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Fickle Finger of Fate

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Fickle Finger of Fate

The Memoir of a Bombardier with the 96th Bomb Group
  • by Raymond Ives
    • Merriam Press World War 2 Biography Series
    • First Edition 2008
      • 116 6×9-inch pages
      • 10 photos
      • 7 illustrations
      • 1 map
      • 3 documents
  • Paperback
    • $15.95
      • Purchase paperback here
Like the participants in all great battles of the past, the men of the Eighth Air Force fighting out of England gradually slip into history, the sound of their living voices, like the tumult of their deadly missions, becoming only echoes in the minds of those surviving them. A treasure of individual stories will die with most of them. Many want or wanted to quietly forget or withhold the details of those times. Some few leave us with more specific remembrances in poignant oral histories or the written word. The following account is one of those precious records.
 
As a farm boy in central Pennsylvania, Ray Ives never imagined the course the world or his life would take as Europe fermented and eventually exploded into World War II. In this fairly brief and crisp telling of how he came to his fate in a German prisoner of war camp next to the North Sea, Mr. Ives, a commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, relives “Black Thursday”, the 14 October 1943 mission over Schweinfurt, Germany, through the eyes of a bombardier in the Plexiglas nosecone of a B-17 Flying Fortress.
 
From wake up call to the order to bail out of his flak- and bullet-shattered plane at 25,000 feet above the French countryside, to his subsequent evasion, eventual capture and experiences in Stalag Luft I, Ray revisits the emotions and strange coincidences of the time. In doing so, he causes us to think of what must have been the thousands of other unique and fascinating stories of brave airmen shot from the skies and forced to wait out the war at the mercy of the Nazis.
 
Devoid of soppy, fabricated emotions to develop interest, the ‘real’ story is worthy in itself of substantial publication as part of the archives of World War II history. Underlying it’s telling is a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that Ray has maintained to this day and which invigorates the text.
 
Contents
  • Dedication
  • The Bombardier
  • Acknowledgments
  • Prologue
  • Pennsylvania Country Boy
  • Off To War
  • Target: Schweinfurt
  • Bail Out And Capture
  • Stalag Luft I
  • An Interesting Mix
  • Of Gutheads and Tunnels
  • An Incident Between Cousins
  • More On The Red Cross And Food
  • The Outside World
  • Sinister Buildings And Surprise Visits
  • The Russians Are Coming
  • After The War
  • Epilogue
  • Photographs And Documents
Prisoner of War Shares Survival Story

By Leah Weinstein
 
(From The Long-Islander, 9 August 2007)
 
"Word of outside events trickled into our parallel world through the small radio that we had constructed and secretly maintained," writes Second Lt. Raymond Ives, a long-time Huntington resident.
 
For 19 months and two days, Ives was a prisoner. Landing in enemy territory after jumping out of his burning plane on October 14, 1943 was his crime. Now the former bombardier pilot, POW and proud veteran will share his story with the public in the form of a book, The Fickle Finger of Fate.
 
Ives recounts his childhood fascination with airplanes, his training as a bombardier pilot and the experience of being a prisoner of war in the barracks of Stalag Luft 1.
 
In a memoir focusing on his time as a prisoner of war, Ives recalls the ups and downs from the perspective of a man who feels blessed to have lived to tell the tale.
Living in conditions where maggots were considered valuable nutrients, where a feeling of hopelessness often overtook the sanity of prisoners, Ives never gave up hope.
 
From the radio, the prisoners heard word of the death camps the Nazis were building at the time. In the distance, through the barbed wire, they could see the brick buildings and chimneys being built.
 
Although imprisoned, they held on to their power as best they could by combining the strength they had left.
 
"What we could do was help protect the Jewish prisoners amongst our own population. On the day the Germans demanded that all Jewish POWs come forward during roll call, we acted proudly and together, 2,000 American soldiers stepping forward in unison," Ives recalled. "We stood this way for an hour, a show of solidarity that stupefied the Germans. The situation dissipated and did not reoccur."
 
Ives writes about the attempts to "mimic the normality of outside life," showing the perseverance of the human instinct to survive and transform even the most harrowing situations into positive memories. Ives learned how to adjust to life as a POW.
 
"Although visions of escape and freedom continued to dominate our thoughts, life still had to be lived in its diminished state. Groups were formed that played sports, chess, cards, to study language, etc. Lifelong friendships were created and truths were learned about each other and ourselves," he writes.
 
Right now Ives is sharing his story with other prisoners of war and the hundreds of veterans that use the services at the Northport VA. He thanks the Northport VA.

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