The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II

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9780230108547: The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys: Courage, Tragedy, and Justice in World War II

Before the famed Nuremberg Tribunal, there was Rüsselsheim, a small German town, where ordinary civilians were tried in the first War Crimes Trial of World War II.

As the tide of World War II turned, a hitherto unknown incident set a precedent for how we would bring wartime crimes to justice: In August 1944, the 9- man crew of an American bomber was forced to bail out over Germany. As their captors marched them into Rüsselsheim, a small town recently bombed to smithereens by Allies, they were attacked by an angry mob of civilians -- farmers, shopkeepers, railroad workers, women, and children. With a local Nazi chief at the helm, they assaulted the young Americans with stones, bricks, and wooden clubs. They beat them viciously and left them for dead at the nearby cemetery.

It could have been another forgotten tragedy of the war. But when the lynching was briefly mentioned in a London paper a few months later, it caught the eye of two Army majors, Luke Rogers and Leon Jaworski. Their investigation uncovered the real human cost of the war: the parents and a newlywed wife who agonized over the fate of the men, and the devastating effect of modern warfare on civilian populations. Rogers and Jaworski put the city of Rüsselsheim on trial, insisting on the rule of law even amidst the horrors of war.

Drawing from trial records, government archives, interviews with family members, and personal letters, highly-acclaimed military historian Gregory A. Freeman brings to life for the first time the dramatic story. Taking the reader to the scene of the crime and into the homes of the crew, he exposes the stark realities of war to show how ordinary citizens could be drawn to commit horrific acts of wartime atrocities, and the far-reaching effects on generations.

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About the Author:

Gregory A. Freeman is an award-winning writer with more than 25 years of experience in journalism and historical nonfiction. He has won over two dozen awards for his writing, including the coveted Sigma Delta Chi Award for Excellence from the Society of Professional Journalists. His books include Troubled Water, The Forgotten 500, and the acclaimed Sailors to the End.

Review:

"A re-creation of the first war crimes trial after World War II! a history making trial, setting the tone for Nuremberg. A chilling tale .. [and] a riveting narrative." -Kirkus Reviews "Freeman has once again crafted a gripping, cinematic narrative -- one that raises important questions about justice and morality in a time of industrial annihilation of civilian populations. A timely and riveting story of heroism and horror." -Alex Kershaw, best selling author of The Longest Winter and The Bedford Boys 'With The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys, Gregory A. Freeman delivers a thorough, artful, and absolutely riveting account of a fascinating yet tragic story of war, humanity, and justice. Freeman again proves that he ranks among today's finest historical storytellers.' -Alvin Townley, author of Fly Navy and Legacy of Honor 'The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys is the gripping and insightful story of the Wham Bam crews first and last combat mission. Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Gregory Freeman expertly weaves the history of the crew with the historic events that followed after they were shot down and captured. This is a fascinating and engrossing book that will be read for many decades.' -Brigadier General Don Harvel, Deputy Commander, Texas Air National Guard "Gregory A. Freeman's The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys is a compelling, thought-provoking, and harrowing account of how a seemingly minor, brutal incident during World War II touched, and devastated, countless lives. It's a well-written, exhaustively researched, and thoroughly human story that shows how war can bring out the worst, and the best, in combatants and noncombatants alike. Haunting." -James Carl Nelson, author of The Remains of Company D: A Story of the Great War

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