The Lost Airman: A True Story of Escape from Nazi Occupied France
Authored by Seth Meyerowitz, Narrated by Peter F. Stevens
Audiobook, 9 hours and 36 minutes
Published by Recorded Books
Staff Sergeant Arthur Meyerowitz was the flight engineer of B-24H 42-7754, named “Harmful Lil’ Armful”. On only his second combat mission, Harmful Lil’ Armful was hit by German flak over Cognac. The damaged Liberator was then singled out by Luftwaffe fighters and shot out of formation. The nine- man crew were ordered to bail out over France. Seven men got out successfully, five were captured, two killed.
Meyerowitz injured his back upon landing, but made his way to a French farmhouse. Fortunately, the occupants had contacts within the French resistance, who spirited him away to Toulouse. There the decision was taken to hide Meyerowitz in plain sight – he was to pose as a deaf-mute French laborer until he could be smuggled out of the country through Spain.
The story is worthy of a Hollywood thriller, full of narrow escapes and intrigue. Almost too full at times. The book was written by the grandson of Arthur Meyerowitz, who never met his grandfather. Throughout the book I was left with the nagging feeling that everything was being played up a bit, and filled with details which the author could not have known. Gestapo agents are on every corner, walking around in hobnail boots or riding around in armored halftracks, which apparently were not needed by Panzergrenadiers at the front. As Arthur escaped across the Straights of Gibraltar in a Spanish fishing boat, the author repeatedly warns of the danger from lurking German U-boats, waiting at any moment to sink a neutral vessel in hopes of maybe preventing the escape of an American airman. There are examples like this throughout the book which are a bit over the top for readers versed in military history.
The Liberator’s radio operator, Staff Sergeant Joseph Defranze, also evaded capture. I would have liked to have known more about his evasion, and the ordeals of the five crewmembers captured by the Germans. Meyerowitz also blames the Liberator’s pilot for bailing out ahead of his crew, something the author brings up repeatedly but which he admits is not mentioned in any of the crew’s debriefing records, not even his grandfather’s.
Overall, an interesting story, but it might have been told better.