Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Tribute To The Brave Young B-17 Pilots of WW II

In the acknowledgments section to Falling From The Sky I noted that the saga was, in part, a "tribute to the brave young men who took to the skies over Europe during the war in the face of massive losses of life and property. . . ."  Featured throughout the first half of the story are battle sequences generated in my imagination from research focused on actual events that occurred during the time-period November 1942 to April 1945.  As noted in the acknowledgments that research benefited from several exhaustive books about the air war over Europe, plus the website created to honor the memory of  the 8,960 men who served in the 303rd Bombardment Group (H) "Hell's Angels".  The 303rd flew 364 missions during  those 30 long months.  Surprising to me was the fact that the 303rd did not fly a bombing mission to Berlin until its 116th sortie on March 3, 1944.  After that mission, they soon returned and flew three more Berlin missions in a four day time-period, March 6-9.  It was the accounts of those missions that became the basis of many of the battle scenes in FFTS.  With great honor, awe, and respect, set out below are first hand reports from two pilots who flew on those raids.

303rd BG (H) Combat Mission No. 118
6 March 1944

Target: City Area, Berlin, Germany (PFF)
Length of Mission: 8 hours, 40 minutes

Bomb Load: 10 x 500 lb G.P.; 42 M47A1 Incendiary bombs

Bombing Altitudes: 20,800 ft; 22,000 ft

Ammo Fired: 10,645 rounds

Berlin was again the target and the entire 1st Bomb Division bombed in the first large-scale
daylight attack against the German capital. Twenty-seven 303rd BG(H) aircraft

were airborne and dispatched. 1Lt. John C. Lawlor, flying in the No. 7 position of

the 360BS 379/384BG Composite Group in #42-31055 Aloha, lost his No. 4 engine 15
minutes before reaching the target and jettisoned his bombs near Werferlinger, Germany.

The other 26 B-17s dropped 50 tons of 500-lb. G.P. M43 bombs in a suburban area about

six miles east of the heart of Berlin. The M47A1 65-lb. incendiary bombs of the High Group,
in which the 360BS was Low Squadron, covered six blocks of a residential area. Bombing

was done from 19,800 and 22,000 feet by PFF. The 8th Air Force dropped more than one
million leaflets over Berlin.

There were 2/10 to 5/10 cloud cover over the entire route to the target. Flak was

very intense and accurate. Ground rockets were reported at various points. Eighteen
aircraft suffered minor damage and five suffered major damage from anti-aircraft fire. No

chaff was carried. Briefing officers predicted the heaviest concentration of enemy fighters
on any mission so far flown. This prediction proved accurate as vicious enemy fighter

attacks were experienced. The 303rd BG(H) crews reported 40 to 50 enemy aircraft with
two direct attacks: one by 8 to 10 ME-109s and FW-190s, and the other by eight ME-109s

damaging two 303rd BG(H) aircraft. Lt. Lawlor, who lost an engine and became a

straggler, was subjected to severe attacks from all directions.

The first 8th Air Force mission to Berlin was on 4 March 1944, but it was not

executed as planned. The 3rd Bomb Division dispatched 238 B-17s, but the weather
deteriorated to such an extent that only 30 Fortresses dropped their bombs on Berlin.

General Doolittle tried to get permission to lead this mission flying a P-51, so he could

claim the honor of being the only person to have led raids on Tokyo, Rome and Berlin–the

three Axis capitals. General Tooey Spaatz gave him permission to fly on the 4 March

mission, but changed his mind at the last minute. He stated that he couldn't afford to risk

the capture of a senior officer with knowledge of the invasion plans.

The Berlin mission on 6 March 1944 was much more successful, but the loss of 53

B-17s, 16 B-24s and 11 fighters dimmed the success. The heavy losses were a new record
for an 8th Air Force mission. Three of the B-17s landed in Sweden. Fighter pilots made

claim to 82 enemy aircraft destroyed, 9 possibly destroyed and 32 damaged.
6 March 1944 — Mission #118

Ed Miller’s Memories and Recollections
Since the 3rd of March 1944 we have been trying to reach Berlin – to let Hitler

know that the 8th Air Force does exist. Today we made it – but we paid a huge price in
human lives and aircraft.

We put up 812 heavy bombers (504 B-17s and 226 B-24s) and 474 B-17s and 198
B-24s made it to their targets, but the bombing results were not too good. Photo’s indicate

that no bombs hit their assigned targets. And the losses were staggering – at least 80
aircraft (53 B-17s, 16 B-24s and 11 fighters), a new 8th Air Force record for any one

mission–even greater than Schweinfurt. This may have been due to the fact that we were
at a much lower altitude than our usual bombing. But it was necessary as the trip in and

out took almost nine hours. Three B-17s and five B-24s were lost to AA fire, 41 B-17s due
to enemy aircraft and 4 B-17s and 2 B-24s due to both AA fire and enemy aircraft.

Two hundred thirty nine B-17s and 97 B-24s sustained major damage, which
meant a very busy night for the ground support personnel.

The briefing officers said that Berlin would be defended with the largest array of

enemy fighters and anti-aircraft artillery known to man. They were right – as the enemy
fighter attacks were indeed, very vicious today. Eighteen of those B-17s lost were from

the 1st Air Division. But we escaped with only two crewmen being wounded. Major
Richard H. Cole, Commander of the 359th Bomb Squadron was our Group Commander

The 1st Air Division led the attack on Berlin, with the 3rd Air Division flying second

and the 2nd Air Division (B-24s) flying third. The first enemy aircraft attacks began at

about 1200 hours against the 1st Air Division formations in the area north of Osnabruck

and continued until 1230 hours, just north of Brunswick. Approximately 100 plus Me-109s

and FW-190s were encountered and they attacked in groups of six to fifteen at a time
concentrating mostly on the low groups.

All types of tactics were employed and enemy aircraft pilots were described as
being very experienced and eager for combat. At approximately 1330 hours, on the way

out, enemy aircraft renewed their attacks against the two middle combat wings of the 3rd
Air Division, and continued them for over 15 minutes, in an area just north of Berlin. At

approximately 1415 hours, attacks again started in the area north of Brunswick and lasted
for 30 minutes until the formations were north of Osnabruck. The 3rd Air Division lost 35

B-17s. One B-17 was lost after being struck by a B-17 spinning through the formation as
a result of enemy aircraft action. A second B-17, engaged by enemy aircraft, collided with
another B-17 and both were lost. Three B-17s, probably somewhat disabled, landed in

Sweden–all crews were uninjured.
This was my second “close encounter” with enemy fighters. 1Lt Earl N. Thomas,

my pilot was in the number six position in the low squadron of the 379th/384th Bomb
Group Composite Group. We were hit about 15 minutes before reaching the target area.
(The first two wings of the 1st Air Division – the 1st CBW and the 94th CBW – which were

over the target first, reported seeing over 100 enemy aircraft.) The Division lost 18
aircraft. We probably saw more fighters today than on any other mission that I flew during
the war. Crews from the 303rd reported seeing about 40 to 50 enemy aircraft. And our

Composite Group was hit twice by Me-109s and FW-190s.
Enemy aircraft came through the Composite Group and hit 1Lt Lawlor of our 360th

Bomb Squadron, which was flying directly to our right in the tail-end-Charlie position.
Again, like in my first mission to Frankfurt on February 4th, it seemed that the “tracers”

were coming directly toward our aircraft. But this time it was my turn at the controls and
I didn’t get to see too much as I was busy flying as close formation as was possible. Lt

Lawlor lost an engine and had to jettison his bombs. When he became a straggler, due
to the lost of an engine, he was hit from all directions, but, luckily he was able to avoid

being shot down. He got home by joining up with other groups as they were heading back
to England.

This was the first time that I saw enemy aircraft firing rockets and then following
it up with 20 mm fire. There was a report of air-to-air bombing with the use of parachute

bombs. The report from the 3rd Air Division was that all of their aircraft lost to enemy
aircraft were seen burning as they went down and they believe this was due to enemy

aircraft firing fused incendiary shells from the 20 mm cannons in the FW-190s. This shell
was reported to have a burst with a sparkler effect.

But with all of the enemy aircraft action, we must not forget that we encountered
intense and accurate anti-aircraft fire over the vast Berlin area. In addition, AA fire at
Diepholz, Lingen and Vechta was reported as moderate to intense and accurate.

Fifteen (15) groups of Eighth Air Force fighters, four (4) groups of Ninth Air Force
and two (2) squadrons of RAF Mustangs provided continuous escort for this attack. In

fact, three of these groups flew double sorties, one on the penetration and one on the
withdrawal of the bombers. We had P-47s on the penetration, P-51s over the target (they

were the only one’s that could fly that far) and a mixture of P-47s, and P-38s on the
withdrawal. In total, 796 fighters took part in this action, with a loss of 11 aircraft. Our

fighter pilot claims were 82 enemy aircraft shot down, 9 damaged and 32 probably

As for the results of the bombing, there were good concentrations of bombs in the
southwestern suburbs of Berlin, especially in the Zehlendorf area. Bombs hit the main

railway line in the Spandau section of Berlin. Photo Reconnaisance aircraft covering the
attack, reported fires still burning in the districts of Steglitz and Zehlendorf, three hours

after bombs away.
Personnel losses for this mission were 708 crew members are missing, 14 crew

members were killed and 38 crew members were wounded— probably an 8th Air Force
record for losses from a single mission.

So, this was the third time that I had started to Berlin and finally made it. And I
was barely able to get home. I was sure one of those enemy aircraft bullets had my name

on it – but not today.

From the Journal of Vern L. Moncur, 359th BS Pilot
Date: March 6, 1944

Target: BERLIN
Altitude: 19,200 feet

Plane: U-050 "Thunderbird"
Position: No. 5, Lead Squadron, Low Group

This was our third briefing for "Big B" in three days - and we made the most

of it this time! We went over at a very low altitude for Berlin and all of its flak guns.
Our fighter support was splendid, and even though the Krauts kept ripping

through other wings, our combat wing was rather lucky in not getting too many
direct fighter attacks that seriously threatened us. We had a few passes made at

us, but no one in our group was hurt much.
Over the target it looked like the Fourth of July - flak bursting in red flashes

and billowing out black smoke all around us. The flak over Berlin was the most
accurate and most heavy flak we ever got into. It seemed almost thick enough to

drop your wheels and taxi around on it. The Krauts were practically able to name
the engine they were shooting at. We received hits in the No. 1 engine, the No. 2

engine and the No. 4 engine. Our left Tokyo tanks were shot out. (We had
transferred the gasoline out of them before this hit.) The plexiglass surrounding the

left cheek-gun was shattered by a chunk of flak. The horizontal stabilizer had a big
hole shot through it, and the vertical stabilizer received a jagged hole in the top of

it. We also picked up another hole in the right side of the fuselage, near the tail
wheel. The hit in the No. 1 engine went through the cowling and clipped the four

cable conduits carrying the wires to the front spark plugs in two cylinders. It also
knocked off a few fins on both cylinders. The hit in the No. 2 engine knocked out

one cylinder, though the engine still gave us partial power and continued to
operate on our return flight to England.

On our way back from the target, we had a few passes made at our group,

but the P-51 fighter escort very quickly took care of these Me-109s. Our fighter
escort was really swell on this mission. The whole day's operation cost the 8th Air

Force sixty-eight bombers. This was the heaviest loss ever received. Our group
established a record on this mission. We put up twenty-seven ships, and every

one of them went across the target, and every one of them came back. Our ship,
the Thunderbird, received the heaviest damage of any of the planes in our

We were lucky on this mission and got along fine. Our plane was shot up

the worst this time of all the missions we flew, but still we received no injury to any
member crew - though I had a close call. A piece of flak came through the cockpit

and cut the left sleeve of my leather flying jacket, but didn't touch me. Our bomb

load was 10 five-hundred pound high explosive bombs.

If you find the above accounts interesting you might check out the 303's website,  It is full of information and insights about this heroic unit.

That's all for now.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sitting Around Pauline Barclay's Pool

I recently was honored to be interviewed by best-selling author Pauline Barclay about Falling From The Sky and my life as a writer.  Many of you probably remember Pauline from my May 1, 2013 blog post when she visited to talk about her then latest novel, Storm Clouds Gathering.  Her latest tale, In the Cold Light of Day, will be published later this month.

With Pauline's permission, here is our interview:


Sunday, 12 October 2014

Sitting Round my Pool - Phillip Winberry

Today, I have Phillip Winberry, sitting round my pool talking about his latest book and the amazing story that inspired him to write, Fallen From The Sky.

You come from the Pacific Northwest in the USA.  What motivated you to set your latest novel, Falling From The Sky, in England

I come from a lineage of English immigrants to America during the 1700s, perhaps earlier.  As a result, I’ve always been fascinated with English history and culture.  In addition, I fell in love with London while working there for almost two years (1979/80).  During that time, I began many lifelong friendships. So, when interest in my genealogy led me to an interesting late 18th century tidbit in my paternal grandmother’s family history, I hit upon the idea of creating an imaginary English family that would allow me to tell a highly fictionalized version of what I envisioned that tidbit could have been.  Readers interested in the morsel of information that piqued my interest can use their favorite search engine to explore the world of John Mobbs, a wealthy Englishman who died in 1791.  He is believed to be my great uncle six generations removed.  His will makes for intriguing reading.

What an interesting backdrop to inspire you. Your latest novel, Falling From The Sky takes place during World War II.  Is setting the story in this time-period important to the plot?

Not really, Pauline.  The novel’s first draft, which I called The Pouch, was set at the end of the 20th Century, with substantial flashbacks to events that took place in the mid 18th Century.  When finished the first draft, while I had a good story, it wasn’t one that told the tale I wanted to tell.  At its core, it lacked soul.  Many drafts followed, but it wasn’t until I changed the plot focus to a time and place that had always intrigued me, World War II and the role American B-17 bomber pilots played in that conflict, that I finally hit upon a premise and characters that allowed me to get the words down on the page to make my vision sing.

Now I am more intrigued. What compels you to write mystery and suspense stories that have readers sitting on the edge of their seats?

Mystery and suspense stories make up the vast majority of the books I read.  I enjoy the genre and take pleasure in creating stories for the entertainment of others.

Tell us a little about Falling From The Sky?

Falling From The Sky is a tale of heroism and a tribute to the American bomber pilots who served unflinchingly at a time of crisis and peril by flying daytime bombing missions over Europe during the war.  Those incredible young men and their crews were heroically brave in the face of extremely long survival odds.  Despite massive losses of life and property, all who took to the sky played a major role in defeating the German enemy.  It also is a story of romance and exploration of family conflict as well as, in the words of one Amazon reviewer, “a tapestry woven from the strands of Downton Abbey like opulence . . . a mystery with evil/deceit/uncertainty/ and greed.”  It was great fun weaving all those strands together to create the final saga.

Having read your first novel, Reno Splits, which was a gripping thriller, can you tell us if a book three is being penned?

Of course there is.  A writer’s work is never done.  My next effort is another mystery, this time set on a small island in the middle of Washington State’s Puget Sound.  The book’s title tentatively is Foxglove.  I’m still toying with the plot and trying to decide the appropriate time-period to make the story work.  I find myself quite comfortable writing stories set in the 1940s so that probably is where the narrative will land.

What about you, Phil?  Tell us a little about you and what made you turn your hand to writing.

I am a lawyer by training, retired after a four-decade-long career.  Around the time I walked away from the practice, my interest in my family genealogy led me to John Mobbs’ story.  From that point I realized I would like to create a novel drawing on some aspects of his tale.  After all, I knew how to write.  I’d done it my entire career.  Was I ever wrong!  Oh, sure, I could write—like a lawyer.  But like a novelist?  That was something I had to learn—and I’m still learning.

Most of my retirement years have been spent on Whidbey Island, located at the top of Washington State’s Puget Sound.  My wife and I live with our beloved Weimaraner on a bluff overlooking the Sound’s shipping lanes and the majestic snow-capped Olympic Mountains.  Sometime in the next year, though, we’ll be leaving the island to move back to Seattle to be closer to our kids.  But wherever we land, you’ll always be able to find me at the keyboard spinning my next yarn.

Phillip, a HUGE thank you from me for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat about you and your latest book. I’ll leave you to enjoy the wine, whilst I go and download a copy of Falling From The Sky.


When American B-17 pilot Alex Kent isn’t struggling to survive World War II bombing raids in the skies over Germany he spends time trying to unravel a conundrum with even greater dangers:  uncovering the lost legacy of William Kent, his great-grandfather seven generations removed.  Alex knows nothing about his ancestor’s life prior to William’s arrival in 1740 colonial Virginia as an eleven-year-old indentured servant although Kent family folklore suggests William might have been the exiled child of an English noble.  Over the generations, several Kent family members have tried to confirm that speculation.  None succeeded.  Some died trying.

On leave in war torn London, Alex meets Sarah Perkins, fiancée of the Duke of Wyeford’s only son.  Alex and Sarah soon realize they are attracted to one another and she volunteers to help in his pursuit of William’s heritage.

When the Duke of Wyeford becomes aware of Alex’s quest, he understands the American pilot poses a threat to the conspiracy of silence concocted two hundred years earlier to deny young William his legitimate birthright.  Exposure of the conspiracy would topple the Wyeford dynasty, stripping the duke of his title and wealth.  He vows to take whatever actions are necessary to see that never happens.  Danger and tension escalate as Alex’s search barrels toward a shocking conclusion.

Phillip Winberry
Reno Splits, 2012 indieBRAG Medallion Honoree
Falling From The Sky

Twitter: @phillipwinberry
There you have it.  A big thanks to Pauline.  And here's wishing her great success with In the Cold Light of Day!

In the Cold Light of Day

In the Cold Light of Day
To be published in October 

Three families will be tested to the limit as betrayal, loss & love threaten to change their lives

Monday, September 15, 2014

"Falling From The Sky" Now Available in Paperback

Hooray!  Mission Accomplished!  For those of you who prefer to read a novel from a hard copy Falling From The Sky now is available in paperback format and can be obtained from the usual on-line bookstores(and soon brick and mortar stores as well).  I'm pleased with the outcome of the publishing process and hope that you will be too.  Let me know what you think of the end result.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's All In The Cover

When browsing for a book to read, either in a brick and mortar bookstore or at an online eBookstore, the choice as to which book to choose often is driven by which cover appeals most to the chooser's eye.  Those that attract your attention get a second look and consideration.  That's why I've been so taken with the covers of my two books, Reno Splits and Falling From The Sky. Those covers got my stories second and third looks and an untold number of sales.  How were they developed?

The cover of Reno Splits was designed by the art department at BookBaby, the company I engaged to convert the manuscript for a Word document to the ePub and MOBI formats necessary for uploading to the various eBookstores.  I've been told it captured the book's theme quite well.

For Falling From The Sky I wanted something different.  With the help of a mutual acquaintance, I contacted Desiree Kern at Greyscale Studios (  Desiree is located in Ontario and I, of course, was more thatn 2,000 miles away on Whidbey Island.  After an exchange of several e-mails we came to an understanding of what I wanted the cover to convey:  a scene that evoked the book's themes of heroism, mystery, suspense and wartime romance.  With that Desiree proceeded to produce several sketches, and after further consultation by e-mail we agreed on the final design.  The result is what you see to the right of this blog post.  I couldn't be happier because Desiree nailed what I thought would attract readers to my story.  And it's working!

I can't recommend Desiree enough.  She's great, a fantastic artist, quick to produce a beautiful product.  I'll certainly be using her for my future book covers.  She can be contacted at

Finally, in an earlier post I promised the first chapter of Falling From The Sky.  Here it is.

Clawing at the late afternoon air to gain lift, Evergreen Belle accelerated down the icy tarmac at Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Goose Bay, groaning and squealing as she approached the end of the Labrador airfield’s runway.  “Come on, Belle,” Lieutenant Alex Kent coaxed as a dark mass of trees loomed ever closer beyond the endline, “get your rear into the air.”

With a shudder and a final bounce, the B-17 broke free from the restraints of gravity and began a slow rise toward the rapidly darkening sky to the west.  “That’s a good girl,” Alex said, patting the lighted instrument panel.  He glanced at his copilot Lt. Pete Stokowski, the latest addition to the bomber’s crew.

Two weeks earlier, Belle’s original copilot, Lt. Rick Dunn, had broken his leg during a flag football game at the Moses Lake, Washington, airfield where Alex and Belle’s crew had been undergoing the final days of flight training before leaving for England.  Thirty-six hours after the accident, Pete had arrived from his previous duty station at Fort Douglas, Utah to take Rick’s place.

The jury was still out as to how well Pete was going to fill Rick’s seat.  There simply hadn’t been enough time for him to become a seamless part of the command team.  Could he be trusted to do the right thing in the hostile skies over Germany?  Rick would have been because they’d trained together for several months.  The cohesiveness between them had reached the point that when the Belle was in the sky they operated as one—a team.  Neither had concerns about whether the other would automatically do the right thing when the shit hit the fan.

He glanced out the cockpit window, his thoughts turning back to Pete’s first hours at Moses Lake.  Before breakfast, the morning after his late night arrival, the crew had assembled in a corner of the enlisted men’s mess hall to be introduced to the newcomer.  That hadn’t gone particularly well.  The minute he and Pete walked in, the faces of the other seven crewmen registered skepticism and dismay.  Maybe it was Pete’s appearance.  Standing next to Alex as introductions were made, he’d shifted his weight from foot to foot, his gaze cast down at the floor.  A good eight inches shorter than Alex’s six-foot-two frame, Pete’s dark eyes and even darker hair, along with a five-o’clock-shadow beard, were a sharp contrast with Alex’s light auburn hair and hazel eyes.  Or maybe it was his squeaky nasal tone, his New York accent and run together words—combinations that made it hard to understand what he was saying.

After a couple of minutes of strained conversation, the crew had fallen into the chow line muttering under their breaths.  Alex had understood their obvious discomfort.  He hadn’t liked the prospect of breaking in a new sidekick on such short notice either.  But more B-17 crews and planes were needed desperately in England to step up the bombing war against the German heartland.  They’d all have to make the best of a less than perfect situation.

For the next seven days, with the knowledge of what they would face in the skies over Europe as his mantra, he’d stashed his concerns and trained Belle’s crew extra hard.  During long hours in the skies over eastern Washington, he’d come to understand that Pete was a damned fine pilot.  Even so, there simply hadn’t been enough time for the two of them to mesh into a real command team.  And that still concerned him.  He hoped his qualms about the situation weren’t noticeable to the rest of the crew.  They seemed to have gotten over their earlier misgivings, even starting jokingly to refer to the Belle’s pilots as Mutt and Jeff.

“Scared we weren’t going to clear the end of the runway, were you?” Alex said glancing at Pete, his voice raised to be heard above the drone of the B-17’s Wright Cyclone engines.

“Nah, never had a doubt,” Pete responded with a chuckle and a smile.

“Well, you look a little pale at the gills.”

“I’m fine, at least mostly so.  After freezing my butt off back down there waiting for the weather to clear—well, I think I’m coming down with a bit of the sniffles.”  He chuckled.  “That’s not the memory I was hoping to carry away from Labrador.”

It was Alex’s turn to smile.  “I’m betting you were hoping to have memories about the cute brunette Canadian corporal that served our breakfast the past three days.”

“What a body she’s got on her.”  Pete whistled softly.  “If I could have gotten her alone, I sure as hell would’ve figured out a way to keep warm.”

Alex nodded.  “I’m still cold—don’t think our flight suits are going to be worth crap in the fifty below weather they told us we’re going to face tonight out over the Atlantic.”

“I’m ready for that, I think,” Pete said.  “I’ve got on two extra pair of long johns, three pairs of socks, and double silk liners under my leather gloves.”

“We’ll see if you still feel so comfy after that hot thermos of coffee your lady-friend corporal sent along is gone.”

Pete grinned.  “She did seem sweet on me, didn’t she?”

“It’s your irresistible charm.”

“Yeah, that and a sawbuck might get me a warmer flight suit.  If I’m not careful I’m going to freeze my balls off.  Now that would be a disaster.”

“Relax,” Alex said as he flexed the cold, stiff fingers of his right hand.  He too was wearing silk liners but had taken off his outer leather gloves to get a better feel for the plane’s control column.  He was going to have to put the outer gloves back on.  “We’re not the first bomber crew to make this jaunt.  There have been hundreds, maybe thousands before us according to what they told us at the start of our orientation stint at Moses Lake.  And none of those crews froze to death on the way.”

“At least none they told you about,” Pete said.  “Bet they didn’t tell you how many ended up down in the water, did they?”

“Doesn’t matter.  That’s not going to happen to us.  I promise.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

“Even so,” Alex said, eyeing the instrument panel, “I’d be a damned sight more comfortable heading out over two thousand miles of open water if the fog lifted so we could set down at Iceland to take on more fuel.”

“You know something I don’t?  You heard the final briefing.  That major said we had more than enough fuel to get all the way to Scotland, even if we can’t land at Reykjavík.  ‘It’ll be a piece of cake’ I think is how he phrased it.  You believed him, didn’t you?”

“Let’s just say I’m of the opinion that not accepting as gospel everything higher command tells us is the best way to survive once we start paying visits to Jerry’s heartland.”

“Well if we’d waited for Iceland to clear we might have found ourselves stuck in Goose Bay for the duration.”

Alex smiled.  “And the problem with that would have been?”

“Even with that sexy corporal to keep me warm, Labrador’s still too damned cold for my blood.  Besides, the sooner we get to England the sooner I can start looking for my cousins Artur and Stefan.”

“I thought your family was from eastern Poland,” Alex said as the Belle continued her climb toward cruising altitude.

“Yeah, they are.  My father’s the only one that immigrated to America.  The rest of the family still live on farms outside Lódz, or at least they did before the war started.  When the Germans invaded in 1939, Artur and Stefan fought with the Polish Army.  When their unit was overrun, outside Warsaw, they avoided capture and went underground.  It took them a couple of months but they found their way to Gdańsk where they hitched a ride on a cargo ship.  Somehow their ship made it past Jerry’s U-boats—landed at Liverpool in April 1940.  My mom wrote that the last thing she heard was they’re working as field hands on a farm in someplace called East Anglia.  Going to try and look them up the first leave I get.”

“Well, we’ve got to get over there first,” Alex said, turning his attention back to the control panel, “so let’s get on with it.  Goose Bay tower, Evergreen Belle passing through five thousand feet on heading two-seven-eight degrees true coming right to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.”

Evergreen Belle,” the tower acknowledged, “turning from heading two-seven-eight degrees true to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.  That’s zero-five-eight degrees true.  Good luck to you, Yanks.  Give those Kraut bastards hell.”

“Roger that Goose Bay Tower,” Alex said as he began banking the Belle in a slow arc back toward the murky black North Atlantic night.  His stomach churned at the thought of the challenges that awaited him and the crew when they reached England.  The odds of their surviving the required twenty-five mission tour were against them.  He knew that, but he had to stay strong and project confidence.  His men expected that.  They were his responsibility and that was what leaders did.  He’d fight to the last breath to see that they all made it home safely.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Falling From The Sky Update

Falling From The Sky is now available at not only, but also Barnes & Noble, the iBook Store, and Kobo.  If you haven't already, check it out.  The prologue is in my earlier post and I'll soon be posting the first chapter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Falling From The Sky Available For Purchase

Falling From The Sky went live this afternoon on  It also is available for pre-sale in the B&N. iBooks and Kobo bookstores with a delivery date of July 1.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Falling From The Sky To Launch Soon

Many months have passed since the last posting on this blog.  Much has happened in that time, most notably my wife’s amazing recovery from what essentially was a broken neck, i.e., two displaced cervical disks suffered when we were in an automobile accident last Labor Day weekend.  After surviving a medivac helicopter ride from the island to Harborview Hospital in Seattle and an emergency six-hour surgery, she was in a hard neck brace for almost three months followed by three more months of slogging through rehab therapy.  I was proud of her determination and am quite happy to have her back living an active life, most notably tending to her beloved garden, particularly since her surgeon told us we were quite fortunate that she didn’t end up paralyzed.

As for me, during all that time, I acted in the role of primary care giver (particularly during the first few weeks of the recovery process) and paid scant attention to my writing.  That all changed toward the end of winter, when I returned to editing the manuscript of Falling From The Sky.  That process took longer than I’d anticipated, but is now behind me and the process of creating a Word document to ePub and MOBI begun.  The book’s launch date is on the horizon, so I though you might like to know a bit about it. 

The gestation period of Falling From The Sky was not short lived.  For more than a decade, and through several iterations, I struggled with what originally was intended to be a liberally fictionalized account of an alleged event in my paternal grandmother’s family history.  The novel’s first draft, entitled The Pouch, was set at the end of the 20th Century, with substantial flashbacks to events that took place in the mid 18th century.  More drafts followed, but it was only when I changed the main plot focus to a time and place that has always intrigued me, World War II and the role American B-17 pilots played in that conflict, that I finally I hit upon a premise that allowed me to paint the tale I wanted to tell. 

Falling From The Sky is a story of heroism, a tribute to the brave young men who took to the skies over Europe during the war in the face of massive losses of life and property to help defeat the Axis aggressors.  It is also a tale of mystery and suspense as well as a love story.  To give you a bit of the story’s flavor as well as setting the stage for you, I’m including a blurb detailing what the tale is all about as well as the book's Prologue.  I hope you are intrigued enough to want to read more. 


When American B-17 pilot Alex Kent isn’t struggling to survive World War II bombing raids in the skies over Germany he spends time trying to unravel a conundrum with even greater dangers: uncovering the lost legacy of William Kent, his great-grandfather seven generations removed.  Alex knows nothing about his ancestor’s life prior to William’s arrival in 1740 colonial Virginia as an eleven-year-old indentured servant although Kent family folklore suggests William might have been the exiled child of an English noble.  Over the generations, several Kent family members have tried to confirm that speculation.  None succeeded.  Some died trying.
On leave in war torn London from his bombing duties, Alex meets Sarah Perkins, fiancée of the Duke of Wyeford’s only son.  Alex and Sarah soon realize they are attracted to one another and she volunteers to help in his pursuit of William’s heritage. 

When Wyeford becomes aware of Alex’s quest, he understands the American pilot poses a threat to the conspiracy of silence concocted two hundred years earlier to deny young William his legitimate birthright.  Exposure of the conspiracy would topple the Wyeford dynasty, stripping the duke of his title and wealth.  He vows to take whatever actions are necessary to see that never happens.  Danger and tension escalate as Alex’s search barrels toward a shocking conclusion. 

Albert Drayton paused just inside the door of the fetid smelling bedchamber, his gaze coming to rest on his father, the Duke of Wyeford.  The duke, his head propped on pillows, appeared to be asleep in the room’s massive four-poster canopied bed.  Mouth agape, the old man’s chest shuddered raggedly with each wheezing breath.  At the duke’s bedside with his back to the door, Sir James Percival, the Drayton family doctor, was taking the duke’s pulse.  Albert had been aware for several months that his father was in failing health, but he’d not expected to encounter a scene like this when he arrived at the duke’s home on London’s Hanover Square.
Percival lowered the duke’s wrist onto the bed then turned to face Albert.  “Your father has been comatose like this for more than twenty-four hours.  I’ve been administering massive doses of laudanum to ease his pain, but I have no idea if it is helping.  What I do know is that I was despairing of your arriving before the duke passed on because he has little time remaining on God’s good earth.  I doubt he opens his eyes ever again.”
“I came as quickly as my horse could carry me,” Albert said, “but the roads to the west between here and Drayton Hall are almost impassable what with all the snow that’s fallen in the past three days.  This is a horrible winter.”
“Tis the worst December I can remember,” Percival agreed.
“I’ve been riding for the better part of the last two days.  I’m starving,” Albert said, “and I’m soaked to the bone.”  He moved across the gloomy room to the granite faced fireplace where a crackling wood fire cast flickering shadows.
         “Should I send downstairs for some food?”
“I spoke with Thomas when I arrived ten minutes ago,” Albert said, referring to the duke’s valet, the son of the old man’s former majordomo, Silas Carter, who died in a carriage accident two years earlier.
“He’s seeing that a proper meal is being laid for me in the dining room.  It should be on the table by the time we’re through here and I get into some dry clothes.  Now, what is it that is so important that I had to risk life and limb getting here?  The bloody messenger you sent to fetch me said the duke had something urgent to tell me, but he had no idea as to what it was.”
Percival picked up a leather pouch from atop the ornately carved lamp table next to the duke’s bed.
“What is that?”
“I’ve no clue,” Percival said, handing the pouch to Albert.  “Your father told me the day before yesterday that I was to give it to you should he pass before your arrival.”
“It’s what’s inside that is important,” a raspy voice announced.
Albert and the doctor turned to see the duke trying to raise himself to a sitting position.
“Prop some pillows behind me, Percival,” the duke wheezed, and then leave me alone with Albert.  There is something only he needs to hear before I draw my last breath—which will be quite soon now.”
“Would you like more laudanum, my grace?  It will help with your pain.”
“Damn it, Percival, I don’t need laudanum.  My mind must be clear for what it is I need to tell my son.  Just do as I say and get out.”
“Leave us, Percival,” Albert said moving to draw a chair close to the bed.  “If I require your presence, I shall ring.”
“I’m a bastard,” the duke announced without forewarning when the door closed behind Percival’s reluctant departure, his voice so low Albert had to strain to hear the words.
Albert smiled.  “Tell me something I don’t already know, father,” he said, edging his chair even closer.
“I’m not making a joke,” the duke managed to say after taking several gulps of air.  “I’m truly a bastard, illegitimate, something I only learned from my father when he too lay on his deathbed.”
“I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me,” Albert said from behind the hand he was using to shield his nose from the rank smell of the duke’s decaying body.
“Just that the words mean.  I am my father’s bastard son and as such should not have been entitled to claim the Wyeford title at his death.  The title was not mine to inherit.  By the laws of the land it should have gone to my younger half-brother William, the third duke’s only legitimate heir.  William was ten or eleven at the time.”
“But that means—that means, if what you are saying is true, you have no title to pass to me,” Albert said, his voice quaking.
The duke took several more ragged breaths then reached to wrap cadaverous fingers around Albert’s wrist.  “Yes, but only I, you and Thomas know that truth.  I’ll soon be dead, Thomas has good reason to keep our secret and I’m sure the two of you will take the steps necessary to see no one else ever discovers it.”
“Thomas?  How does Thomas know any of this?”
“It’s a long tale, one you’ll find related in a journal I’ve kept since the night of my father’s death.  The journal is inside the pouch.  It discloses everything.  Read all I’ve written and you’ll understand.”
Several racking coughs shook the old man’s body.  When they finally subsided, he continued.  “What’s most important is that on the night I became the Duke of Wyeford Silas and I concocted a scheme, a conspiracy of silence, to insure William would never have the opportunity to discover the truth.  The next day we brought you mother into our scheme.  We all agreed that William should meet an unfortunate end.  You mother came up with the plan to make that happen.  She saw to it that he was imprisoned on a family ship departing for America.  She gave him the surname Kent and instructed the ship’s captain that young Kent was to meet an unfortunate accident on the voyage, his body buried at sea.”
More coughs shook the duke’s body.  His chin dropped to rest on his chest and wrapped his arms around his ribs as if he was trying to hold his body together.  After several seconds, he raised his head and resumed his tale.  “That didn’t happen because the bloody Captain was a greedy sot,” he said, his voice weaker, now almost a whisper.  “He sought to make himself a few extra crowns by taking William all the way to America and selling him as an indentured servant.  He assumed we’d never find out, but we did and he was made to pay for his perfidy.  As for William, we never learned of his fate other than that he had been indentured to a Virginia plantation owner—beyond that, nothing.  I’ve lived in terror for the past forty plus years that he would show up claiming to be the legitimate heir to the Wyeford title.”
“How would a young boy have any knowledge of that?  Surely he knew nothing of the circumstances of your birth.”
“May I have some water, please?”
Albert poured from a pitcher on the bedside table and held the crystal goblet to his father’s lips.
After several feeble sips the duke indicated enough by pushing the glass away.  “You’re probably right,” he gasped.  “There is no way William could have known any of that.  Still I quake every time I hear that surname—Kent.  You should, too, because there is everything for you to lose if the truth ever became known.  Read my journal and you’ll truly understand.”
“Yes, your grace, I pledge to do that this very night.”
“I have one final request of you,” the duke wheezed.  He took in a noisy breath.
“Anything, your grace.”
“Do for me what Silas Carter did to my father.”
“What is that?”
“End it all for me—right now.  Smother me with one of my pillows.  I’m exhausted by the pain and wish for it to be over.”
Albert stared at his father.  “But—"
“Please, that is my last request.”
Albert stared at his father.  Finally, he stood and yanked a pillow from behind the duke’s head then pressed it against the old man’s face.  There was no resistance and soon the rise and fall of the duke’s chest stopped.  Albert shuddered.  By his act of mercy he had become part of a conspiracy of silence.  He’d also become the fifth Duke of Wyeford.  He started to the door, but then turned back to the bed.  Grasping the dead duke’s left hand he removed the symbol of the Wyeford title.  God help anyone who tried to take this away from me, he thought as he slipped the signet ring onto his own little finger.