Saturday, July 14, 2007

Book Review: A Younger Brother's Search for the Last Hours of His Brother's Life

Mike Darter met his brother Eugene once, when Eugene was on leave from the Army Air Corps. At the time, Mike was a baby, and he would never see his big brother again. However, Mike never forgot his big brother, and his book 'Fateful Flight of the Lonesome Polecat II' is a wonderful tribute.

If Mike ever gets tired of his current career, his book has convinced me that he could make a very good living as a private investigator. He had to do an incredible amount of old-fashioned gum-shoeing to reconstruct that last mission, including tracking down all surviving members of his brother's crew, and visiting the site where the plane went down after being hit by enemy fire.

Eugene Darter, flying on a 95th Bomb Group B-17 Flying Fortress on his first mission, went down off Texel Island. Many years later, Mike began to search for the fate of the Lonesome Polecat II and its crew. He found that some of the men had, indeed, survived, after parachuting out slightly sooner and landing on Texel Island. Eugene, badly injured, had parachuted safely, but landed in the frigid waters and was unable to get to shore. This book reads like a detective story, as Darter begins to make the connections needed to find out about his brother. He searches MACRs, interview survivors, researches the air battle after which the Polecat went down, and even travels to Texel Island to meet with the last man to see the plane and, possibly, his brother.

This is a fascinating book, full of maps and diagrams charting the data that Darter has meticulously collected. It is a fine tribute to the men of the Lonesome Polecat II.

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