A Bomber Pilot's Story
Robert P. Neilson, author
Flying a B-17 Flying Fortress with the Fifteenth Air Force out of Foggia, Italy, Lt. George H. Neilson describes the harrowing experiences of his twenty-eight combat missions as well as the ups and downs of life in the US Army Air Corps from enlistment to discharge (1943?45). Blending selections of his father's letters to home and memoirs he recorded a half century later with documented background history, the younger Neilson tells the saga of the son of a Boston widow as he confronts the rigors of pilot-officer training and combat service in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations during the final six months of World War II in Europe. George depicts the humorous and mundane sides of army life as well as the terror-filled moments during bomb runs over targets in Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and Austria as antiaircraft flak bursts battered the aircraft. Neilson's daily chronicles juxtapose moments when life and death hung in the balance, such as when he landed his crippled Fort in the Adriatic Sea, with the unexpected moments of splendor, such as when he dined in luxury on the Isle of Capri at a castle owned by the royal family of Italy. Flying in formation through clouds so thick that the plane thirty feet off his wing was invisible, George received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his ability as a skilled instrument pilot. He recounts youthful escapades on duty-free hours and the tales of life in Foggia?s mud-bound tent city in the spur of Italy. It includes the stirring story of his visit to a field hospital where his brother, a captain in the infantry, was recovering from a bullet wound incurred in the fighting in the Apennine Mountain campaign. Finally, the story tells of World War II?s fiery end and how he unknowingly worked on the secret research project to develop the atomic bomb in a lab at MIT before enlistment. For the student of history and aviation and its role in the Allied victory over Hitler's nefarious Reich, this microhistory will not disappoint.