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In Hostile Skies

An American B-24 Pilot in World War II

James M. Davis, and edited by David L. Snead

Publication Year: 2006

James “Jim” Davis lived what he considered “an impossible dream” as he piloted a B-24, as part of the 8th Air Force, on nearly thirty missions in the European Theatre during World War II. In this memoir, Davis offers heart-wrenching detail concerning the difficulties of qualifying for the U.S. Army Air Forces pilot program, the strenuous nature of the pilot training program, the anxiety caused by a wartime marriage, and the dangers of flying combat missions over Nazi Germany. Few, if any, other memoirs provide the genuineness and honesty of his story. From his struggles to become a pilot, to seeing death up close on his first mission, to his expected deployment to the Pacific Theatre in the fall of 1945, Davis takes the reader through a fast-paced and exciting narrative adventure. Davis and his crew flew support missions for Operations Cobra and Market Garden and numerous bombing missions over occupied Europe in the summer and fall of 1944. He piloted his B-24 on missions over twenty German cities, including Cologne, Hamburg, Metz, and Munich, and attacked enemy airfields, airplane factories, railroad marshalling yards, ship yards, oil refineries, and chemical plants. While he and his crew survived without serious injuries, they witnessed the destruction of many of their friends’ planes and experienced serious damage to their own plane on several occasions. Readers of his memoir will come away with a much greater appreciation for the difficulties and dangers of the air war in World War II. David Snead happened upon the memoir and its author during his time at Texas Tech University. He was immediately hooked and began the process of preparing it for publication. Snead met with Davis on several occasions, examined his military records, researched in detail at the National Archives, and investigated numerous published sources in order to corroborate the account and add explanatory notes for context.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

In the spring of 2002 I was an assistant professor of history at Texas Tech University, where I taught a variety of courses in modern U.S. military and diplomatic history. One day a visitor, Jay Wischkaemper, stopped by my door and asked if he could talk to me. It seemed a little strange since Jay had never been in any of my classes and was older than most of my students. It turns out ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-

This memoir could not have been written without the assistance of many people at various stages in the project. Jim’s crew offered him unfailing commitment, and without question, helped him survive the war. Jay Wischkaemper started editing the memoir before passing it on to David. Dr. Gretchen Adams and Dr. Jorge ...

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Introduction

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pp. xv-xx

The two years and eight months I was on active duty serving in the Army Air Forces during World War II were the most exciting times in my life. I also see it as a miracle that I survived the roughly thirty combat missions I flew over occupied Europe and Germany in 1944. Many other men just like me flew missions during that period ...

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Chapter 1 – The Dream

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pp. 1-19

IT WAS FOUR O’CLOCK in the morning on December 7, 1941, when the alarm sounded. Dr. C.L. Prichard, a close personal friend and our family doctor, and I had driven from Abilene to Harper, Texas, to spend the weekend with my sister Frances and hunt deer and turkey on a ranch north of town. We decided we would get up early on ...

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Chapter 2 – Training

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pp. 20-46

WHEN WE ARRIVED AT the Fort Worth train station, several army trucks were there to take us to Hicks Field. While waiting to leave the train, word spread that our upperclassmen at Hicks Field consisted entirely of West Point graduates. Remembering our preflight experience and knowing the discipline required of West Point cadets, we were all a little nervous. The ride to the base took about ...

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Chapter 3 – Flying the Beast

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pp. 47-67

THE NEXT MORNING WE reported to Tarrant Field to be processed. I filled out all the forms that were required and took several physical exams. After I had gone through all the examinations, a sergeant told me that the flight surgeon wanted to see me in his office. I knew that was not routine, and it had never happened to me before. After I ...

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Chapter 4 – Topeka to Belfast

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pp. 68-83

AFTER JEAN LEFT, I slept very little because of the thought of what tomorrow would bring. We got up about 1:00 a.m. and put our bags in front of the barracks so the truck would carry them to the flight line. As I walked out the front door I could see a continuous line of lightning from the southwest to the northeast. It was distant and did ...

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Chapter 5 – The First Mission

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pp. 84-106

WE BOARDED THE PLANE with three other replacement crews for combat duty with the 489th Bomb Group. We were all strangers and anxious to see what it would be like at our new base. I had never met the other three crews previously. When we arrived at Halesworth, we were assigned to separate squadrons, and other than the ...

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Chapter 6 – Our Early Missions

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pp. 107-133

IT WAS ABOUT 4:45 P.M. when Frank and Mackey returned to the hut and told me that we were on the alert list for tomorrow’s mission. I thought they were joking, but they were not. I put on my clothes and went over to the bulletin board to see for myself, and sure enough my name was there. I continued to have the feeling ...

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Chapter 7 – Close Calls [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 134-166

LITTLE DID I KNOW that the next two weeks would be among the most difficult of my time in Europe. From August 4 through August 16, 1944, we flew seven combat and three long training missions. All of the combat missions were more than six hours long and were flown against heavily defended targets. The training missions were ...

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Chapter 8 – Finishing Our Tour

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pp. 169-188

WHEN WE RETURNED TO the base on September 29 we learned that our group had lost two planes a few days earlier when they had collided while returning from a mission. Lt. Frank Fulks was the pilot of one of the planes and a good friend of mine. We also learned that the 445th Bomb Group had suffered a disaster on the same ...

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Chapter 9 – Homecoming

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pp. 189-206

THAT EVENING, JEAN’S MOTHER cooked fried chicken and made hot biscuits and gravy. She was a great cook, and because it had been a year since I had had a good home cooked meal, that made it that much better. We spent a few days in Tyler and then drove to Abilene to visit my family. It was a great homecoming. I was disappointed to learn that G. H. Blackburn, my closest friend growing ...

Epilogue

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pp. 207-209

Appendix

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pp. 210-211

Glossary

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pp. 212-217

Bibliography

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pp. 218-222

Index

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pp. 223-226


E-ISBN-13: 9781574413960
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412093

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 22 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: Military Biography and Memoir Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • B-24 bomber.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Aerial operations, American.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • United States. Army Air Forces -- Biography.
  • Davis, James M., 1921-.
  • Bomber pilots -- United States -- Biography.
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