/ Published December 13, 2011
A Fortress and a Legacy: The Gift of a WWII Bombardier's True Story to the Daughter He Never Knew by J. Ross Greene. Self-published (http://afortressandalegacy.com/), 2015, 460 pp.
Taking a cruise on the Rhine, Main, and Danube Rivers from Amsterdam to Budapest, I had ample time to read and to reflect on A Fortress and a Legacy. In every large and small town we visited, the local guides would report the percentage of their city destroyed by airpower in World War II--"35 percent," "75 percent," "all but the cathedral," and so on. The persistence of those memories and all the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of families and the millions of lives affected made this story of one life, death, and the many families involved especially poignant.
This following is excerpted from an interview conducted on Thanksgiving 1944:
Interviewer, Mr. Alban: This is BBC London calling WROL Knoxville. . . .
Alban: . . . I'd be interested to know what a bombardier feels thankful for at Thanksgiving?
Perrin: I'm thankful for my life mostly. But I'm thankful to have a strong ship to fly, and that the folks at home are working along with us, and backing us all the way. We couldn't have the faith we have if we weren't sure about that (pp. 325, 328).
A few weeks later, on 11 December 1944, Lt Ross W. "Bud" Perrin Jr., B-17 bombardier, "thankful for . . . life," lost his life in action on a bombing mission over Mannheim-Ludwigshafen, Germany. His daughter, Rosalind, was born to Bud's widow a month later.
Every Airman--former and aspiring, old and young--would benefit from reading and learning from this captivating story. Described by other reviewers as a "fact-based novel," it is much more fact than novel. The message? Airpower is more about people than machines; its essence resides in the duty that drives the hearts and souls and hands of Airmen--duty that has always resulted and will always result in human consequences that endure. This book helps us keep that potent awareness in mind. Airpower is consequential.
This is a story of our nation, our towns, our citizens, our families, our young men and women, and our Allies going to war over the skies of Germany--an air war in which around 30,000 Airmen of the 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 15th Army Air Forces died. The author, Ross Greene, devoted six years to reconstructing the service and death of one of them, his Uncle Bud, so that his younger cousin, Rosalind, could learn of the father she never knew. The research is meticulous and draws on family letters, interviews here and abroad, site visits, official histories and documents, newspapers, radio broadcasts, and even the author's reflections to create the context for his uncle's life, service, and sacrifice. The result is a thoroughly readable narrative that communicates what it was like to live in a society watching the inexorable approach to war and what it was like to have been an Airman training in the United States, living in England, and flying into the European theater of operations in World War II. Small details-the chow hall menu, the schedule, the haircuts, the odors, the USO visit, the brown high-top English leather shoes remembered by one of the witnesses, and more--enrich and enliven the narrative. Photos complement the text and enhance the sober reality and humanness of the account.
Organized chronologically, the final portion of the book takes the reader to modern Germany, to the location where Lieutenant Perrin's plane went down. The author's interaction with local German witnesses to the immediate aftermath of the fatal crash yields additional detail and more context on the human consequences of airpower. Ross has succeeded in introducing Cousin Rosalind to the dad she never knew. The author concludes the book after having "reached a place of intellectual and emotional quiet" about his "Uncle Bud's life and death" (p. 438).
Not so for me. Fellow Airman, duty-bound, know that we have not seen the end of war.
Charlotte, North Carolina
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."