From the author of Silver Wings, Iron Cross comes a suspenseful and thrilling saga based on the true story of one of World War II’s most daring and successful rescue missions.
Summer 1944: Yugoslavia is locked in a war within a war. In addition to fighting the German occupation, warring factions battle each other. Hundreds of Allied airmen have been shot down over this volatile region, among them American lieutenant Bill Bogdonavich. Though grateful to the locals who are risking their lives to shelter and protect him from German troops, Bogdonavich dreams of the impossible: escape.
With three failed air missions behind him, Lieutenant Drew Carlton is desperate for redemption. From a Texas airbase he volunteers for a secretive and dangerous assignment, codenamed Operation Halyard, that will bring together American special operations officers, airmen, and local guerilla fighters in Yugoslavia’s green hills. This daring plan—to evacuate hundreds of stranded airmen while avoiding detection by the Germans—faces overwhelming odds. What follows is one of the greatest stories of World War II heroism, an elaborate rescue that required astonishing courage, sacrifice, and resilience.
Red Burning Sky is a riveting and ultimately triumphant military thriller based on true events, all the more remarkable for being so little known—until now.
Yugoslavia is between Italy and Romania and Romania is the source of oil for fuel for the Nazi’s. The “Miss Carolina’s” mission is to disrupt the oil field and production of fuel for the Nazi’s. The mission is never easy and the flight path is over Yugoslavia where they are in the midst of a civil war between the Partisans led by Marshal Tito and the Chetniks.
The B-24 has taken heavy fire and many of the crew are dead. The order must be given to bail out as the plane is no longer able to be controlled. Bogdonavich is the gunner in the nose compartment. He sees nearly eight Messerschmitt BF109’s attacking the plane. The plane shudders and reports of burning wings and engines cause the pilot to order the evacuation of the plane.
Bogdonavich leaves the plane and his parachute opens before he gets whipped by the trees approaching the ground. He wonders how many men were able to exit the aircraft. Cutting his parachute cords he approaches a tree-line and sees three people approaching him; a young boy, an old man, and a pretty young lady. They take him to a farmhouse but make no effort to hide him. The young boy is part of the Chetnik group that is aiding downed allied aircrew. A bullet in the head is their reward if they are caught.
Nearly 500 US and allied airmen are rescued by these freedom fighters! The one rescuing Bogdonavich is a 17-year-old named Vasa the Wolf. The people of Yugoslavia are assisting downed pilots from being captured by the Germans. They supply hiding places, food, and medical assistance to the airmen at the peril of instant death.
This saga is about a mission in WWII that was classified top secret during the war. The final reward for the rescue of the pilots was silence and deniability by the war department. No air medals nor ribbons for bravery were ever awarded. This is the first exposure of this small part of the war. That 500 airmen could have been rescued by the Chetniks and never recognized seems unthinkable particularly because the Partisans under Marshall Tito wound up the ruling faction after the war and the Chetniks were considered the enemy.
I recommend this book as a means of understanding the sacrifices for anyone who is a war buff. The writing will help to understand some of the unsung heroes of WWII. 4.5 stars – CE Williams
We received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are his honest opinions.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five Stars
Genre: Historical World War II Fiction, Historical Thrillers
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print Length: 300 pages
Publication Date: February 22, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Red Burning Sky [Amazon]
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The Author: Thomas W. Young has logged nearly 5,000 hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere, including Latin America, the Horn of Africa, and the Far East. Military honors include three Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. He retired from the military as a Senior Master Sergeant.
He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and studied writing there and at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, among other places. He is also the author of the oral history The SpeedFour of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, and contributed to the anthology Operation Homecoming, edited by Andrew Carroll.
More information about Tom Young and his work can be found online at TomYoungBooks.com.
©CE Williams – V Williams