Damn Lucky

One Man's Courage During the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History

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Pub Date 19 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 03 May 2022


From Kevin Maurer—the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning coauthor of No Easy Day—comes the true story of a World War II bomber pilot who survived twenty-five missions in Damn Lucky, “an epic, thrillingly written, utterly immersive account of a very lucky, incredible survivor of the war in the skies to defeat Hitler” (New York Times bestselling author Alex Kershaw).

“We were young citizen-soldiers, terribly naive and gullible about what we would be confronted with in the air war over Europe and the profound effect it would have upon every fiber of our being for the rest of our lives. We were all afraid, but it was beyond our power to quit. We volunteered for the service and, once trained and overseas, felt we had no choice but to fulfill the mission assigned. My hope is that this book honors the men with whom I served by telling the truth about what it took to climb into the cold blue and fight for our lives over and over again.”

—John “Lucky” Luckadoo, Major, USAF (Ret.) 100th Bomb Group (H)

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was a world away from John Luckadoo’s hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee. But when the Japanese attacked the American naval base on December 7, 1941, he didn’t hesitate to join the military. Trained as a pilot with the United States Air Force, Second Lieutenant Luckadoo was assigned to the 100th Bomb Group stationed in Thorpe Abbotts, England. Between June and October 1943, he flew B-17 Flying Fortresses over France and Germany on bombing runs devised to destroy the Nazi war machine.

With a shrapnel torn Bible in his flight jacket pocket and his girlfriend’s silk stocking around his neck like a scarf as talismans, Luckadoo piloted through Luftwaffe machine-gun fire and antiaircraft flak while enduring subzero temperatures to complete twenty-five missions and his combat service. The average bomber crew rarely survived after eight to twelve missions. Knowing far too many airmen who wouldn’t be returning home, Luckadoo closed off his emotions and focused on his tasks to finish his tour of duty one moment at a time, realizing his success was more about being lucky than being skilled.

Drawn from Luckadoo’s firsthand accounts, acclaimed war correspondent Kevin Maurer shares his extraordinary tale from war to peacetime, uncovering astonishing feats of bravery during the bloodiest military campaign in aviation history, and presenting an incredible portrait of a young man’s coming-of-age during the world’s most devastating war.

From Kevin Maurer—the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning coauthor of No Easy Day—comes the true story of a World War II bomber pilot who survived twenty-five missions in Damn Lucky, “an...

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Featured Reviews

Despite what they say, they are/were “The Greatest Generation”. This is the story of another one of those heroes. Thank goodness there are writers still digging out their stories so that “we may never forget” their sacrifices and heroism.
This book is DAMN LUCKY by author KEVIN MAURER. The subject of this true story is John “Lucky” Luckadoo from Chattanooga, Tennessee. An important secondary character is Leroy “Sully” Sullivan from the same town. They were best friends and grew up together. When WWII broke out, they both wanted to become fighter pilots. It was not to be.
Sully joined the Royal Canadian Air Force as a fighter pilot. Lucky entered the United States Army Air Corps as a B-17 bomber pilot. Both ended up in England not far from each other. It took a while before they realized how near they were to each other. They spent a very memorable weekend in London in 1943. Lucky met Sully’s girlfriend Lady Peggy who owned a private club in London, and polo horses.
The Eighth Air Force was the U.S. overall command unit for American air forces in Europe. Among its early leaders were Generals Curtis LeMay, Billy Mitchell and Jimmy Doolittle, icons of the world of military aviation before, during and after the war.
It was decided by the American and British commanders that American bombers would conduct high altitude, daylight, “precision” bombing. The British would do nighttime saturation bombing. U.S. bomber personnel had to fly 25 missions before they could return to the United States. Their life expectancy was about 10 raids. Losses were extremely heavy at times. Everybody wanted so-called “milk runs” over less heavily defended targets.
During the course of the story, the reader gets to feel the terror of flying over targets with German fighter planes and German antiaircraft cannon fire all around the bombers. The American bombers had an aid called the Norden Bombsight that allowed the bombardier to control the final approach to a target. Unfortunately, it was NOT as accurate as it was claimed to be. Lucky’s missions took him over submarine bases in France, V-1 rocket sites, the city of Berlin and more. The reader is right there in the planes with Lucky and his crews. The British thought they were “Overpaid, oversexed and over here!”
Not only is this a war story, it is also the story of the men who were on the frontlines and their families at home. Some of the men that flew with or commanded Lucky were great people. Others were unfit to command but that is what war does. Even after the war, Lucky had issues with the Air Force but managed to overcome them. He met his future wife in Bryan, Texas. She was the daughter of an American Ambassador. Her father never approved the marriage of his daughter to a pilot. She was destined for bigger fish.
The author was fortunate to be able to actually talk to Lucky when he was nearing 100 years old. He also used other sources, which he documents at the end of the story.
If you are a fan of biographies, war stories, history and/or human interest, then this is a book for you. If I could, I would give this book more than five stars. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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