Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys

Academic journal article Military Review

The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys

Article excerpt

THE LAST MISSION OF THE WHAM BAM BOYS: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II, Gregory Freeman, Palgrave MacMillan, New York, 2011, 236 pages, $26.00

THE LAST MISSION of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II, is the story of a downed B-17 crew in 1945. During their first bombing mission, their aircraft was hit by flak, the crew bailed, and eventually--after capture--found themselves confronted by a hostile civilian mob in Russelsheim, Germany. Six of the American crewmembers were beaten and shot to death and later hastily buried in the town's cemetery. After the war, American military authorities prosecuted 11 Russelsheim citizens for murder.

Gregory Freeman's telling ofthe story is uneven, but his handling of trial dialogue is excellent. Perhaps the book's greatest strength is its ability to convey the simple pain, uncertainty, and raw emotion experienced by the crew's stateside families, who for so long held out the hope that their loved ones were still alive. Three crewmembers survived--and Freeman tells their stories in a particularly effective manner.

That said, there are several places where The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys falls short. This is not an exhaustive scholarly work, and it contains only a short bibliography, which itself lacks what are usually considered the definitive works on the American strategic bombing campaign. Equally odd is the salient fact that this exact topic was thoroughly covered in an earlier book, Wolfsangel: A German City on Trial by August Nigro. Other than some interviews with the crew's families, there is little added and much omitted in this new telling. …

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