11:27 PM EST. Two minutes ago, I finished reading this book. In its 207 pages, it fully and richly conveys the thoughts and feelings of the author, a young American bomber pilot enraptured with the beauty of flying coupled with the sheer terror of combat in the central blue. For it is there that death exacts its toll of friend and foe alike.
The author describes death as "sometimes lovely... and sometimes she's a screaming horrible bitch... and sometimes she's a quiet one, with soft hands that rest gently on top of yours on the throttles." He also conveys his growing love for the English countryside, his hunger for knowledge, to embrace humanity, and to seek and help make a better world after the war.
Stiles speaks candidly and in earnest about his life, his squadron mates, and the pressures of trying to keep sane and complete one's combat tour. A combat tour in Europe was 35 missions. Any crew who completed a tour was given a reprieve from combat and earned the right to return safely to the U.S., job well done.
This is a book I would recommend for any reader who wishes to understand how war forces a person caught up in it to live his/her life to the full amid the wonder and madness of it all.