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Reviewed by Tom Gauthier for Readers' Favorite
History is too often recorded in dates, names, and events. Even recording the earthshaking history of WWII succumbs to academic formulae. Unless and until history is given life by recording the individual stories of the men and women who lived, indeed who were the history, the critical element of feelings is not linked to the facts, and emotions are not stirred. Norman W. Holden’s telling of the life of Lieutenant James J. Goebel, Jr., USAAC, from impressionable youth to combat aviator and survivor is an outstanding example of how history needs to be told through a name, a face, emotions, and the facts.
The Lucky Seven is an authentic, skillfully woven Bayeux tapestry of the aerial war of WWII as seen through the eyes of Lieutenant Goebel, his crew, and the people who interacted with them before the mission and in the aftermath of rescue and captivity. Holden provides not only the accurate physical locations of events but also the emotions, fears, actions, and reactions of the people, bringing the stark realities of history to life for the reader. This is the truest way to honor the millions of the 'greatest generation.' Holden takes us up close and personal inside the B-24 Liberator bomber in combat. The bitter cold at altitude, the hours of droning boredom, and then the sudden flashes and deadly results of flak reaching up to pluck them from the skies over Europe are faithfully recorded. Watching an aircraft ahead of you disappear, spewing only flaming pieces where there was once an aircraft and ten men, just like you, shows what a generation of heroic young men endured and what the author has skillfully recreated in The Lucky Seven.
Norman W. Holden has provided an exceptional work in The Lucky Seven. Writing a historical account is a skill many authors never master. It requires serious research and accurate details, then bringing it all to life by creating dialog that would naturally be expected under the circumstances and filling in time gaps with action that fits the same criteria. Holden has hit the mark and the result is both educational and entertaining, authentic and true, and a reflection of the research and writing skills of this author. The narrative touches the warriors in combat and, after bailing out of their doomed aircraft, their saviors as individuals in shared circumstances. Holden writes with great care to let us see the people in the war, not just the war, in a well-visualized context of human strength and frailties. The goodness, unselfishness, and bravery in the midst of unspeakable evil. Holden’s depictions of a young lad learning to pilot an aircraft, learning to take it into combat, and experiencing the hours of boredom interrupted by moments of stark terror that every pilot will describe, if asked, are faithfully recorded in this work. All this is added to the sensitive insertion of emotions, psychological reactions, and human feelings, This book emerges as a truly worthwhile piece that the author can be justifiably proud of. Strongly recommending The Lucky Seven, I commend and praise Norman W. Holden for his high-quality work.