We’re excited to announce that Or Go Down in Flame: A Navigator’s Death Over Schweinfurt is now available from Casemate!
In an article on My Missourian, W. Raymond Woods explains his journey in finding the truth about his brother’s death:
On October 14, 1943, 60 American B-17 heavy bombers were shot down over occupied Europe in a raid designed to bring Hitler’s war machine to a grinding halt. The B-17s were sent from England to destroy the ball-bearing factories in the town of Schweinfurt in central Germany, bearings without which their tanks, aircraft, and other machinery could not operate.
The navigator on one of those B-17s was Lieutenant Elbert S. Wood, previously a pre-medical student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. East of Frankfurt, Germany, a German fighter attacked the bomber fleet and launched an aerial rocket at the B-17 in which Lieutenant Wood was flying. The missile struck the left wing and exploded, sending shrapnel into the plane and many of the men inside. Lieutenant Wood was so badly injured that a fellow crewman helped him parachute out of the plane, hoping the Germans could give him medical attention long before the plane could bomb its target and return to England. The plan failed, for the flyer was dead when his parachute landed near the little town of Michelbach.
Lieutenant Wood was buried in the little town of Michelbach. As the flyer’s younger brother, I traveled to Germany in 1988 to reconstruct that flight, meeting with eyewitnesses to the crash.
To learn more about W. Raymond Wood’s process of writing his book, we asked him a few questions:
How much research did you do for the book?
I spent five years researching the book, for I had to start from scratch, knowing nothing of the sources for military history. These sources came slowly as I read general books on the air war over Europe, combined with advice I received from veterans of that war.
What fascinates you about revisiting the past and bringing it to life in a book? Have you always been interested in history?
I became interested in history when I was in grade school. Which led to my university career and choice of archaeology – the study of the human past. This led to my interest in western American history, where I learned about the vast historical resources in archives. When I discovered the volume of material archived on World War II this led to my decision to find out what had happened to my brother.
Why did you decide to write this book? What prompted you to put this story down on paper?
I began my quest out of sheer curiosity and, having begun taking notes, the project eventually found its way into a narrative. When I began I had no idea it would lead to a book.
How long did it take you to write it?
I spent a full five years in my spare time in compiling the story (I was a full professor with a teaching and research load); I spent another five years polishing it and seeking a publisher.
What do you like most about your book? Why should we read it?
For me it was resolving the mystery of the nature of my brother’s death. Others should read it to learn of a little-known aspect of World War II – the dedicated search that the U.S. Army made to seek out our soldiers that were missing in action.