Recollections of a WWII Bombardier
Jack Myers Book Now in Second Printing
Sit back and take a load off because Jack Myers would like to tell you a story, a few of them actually. But these aren’t your typical stories. Myers, a B-17 bombardier in World War II, has recently published his memoirs. Full of tales of courage and terror, the narrative goes far beyond the traditional accounts of the time, something the author says needed to be done.
“It’s a little different than most of the stories about World War II,” Myers said. “Most of (other people’s) stories are told by Eagle Scouts and wavin’ flags a lot and Mom’s apple pie, and all of that baloney. That wasn’t the way it was. We were a bunch of young kids. When we weren’t getting shot at, we were in Fóggia chasing those Italian gals. That’s the way the story should be told.”
And that’s exactly the way Myers told it. Published last year by the University of Oklahoma Press, the book has generated praise for its authenticity and has far surpassed original sales expectations. Now on its second printing, “Shot at and Missed: Recollections of a World War II Bombardier” traces Myers’ experiences as a second lieutenant in the Fifteenth Air Force in Italy, as racy and colorful as they actually were.
Flying missions over Europe during the peak of the war, the Fifteenth was smaller only than the celebrated Eighth Air Force. Surviving 35 missions, Myers was instrumental in a number of pivotal raids, including one that took out an oil storage facility crucial to the German efforts in the Battle of the Bulge. It was his first mission as a lead bombardier, and Myers recalls being told to bomb with radar if necessary because of the extremely bad weather. It was a nearly impossible task.
“Back in those days, to bomb with radar, you’d be lucky to come within a couple miles of the target,” he said “But by luck, the clouds just opened. And there the target was. I saw it, and I made a run on it. And I knocked it out. They gave me the Distinguished Flying Cross for it. That was my 15 minutes of fame.”
Myers seems to have nabbed another 15 minutes, however. After his children persuaded him to write his memoirs, he toiled on the project for five years, his first-ever attempt at writing. When the University of Oklahoma Press published it, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
The Associated Press wrote a review that appeared in several hundred newspapers, calling the work “…a book that should not be missed.” Before long, he was appearing in television interviews and giving book signings across the state.
“It really changed my life. And quite frankly, I’m enjoying every minute of it. It gives me something to do, and I enjoy it,” said Myers, now 82 and retired.
Myers started Standard Builders Supply in Oklahoma City in the late 1950s and lives on 160 acres north of Arcadia. His two daughters also built homes there, and he now spends his time writing.
Currently working on finding a publisher for two other books he has written, one a fiction story about a co-pilot and the other a series of short stories, Myers is grateful for the opportunity to have published his experiences in World War II. It was something he felt needed to be done, something of great importance because of the nature of his generation.
“People will call me from all over the country,” Myers said. “They all say the same thing, over and over and over again: ‘My dad would never talk about it.’ ‘My grandfather would never talk about.’ My generation was cursed with the inability, quite frankly, to express their feelings. I’m glad that I wrote my story.”
Myers’ story is a complete and detailed one, so much so that he referred to history books to augment his memories with names and dates that may have slipped his mind over the last 60 years. Combined with a diary he kept and the twice-a-week letters he wrote to his brother during his tour, Myers was able to meticulously recount the dramatic circumstances of his service.
In one event described in the book, Myers recalls flying to Hungary for a strike on a fortified railroad yard in Debrecen. However, the mission was called off while the squadrons were in the air. Myers’ 2nd Bomb Group never got that message, and 28 B-17s flew into enemy air space all by their lonesome, a precarious situation.
“You’re in serious trouble,” Myers said. “Those German fighters… That’s the ones they jump, the stragglers. But we just didn’t get caught.”
A number of men weren’t so lucky, though, and Myers’ book tells also of the pilots who did not survive. At just 20 years of age, it was an exhilarating yet terrifying set of experiences. And although it wasn’t always easy to put those thoughts down on paper, he believes it was all worth it.
“I speak in front of veteran groups all the time,” he said. “And I tell the guys, ‘You need to write these stories, even if you just did it for your own kids, your own grandchildren.’ And most of them say, ‘Hey, I can’t do it. I don’t have that ability.’”
“I didn’t think I did either,” Myers said. “But I did.”
Many people are glad he did. The positive reviews continue to roll in, and the sales are increasing. Some write-ups are calling it one of the best books about World War II, packed with “stranger than fiction” tales of courage and drama.
And if you pull up a chair, Myers will tell them to you.