The Girl and the Bombardier: A True Story of Resistance and Rescue in Nazi-Occupied France (Paperback)
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A downed B-17 bombardier's unfinished World War II memoir and a box of letters from the French girl who saved him sets a veteran's daughter on a journey, sixty-five years later, to craft their intersecting stories--a true WWII tale of danger, courage, love, and escape Susan Tate Ankeny was sorting through the belongings of her late father--a World War II bombardier who had bailed from a burning B-17 over Nazi-occupied France in 1944--when she found two boxes. One contained her dad's Air Force uniform, and the other an unfinished memoir, stacks of envelopes, black-and-white photographs, mission reports, dog tags, and the fake identity cards he used in his escape. Ankeny spent more than a decade from that moment tracking down letter writers, their loved ones, and anyone who had played a role in her father's story, culminating in a trip to France where she retraced his path with the same people who had guided him more than sixty years ago. A remarkable hero emerged--Godelieve Van Laere--just a teenaged girl when she saved the fallen Lieutenant Dean Tate, risking her life and forging a friendship that would last into a new century. The result is an amazing, multifaceted World War II tale--perhaps one of the last of its kind to be enriched by an author's interviews with participants. It traces the transformation of a small-town American boy into a bombardier, the thrill and chaos of an air war, and the horror of bailing from a flaming aircraft over enemy territory. It distinguishes the actions of a little-known French resistance network for Allied airmen known as Shelburne. And it shines a light on the courage and cunning of a young woman who put her life on the line to save another's.