OF MORNING: The Story of the Last American Bomber Shot Down Over Germany
in World War II (Perseus
Books) by Thomas Childers. Nonfiction 1995. 276 pages. At the age of
18, Howard Goodner was drafted by the United States Air Force to fight in
World War II. On March 23, 1943, he packed his bags and left his small
hometown in Tennessee with 120 other young men to train and prepare for
war. After months of training, Howard finished radio operator’s school
at the top of his class and was offered the safe job of being an
instructor for the USAF. However, instead of “sitting out the war,”
Howard does the very ballsy act of accepting combat duty and is sent off
to train with a flight crew. Before long, and after some intensive
training, Howard finds himself in England waiting for his first bombing
mission. Along with flying, Howard also spends his time hanging out with
his flight crew, touring England, dealing with the loss of fellow military
mates, and writing endless letters to home. After successfully completing
a number of bombing runs, Howard’s flight crew is promoted to squadron
leader, a highly honored and very high-risk position. On April 21, 1945,
Howard and his crew led the squadron on an ill-advised bombing mission
over Germany and ran head first into enemy flak and crashed.
Almost fifty years later, Howard
Goodner’s nephew, Thomas Childers, sets out to find out what exactly
happened to Howard and the crew. Using hundreds of letters written by
Howard and his crewmembers, other squadron member’s accounts, government
documents, eyewitnesses in Germany who saw the plane crash, and the only
surviving member of the Bomber crash, Childers beautifully recreates
Howard’s life for those few years and finds out the truth about what
really happened with the crash.
There is no way I can sit here and write
anything that will give this book the praise and justice it deserves.
Although Howard is the main focus of this book, Childers also goes into
great depth of the entire crew’s personal lives. Childers does a great
job of getting you personally involved with Howard and each of his
crewmembers by reprinting some of the stuff written to their families by
the respective crewmembers. There are also eight pages of pictures that
tie you even closer with the crew. I was honestly heart broken as I read
about the crash and rumors of the crew’s fate after the crash. You’ll
understand better if you read this book. Trust me, you will be glued to
the last 75 or so pages of this book as they are so intense due to the
bond Childers makes between you and the crew, most notably Howard.
Childers also writes about how awful the
conditions were for the crew inside the Bomber. Below freezing
temperatures, insanely claustrophobic space, and the feeling of pure
helplessness as the crew counts parachutes after seeing a fellow plane get
hit and crash to earth are just a few agonizing things on top of the fear
of being shot down by enemy fire.
This book is not a story about World War
II. This book is about a few men who fought this war.
Absolutely amazing book. –Denis Sheehan