Hell Above Earth
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 21 Jul 2012
Full Title: Hell Above Earth: The Incredible True Story of an American WWII Bomber Commander and the Copilot Ordered to Kill Him
In the 1930s, Karl Frederich Goering of Salt Lake City, Utah, United States proudly told all his friends and neighbors about his younger brother, Hermann Göring, who contributed greatly in rebuilding his war-torn homeland into a world power once again. When Karl Goering's son Werner wanted to enter the air service just like his German uncle, it seemed only natural that Werner Goering would follow his famous uncle's footsteps. What seemed like a proud family tradition turned into Werner Goering's personal quest to redeem the honor of his family name, however, as Hermann Göring was quickly revealed to be among the leaders of an aggressive nation and of the largest genocide the world had ever seen. Meanwhile, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation also caught on to his family connections, and secretly mated him with a copilot, Jack Rencher, who had a license to kill Werner Goering should his loyalty ever come into doubt.
If that sounded to you like the premise of a Hollywood drama, I heartily agree, for Stephen Frater had written a riveting book loosely centered around this story. Told in a manner akin to that of a storyteller, Hell Above Earth regularly strayed to side stories about the war, whether it was about the horror of being peppered by flak above Germany or the amazement of hearing a fellow pilot accidentally urinating on a superior officer, Frater told the stories in a manner that was engaging. While the story of Goering and Rencher was central, the author liberally expanded the scope of his theme to include everything from the B-17 design's early woes to thrill-seeking pilots flying under bridges, and from Hermann Göring's upbringing to Reinhard Gehlen's post-war intelligence apparatus. Perhaps aimed at the casual history readers, the author did a great job at entertaining me. There were some inaccuracies here and there, plus a few awkwardly-worded paragraphs where the author seemed to be repeating himself, but none of these issue were too bothersome for me. Serious history buffs might complain that the book leaned a bit light on actual history, however, as this book was closer to being a collective memoir.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format and found the reader Pete Larkin to have done a nice job.
Hell Above Earth was an entertaining title that was fun to read through, but with its ample share of gruesome descriptions of the terror rained from above, it by no means glorified the war. Perhaps timely for the current season, I would say that this book could make a good book to bring along on your next trip to the beach.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945