Silver Wings, Iron Cross
May 26th, 2020
With Silver Wings, Iron Cross, Tom Young has transitioned from writing military books about the War on Terror to writing about World War II. Through his descriptions the plot becomes very believable. An American pilot and a German submariner, in November 1944, become allies as they battle to survive the elements, the German civilians, and the Gestapo.
Young explained, “I always had a fascination with WWII history considering my grandfather was a WWII veteran. He served in the 8th Air Force. I wanted to write a story intertwining the 8th Air Force, WWII, and German U-boats. The U-boats in the story came about with my interest in them from the days I was on the scuba team in college where I actually dived on one. Many do not know that the naval combat came very close to American shores, in my case the North Carolina outer banks. It became a hunting ground of German U-boats.”
The plot has World War II Lieutenant Karl Hagan parachuting deep into German territory after his plane was shot down. Being of German heritage, growing up in a German culture in Pennsylvania, he hopes his knowledge of the German language will help him avoid capture. Meanwhile, Oberleutnant Wilhelm Albrecht who wore his Iron Cross with pride abandons the U-boat he commanded after a devastating air-raid. Both men happen to stumble upon each other and decide to form an unlikely alliance with a goal to reach the allied forces.
“I wanted to contrast the American and the German. Karl came from a German-American family living in Pennsylvania. His loyalties were not divided. He feels a cultural identity with his family in Germany but is very much loyal to the mission. I think he was an optimist, which is why I had the German U-boat executive officer say to him that Americans are always optimists finding solutions to every problem. But he also was filled with grief for his crew members that were always in the back of his mind. Wilhelm in a lot of ways he was a stereotypical German officer. He is wrapped too tight and believes in rules and procedures. He is not a committed Nazi, and is disillusioned. He has loyalty to country, but not to his government. He is intense, calm, confident, and cool in a crisis.”
Besides an action-filled story, Young also shows how each man is conflicted. Hagan must bomb a U-boat base in Bremen Germany, where his aunt and uncle live. He hopes the bombs will be on target without leaving any civilian casualties. Albrecht receives a suicide order for the U-351 and his men while the boat’s in dry dock in Bremen. He decides to desert during Hagan’s B-17 raid on the city, having become completely disillusioned with the government.
Part of Wilhelm’s disillusionment, according to Young, is “For Wilhelm, there is conflict between patriotism and duty. At the end of the war there are always bitter people who will not accept the reality they see coming. There is an uptick in atrocities. I put in how a deserter was hung, farmers were loyal to the troops and helped feed them, mobs stormed downed American parachuters, and many gave information to the Gestapo. Many leading citizens in Germany at the time were ceremonial members of the SS. A large segment of the population could not have pleaded ignorance to what was happening.”
The plot is thrilling and tense. The setting and detail are very authentic. The characters come alive and readers take a journey with them hoping beyond hope that they will be rescued. One of the most interesting parts of the story is seeing how their relationship evolved from enemies to friends. Anyone enjoying a military thriller will enjoy this story.