Another remarkable book in the same class as First Light by Geoff Wellum.
What is striking about this work is the authors honesty. The book is constructed in a diary style and covers in the latter part the advance into Germany when the the retreating army left a lot of things behind – but hung on to their AAA. That made attacking airfield incredibly dangerous and provides us with a gripping account of one such attack. Pierre is tasked with a strike against an airfield well known to him and his squadron. It has fearsome defenses and he makes it clear to the taskers that they must expect heavy losses from the strike. ‘Hit it’ they say, so they do. Read the book to find out what happens but within the narrative is a gripping rendering of what it must have been like to go against a bitter and focused opponent knowing that the odds of your pulling off the target and making it home are miserable.
Whilst I will not engage in the flowery language of the reviewers below, I can own up to this being one of the books that has perched on my library shelf for a the last twenty odd years.
The greatest aviation book ever written.
I have read a number of fighter pilot biographies and countless outer aviation related literature and this one is still my favorite. Maybe because it was one of the first I read but probably more because it is such a great book, very few others really are as personal and brutally honest as this one. If one is only going to read one WW2 biography it should be this one. An extra bonus is of course that Clostermann flies both the Spitfire and the brutal Hawker Tempest, it can not get any better than that, can it?
My return to childhood
If there was only one WW2 book you should read, here it goes.
This book is the first from many WW2 memoirs I’ve read and it’s undoubtedly the best one. When reading this, YOU ARE THERE, smelling the gunpowder, hearing bullets and explosions and wishing only to pass through the hell alive. You will read this book during one long evening and then you’ll return to it, once and again. I remember that I cried when reading the last pages, I cried of relief and sadness, I cried along with the young man, who had come through the most painful chapter of his life. Per Ardua Ad Astra – Through Struggle To The Stars, they say. And you’ll find that definitely true.
Like the other critics I love this book.
But how many aircraft did he shoot down and how many was he officially credited with? In one of the originals 23 and now 33.
Shores has Closterman with c 19.
This latest version is the best. A larger picture of Closterman is created, more irreverant to authority, the issue of losing track of Mouchotte and the criticsm that ensued creates an inpiring picture of a very brave, idiosyncratic fighter pilot. A great book