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by Quentin James Reynolds
Out of Print
|70,000 to One
An American Airman's Grim Fight For Life Against Fantastic Odds
This book was first published in 1946 and reprinted in many subsequent editions. A portion of the story was published in Collier's (March 30, 1946 issue).
The book tells the story of Gordon Manuel, a crew member aboard. Manuel was a bombardier with the 43rd BG, 63rd BS. Written immediately after the war, the book is written in wartime language, making no illusions to the spirit of men and the times or hiding the brutality both sides exhibited.
He uses the pseudonym "Kai O Keleiwa" ("Guardian of the Heavens" in Hawaiian) for the bomber he usually flew as a crew member. In reality, his bomber was B-17E "Honi Kuu Okole" 41-9244. Other names were changed. "The Skipper" refers to pilot Charles Arthur "Chick" Olson.
A veteran crew member of dozens of missions. On the night of May 21, 1943 his crew was one of several to heckle Rabaul at night, flying with 300 lbs wire wrapped bombs that would be dropped over Vunakanau. Instead, his bomber was shot down by a new weapon: the Japanese night fighter. Manuel incorrectly identifies the attacker as a Ki-46 Dinah. In fact, it was a J1N1 Irving fighter piloted by Shigetoshi Kudo, with upward firing guns. His bomber was the first victim of this new and highly effective weapon system.
Bailing out, Manuel's problems are just beginning. He lands in the sea and must swim ashore. Wounded, he spends the first days trying to tend to his wounds which get progressively worse. Later, he finds friendly locals who give him food.
The rest of the book is a modern day Robinson Crusoe story, detailing Manuel's struggle to survive with his wounds in the jungle and avoid Japanese forces on New Britain. Earning the trust of local people, he is cared for by friendly locals who care for him and protect him inside Japanese occupied areas, facing trators, close calls and failed escape plans.
After a half year alone with only the local people, increased Allied air operations cause other pilots to crash in his area. Manuel locates P-38 pilot Owen Giertsen and later is joined by two others: Carl Planck and Edward Czarnecki. On February 5, 1944 the USS Gato surfaced in Open Bay to rescue the group.
This book is a well written first person account of one man's escape from behind enemy lines, that readers even today will find it difficult to put down. Thanks to Edward Rogers for additional cover art and info.
Review by Justin Taylan
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