William C. Anderson
Bomber Crew 369
Book Review by JR Hafer, aviation writer
Bomber Crew 369
Colonel William C. Anderson, the author of Bomber Crew 369 and more than twenty other novels, was an outstanding writer of several genre including historical fiction and humor. Allison Kiessling of Waking Media is in the process of republishing all of her grandfather’s books, among them Bomber Crew 369. By the author’s own words this is “a novel of the courageous men who soared to glory on battered wings”.
Bomber Crew 369 is a story of a B-24 Liberator crew arriving in Italy, fresh from their Texas training base in the United States. The leader and pilot of this fine crew is Second Lieutenant Rolfe Stromburg, who along with co-pilot O’Riley, navigator Lancaster, bombardier Balzac, and other crew members will face high flak and fighter density over Austria and Germany together.
In 1944, there was actually a Bomber Crew 369 in the Army Air Corps Fifteenth Air Force, 725th Squadron based in Italy flying a B-24 Liberator. This book is based on their story of course, certain license was taken to fictionalize the characters and dramatize some events, but certainly it’s their story.
The author of Bomber Crew 369, William C. Anderson, was a genius at his craft. He captured my interest at the beginning of the book and held me captive throughout. The fact is, I almost get angry when the book ends because I want to know more. Some may call that anti-climatic, others may say it is a sign of a great writer who leaves you hungry for more and it’s a matter of preference.
It has been documented time and time again that comedic episodes arise within stressful times which make great fodder for books. “Catch- 22” is a good example. It was a satirical and historical novel by author Joseph Heller, who began writing it in 1953, and published in 1961. Another good example is a novel about three Army doctors written by “Richard Hooker” which was a fictional account of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea during the Korean “conflict” published in 1968, called M*A*S*H.
While reading Bomber crew 369 I laughed a lot, then I was sad. My emotions ran the gamut. The plot was entertaining and mysterious and it kept me guessing. There were sub-plots and romances but once you thought you had it figured out, you were fooled and it would turn out differently.
The character development was smooth and fluid and one felt close to each one of them. Even the villains became solidly entrenched in the story prior to the big reveal.
Then there is the commanding officer, Major Diddle. The name sort of fits this character. The bombardier Balzac is a slick endearing swaggering character who annoys his nemesis Major Diddle, who swears to get rid of him, along with their mascot dog “DFC” (properly named) who insists on leaving deposits on the Commander’s door step every morning. This is a hilarious story!
The story line is serious with bombing raids over marshaling yards and ball bearing factories at Ploesti, Vienna, and Berlin. The attack of German fighters and the loss of other crew members they have grown close to, but stress sometimes turns to wild ventures and strange romances, as it does with Bomber Crew 369.
The story of a Bomber Crew 369 in Italy during WWII is humorous though serious account of how air crews dealt with wartime and the fact they faced death every day. Anderson wrote this book about characters that you might want to sit down and have a chat with about their experiences during the war.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good read. Bomber Crew 369 is a good read; you’ll like the crew, love the girls, hate the enemy, laugh at the shenanigans, and marvel at the clowning around.
William C. Anderson leaves a proud legacy in a Bomber Crew 369. Truth is indeed funnier than fiction!
Book Review By,
JRHafer, Aviation writer