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marcus nannini
MIDNIGHT FLIGHT TO NUREMBERG. CAPTURE OF THE NAZI WHO PUT ADOLPH HITLER INTO POWER. Midnight Flight to Nuremberg details the WWII Experiences of C-47 Pilot/Instructor First Lieutenant Harry E. Watson, Jr., a veteran of 27 Combat Missions, three Air Medals recipients, and seven Battle Stars. 10-year-old Harry Watson was stuck, head-first, at the top of an abandoned coal mine. Fighting a blinding snowstorm, his mom struggled to the top of the rock pile, pushed Harry through the narrow opening and into the mine shaft, where he gathered enough coal to carry the family through the pending Christmas holiday. Ever the risk-taker, Harry escaped the coal mines and joined the Army Air Corps in 1940. When it was time for his first solo flight, he nearly killed himself, inadvertently earning a reputation as an exceptional pilot. Upon deployment to England, his first mission was to deliver a cargo of whole-blood and nurses to a recently captured airport outside of Paris, France. Choosing to ignore the order to turn back, he flew directly into "zero-zero" weather conditions. He proved to be the only plane of 126 to complete the critical mission. When a platoon of Patton's tanks ran out of fuel, Harry was sent on an urgent resupply combat mission to the front line. He was forced to spend a night in a foxhole, where he came face-to-face with a German Mark IV tank accompanied by 800 German infantry. He was later tasked to lead five planes to the front line and effect an emergency evacuation of a field hospital as it came under direct attack by elements of the "S.S." He witnessed death throughout his wartime experiences, including five "Market Garden" missions, both at a distance and up-close. His experiences grayed his hair and instilled within him a newfound belief that there must be a God.
Plot/Idea: 6 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 6 out of 10
Character/Execution: 6 out of 10
Overall: 6.25 out of 10


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, author of Left for Dead at Nijmegen, takes flight in this gripping account of courage in the air, the story of pilot Harry E. Watson, who flew 27 combat missions in World War II and was the recipient of seven Battle Stars and three Air Medals. Nannini, who interviewed First Lieutenant Watson extensively, opens this vivid account in the thick of the war, with the tense tale of Watson, already celebrated for his skill at bad-weather piloting, being tasked to fly “a plane-load of Jerry cans”—that’s fuel— to General Patton’s troops near the French city of Reims, on the front lines, “so they don’t get themselves massacred” by the Germans. The fog’s a beast, and there might be wounded to ferry back, and the adventure that follows will involve Mark IV tanks, 800 German troops, and French champagne in a foxhole.

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.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-