Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. This Week’s Book Review: Heavy Date over Germany

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) After my review appears on Sunday, I post the previous week’s review here on Sunday.

Book Review

‘Heavy Date’ offers a look at war through a young man’s eyes

By MARK LARDAS

Jan 4, 2020

“Heavy Date over Germany: The Life and Times of B-17 Tail Gunner Ray Perry” edited by Jewellee Jordan Kuenstler, State House Press, 2019, 230 pages, $29.95

Ray Perry was a farm boy from Haskell, Texas. When World War II began, he was a student in high school. Upon graduation, he joined the Army Air Corps, hoping to become a pilot.

Instead, he became an aerial gunner. Before World War II ended, he had flown 35 missions over Germany as a tail gunner on a B-17 named “Heavy Date.”

“Heavy Date over Germany: The Life and Times of B-17 Tail Gunner Ray Perry,” edited by Jewellee Jordan Kuenstler, tells Perry’s story.

Kuenstler re-creates Perry’s wartime experiences through letters written by Perry, memorabilia saved by Perry’s family during World War II, and interviews of Perry about his war experiences conducted shortly before his death in 2017. The result is a remarkably full picture of Perry at war.

The book covers Perry’s service from enlistment to discharge. It tells of a man from a rural background thrust suddenly into a world larger and more varied than he had previously known.

A prolific letter writer, Perry describes his experiences in unpolished English, eloquent in simplicity and understatement. Age 18 when he enlisted in 1943, he is a typical teenager. He enjoys his new experiences while expressing homesickness at being separated from familiar surroundings and family.

Readers experience his training, disappointment at being passed over for pilot training and pride at mastering the skills of an air gunner. Asked to become a gunnery instructor, he opted to serve overseas.

Readers also follow him through 35 missions over Germany. His war started in September 1944 and ended in April 1945, just before the war in Europe ended. Although the Allies had gained air superiority, it was still dangerous. One member of Perry’s crew died in combat. Several friends were injured or captured.

Perry’s story was not unusual. Millions of Americans served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II. Well over a third actually saw combat. Yet the story is being increasingly forgotten as the last of the World War II veterans depart. “Heavy Date over Germany” reminds readers what these men went through as teenagers and men in their early 20s.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

Published in History
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  1. Rodin Member

    One of the fascinating aspects about WWII was its cultural effect. Driving across country today and see the same shops in mall after mall one forgets a time less than 100 years ago when regional distinctions were not just merely quaint, but profound. So it was that by dent of a nationwide draft and creating an Army from all parts of the country, young men mixed with others from profoundly different backgrounds. (Roosevelt’s decision to not integrate the military left blacks out of the equation for the most part even as many blacks made profound contributions both in uniform and in the factories.) The nation’s regional differences were shrunk and no doubt set the table for national franchising that took off in the 1960s.

    • #1
    • January 12, 2020, at 2:49 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  2. David Foster Member
    David Foster Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Randall Jarrell wrote several poems centered on the Army Air Corps in WWII. Here’s one:

    Losses

     

     

    • #2
    • January 12, 2020, at 8:15 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. philo Member

    A few years back I read Half a Wing, Three Engines and a Prayer: B-17s over Germany. Amazing men. All of these stories are so very humbling.

    • #3
    • January 13, 2020, at 2:32 PM PST
    • 1 like