Through Blue Skies to Hell; Pathfinder Pioneer

Being there . . . for two splendid April reads. TWICE !! Think I’m kidding? Thanks to beloved
Casemate Publishing, one of the world’s top five military World War II book distributors and
publishers, we have the opportunity to be there TWICE in all the detail minutia when our new
B-17s, “Flying Fortresses”, arrive in England from American bases and aircraft plants. Soon, they
will lift off separately and together with Royal Air Force advanced aircraft to hide, mesh, and
comingle in bombing storm clouds gathering over Western Europe. Exciting as heck! The past’s
repeated failures now hold the future of victory successes. Yet, British and U.S. strategic air
force planners politely, NAY, gentlemanly, differ in their debates over the best targets – – who
holds the best “truth” for bombing Hitler and his sycophants straight into Hades’ abode of
history’s pure-evil dead? In earlier minimum American participation with full British daylight
raids over France and the edges of Deutschland, the toll of downed aircraft without fighter
escorts was devastating. Night bombing hardly mattered to the Germans, even scorned by the
Fuhrer. By 7 December 1941, the British Wellingtons and mid-1930’s B-17s had to admit their
hope to blow Germany into smithereens, a nation of rubble, death, and utter destruction soon
to be forgotten, was a mess.
Here, in these two books published this past month, we are welcomed to join the “Bloody
100 th ”, 100 th Bombardment Group, the 13 th Combat Wing of the 8 th Air Force, and the brave crew
of the 482 nd , two duplicate B-17s with similar 10-man crews in ordinary, everyday flying groups.
Buff, if you’re as savvy as you think you are about piloting World War II bombers, especially the
Fortress, wait until the first sentences roll past your lips and rumble around within the walls of
your mind. You’ll soon realize that no bomber memoir beginning in 1943 is making so deep an
impression in your personal quest to be there as either or both below. No feature length film,
or read, can match, “12 O’clock High” unless it is either “Through Blue Skies” or “Pathfinder
Pioneer”, the titled discussed. If the movies are directed and acted according to what Edward
M. Sion and Colonel Raymond E. Brim wrote, the popcorn is on me. Each author, via his lucid
and impassioned chapters written a hint less than 80 years after the events, may be the most
enthralling ever put to print.
ALTHOUGH THE ALLIES WERE CONVINCED AERIAL DAY AND NIGHT BOMBING WOULD WIN
WORLD WAR II, THE GERMANS EARLY ON CRIPPLED THAT DREAM BY SCRAMBLING THEIR NEW
SINGLE-ENGINE MESSERSCHMITT Me109s AND TWIN-ENGINE Me TO ATTACK FROM SIDE
ANGLES NOT COVERED BY BRITISH BOMBER MACHINE GUNS! EVEN THEIR TOUGH, RESOLUTE
“WIMPEY” VICKERS WELLINGTONS, THE CORE OF THE RAF BOMBER COMMAND, WAS SADLY
VULNERABLE. BY JANUARY 1942, THE FINAL GERMAN VICTORIES FOR THE SKIES OVER THE U.K.
WERE NEAR. BRITAIN WOULD BE EXPOSED TO DEFEAT AND SURRENDER. THE POPULATION,
ALTHOUGH CHEERED DAILY, WAS STILL UNUSUALLY DESOLATE. BUT, IN THE COLD AND
CUTTING WINDS SWEEPING OVER THE UNITED KINGDOM, HELP WAS ON THE WAY – – FLEETS
OF HEAVILY ARMED BOEING B- 17 “FLYING FORTRESSES” GATHERED INTO 18 AIRCRAFT
FORMATIONS WERE ALREADY NEARING ENGLAND . . . UNFORTUNATELY, THE FORTRESS HAD
ITS FAULTS, TOO – – BOMB LOADS HALF OF THOSE OF THE BRITISH, AND LITTLE OR NO DEFENSE
AGAINST HEAD-ON MESSERSCHMITT 109s . . . .
Reviewed and highly, highly recommended by Don DeNevi

“THROUGH BLUE SKIES TO HELL – – America’s ‘Bloody 100 th ’ in the Air War over Germany”, by
Edward M. Sion. CASEMATE PUBLISHERS, Havertown, PA 19083: 2024, 256 pages, 16 pages
b/w photos, paperback, 6” x 9”, $24.95. Visit, www.casematepublishers.com.
“PATHFINDER PIONEER – – The Memoir of a Lead Bomber Pilot in World War II”, Colonel
Raymond E. Brim, USAF (ret.). CASEMATE PUBLISHERS, Havertown, PA 19083: 2016, reprinted
as a paperback in 2024, 312 pages, 16 pages b/w photos, paperback, 6”x 9”, $24.95. Visit,
www.casematepublishers.com.
“Through Blue Skies to Hell”, by Edward Sion, a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at
Villanova University, has gifted us aviation buffs and enthusiasts with a most remarkable
account of the air war over Europe during the 1944-1945 year. His centerpiece is a mission-by-
mission diary of Ist Lieutenant Richard R. Ayesh, a bombardier on a B-17 Fortress, who flew
with the 100 Bombardment Group, the legendary “Bloody Group”. Author Sion follows the 1 st
Lieutenant progress from his youth during the Depression in Wichita to a bomber crew assigned
to bomb the Hitler’s Third Reich. During that journey readers are privy to meeting aircraft crews
flying in their milieus. Even the most trusted sophisticated of WWII officers and other Brass
were allowed to enter there, let alone guests like you and me, to hear the principles of
American daylight bombing strategies; air to ground and ground to air situations just after D-
Day; photoreconnaissance know-how; munitions and bomb types; aircraft characteristics;
fighter and bomber tactics; bomber formations; strategic target selections; radars secrets;
countermeasures and counter measures. The tragedies and heroisms, with explanations and
commentaries, and successful victory events and their responses and actions, are always
endearing, unescapable daily deaths heart wrenching and unforgettable. The result is one of
the most vivid memoirs ever written.
Simply put, “Pathfinder Pioneer”, by Colonel Raymond Brim, is an equal to, the brother of,
“Through Blue Skies to Hell”. There is not a single varnishing word in either. Brim’s years are
almost a ditto of Ayesh’s. It’s recommended that the reader read one after the other, “Through
Blue”, first. For one thing, Brim was the first Pathfinder pilot to fly both day and night missions,
often leading bomb groups of 600 + bombers to their targets. At the on-set of his missions in
the spring of 1943, B-17 crews were given a 50-50 chance of returning. Every one of his raids
was a nerve-wracking foray into the unknown, often with struggles to survive the damage to his
planes due to flak and German fighter attacks. Miraculously, he always managed to bring his
10-man crew home, usually with wounded but still alive. Colonel Ray Brim died in 2019 at the
age of 96 in the company of family and friends.

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