Idea: This memoir explores the life and times of its subject, Harry E. Watson, Jr. The narrative also encourages readers to think about the long-lasting tolls of warfare on communities, nations, and individuals.
Prose: The prose tends toward a stream of consciousness style. While this style enables readers to gain insight into the thought processes of the subject, it can ultimately muddy the narrative.
Originality: Written from the perspective of a transport pilot, this memoir offers up a distinctive take on WWII and the dangers involved beyond the ground combat trials and tribulations so often seen in relevant literature.
Character/Execution: The author does a sound job of capturing the historical eras and events it recounts. The book's subject interacts with myriad characters, not all of whom receive the time, attention, and space to materialize.
Date Submitted: October 08, 2021
Nannini proves adept at war-time storytelling, with an emphasis on bravery and camaraderie; his accounts of Watson’s missions take an engaging novelistic approach, with memorable detail—the C-47s Watson flies, the “hot chow” the crews scarf, the rituals a superstitious pilot works into his routine—and a feeling for suspense. On a mission to evacuate a field hospital in danger of being overrun by the SS (from the mission briefing: “get ’em all the hell out of there”), the sight of a German Messerschmitt 262 jet fighter stirs in Watson and readers both a mesmerized awe and then deep alarm.
This inviting volume reads quickly, building to the top-secret, behind-enemy-lines mission of the title—"You’re picking up some top Nazis, and they won’t be happy about it, understand?”—rendered with clarity and power. Nannini excels at establishing the stakes, explaining crucial context like flight conditions, and putting readers alongside Watson in the cockpit. The reconstructed dialogue tends to be upbeat, sounding, perhaps, like Watson’s own voice, sharing these stories. It’s a pleasure to have them set down. The striking photographs offer welcome context.
Takeaway: The high-flying accounts of an American pilot’s daring World War II missions.
Great for fans of: Adam Makos’s A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II, Guy Gibson’s Enemy Coast Ahead.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-