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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Book Review: Fear No Evil: The Stories of the Mighty Eighth by Charles D. Hamlin

By Carmelo Turdo
Some books about World War II can be overly academic and clinical, and I generally put them at the bottom of the stack for use as my anti-insomnia therapy.  Then there are books that transport the reader into the middle of the action, fighting alongside grizzled veterans and shiny new rookies alike in the war zone.  Fear no Evil: True Stories of the Mighty Eighth, is more of an experience rather than a book of war stories.  Written by Charles D. Hamlin, a B-17 ball turret gunner who flew 35 missions over Germany after enlisting in 1942 at the age of 15, Fear No Evil takes you into the heart of Germany on bombing missions with the Eighth Air Force's 385th Bomb Group out of Great Ashfield, England.  Hamlin lays it on the line on the first page of the Foreword: "The crews managed to complete only 27% of their assigned missions before being killed, wounded, taken prisoner or suffering some kind of breakdown."  No sugar-coating the war experience here, just a reminder of the grim reality of war and the adventures that lay ahead for the reader.

The book is divided into short chapters that capture a specific mission or incident that made an impact on the veteran telling the story. These brief glimpses of war range from social foibles of Piccadilly Circus in London to the tension of nursing a severely damaged B-17 past German flak gunners and Luftwaffe fighters to a ditching in the English Channel (if your lucky).  Other crews were not so lucky, falling victim to vicious anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) fire, fighter attacks and even mid-air collisions with other bombers.  Throughout Fear No Evil, the attentive reader can experience the musty, oily smell of the bomber's close confines and feel the bone-jarring impact of 88mm shells as large pieces of the aircraft disappear into the murky air.  The cries of wounded crewmen can be heard, and the fear of being captured by enemy soldiers can be felt as the crew (and you) parachute out of a burning B-17 into enemy territory.  With every adventure, Hamlin is careful to credit the skill and bravery of the crews in overcoming tremendous odds in attempting to complete the mission in the face of a determined enemy.

The Aero Experience highly recommends Fear No Evil for anyone interested in the real story of the B-17 bomber crews in World War II as told by those who experienced it first-hand.  It can be ordered through or Barnes and Noble.  Autographed copies can be obtained from Charles Hamlin

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