Little, Brown and Company|May 7, 2013|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-316-22022-4
The compelling untold story of a group of stranded U.S. Army nurses and medics fighting to escape Nazi – occupied Europe.
When 26 Army nurses and medics – part of the 807th Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron – boarded a cargo plane for transport in November 1943 they never anticipated the crash landing in Nazi-occupied Albania that would lead to their months-long struggle for survival. A drama that captured the attention of the American public, the group and its flight crew dodged bullets and battled winter storms as they climbed mountains and fought to survive, aided by courageous villagers who risked death at Nazi hands to help them.
A mesmerizing tale of the courage and heroism of ordinary people, THE SECRET RESCUE tells not only a new story of struggle and endurance, but also one of the daring rescue attempts by clandestine American and British organizations amid the tumultuous landscape of the war.
Twenty-six Army Air Forces flight nurses and medics board a military transport plane in November of 1943, they never anticipate a crash landing in Nazi-occupied territory, or their ensuing months and their long fight to survive.
There were: thirteen female nurses, thirteen medics, and a four-man flight crew.
In December of 1943, Gavan “Garry” Duffy, a twenty-four-year-old special operations lieutenant working for Britain was looking through his binoculars from the cover of a hillside in Albania and watched in frustration as waves of German troops and tanks moved through the steep and winding roads of a town on the valley’s other side. American rescue planes were supposed to land that morning in a risky and dramatic mission to evacuate a group of stranded army personnel. These people had been lost for fifty-two days and were barely surviving the treacherous winter landscape while evading capture by the Germans.
Three German trucks and one armored car drove from the town and parked near the main road that ran in front of the main road making it too risky for the rescue planes.
The men and women to be rescued wore filthy, tattered uniforms and the cold icy wind just blasted through their clothing pushing against their severely malnourished bodies. They were so sick and weak from hunger, sickness, and despair and riddled with lice.
There were ninety personnel of the newly formed 807th Medical Air Evacuation Transport Squadron (MAETS) piled into two railroad cars in Louisville, Kentucky the second week of August in 1943. The group included twenty-five female nurses who were busy stashing their field packs away and settling into their assigned seats. The officers, including the nurses, sat in one car, while the enlisted men were assigned to another each having no clue what was soon to become of them.
All of them were new members of the Army Air Forces’ MAETS and were part of an innovative program that transported the wounded and sick from hospitals near the frontlines to better equipped medical facilities for additional care. During the course of the war, MAETS would transport more than one million troops, with only forty-six patients dying in flight. I would say that was an absolutely awesome accomplishment on their part!
This was such an interesting story that I just couldn’t put the book down and read it in two parts. Had I of had the time, I would have read it in one day.