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by Larry Lewis
Northshire Bookstore 2017
photos, illustrations, maps
Cover Price: $29.95
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Sadie’s Boys is the story of two brothers, Charles H. Lewis and Benjamin Lewis, from Brooklyn, NY. Hoping to become a pilot, older brother Charlie enlisted in the Army Air Force in January of 1942. His training is described in detail through letters home to his family. After his initial training at Maxwell Field in Montgomery, AL, Charlie’s eyesight prevented him from becoming a pilot, so he then trained to be a navigator at Turner Field in Albany, GA and later moved to Eglin Field in Ft. Myers, FL for bombing and gunnery training. His training complete in December of 1942, Charlie traveled to Hamilton Field near San Francisco where he was assigned to a B-17E crew. The new crew departed for Hawaii and arrived in Australia in January of 1943 where they became part of the 64th Bomb Squadron of the 43rd Bomb Group and transferred to Port Moresby, a long way from Brooklyn.
Charlie began flying combat missions over Wewak, Gasmata, Lae, and Rabaul as a B-17 navigator with different planes and crews. Charlie was wounded on March 2, 1943 near Lae while manning the machine guns in the nose of his B-17 after the nose gunner was killed. After recuperating, Charlie returned to combat, flying his last mission on June 1, 1943 aboard B-17E "Texas No. 6" 41-9207. The plane was attacked by fighters over New Britain and crashed. Charlie was one of six crew listed as MIA. Four others became POWs, but only one, SSgt Paul J. Cascio, Jr., survived the war. Some of the crew were eventually recovered, but Charles H. Lewis is still Missing In Action (MIA) today.
In the meantime, younger brother Benjamin Lewis enlisted in the Army in 1943, participating in the ASTP program and then joining the 104th Infantry Division and arriving in France in September 1944. He became a POW in Germany in December 1944 and spent the rest of the war in various POW camps, enduring a harrowing winter march from camp to camp, but survived the war.
This poignant story of Charlie and Benjamin Lewis and their mother Sadie’s efforts to find out what happened to her two sons is told through letters and original documents by Benjamin Lewis’ son Larry. Benjamin never spoke of his wartime experiences, but now his family’s story, one shared by many American families, has been told. There is also an e-book Kindle edition available.
Review by Donna Esposito
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