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Publisher's Summary

The very young men who flew the B24s over Germany in World War II against terrible odds were an exemplary band of brothers. In The Wild Blue, Stephen Ambrose recounts their extraordinary brand of heroism, skill, daring, and comradeship.

Ambrose describes how the Army Air Forces recruited, trained, and chose those 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 B24s - who suffered over 50 percent casualties.

Ambrose carries us along in the crowded, uncomfortable, and dangerous B24s as their crews fought to the death through thick, black, deadly flak to reach their targets and destroy the German war machine or else went down in flames. Twenty-two-year-old George McGovern, who was to become a United States senator and a presidential candidate, flew 35 combat missions (all the Army would allow) and won the Distinguished Flying Cross. We meet him and his mates, his co-pilot killed in action, and crews of other planes - many of whom did not come back.

As Band of Brothers and Citizen Soldiers portrayed the bravery and ultimate victory of the American soldier from Normandy on to Germany, The Wild Blue makes clear the contribution these young men of the Army Air Forces stationed in Italy made to the Allied victory.

©2001 Stephen E. Ambrose (P)2011 Simon & Schuster

Critic Reviews

"Brilliant.... It is a terrific story." (Larry King, USA Today)
" The Wild Blue is right on target...[the book] finally gives those men of the 15th Air Force the tribute they so richly earned." ( The Dallas Morning News)

What listeners say about The Wild Blue

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Profile Image for Sharon
  • Sharon
  • 11-02-2012

Dad was a B-24 pilot

What did you love best about The Wild Blue?

This made me appreciate what my father accomplished by becoming a pilot. He had not finished high school when he signed up. He doesn't talk about his experiences and I am hoping I will get him to tell me more about his experiences by gaining background information from this book. He was shot down on his 23rd mission and was to go home after 25. He set his bomber down in a field that turned out to be in Switzerland. His entire crew returned to the US and had reunions until a few years ago when most were too elderly to travel. Dad is 88 and still going strong.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were several moments in the book that moved me. Relating the stories of the many reasons why the men didn't get to return home. The extreme cold and discomfort the men had to live with while in the plane. The heart stopping stories of having to fly through flack. How young many of the pilots were. The empty bunks.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Veroguy
  • 21-04-2012

Toatally fascinating

One of the best books about war and air combat. Puts you right there in the pilot's seat on many bomb runs.

7 people found this helpful

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  • jud
  • 09-02-2012

Terrific book.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I am a retired Army Aviator...this book brought back many memories for me. Written with great insight. The reader is excellent

7 people found this helpful

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  • Lyle
  • 22-11-2011

Required Reading

As a political conservative I was somewhat concerned about the book's central figure, George McGovern and the direction the book might go. However, my brother-in-law was also a B24 pilot based in England during WW2 and since he, like most veterans, spoke little of their war experiences and I was curious to learn more about what they went through.
I now think this book should be required reading in all high school history. Today we have no idea of what the "Greatest Generation" went through and gave so that we can enjoy the freedoms and blessings we take for granted today.

17 people found this helpful

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  • dbd404
  • 07-12-2018

The Other Bomber of WWII

I admitted it, I’m an air plane nut (enthusiast) and a student of all things World War II. I’ve read much about the men on the ground; island hopping in a tropical hell hole and storming the beaches of Normandy. I wondered if there was a history that covered the strategic action in the air and that’s how I came across this book.
Ambrose did his usual thorough job in telling the story of the men flying missions out of Africa and Italy into the “soft underbelly of Europe”. He does with words what Ken Burns does with images; focus on individual stories of individual events in rich detail.
George McGovern, US Senator, presidential candidate and anti-war activist is followed through training to fighting. His story is surprising considering his political stands of the 1970’s. He is heroic in the most understated way. His service is deserves our profound respect and gratitude.
The B 24 comes alive as a fighting machine. It’s weight and lumbering maneuverability a constant challenge to their pilots. The Italian air bases and the communities they occupied are described very well. This gives needed comparison points to the bases of England that have been covered extensively.
Planes are lost. Young men are killed. The horrors of war are written of in unvarnished accounts. The men, the mission, the planes and destruction are carefully and completely described. In the end the story is well told and the horror of aerial strategic warfare is fully displayed.
Wars are sometimes unavoidable but they are always filled with human tragedies.

4 people found this helpful

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  • J. Allen Burrows
  • 11-04-2021

Misled

I should have spent more time reading the publisher’s summary. This turned out to be more about McGovern and his crew as individuals than a wider view. There was gratifying detail about training and a little bit about production but I was hungry for details of the development of the Liberator and the thinking that led to two heavy bombers being produced. He mentioned Liberators being used in the Pacific and I think he said they replaced the B-17s there? He never mentioned the B-29. He barely mentioned Ford’s retooling of their facilities and manufacture of our main character (the airplane). He never detailed the Liberator’s service in other theaters or other roles, like u-boat patrols. Mr. Ambrose’s arguments as an apologist for strategic bombing were compelling. His championing of McGovern as his friend was touching and affecting but not quite what I wanted to use my credit for. This is not a book about Liberator crews and the planes they flew. This is a book about George McGovern and some other stuff thrown in to upholster the narrative.

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  • WD
  • 04-09-2020

George McGovern 35 Missions, DFC

Ambrose built his history of strategic bombing around the B-24 and pilot George McGovern who would become US Senator from South Dakota and 1972 candidate for president against Richard Nixon. He ran as a liberal Democrat on an unequivocal US out of Vietnam platform. He lost in a landslide but Nixon’s paranoia had spawned the Watergate break-in and his second term soon ended in disgrace. Very little was said about McGovern’s heroic service as a bomber pilot. He was that kind of quiet, patriotic American. The book is well worth the time if only to hear the story in the last page of the book. Amazing that!

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  • Sean M. Carney
  • 06-08-2018

Yet another good read from a great author

If you ever wondered what it was to fly combat in the skies of Europe during the second world war, this is a good one. Godspeed, Mr. Ambrose; wish you were still around to write more.

3 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Ray
  • Ray
  • 07-01-2012

Good Book

I have to admit to being a little skeptical since the author claimed to be close friends with McGovern, the protagonist of the story and so there has to have been some needed objectivity lost. But the overall story isn't controversial by nature so I guess that's okay. If McGovern had made any serious blunders as a pilot or an officer, it would have surely come out before this book was ever written considering his political career.

The story developed well and I liked the background on each character and getting a look at their training, etc.

The narrator has a fine voice, and good cadence but I didn't think it really fit this book very well, but I suppose that's going to be subjective to each listener. (Just click on the audio sample to judge for yourself.)

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  • Neil
  • 15-06-2012

No Excitement Here

I have read several of Stephen Ambrose books and I would say this is the worst. There was no drama, I only listened on to hear some great tale. They flew they dropped their bombs and some returned, that sums it up. It was nice to hear about the Tuskeegee airman supplying bomber support, but all in all this was dry.

5 people found this helpful

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