The Bridgebusters

The Bridgebusters

The True Story of the Catch-22 Bomb Wing

by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Will resonate with readers of the The Forgotten 500 and Code Talker. The exploits, trials, disappointments, and victories of members of the American 57th Bomb Wing in WW II, including one young bombardier who would go on to write legendary WW II novel, Catch-22.

"He had decided to live forever, or die in the attempt." — Catch-22

Joseph Heller’s classic novel turns on the "Catch-22" that trapped the World War II aviators flying bombing missions over Europe: Anyone would be crazy to keep defying enemy guns and deadly flak day after day. But if you asked to be grounded you were obviously sane, and so you had to keep flying. Thus Joseph Heller and his fellow aviators were forced to pile suicide mission on suicide mission—as the number of total required flights was continually upped, and the promised release back home receded perpetually into the future.

Veteran aviation historian Thomas McKelvey Cleaver exposes the true story behind the iconic novel, digging into hitherto-unseen primary sources from the unit Joseph Heller flew with. In his fresh research, Cleaver uncovered the gripping stories of young men who daily challenged death in their fragile flying machines—and the missing explanation of how Heller escaped from the nightmare his fellow airmen remained mired in:

• How an entire crew that had racked up 70 missions and been awarded the promised orders to return home was forced to fly one last time—to their deaths

• The many ways to die in the air: flak hits, fuel fires, faulty parachutes, mangled landing gear

• How shot-down aviators managed to survive

• Why Joseph Heller was sent home with a total of only 60 missions under his belt, when the required number was 70

Cleaver’s electrifying account of the daring exploits of American aircrews—and the moral dilemmas they faced—is not to be missed.

ISBN-13: 9781684513635

Published: November, 2022

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