If you’ve been following our blog, you’ll know that the digital release of Wot a Way to Run a War! was back in February 2013. However, it became so popular that we decided to make it available in print!
Ted Fahrenwald flew P-47s and P-51s with the famed 352nd Fighter Group out of Bodney, England, during the critical tipping-point period of the air war over Europe. A classic devil-may-care fighter pilot, he was also a distinctively talented writer and correspondent. After a typical day of aerial combat and strafing missions over Nazi-occupied Europe – and of course, the requisite partying and creative mischief on base –Ted sat in his Nissen hut at a borrowed typewriter and composed exquisitely humorous letter-essays detailing his exploits in the air and on the ground to his family back home.
But they are not the mundane missives of a homesick young man who missed his mother’s cooking. Educated as a journalist, this incurably comedic pilot detailed his aerial exploits in a hilarious and self-effacing style that combines the vernacular of the day with flights of joyful imagination rivaling St. Exupery. And he didn’t sanitize his musings: Ted enthusiastically narrates the day-to-day rollercoaster ribaldry that was the natural M.O. of the young men who were tasked to kill Hitler’s Luftwaffe. His descriptions of near-constant drinking, skirt-chasing, gunplay, gambling, and out-and-out tomfoolery put the lie to the notion of the Greatest Generation as an earnest band of do-gooders.
These collected writings are more than literary entertainment: They are a boon to military and aviation historians and also to those who study period language and culture and the science of societies at war.
The letters end dramatically when the ammunition truck that Ted was strafing exploded and knocked his Mustang “The Joker” out of the sky on June 8, 1944, two days after D-Day. The subsequent tale of his adventures with the Maquis (French Resistance) and his capture by the Germans and escape is recounted in a full-length book, Bailout Over Normandy: A Flyboy’s Adventures with the French Resistance and Other Escapades in Occupied France. Written at age 24 and recently published by Casemate, Ted’s book is a natural accompaniment to this collection of letters.
The Maquis embraced this irreverent and whimsical American fighter pilot as one of their own, and you will too when you read Ted’s chronicle of adventures in his letters. His stories leap off the page and provide a depth, richness, and sheer enjoyment that are rare in WWII literature.
Wot a Way to Run a War! is available from the Casemate website now.