“Barreling in, I concentrated on one long and accurate squirt, and a devastating stream of 50s ripped into my target. I held down the trigger until the range was point blank and the Joker was clipping the weeds with her prop. At the last possible split second I jerked back the stick. Whereupon my luck ran out.”
That is how US Air Force fighter pilot Ted Fahrenwald describes the end of his 100th flight in his book Bailout Over Normandy: A Flyboy’s Adventures with the French Resistance and Other Escapades in Occupied France. The flight occurred on 8th June 1944, just two days after the D-Day landings in Normandy in the final year of the second world war, and Fahrenwald’s plane was damaged when the truck he was shooting exploded beneath him, giving him just enough time to bail out and start a colourful adventure of life on the run from the Germans.
Fahrenwald happened to land near a French farmer who was more sympathetic to the French Resistance than to the Germans, and as a result the author was introduced to some of the extraordinary characters in the Resistance and spent some months as their guest and as an agent, showing greatest aptitude at consuming prodigious quantities of French wine, before slipping away from the French and trying to find a path home through the German front.
It is a gripping yarn, filled with adventures and narrow escapes from the Germans, followed by capture, imprisonment, escape and eventual liberation. It seems extraordinary that such a compelling story can have remained unpublished for more than 60 years. It is without doubt one of the most entertaining biographies to be published this year.