Friday, August 21, 2009

Jim Noles' "Mighty by Sacrifice"

James L. “Jim” Noles, Jr., is a partner in the Environmental & Natural Resources Section of former Army officer, he is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and the University of Texas School of Law. To date, his books have covered a variety of non-fiction subjects and his Balch & Bingham, LLP, in Birmingham, Alabama. An Army brat and articles have appeared in such diverse publications as the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Smithsonian Air & Space, Preservation, Urban Land, Continental, Thicket, Portico, Executive Traveler, Alabama Heritage, Mental Floss, America’s Civil War, and the Birmingham News.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Mighty by Sacrifice: The Destruction of an American Bomber Squadron, August 29, 1944, and reported the following:
Page 99 of Mighty by Sacrifice literally and figuratively drops the reader into the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. At that point in the narrative, Ed Smith, formerly a freshman at Ohio's Miami University and now a navigator in the U.S. Army Air Forces, is forced to bail out of his burning B-17 Flying Fortress after a raid on Ploesti, Romania.

"By the time he hit the water, everything seemed to go wrong -- an unsurprising outcome in light of the minimal parachute training aviators such as Smith had received. Still affixed to his harness, he found himself being pulled backward through the water as the chute sailed in the wind."

Smith eventually managed to free himself of his parachute, only to find himself weighed down by his heavy flight suit and boots while he struggled to inflate his Mae West life vest -- a task made difficult by the fact that the valves on the vest were open. Fortunately, he managed to shed his heavy flight gear while treading water in the gentle swells and to inflate the vest. Equally fortunately, other bombers in the formation reported his location and, within a few hours, a PBY Catalina search and rescue plane landed to pluck Smith and the other six survivors from the water. Three of their comrades were not so lucky.

So does page 99 capture the essence of Mighty by Sacrifice? Absolutely (thank goodness). The intent of the book is to tell the story of the Allies' Combined Bomber Offensive during World War II through the prism of the microcosmic experiences of one particular squadron and its aviators on one particular climatic mission. Page 99 offers such a view. Smith's story is a personal one, but it provides a glimpse at the larger risks these aviators faced and, in this particular instance, how the air-sea rescue teams worked to alleviate those risks to the limited amount that they could.
Learn more about the book and author at Jim Noles' website.

--Marshal Zeringue