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Aircraft Down!: Evading Capture in World War II Europe Paperback – January 1, 2000
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"AIRCRAFT DOWN! covers a neglected area of WWII aviation history and covers it well. Although there have been other books on evaders, none have gone into so much detail, enabling the reader virtually to share the courage, fear, ingenuity, and luck of the downed airmen. Despite this detail, it is very readable and spiced with humor. Additionally, the willingness of the underground and the general population of the occupied areas to help the evaders at the risk of their own lives is inspiring. This is an excellent book, and I recommend it highly." Donald S. Lopez, deputy director, National Air and Space Museum "Thrilling . . . These suspenseful, personal accounts of heroism, resourcefulness and sacrifice will appeal to everyone with a taste for true stories of courage in the face of grave danger." THE STARS AND STRIPES "General Caine knows his subject well. No evader will be able to read AIRCRAFT DOWN! without vividly reliving his own harrowing experience-the loneliness, the fear, the physical hardships, the boredom, the hunger, and the concern for his rescuers, the brave men and women of the resistance. Non-evaders will come away with an understanding of the resourcefulness and courage of the resistance members and of the patience and fortitude of these Allied airmen, who performed above and beyond the call of duty. I am pleased that he would choose to shed light on this little-known aspect of the air war in Europe." Ralph K. Patton, chairman, Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society
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Interesting part of WWII history. It shows great courage of both the pilots and Europian families willing to risk their lives to help.
I respect all involved.
The author is a retired Brigadier General, United States Air Force, where he was once responsible for training at the Air Force Academy for "SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape). This gave him a professional interest in the history of evaders in Nazi occupied Europe. Philip D. Caine has also written books on Americans serving in in the Royal Air Force, (e.g. in the "Eagle Squadron") including "American Pilots In The RAF".
In this book, "Aircraft Down", he has drawn on his training and experience to write six separate stories, of individuals and crews, shot down behind the lines in enemy held Europe. The first three stories deal with Americans who were flying in the RAF. These three were fighter pilots, who came down alone. They were not alone on the ground, however, as they all needed the help of the local populace to escape Nazi searchers.
The fifth story is different: the entire crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress comes down on the island of Corfu, off the coast of Albania/Greece. Here, again, the common thread is that he local populace has to work together to first provide refuge for the evaders and then to provide a means of escape.
In all of the stories in this book, the author has worked to put a human face on the evaders. His research has been sufficient to give a personal memoir flavor to each story, and his follow-up on post war meetings, provides a sense of closure to the story. He relates the excitement when an evader meets the same woman working in the same field as on the day he was shot down, some 40+ years ago.
The book is concluded with a very short chapter entitled, "The Art Of Evasion And Survival", which points up that the personal resourcefulness of the downed pilot is often the key to a successful escape. General Caine has avoided the usual impersonal book, often written by General Officers, dealing with statistics numbers and unit identification, all at the "higher" strategic level. Instead, happily, he has used personal interviews and much research to provide a fine book telling the stories almost as if they were all personal memoirs.
The fourth story is of a later evader in Belgium who was able to meet the oncoming Allies in 1944 instead of going to Spain. The fifth story details the evasion of an entire bomber crew from the island of Corfu over to Albania. They stayed at a guerilla camp in the mountains and eventually escaped by ship to Italy after much hardship. The final story is of of a flyer who evaded through Italy. Originally captured by the Germans upon landing, he was released from jail with many others when Italy signed an armistice with the allies. He spent the rest of his time evading the Germans and travelling around Italy (with much help from Italian partisans) and finally escaping to the Allied lines after many setbacks.
One of the central themes of the book is the sacrifice made by the occupied population to feed and help the Allied fliers escape. Every story has a follow-up at the end about the later life of the evader and what happened to the people that helped them evade (if known).