On November 18, 1944, the end of the war in Europe finally in sight, American co-pilot Lieutenant Lee Lamar struggled alongside pilot Randall Darden to keep Bottoms Up, their B-24J Liberator, in the air. They and their crew of eight young men had believed the intelligence officer who, at the pre-dawn briefing at their base in southern Italy, confided that their mission that day would be a milk run. However, that 21st mission out of Italy would be their last. Bottoms Up was staggered by an anti-aircraft shell that sent it plunging earthward, the pilots recovering control at just 5,000 feet. With two engines out, they tried to make it to a tiny strip on a British-held island in the Adriatic Sea and in desperation threw out everything not essential to flight: machine guns, belts of ammunition, flak jackets. But over Pula in what is now Croatia, they were once more hit by German fire, and the focus quickly became getting out of the doomed bomber.
Seemingly unable to extricate himself, Lee Lamar all but surrendered to death before fortuitously bailing out. He was captured the next day and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner at a Stalag on the Baltic Sea, suffering the deprivations of little food and the coldest winter in Europe in a century. He never saw most of his crew again.
Then, in 2006, more than 60 years later, Lamar received an email from Croatian archaeologist Luka Bekic who had discovered the wreckage of Bottoms Up.
In this absorbing, alternating account of World War II and its aftermath, Dennis R. Okerstrom chronicles, through Lee Lamar's experiences, the Great Depression generation who went on to fight in the most expensive war in history. This is the story of the young men who flew Bottoms Up on her final mission, of Lamars trip back to the scene of his recurring nightmare, and of a remarkable convergence of international courage, perseverance, and friendship.
©2011 The Curators of the University of Missouri (P)2013 Redwood Audiobooks