Sunday, July 1, 2007

Book Review: Rhapsody in Junk

I just finished this book last night. It's a great read and highly recommended. Marilyn Walton has produced an important addition to the Air Corps history that deserves to be read by anyone interested in this period. What follows is my book review of Marilyn Walton's Rhapsody in Junk: A Daughter's Return to Germany to Finish Her Father's Story.

"This book is both great history and a wonderful personal narrative.

Thomas Jeffers is an aging bombardier suffering the debilitating effects of a series of strokes. His daughter, Marilyn Walton, becomes determined to find out all she can about her father's World War II experiences as a B-24 Liberator bombardier and prisoner of war. Her quest, through the miracle of the internet, phone calls, and snail mail, takes her to his long-lost crewmen, to an understanding of his wartime experiences, even to the spot where her father's plane crashed in a German wood sixty years ago. During her journey, she learns much about her father, the nature of courage and suffering, an incredible array of Air Corps history, and about herself.

Jeffers and his crew mates on the B-24 Rhapsody in Junk were shot down over Germany and forced to parachute at low altitude. Their plane crashed into a wood near a small German village. Jeffers endured interrogation and imprisonment in one of the German Luftwaffe's Stalag Lufts, the same camp where the Great Escape took place. Near the war's end, as the Russian Army threatened to recapture the camp, the men of Stalag Luft I were force-marched great distances in one of the coldest winters of the twentieth century.

Like most of the men of the Greatest Generation, Jeffers returned from the war and put it behind him, raising a family and living an exemplary life. As strokes began to rob him of his memories, Walton became determined to re-discover them before it was too late. She educated herself in the maze of official paperwork recounting her dad's training, missions, and the demise of Rhapsody in Junk. She studied the MACR for clues about where the plane came down, and where the men were captured and moved. She tracked down surviving members of her father's crew. And with the help of a young German high school student, she made two trips to the German village where the plane crashed, even finding pieces of the plane that had been salvaged by villagers and turned into everyday objects. Her journey also brought home the point that the war had brought great suffering to civilians on both sides, and she shares stories of the German people she met and befriended on her visits.

In the end, Walton successfully pieces together, from beginning to end, the story of her father's war experiences, using primary documents, interviews, and good old-fashioned heavy reading. It is a book which will appeal to anyone who has had a father in the Air Corps in World War Two, especially one who was a Prisoner of War. What makes the book truly special is that Walton is a born storyteller, and she mixes personal observations about her relationship with her father both in the past and in his final days with her war story. It thus becomes a book not only about one man, one air crew, and the war they fought, but an intensly personal book about a daughter's love for her father and her need to preserve his story for future generations.

1 comment:

Les said...

I'll definitely be reading this one, Rob. If you like it it's GOT to be good.

The author sounds like a wonderful person.