The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

The Wild Blue: The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany 1944-45

The eagerly anticipated follow-up to last years New York Times no.1 bestseller NOTHING LIKE IT IN THE WORLD. Author Stephen Ambrose brings us the unforgettable story of the young men who flew the B-24’s over wartime Germany. In THE WILD BLUE, Ambrose describes how the Air Force recruited, trained and then chose the few who would undertake the most demanding and dangerous jobs in the war. These are the boys turned pilots, bombardiers, navigators and gunners of the B24’s, who suffered 50 percent casualities. With his extraordinary talent for bringing alive the action and tension of combat, Ambrose takes us along in the B24’s as their crews fought to the death to reach their targets and destroy the German war machine. Twenty two year old George McGovern flew thirty five missions and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. THE WILD BLUE will be published, in America, simultaneously with the Dreamworks/HBO ten-part series, BAND OF BROTHERS, based on Ambrose’s bestselling account of Easy Company on its journey from training camps in England to Hitler’s headquarters.


  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (August 14, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743203399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743203395
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (342 customer reviews)
Download Now


  1. I will leave the literary criticism to others, but THE WILD BLUE faithfully tells the story of my experience. I was a member of the 301st Bomb Group, 5th Wing (B-17s),15th Air Force. I flew my “50th mission,” 30th sortie, on December 26, 1944. I feel that I can speak with some authority when I say that this book gets it right-our naivete, our training, the food, the plight of the Italians, the fact that we were often scared, and the fact that we did what we were trained to do. All of my combat experience was in B-17s. I have considerable experience in B-24s also, a frightening Air craft. Major Onan A. Hill, Navigator, USAFRes Ret

  2. I was with the Eighth Air Force in England and flew bombing missions over Germany in a B-17 in 1943-44. I hoped that Stephen Ambrose would use his excellent command of prose to describe the horror of those missions, whether in a B-24, B-17, Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, or Eighth Air Force in England. But it didn’t happen. His description of combat is like sipping a glass of milk, when actual combat is like choking down a glass of tequila. It is probably asking too much of someone who wasn’t there, but I didn’t get the feeling of intense cold, frozen oxygen masks, altitude sickness, planes exploding around you, boys losing arms, legs, or heads, and men driven mad by fear. In four months of missions, my ten-man crew had five killed and two, including me, wounded. I lost so many friends that I stopped making friends because it hurt too much when I saw them die.
    The book is mostly a story of former Senator George McGovern, as he trained and flew a B-24 on bombing missions at the end of the war against Germany. He apparently didn’t have to face German fighters coming at him, but he flew many times through the awful box barrages of antiaircraft fire above German cities. I still don’t know how any of us survived those.
    The book has errors, but what book doesn’t? Thus, I’ll point out the first one, on the first page of Chapter One and let it go at that. He says, “They were all volunteers. The U.S. Army Air Corps – after 1942 the Army Air Forces – did not force anyone to fly.” That is nonsense. Four members of my crew were draftees, and many other combat crews contained draftees. I was headed for a nice, safe job as a ground-based officer, when the Air Force sneakily gave me a flight physical.
    Still, it’s an enjoyable book.Read more ›

  3. This book has two central characters and is mostly a story about their shared experiences. The first subject is 2nd Lt. George McGovern, who in 1944 was just a typical US Army Air Force pilot; nothing here hints at the man, who, nearly 30 years later, would run for US president. The second is a machine, the B-24 Liberator, and one plane in particular – McGovern’s “Dakota Queen”, which he piloted on 35 bombing missions over Germany from his base in Cerignola, Italy, as part of the 741st Squadron, 455th Bomb Group. THE WILD BLUE then has a narrow focus and is less about the broad role of the bomber in the air war over Europe – that story about the more famous and glamorous B-17 and the 8th Air Force – has been told already in books like THE MIGHTY EIGHTH, a book which Ambrose himself read and rated highly.
    The Liberator comes by it’s neglected treatment in history, and it’s earned reputation as an ugly duckling quite fairly, as the following description of conditions in the plane attests. “Steering the four-engined airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot’s muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain…there was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or 50 degrees below zero…the seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew…” Yet, as with all ugly ducklings, it had it’s day and earned it’s admirers.Read more ›

  4. While I enjoyed this one, it certainly was not the author’s best work. It did draw attention to a group of very brave men, the B-24 crew members in the European Theater, which was good as this group and this plane is often overlooked. It did seem to me though that the author, on one side was trying to write a biography of George McGovern, or if he was trying to cover the air war during the last part of WWII. I did enjoy his trade mark technique of telling the stories of different men who participated, but he would always go back to McGovern. Perhaps if he had stuck to one or the other the book would have had more of an impact. Parts of this work did drag and were rather repetative. On the other hand, the author did not try to over dramatize McGovern’s part in the war. The work was well crafted and you certainy would not waste your time in reading it. I suppose it is not quite fare to compare this work with other works by this author. After all, no one bats a thousand all the time. Overall, recommend this one with reservations. It is about very brave young men and we do need to know as much about them as possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *