History in Review
Flying In, Walking Out.
Memories of War and Escape 1939-1945.
By Edward Sniders.
(Pen and Sword: 1999. Pg. 224.)
Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - July 7, 2002
Were it not for the fact that Edward Sniders survived his escapades as a World War II fighter pilot, one would have to concede that he had a knack for attracting bad luck. In his autobiography, Flying In, Walking Out, Sniders chronicles his life from 1939-1945. In honest, and graphic detail, he explores the events that resulted in his training to be a pilot with the Royal Air Force (RAF), and by extension, his stint as a prisoner of war (POW).
Sniders first run of bad luck came when he was almost killed in a training accident. But in a short while he was up and around, and after working as a flight trainer, was back in command of his own plane. That is, until
July 28, 1943, when he was forced to parachute into enemy territory after his plane experiences catastrophic mechanical problems. Thus, begins the meat of Sniders narrative. From this moment on, Sniders' book Flying In, Walking Out really begins to take form. In fast succession, he recounts his experiences as fugitive in Holland, being taken under the wing of the resistence movement, and the ultimate betrayal that placed him in Nazi hands.
Once in Nazi hands, his life literally hung in the balance for he was in civilian clothing when captured. But his pseudo-luck held out and he was transferred to a prisoner of war camp. There he commenced upon a series of escape attempts that all ultimately failed at one point or another. That is, until his last escape attempt carried out a few days before he would have been liberated by the Allies. Why risk your life to escape when you know that rescue was at hand? The answer is simple. Sniders had an indomitable spirit. He had tried and tried to escape numerous times - one last final opportunity presented itself, he grabbed it and succeeded!
The descriptions of Sniders' numerous escapee attempts are mesmerizing - especially the escape attempt that necessitated him being submerged, up to the neck in the sewage of a privy! Other attempts involved impersonating a German worker and simply climbing over a fence, several tunnel enterprises, and various other schemes. In all these attempts, even those in which he was the only one slated to escape, Sniders received a tremendous amount of help from his fellow inmates. In each camp, escape committees existed that, firstly, had to pre-approve any escape attempt. Once such an attempt was approved the escapee was given whatever assistance he needed, ranging from false identity papers to help carrying out the actual escape. One thing is certain, if nothing else, this book helps to explain why so many men attempted to escape, how these escapes were organized and carried out, and how, if they succeeded, they managed to get back home to England.
Throughout this intriguing book, Sniders provides insights into the thoughts and feelings of those around him, from his wife Mary to those valiant men who served alongside of him. He also touches upon what life was like during the war, and the emotional impact upon learning of the deaths of various friends and acquaintances. Sniders' tale is one of heroism, valor, and a unswerving desire to do his duty. It is easy to read this book as a work of fiction because of the incomparability of the events describes. As well, Sniders' prose is vibrant and easy going, reading more like a novel than a stalwart history. Yet, no matter how 'Hollywood' worthy this book is, (and it would make a thrilling movie) - the events he recounts where real and should be read with reverence in memory of the countless men and women who 'fought the good fight'.
Flyboys, by James Bradley.
The gripping story of eight American airmen, captured by the Japanese during a bombing mission of the island of Chichi Jima.
Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II's Most Dramatic Mission, By Hampton Sides.
Ghost Soldiers chronicles the daring rescue, from behind enemy lines, of 513 survivors of the Bataan Death March.
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