Karl Thomson’s “A Russian in the American Army – WWII: The Fighting 4th Infantry.” This is the story of a young Russian boy brought to the United states in the early 1930’s. He came to love and embrace the U.S. as his home. As soon as he could, he joined the Mighty Fighting 4th U.S. infantry. In the Army he showed great promise. He landed on Utah Beach on D-day and continued fighting across France leading his men until the war’s end. Commanders put him into Army Intelligence. Sometimes bypassing the chain of command, he studied the battlefields and acted instinctively. He did not always wait for orders from above and made daring advances against German troops. He felt he understood the enemy. Throughout the war and beyond, Alex proved himself to be one of the smartest and most thorough fighters and intelligence figures among U.S. specialists.
Luckily for us, Donald was kind enough to answer a few questions as the tour was getting started so that we can give you a sneak peek into the mind of the creator of Hitler’s Last Christmas.
OP: Tell us a little bit about Hitler’s Last Christmas. What is it about?
Donald: It is a documentary based on archived records and the firsthand accounts of the airmen who participated in the largest aerial bombing mission in history, one that involved every flyable bomber and fighter in the 8th Air Force. The mission enabled ground troops to turn the tide against Hitler’s surprise last major offensive of the war, his surprise Ardennes Offensive…
OP: Why did you decide to write this story?
Donald: Actually, I was “volunteered” to write it. My late father was a member of the 487th Bomb Group and served as a Bombardier on a B-17. He, like many of the WWII veterans, didn’t talk much about the war after it was over. Eventually, he began to look for and contact some he served with. Then he discovered the 487th Bomb Group Association, a group of the vets and their families who met annually around the country to renew old friendships and share old stories. At one of these reunions, there was a discussion about a most frightening mission that many of the surviving members had participated in. A member said, “We know that the Christmas Eve Mission in 1944 was the largest mission of the war and likely the largest mission ever since. We remember it because we were there. We suffered serious losses. We lost dear friends. Many of us still have nightmares about it. But the full story has never been told. Someone needs to write it.” I was sitting next to my Dad. Within seconds he grabbed my wrist and was waving my hand in the air. “My son will do it. He’s done lots of writing. He’ll do it.” How do you say “no” at that point with a room full of octogenarians applauding? So that is how I “decided” to research and write the book. I learned that my Dad had been the Lead Bombardier on this mission after General Castle’s plane was blown out of the air. I learned for the first time that my Dad, his pilot, and navigator received the Distinguished Flying Cross for their actions that day. I am proud to document and preserve the memory of these great men.
OP: How did you get your book published?
Donald: I concluded early on that I would self-publish. My enthusiastic audience was extremely interested in seeing their story and they were quickly reaching the end of their lives. I researched a number of publishers, evaluated their services, checked their reviews, and contracted with Outskirts Press.
OP: What types of readers would be interested in this story?
Donald: This is clearly a “niche” book. It details the events of the day and is full of firsthand stories from many who were there. These are definitely of interest to World War II historians, veterans, and veterans’ family members and friends. There were more than 20,000 airmen directly involved in the subject mission and many of their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are just now learning about their progenitor’s heroic participation. It is also of interest to people with personal interest in things military, pertinent to the Air Force in general and the 8th Air Force in particular.
OP: What is special about your book?
Donald: It reveals a story that has not previously been told – an accounting of the collaboration of mammoth air power and determined ground troop advancement that brought Hitler’s ambitious dreams to a disappointing retreat, a beginning of the end of Hitler’s destructive war.
OP: What differentiates it from other books in the same category?
Donald: The underlying story of the Christmas Eve 1944 mission was obscured by the tragic loss of the mission commander, General Frederick Castle in a surprise attack over “friendly” territory. Castle was the only American General killed in enemy combat in the European Theater. He had been one of the original seven “Eaker’s Amateurs” who established the 8th Army Air Force in England in 1942. General Henry “Hap” Arnold, Commander of the Army Air Forces was his Godfather. The story of Castle’s tragic loss became the story of the day. After the war ended, the 8th Air Force mission records for the mission were misfiled in the National Archives Air Force history stacks. They remained “lost” until I began researching this book and found them in a box labelled for the previous mission. They had been in the wrong box since the early 1950s.
OP: Have you published any other books?
Donald: I am a retired manufacturing executive and writing has been a sideline hobby. I have written one previous book of an entirely different genre. Titled Neither Virgin nor Martyr, it is a history of saints who do not fit into the traditional model of the Catholic Church. My other military history writings have primarily been articles in military related publications, many for the 8th Air Force Historical Society.
OP: Do you plan to publish more?
Donald: Presently none are in the works.
OP: Thanks for your time, Donald! We look forward to learning more about you as you visit other bloggers!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Donald F. Kilburg, Jr. is a retired business executive whose interest in history has led him to research and write numerous published articles about events of World War II. He is a member of the 487th Bomb Group Association and serves on its Board. A charter member of the World War II Museum, he is also a member of the National Museum of the Mighty 8th Air Force, the Eighth Air Force Historical Society, and the National Museum of the Air Force.
Press play to watch the book video for Hitler’s Last Christmas: The Day the Entire Mighty 8th Air Force Entered the Battle of the Bulge
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Diane Dettmann’s “Courageous Footsteps: A WWII Novel.” Fifteen-year-old Yasu Sakamoto loves living in California, but Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 turns her young life into a devastating nightmare. Anti-Japanese threats appear everywhere-even in her school. Her hopes and dreams unravel quickly when President Roosevelt orders the internment of all people of Japanese descent living along the West Coast. Surrounded by barbwire fences and the constant watch of armed guards, Yasu and her older brother, Haro, struggle to accept the overcrowded living conditions and hardships of camp life. The strict regulations and humiliation force them to make courageous choices that will change their lives forever. Medalist Winner-New Apple E-Book Awards, Winner-Pacific Rim Book Festival-Young Adult Category