Return from Berlin: The Eye of a Navigator
During the summer of 1944, the now-legendary American Eighth Air Force was engaged in a ferocious air battle over Europe to bring the Allies victory over the German Third Reich. This is the story of one B-17 navigator and his crewmates, men who faced extraordinary danger with a maturity beyond their years. This vivid and detailed account of combat flying and its psychological toll also recalls the beginning of Robert Grilley’s† development as a painter of international renown, as he spends his off-duty time drawing the peaceful Northamptonshire landscape around Deenethorpe airbase.
††† Wakened with flashlights on their faces in the predawn hours, he and his crew repeatedly face the Luftwaffe in battles five miles high, flying through flak "so thick you could get out and walk on it." Stretching their stamina to the limits, they succeed time after time in their missions to bomb munitions works, railyards, the LeŁna synthetic oil plant at Merseburg in eastern Germany, the V2 rocket research center at PeenemŁnde on the distant Baltic Coast, and even to strike Hitler’s capital city, Berlin.
††††††††††† But Grilley finds interludes of unexpected grace and restoration on his days off, making serious drawings from nature at the neighboring Yokehill Farm. There he slowly cultivates a friendship with a curious eight-year-old, the lively child Elizabeth, who becomes for the combat flyer a symbol of survival.
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1 The 401st Bomb Group H in England at War
The First Mission
4 Landscapes and Elizabeth
17 Berlin II
18 Goodbye Elizabeth
20 Ludwigshafen Again
22 Forgotten Missions
8 Leipzig I
9 Munich I and II
10 Leipzig II
11 Marlene Dietrich
14 Lead Team
15 Nienburg and Kettering
25 After the Last Bomb Run
26 Back in the USA
American Strategic Bombing
Robert Grilleys Military Decorations
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Air Force altitude asked Beachy Head began Berlin bomb bay bomb run bombardier box barrage brieﬁng called chow clouds coast-out Colonel Bowman combat commander contrails copilot couldn’t course crew chief Deenethorpe didn’t drawing drop Eighth Air Force Elizabeth English eyes face feet ﬁeld ﬁfty ﬁghters ﬁgure ﬁnal ﬁnally ﬁnd ﬁne ﬁngers ﬁnished ﬁre ﬁrst ﬁve flak ﬂak suit ﬂight ﬂying formation German going gotten Groesbeek guns guys Hamburg hand hardstand head intercom interrogation Jardine John Jonckheere Kettering kids killed Landscape lead box Leipzig Lewis Lispeth Lockhart look Ludwigshafen Luftwaffe Marlene Dietrich Mercator Merseburg miles minutes mission Montbartier navigator North Sea nose bowl o’clock Okay pilot plane pretty Pyles runway Russell seemed shot of Irish smoke squadron strike photo sure target tell There’s things took turn we’d wind Yokehill Farm