a bit, wanting to know what happens next." Dr. Ambrose was a retired Boyd Professor of History at the University of New Orleans. He was the Director Emeritus of the Eisenhower Center in New Orleans, and the founder of the National D-Day Museum. He was also a contributing editor for the Quarterly Journal of Military History, a member of the board of directors for American Rivers, and a member of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council Board. His talents have not gone unnoticed by the film industry. Dr. Ambrose was the historical consultant for Steven Spielberg's movie Saving Private Ryan. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks purchased the film rights to his books Citizen Soldiers and Band of Brothers to make the 13-hour HBO mini-series Band of Brothers. He has also participated in numerous national television programs, including ones for the History Channel and National Geographic.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#39 in Books > History
#39 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

I have read all of Ambrose's books and read this one in 2 afternoons.
scout1954
I really enjoyed this story of George McGovern and the 15th Air Force that flew out of Italy.
Keith Albright
Given Ambrose's previous work, I was extremely disappointed with this book.
Michael De Simone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Onan A. Hill on December 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I will leave the literary criticism to others, but THE WILD BLUE faithfully tells the story of my experience. I was a member of the 301st Bomb Group, 5th Wing (B-17s),15th Air Force. I flew my "50th mission," 30th sortie, on December 26, 1944. I feel that I can speak with some authority when I say that this book gets it right-our naivete, our training, the food, the plight of the Italians, the fact that we were often scared, and the fact that we did what we were trained to do. All of my combat experience was in B-17s. I have considerable experience in B-24s also, a frightening Air craft. Major Onan A. Hill, Navigator, USAFRes Ret
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83 of 98 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book has two central characters and is mostly a story about their shared experiences. The first subject is 2nd Lt. George McGovern, who in 1944 was just a typical US Army Air Force pilot; nothing here hints at the man, who, nearly 30 years later, would run for US president. The second is a machine, the B-24 Liberator, and one plane in particular - McGovern's "Dakota Queen", which he piloted on 35 bombing missions over Germany from his base in Cerignola, Italy, as part of the 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group. THE WILD BLUE then has a narrow focus and is less about the broad role of the bomber in the air war over Europe - that story about the more famous and glamorous B-17 and the 8th Air Force - has been told already in books like THE MIGHTY EIGHTH, a book which Ambrose himself read and rated highly.
The Liberator comes by it's neglected treatment in history, and it's earned reputation as an ugly duckling quite fairly, as the following description of conditions in the plane attests. "Steering the four-engined airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot's muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain...there was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or 50 degrees below zero...the seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew..." Yet, as with all ugly ducklings, it had it's day and earned it's admirers.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By George Webster, Ph.D., VINE VOICE on June 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was with the Eighth Air Force in England and flew bombing missions over Germany in a B-17 in 1943-44. I hoped that Stephen Ambrose would use his excellent command of prose to describe the horror of those missions, whether in a B-24, B-17, Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, or Eighth Air Force in England. But it didn't happen. His description of combat is like sipping a glass of milk, when actual combat is like choking down a glass of tequila. It is probably asking too much of someone who wasn't there, but I didn't get the feeling of intense cold, frozen oxygen masks, altitude sickness, planes exploding around you, boys losing arms, legs, or heads, and men driven mad by fear. In four months of missions, my ten-man crew had five killed and two, including me, wounded. I lost so many friends that I stopped making friends because it hurt too much when I saw them die.
The book is mostly a story of former Senator George McGovern, as he trained and flew a B-24 on bombing missions at the end of the war against Germany. He apparently didn't have to face German fighters coming at him, but he flew many times through the awful box barrages of antiaircraft fire above German cities. I still don't know how any of us survived those.
The book has errors, but what book doesn't? Thus, I'll point out the first one, on the first page of Chapter One and let it go at that. He says, "They were all volunteers. The U.S. Army Air Corps - after 1942 the Army Air Forces - did not force anyone to fly." That is nonsense. Four members of my crew were draftees, and many other combat crews contained draftees. I was headed for a nice, safe job as a ground-based officer, when the Air Force sneakily gave me a flight physical.
Still, it's an enjoyable book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steve Frazier on August 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I do not in any way want to diminish the actual bravery or skill of the personnel depicted in this book. But, as a book, this was disappointing. Ambrose's other WWII books are generally better, as books about WWII. If you want a serious look at the bomber war, go elsewhere. Finally, if you want a "popular" work on the "feel" of the bomber war, the video/DVD "Memphis Belle" (despite some Hollywoodization) is more moving. And, if you just want to read something good by Ambrose, try "Undaunted Courage" or his book on D-Day.
Summary: This is OK, but reads like a series of longish magazine articles stitched together. So -- the 3-star rating is "average" for an average book. For young teens interested in WWII, I would rate this higher; it is a good, quick read; my 11-year-old loved it.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on July 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
While I enjoyed this one, it certainly was not the author's best work. It did draw attention to a group of very brave men, the B-24 crew members in the European Theater, which was good as this group and this plane is often overlooked. It did seem to me though that the author, on one side was trying to write a biography of George McGovern, or if he was trying to cover the air war during the last part of WWII. I did enjoy his trade mark technique of telling the stories of different men who participated, but he would always go back to McGovern. Perhaps if he had stuck to one or the other the book would have had more of an impact. Parts of this work did drag and were rather repetative. On the other hand, the author did not try to over dramatize McGovern's part in the war. The work was well crafted and you certainy would not waste your time in reading it. I suppose it is not quite fare to compare this work with other works by this author. After all, no one bats a thousand all the time. Overall, recommend this one with reservations. It is about very brave young men and we do need to know as much about them as possible.
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