Monday, May 18, 2015

Classic #13

For category “Set During a War”

Enemy Coast Ahead Guy Gibson

This was first published as a Sunday Express serial in December 1944, then in hardcover in February 1946. It has seldom been out of print in the last 70 years. Written during the hostilities, the book has immediacy and that un-put-downable quality that characterizes the best war memoirs such as From El Alamein to Zem Zem (Keith Douglas) and With the Old Breed (E.B. Sledge).

Guy Gibson joined the RAF in 1936 “to learn how to fly,” and by 1942 was a Wing Commander in Bomber Command leading his squadron on raids on major German targets. He was awarded the VC for his gallantry and inspiring leadership on the Dambuster raid in May 1943. He realized he had to get a lot out of his crew, so he toned down his arrogant and bombastic qualities, according to Dambusters veteran Johnny Johnson on Youtube. His true leadership qualities came out when he got across the message to the men that they were all in it together.

Though the Dambuster  raid caused damage to the Möhne Dam, the Germans were rapidly able to return to normal production of war materials. The Dambusters Raid, however, provided a morale and propaganda boost for the Allies and Gibson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his efforts and leadership. He was dispatched on a lectures tour of America and Canada to keep him off the front; it was during this period that he wrote this memoir. Upon his return to Britain, he prevailed upon “Bomber” Harris to return him to combat operations.

On a mission in September, 1944, a faulty fuel tank selector may have lead to Gibson’s Mosquito running out of fuel. He and his navigator were buried at Steenbergen and had streets in the town named in their honor.   Fearing that the celebrity-hero’s death would have a an adverse effect on RAF and public morale, his death was not announced to the general public until January 1945.

No comments:

Post a Comment