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 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
"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 the
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.