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Tom Cleaver
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Arriving May 7...

March 17, 2016 · in Aviation · · 9 · 1.3K

Just went to the printer today. Coming on May 7.

Cleaver’s superb Bridgebusters is the book that finally credits the uniquely brave men of the 57th Bomb Wing with the recognition they so richly deserve. A rigorously-researched work, Bridgebusters is nevertheless fast-paced and personal. Cleaver’s extraordinary characterization of the men and their actions during one of history’s bloodiest air campaigns reads true and compelling, and is enhanced by judicious use of the men’s own words, thoughtfully gleaned from contemporaneous letters and diaries. Highly recommended.
—Jay A. Stout, Author of Hell’s Angels: The True Story of the 303rd Bomb Group in World War II

One of Tom Cleaver’s trademarks is that he somehow manages to weave mechanical facts into the fabric of a thoroughly human tale in such a way that you come away feeling as if you’ve just watched a wildly detailed movie. In Bridgebusters, you can almost smell the engine exhaust and hear the empty .50 caliber casings clatter to the fuselage floor under the gunners’ feet. He makes the truth read like well done fiction.
---Budd Davisson, Editor, Flight Journal Magazine

In Bridgebusters, Thomas Cleaver highlights one the ironies of World War II: seventy years later the public is mostly unaware of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations other than in a a fanciful 1961 novel and the 1970 movie. But in addressing author Joseph Heller's wartime service as a B-25 bombardier, Cleaver places much more in context. The little-known 12th Air Force fought a long, sanguinary campaign from North Africa to Italy, highlighted by the months-long "bridge busting" effort in the Alps' Brenner Pass. Flying against lethally proficient antiaircraft crews, the 57th Bomb Wing paid a steep price for its success. Yet far more is revealed than the "glamorous" fliers sweating out open-ended combat tours. Cleaver introduces us to long-suffering ground crews who "kept 'em flying;" careerist officers mostly interested in their next promotion; Italian civilians who suffered in the crossfire; and even Wehrmacht leaders and flak gunners. This is rare history--told almost at the last moment as more of those veterans depart the pattern every day.
--- Barrett Tillman, Author of Forgotten Fifteenth

Want to know the true-life story behind the 57th Bomb Wing where Joseph Heller ("Catch 22") spent the war? Read this thrill-ride in the cockpit of a B-25 as they bombed bridges and destroyed Nazi supply routes to win the war in Italy in World War II.
--- Lucian K. Truscott IV, author of Dress Grey and Full Dress Grey

Reader reactions:

9 responses

  1. O.K. Tom, where can we get a copy? Coincidentally I have only recently started reading Catch 22 -so would appreciate some of the history behind it!

  2. Looks very interesting Tom, I think the Med theatre is a bit forgotten. My one aunt's husbands brother, Don Tilley, flew Beaufighters in the SAAF carrying out strikes along the Adriatic coast off the then Yugoslavia. He was 24 at the time, the 19 Sqn CO at one stage with a DSO and DFC, some amazing stories, but he would never talk about it! So many veterans are passing on, it is great you have done this. I have read and enjoyed two fantastically researched books by Martin Middlebrook, the Schweinfurt raid, detailing the 8th Air Force daylight attack and the Bomber Command Nuremburg raid. I can highly recommend those books to anyone who may find a copy.

    • I can highly recommend Middlebrook's books, which are equallly excellent. Fortunately he wrote them 50 years ago, when he could have his pick of first person witnesses.

      Too bad your relative wouldn't talk, but it's unsurprising. When I finished "Bridgebusters," I ended up putting the third verse of "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (Cannon to the left of them, cannon to the right of them, cannon ahead of them...") because it was as good a description of one of their missions in to the Brenner Pass as you could get. I ended up writing this book because Susan Frymeier wrote an article in the Huffington Post on Veteran's Day 2011 about how her father had never talked and she found a document with his unit in it and looked it up on the net and found they were having a reunion and talked him into going "and now he can't stop talking." I figured it was a good Flight Journal article and was able to contact her and get in touch with him. When I started researching the whole thing, I knew I had to write the book. They literally won the war in Italy with what they did in the Battle of the Brenner Pass in the winter of 1944-45. it took being able to hook the story to "Catch-22" to get a publisher to go with it (and then in my research, I cam up with why Heller wrote the novel).

  3. For those who would like to get the book, you can pre-order it now on Amazon (US$29.95 MSRP). For those in the continental US who would like to buy a signed copy ($37 including shipping) from me directly, PM me here. I would make that offer to everyone, but if you're outside the US our postal rates would be about double the price of the book for the shipping (I've had a couple people crazy enough to do that with Fabled Fifteen, so if you want to do it I won't say no.)

    • I checked with the PO. Priority Mail (3-5 days internationally) is $23 to Canada and $27 to the rest of the world if anyone is interested. Can also do "media rate" which would take a few weeks, but is about 1/3 that.

  4. Looks like a good read - I'll keep an eye out for it! Love this kind of story.

  5. Another addition to my library for sure. Mandatory company in those quiet weekend mornings with a cup of coffee.

  6. Great news! Will it be available as ebook? The Cacth 22 is one of my favourite book so I feel that the real history behind it is a must for me!

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