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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Robert J. Mrazek's "To Kingdom Come"

In a blog entry written in May 2010 (http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2010/05/dawn-like-thunder.html), I recounted how, 28 years ago, I hosted a meeting between a visiting U.S. Congressional fact-finding delegation and Major Hadad, commander of the South Lebanese Army, at the Arazim Hotel in Metula, which is a stone's throw from Israel's northern border. Among those participating in the meeting was Congressman Robert J. Mrazek from Long Island. Bob and I instantly became friends, and I avidly followed his political career, which included a run for the U.S. Senate. As a congressman, Bob wrote the law that saved the Civil War Manassas (Bull Run) battlefield from being developed into a shopping mall.

The years went by, and Bob abandoned politics in order to pursue a successful literary career, which has included both fiction and non-fiction. Earlier this year, NAL Caliber published Bob's latest book, "To Kingdom Come", which describes the September 1943 deep penetration attack by the American Eighth Airforce against Stuttgart, Germany, from the vantage point of those who participated in the mission.

As noted in "To Kingdom Come", the casualty rate among American bomber crews in 1942 and 1943 was in excess of 50 percent, and only one man out of five completed the original combat tour of 25 missions.

The Stuttgart mission was a failure: Owing to dense cloud cover, the American B-17 Flying Fortresses failed to identify their target, and without accompanying fighter support, they were chewed up by German Focke-Wulfs and anti-aircraft fire. Many of the Flying Fortresses, after circling Stuttgart three times, also ran out out of fuel on the way back to England.

Bob Mrazek tells the stories of the U.S. servicemen who ordered the mission, who died or were wounded, who were captured in Germany, who escaped with the assistance of the French underground, and who landed and were interned in neutral Switzerland.

I could not put this remarkable book down.

I've waited a few days before describing my reading experience. I still find myself admiring the courage of this slowly dwindling generation of Americans, who never flinched when carrying out their duty. Today, in an era of narcissism and instant gratification, how many of us would be willing to contend with such odds and knowingly make the ultimate sacrifice?

Thank you, Bob, for this stunning achievement.

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