A true-life story of combat during World War II. In the book the author describes the action that leads up to the loss of his combat crew when their aircraft is downed by German forces. Events after he crash-lands his aircraft provide a narrative history that leads the reader into the emotional life of a Prisoner of War. The reader is taken through a progressive series of events as the author adjusts to a life that is a composite mixture of boredom, fear and danger. With escape uppermost in his mind he is made increasingly aware of the risks and retribution following a failed escape attempt. He was in that same Stalag Luft III prison camp when British Prisoners in the adjacent North Compound made their escape through a tunnel. When captured, fifty of these prisoners were shot to death. The directive to murder the prisoners came directly from Hitler. Solitary confinement for an escape attempt followed by a "forced" winter march as Stalag Luft III is evacuated, provides further insight into the dangers and hardships faced by the prisoners as their captors move the prisoners from one area to another in an attempt to avoid liberation by Allied military forces.
As the war continues the Red Cross food supplies are depleted and starvation becomes a reality. Dysentery and vermin are prevalent in the prison Stalag located at Nuremberg where thousands of allied prisoners have been relocated. The author describes in vivid detail the chaos and fear created as bombs fall on targets located adjacent to the prison compounds. Seeking to make his way to friendly territory the author continues his quest for freedom with multiple escapes during a second forced march from Nuremberg to Moosberg, Germany. The author is greeted with a shocking scene of horror when captured after several days of freedom and returned to an "Oflag" where British ground-officer survivors of the battles of Dunkerque, Crete, Dieppe are imprisoned by the Germans. The day of "Liberation" finally arrives, but the story does not end with the events of that joyous day. Adventure and tragedy continue after the war as the author flies combat during the Korean conflict and later provides a stirring, emotional account of a B-47 accident.
After his combat tour in Vietnam and retirement from the military the author and his wife revisit areas in England and France where some of the wartime events took place. Of special significance was a visit to his gunner's grave in France.
Robert Slane was born on August 5th, 1923 in a one-room, railroad boxcar that was situated near the rail-tracks at Ludlow, Colorado. 1923 was a depression year and many of the lower income railroad workers were furnished with housing of this type as part of their income. Through grade six he attended grammar school in a one-room schoolhouse where a single teacher taught all eight grades. He graduated from Trinidad High School in 1941. Immediately after graduation he enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Shortly thereafter, he entered the Staff Sergeant flying program as an Aviation Student and was graduated as a Flight Officer in January,1943. That same year, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. After graduation from pilot training, he became a First Pilot in B-17's and flew the "Flying Fortress" in combat in the European Theater. On October 14th, 1943, he and his crew were shot down and Col. Slane was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for 19 Months. During the Korean conflict, he spent a year in Korea, volunteering for and receiving a combat assignment after serving seven months of his tour. He flew 40 "night intruder" missions before his year tour was completed. In Southeast Asia, Col Slane was Vice Wing and Wing Commander of the 553rd Reconnaissance Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, and later was assigned as Base Commander at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam He flew 78 combat sortiesin EC 121R, A-37, and OV-10 aircraft. Six combat sorties were flown in Vietnamese owned aircraft, A-1 and F-5's. During his Air Force career, Colonel Slane served almost 16 years in various assignments within the Strategic Air Command. He was a combat crew commander in B-47 and B-52 aircraft and has approximately 5,000 hours of multi-jet flying time. During his tour in the Strategic Air Command he served as Deputy Commander for Operations at Altus AFB, Okla., and the last assignment in SAC, prior to his Southeast Asia tour, was as the Wing Vice Commander at Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y. Between prior SAC assignments, he attended the National War College and served a two-year tour with the Joints Chiefs of Staff as an operations center team chief. Colonel Slane was assigned to Barksdale AFB, La. from 1954 to 1964. (A Major during this period) He was flying on a night simulated combat mission over Canada on 30 November, 1956 when he was forced to eject from a malfunctioning B-47 aircraft. He survived the Canadian wilderness until rescued by helicoptor the following day. Among his awards and decorations, Colonel Slane holds the Legion of Merit with One Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Commendation medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Prisoner of War Medal, the Vietnamese Honor Medal First Class, and the Vietnamese Air Service Medal. A special tribute from the Vietnamese was the award of and authority to wear South Vietnamese Pilot Wings. Colonel Slane is married to the former Mary Lee Valentineof Boise, Idaho. They had a daughter, Judy, who died in 1977. Their son, Tom, presently resides in Johnson City, Tennessee. Grand children are: Sarah Elizabeth Slane and Matthew Thomas Slane.