For B-24 bomber pilot Al Lycoming, the mission was history in the making.
Dispatched to Benghazi, Libya, on mysterious orders, he finds nearly 200 other B-24 bombers being assembled...and a top secret assignment that will catapult them all into seemingly impenetrable Nazi defenses.
Their mission: a daring low-level attack on Hitler’s extensive oil refineries.
But when his co-pilot falls ill, Albert is forced to secretly find help from an unlikely source—a female pilot who ferried a bomber from America.
Together, the two launch on the most daring bombing raid of WWII...and into the pages of history.
WHEN HEROES FLEW is a novel of extraordinary bravery, based on the true story of one of the most historic air raids ever flown. With perspectives from American and German pilots alike, this gripping thriller will keep you turning pages until the fateful ending.
H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is a bestselling, award-winning novelist.
His debut novel, EYEWALL, which one reviewer called a “perfect summer beach read,” was published in May 2011 and went on to become a number-one bestseller in Amazon’s Kindle Store.
Three of his next four novels won EPIC eBook awards in the suspense/thriller category.
In 2020, with the publication of WHEN HEROES FLEW, Buzz switched from writing suspense/thriller novels to WWII historical fiction and began a new series. WHEN HEROES FLEW was awarded a Gold Medal by the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) in 2021.
His following books, WHEN HEROES FLEW: THE SHANGRI-LA RAIDERS (2021), WHEN HEROES FLEW: THE ROOF OF THE WORLD (2022), and DOWN A DARK ROAD (2023) continued the series. THE SHANGRI-LA RAIDERS garnered a Gold Medal from the MWSA in 2022.
Buzz is currently working on his fifth WWII historical fiction book.
Before becoming a novelist, Buzz worked at The Weather Channel as a senior meteorologist for thirteen years. Prior to that, he served as a weather officer in the U.S. Air Force for over three decades. He attained the rank of colonel and received, among other awards, the Legion of Merit.
Buzz is a past president of the Southeastern Writers Association as well as a member of the Willamette Writers, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, the Military Writers Society of America, and International Thriller Writers.
Although a native Oregonian, Buzz lived for 35 years in Atlanta, and now resides in Kennewick, Washington, with his wife Barbara and their fuzzy Shih Tzu, Stormy . . . who doesn’t live up to his name.
I love a good WWII story. They are heavier (for obvious reasons), but history is important. Especially during such a tumultuous time in history - then and now.
WWII is my favorite period for historical fiction, but I’ve never come across one told from the perspective of pilots. This one is particularly interesting because the two main perspectives are that of both a German and American pilot. Also, there is a female aviator. Which, of course, is awesome.
Without a doubt one of the best WWII war books I have ever read. Army air Corp is tasked with an extremely low level bombing mission in planes designed for high level bombing missions. This is the story of a Captain named Al and his crew and fellow pilots and how this mission was handled. If you enjoy wartime stories you will not be able to put this book down ! An awesome cast of characters, non stop action and a story line so well written you will feel like you were actually there.
Based on the reviews, I was expecting more but I got less. It is a historical fictional tale of the bombing raid on Ploiesti by American B24 Liberators. The characters are wooden and a bit over the top with their patriotism. The side stories are somewhat predictable and add little to the story. I did find the air combat scenes to be well done.
Novelist H.W. “Buzz" Bernard is a master at gaining reader empathy through sympathetic characters in his fast-paced WWII era novel, When Heroes Flew.
Whether you’re engaged in the viewpoint of Captain Al Lycoming, an affable American B-24 Liberator pilot, or Egon Richter, a German Messerschmitt fighter pilot who understands a code of honor amongst fliers, you find yourself caught up in the chaos of war and wish everyone could return home safe and sound to loved ones.
In tightly woven scenes charged with authentic dialogue and story people who feel as real as family and friends, this novel drops you into a living history book that reverberates with undertones of a cautionary tale. You don’t need to be an aviation buff or a military historian to get swept up into Bernard’s skillful vision that causes you to chuckle and weep in tandem while forgetting everything around you but the story itself.
And for an added bonus, Buzz gives us a mysterious woman we can root for. Her name is Vivian. Who is she and what's her role in the story? Come and meet her in When Heroes Flew! You’ll be so glad you did!
Disclosure: I stopped reading when the female pilot was introduced. Bear with me, I'll explain later.
I love reading about WW2, particularly the aviation and air combat parts of it. I prefer reading non-fiction, but occasionally I bite on a novel like this.
That was a mistake.
There were a lot of things I disliked about the book right away, which ultimately made me quit reading pretty early into the book.
First of all, the whole book (or at least the whole of what I read of the book) felt like one big cliche. You've already read every scene in other books, or seen them in movies. There's the hunting scene where one character decides not to kill the animal at the decisive moment, although with a slight twist.
There's the scene where a military man is being spoken to in his commanding officer's office, and the CO waves away military protocol to go with a first name basis instead. (never seen that happen in the real military)
The most predictable scene involves the introduction of the female B-24 pilot, and is what ultimately led me to quit reading, because I could see exactly what was coming a mile away. You have this B-24 in an emergency landing. As it plays out, the author repeatedly, and intentionally has the other male characters watching, refer to this unknown pilot by male pronouns. That would be realistic in the real WW2, but it is cringey in this case... Of course the B-24 lands safely, using an impressive tactic, and when the female pilot gets off the plane, the male characters' reactions are exactly what you predicted they would be.
Some of the characters are stock "war movie" characters. You have the "skinny Jewish kid from Brooklyn" who is in every single American WW2 book and movie made in the last 30 years. Then you have the Germans who you are supposed to feel a little sympathetic towards, so they immediately have to make it known somehow that they aren't Nazis, and don't agree with what their government is doing. It's the trope of there being only 2 allowable kinds of German characters in fiction. The first being the de-humanized cartoon monster type, who is just pure evil and has zero redeeming features or character development. The 2nd, being the "good German" who is anti-Nazi and who usually ends up helping enemies of the government.
The dialog is pretty poor in places. There are times when it is obvious the characters are just giving you exposition, and the dialog between the German fighter pilot and his CO when they meet is another bit of unrealistic cringe. One American Major makes a comment about how the B-24s on the low level attack mission will keep from blowing each other up with their own bombs. You're a Major and fly bombers, but you seem to have never heard of delayed fuses on bombs? Again, it's obviously just a bit of poorly written exposition for the reader.
I just eventually had enough of the book. Thank goodness it was on Kindle Unlimited and didn't cost me anything other than my monthly subscription fee. I'm almost tempted to keep reading, just to see if I can predict what other cliche scenes might appear later. Will there be some sexist comments directed at the female B-24 pilot by her male colleagues? Will she be a Mary Sue who is good at everything, and has no character faults? Will the skinny Jewish kid from Brooklyn get to have some personal revenge upon the Nazis? Will the "good German" fighter pilot do something to help the Allies, rather than his own country? Will the B-24 limp home on 2 engines with half the crew wounded or dead from flak and fighters? I guess I'll never know, as I don't want to read another page.
Review of When Heroes Flew 4/28/2020 Advance Reader Copy Captain Al Lycoming pilot of a B-24 Liberator and his crew have completed around a dozen missions while based in England, but are now on their way to a new posting in Benghazi Libya in March of 1943. His squadron is joining others to prepare for a major bombing mission to attack the oil refineries at Ploesti the Romanian oil refineries vital to the German war machine. While in Benghazi and preparing for the mission the crews have heard rumors this would be a low-level ground-hugging effort to fly beneath enemy radar in a surprise attack against a heavily defended target. The Liberator bomber typically is flown at around 20,000 ft for an approach to targets on normal bombing runs and when they are officially given a briefing confirming the method of approach on this particular target, the crews are obviously concerned. The author gives us a very realistic description of men thinking about their mission but also of their loved ones at home and the implications or concerns about their survival. In the meantime, we the reader are given a startlingly realistic viewpoint of the enemy by a description of Egon Richter an officer and a fighter pilot of the Luftwaffe based in Greece. These fighter crews also have loved ones at home and we get an accurate picture of the plight of the wives and children when Egon goes home on a short leave to Germany and experiences the Allied bombing in his area. He also knows and acknowledges that he must fight on even while Germany is steadily losing the war. In Benghazi, Vivian Wright a Women's Auxiliary Ferry Service pilot or WAFS arrives with a spare Liberator and makes a spectacular landing with a plane whose brakes have failed. The men are astounded with her skill as a pilot. She is extremely poised and confident and has many years of flying experience. More in fact than many of the men at the base. On the day of the mission, Al’s co-pilot Sorrenson has dysentery and cannot fly. It means they cannot go because there are no spare co-pilots. Vivian is secretly brought on as a co-pilot in his place. The whole way there to the target is fraught with chaos and the narrative at this point is gripping, full of tension, and surprises. Vivian’s skill, strength, and fortitude under extreme fire is a key factor in Al and his crew managing to bring their badly damaged plane through the German heavy defenses and to begin the journey home. Because they were so badly shot up it is understood they will not make it back to Benghazi and they turn toward the island of Crete which is in Allied hands. Except, Egon Richter and his Me 109 squadron are waiting to pick off the stragglers from the Ploesti raid. The meeting between the fighter ace and the American Liberator is a classic tale and told in a masterful way by the Author. This climactic finish to the story is both highly dramatic and very emotional. I cannot speak highly enough of the way “Buzz” Bernard has put this story together. It is filled with breathtaking action, deep emotional reflections, and accurate depictions of the time period. I was amused when a character remarks about the film Casablanca as they were heading to Benghazi in March of ’43. The film was in general release in January 1943 so the airman could have seen it while on short leave in England. Attention to detail like that makes for confidence in the narrative as a whole. I have every confidence this book will be a top seller and for me, it was a page-turner. David E. Huntley
H.W. “Buzz” Bernard scores with his new novel, When Heroes Flew. In August of 1943, the Allies undertake Operation Tidal Wave to restrict the flow of petroleum products to the German army in hopes of ending the war. To do so, they decide on a complex plan that uses high altitude bombers dropping explosives from tree-top level in hopes of catching the German defenses off guard. The plan requires hundreds of brave men, and one brave woman, and they all won’t make it home. Opposing them is the Luftwaffe, depleted by casualties but still willing to fight. Who lives and who dies will be decided by airmanship, guts, and just plain luck.
I particularly liked how the author wove two personal stories into this very well done work. On one side is Captain Al Lycoming, the commander of a B-24 Liberator crew flying the mission. On the other, Hauptmann (Captain) Egon Richter, a squadron commander for some very junior German fighter pilots. Lycoming’s crew and Richter’s squadron fight it out in the skies over the Ionian Sea, but Bernard does a tremendous job of focusing on the people in the fight, not just the aircraft.
The author also did extensive research to make sure the feel of flying a B-24 comes through, and the technical details are spot on for both the American and German aircraft. There is plenty of action, solid characters, and thought provoking moments regarding morality in warfare. All in all, a difficult book to put down. Fans of World War II, specifically aviation, or fans of historical combat fiction will enjoy this book. Well written and highly recommended.
Excellent historical fiction based on Operation Tidal Wave. In 1943, 178 B-24 bombers took off from a base in North Africa to bomb the oil refineries in Ploiesti, Romania. The B-24s were normally high-altitude bombers, but on this mission they would fly at nearly ground level to ensure they hit their targets.
The idea was to achieve surprise and bomb the target before the Germans could react. But the mission was a bloody mess, with the Americans losing a lot of planes as things go awry, the element of surprise is lost and German resistance is a lot stronger than expected.
This fictionalized account is told from the point-of-view of a B-24 pilot and a German fighter pilot, bringing them into inevitable conflict at the book's climax. The first half of the book introduces the characters and shows the American bomber crews preparing for the mission. The second half details the mission itself.
Both protagonists are admirable. The American is a decent man who wants to both do his duty and bring his crew back safely. The German is a man who has come to loathe the Nazi party, but still feels he has to fight to protect his country and his people. This adds a lot of tension to the book, as we don't want to see either of them killing the other.
The author's description of the tree-top level bomb runs through thick anti-aircraft fire, attacks on the bombers by German fighter planes, and a desperate attempt to fly a damaged bomber back home, is visceral and exciting. Aside from telling an exciting story, "When Heroes Flew" deals with themes such as the randomness of surviving a battle, courage, honor, mercy and loyalty to one's fellow warriors.
A historical fiction book based on a very gutsy bombing raid on a German oil refinery in Ploesti, Romania. The story is told from the outlook of 2 pilots from opposing forces. An American B-24 (Liberator) pilot Al and a German pilot Egon who flies a Messershmitt 109 fighter. Both are seasoned pilots who both have difficult responsibilities. Al is in charge of a crew of 10 and they join a large group of close to 100 B24's that try to surprise the Germans. Al loses his co-pilot at the last minute and goes against regulations and takes on a female WAF pilot on a very dangerous mission. The B24's fly just above the ground from north African coast across the Mediterranean Sea to bomb the Ploesti oil fields. Everything does not go as planned for the Liberators as they complete their mission but lose close to half of their crews. Al and his crew cripple back towards the Mediterranean and are met by a group of Messerschimitt fighters and that is where Al and Egon meet in the air. The ending is very touching and the Epilogue brings everything together. I really enjoyed the book. It is very intense.
When Heroes Flew, H.W. ‘Buzz’ Bernard Hard to keep eyes dry at times I was apprehensive about reading a book all about flying and aerial combat but the Ploesti raid was mentioned in some of my other readings and I wanted t know more. I feared the technical details might be beyond me. But no, the extensive research distilled throughout the novel read easily.
When Heroes Flew is a novel yet at times it is so real that I forgot about it being fiction. The philosophical thoughts that course through Al’s head as he “understood he might not return” and “He stared at the heavens for a long while, feeling his tininess, his fleeting impermanence, and unimportance in the cosmos.” must have been in every pilot’s head when they geared up for combat.
In the novel, Buzz included a WASP, the female pilots who were not and still are not given the recognition they deserve. I expect women pilots all over will cheer Buzz Bernard for that.
A novel worth reading, written by a master of his craft, and based on the real facts of the operation Tidal Wave.
A low level WWII bombing raid from Libya to Romania turns out to be more dangerous than expected. Just one simple mission makes up this historical novel. The most interesting characters are Luftwaffe pilots who are beginning to have a Heil Hitler crisis before the battle begins. The main character, Captain Al (USA) is a by-the-booker who has to decide whether or not to break the rules.
I love historical novels and this one credibly shows how the krauts are holding all the cards.
Reading level: easy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~0 "The bomber had inexplicably morphed into something else, a swirling, fuzzy memory from many years past--of a huge hog, an old boar, crippled and limping, making its way across a snowy field high in the Hunsruck. Steam jetted from its nostrils as it snorted and glared with malevolence at those who had come to kill it."
I recommend this book to anyone interested in WW II or aviation. A moving story about Operation Tidal Wave, the low level attack on Ploesti by B-24's in 1943, as told through the lens of a fictional crew and German fighter pilot. The story is about more than the mission. A great book.
One error. When the radio operator volunteers to take over the top turret, he says he knows how to operate a machine gun because he was a nose gunner in a B-17 earlier. In reality, machine guns in the B-17's nose were handled by the bombardier and navigator. There was no enlisted man posted as a nose gunner in B-17 's. Ironically, B-17 radio operators also manned a machine gun, so all the Sergeant had to say was he could handle a machine gun because of his prior experience as a B-17 radio operator.
The title caught my attention and every now and then, I'll read some historical fiction. But when I saw it was about the raid on Palestine I thought I might find it interesting. I remember when I was in my early 20's, my father and I watched a documentary on Ploesti , I believe on PBS. My Dad was a hospital corpsman with the marines in the Pacific Theater. He remembered quite a lot about that raid and we talked about it in some length. I thought that this novel fleshed out characters, and the typical bomber crew hailed from all over the country. It made me feel that I was almost there and amazed by the bravery displayed by those bomber crews. These are truly great heroes who accomplished that. The sad truth is as the years go by from any military conflict, those heroes are forgotten. I doubt 1 in a 1,000 have ever heard of Ploesti.
I enjoyed the storyline and the character definitions! The story was easy to read and kept you interested! I felt it was more a humanistic story that took place in a war! I liked the ending that wrapped up all of the basic characters. During 1963/64, I was stationed with the 6916 Security Service Squadron in Rhine Mein Air Base, where I met and interfaced with a older Tech Sargent. During the next Squadron full dress inspection, I saw the Sargent with a chest full of metals and a Command Pilot Wings. I found out that he had been a B24 Pilot with 25 plus missions. His description of flying a 24 was like flying a “Large Dump Truck”, but he is still thankful for the 24’s getting him back. Good book! 😎🇺🇸
Having read and enjoyed several of Buzz Bernard's previous books, I put in a request for a copy of "When Heroes Flew" for my 74th birthday. Fortunately, my wish was granted, and two days later I have finished reading what I considered to be an incredible story. Prior to starting the book I had no knowledge that this was based on a true story; and now having finished it during this very trying time in our country's history, I have an even greater appreciation for the men who fought for our freedom. It should be recommended reading for all of our high school students. The research that went in to this novel puts you into the plane with the crew of the Oregon Grinder and the amazing bravery that was displayed. Gave me an unexpected appreciation for the old crippled, limping boar.
When Hero’s Flew is a ripping good read. I only stumbled on it because the algorithm that promotes “you might like” on my Kindle unlimited account recommended it. There is incredible attention to detail in this story. You feel like you are setting next to the pilot, Al, and watching all the action as it unfolds. I also appreciated the parallel story of the Luftwaffe pilot, Egon. Bringing the human dimensions of “the enemy” into the story humanized the plot in a significant way.
This is the best book I have read this year (2022). I highly recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction, and especially with a focus on WW II. You will not be disappointed.
Well written, exciting, and leaving the reader ready to read more.
Well written, exciting, and leaving the reader ready to read more. My father flew B-24s in the 8th Air Force from bases in England. He flew 43 missions. This story resonates in heart and mind about how committed, dedicated, and brave all the young men who fought and are still fighting our “wars” were and are. Having had Polio when I was a baby I never got to experience the “brotherhood of warriors “. But my heart is with them.
H.W. “Buzz” Bernard has given us a true treasure - a knowledgeable look at the air warriors of WWII.
I love historical fiction because it leads the reader to believe that this is truly how these events unfolded: This war was fought. This mission was flown. A female was among the pilots. But history is written by those in power and at that time, men had the power and did not want women in combat, so maybe female pilots were just written out of the reports and in turn, out of the history books. It could have happened. I choose to believe it was so. But no matter what you believe, When Heroes Flew is a story of courage and bravery. An acknowledgement of the will to fight and to do so honorably. A well written book that will leave you clinging to the edge of your seat.
Considering this is historical fiction, the story carries one of the bloodiest air operations of WWII. Operation "Tidal Wave" is part of WWII history that happened on August 1, 1943, over Romania. Plsoeti, Romania, was a large fuel depot that fed the German Army, Navy, and Luftwaffe.
I'm a big fan of military historical fiction narratives based on true stories. H.W. "Buzz" Bernard did not disappoint in this terrific "premiere" installment of what appears to be a series based on US Air Force assignments during World War II.
The story entwined two faucets of the mission, both friendly and enemy. Bernard graphically details actual events with strong emotional involvement.
This was an Amazon Prime Kindle purchase that I just happened to find. Exceptional heartfelt, patriotic novel I found hard to put down. It personally reinforced pride for my country and respect for those service men and women who defend her.
This is one of the best war stories you will ever read. Told through the point of view of two pilots, one in the Nazi Luftwaffe, the other with a group of Allied forces, it features tense action as they prepare for and fight in a daring and suicidal air raid during WWII. But it's more than just a great action book, because Bernard makes each character human. The dual protagonists are both noble, flawed, and altogether human. I couldn't put it down because of the craftsmanship of the author, and I won't soon forget it because of the characters he has created.
I had the opportunity to read this novel as an ARC (advance review copy).
The novel is about the bombing raid on Polesti, Romania in 1943 (apparently Romania was the petrochemical hub for the Axis forces during World War 2).
The novel took the story from both the viewpoints of an American B-24 pilot and a German BF-109 Messerschmitt pilot and wove the tales together to form an excellent read. The story was really well written and very descriptive.
I found this book to be highly enjoyable and a quick read.
A wonderfully compelling and heartfelt story about the Allied bombing of the Ploesti oil fields during WWII. This intimate recounting of this raid is delightfully personal and gives you the feeling that you were actually there. With wonderfully developed characters and realistic and authentic dialog, the author captures the terror, joys, compassion and yes even respect between opposing pilots. A masterful tale that was almost impossible to put down!
Thank you to the author who provided me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
My standard genre is non-fiction military history but I break it up from time-to-time with historical fiction and picked up Buzz Bernard's "When Heros Flew". Even with his early disclaimer that it was a work of fiction - I was incredulous at the amazing detail based upon his factual research regarding the Ploesti raid. It was so realistically well done that I thought that he might be scamming us and reveal that it was actually non-fiction at the end!
Exceptional piece of historical fiction - riveting and captivating with no holes in the plot. A very fun read.
Why 5 stars? 1. I learned some things - about the division in the German ranks during WWII and about the specific American mission that is the subject of this book. Also, I learned about the conditions Hitler inflicted on his own people that left them barely able to survive. 2. My point of view about some of the German soldiers was changed. 3. There is little foul language. And where it is used is very believable. 4. I was thoroughly entertained by this true story of heroism and finished most of the book in one day while holed up inside during the severe cold that swept the US on Christmas weekend 2022.
A real edge of the seat, engaging, sorrowful, rendering of what our boys went through in WW2. Such bravery and courage seems to be lacking today, regrettably. The prose made you feel like you were right there in the cockpit. Although some of the situations were evident, like Vivian just happening to be there and a great pilot and Al’s copilot getting too sick to fly. But that’s what makes for a great story. I don’t remember reading it but this must have been based on a true mission.
How blessed and fortunate I am that I was able to discover this book in time to read it three days prior to Memorial Day. It’s based on real-life bombing mission, Operation Tidal Wave, and it’s so expertly woven with historical facts and brilliantly crafted characters. The aircraft battles are written with clarity and suspense, and on the edge of your seat action. I am definitely enriched by reading this store! Highly recommend!
Well written novel about Operation Tidal Wave. I loved how it intertwined stories from both the German and American side and also included a female pilot. Written from a male point of view, which is sometimes hard to identify with as a female reader (that is not a critique, just an observation!), but I love a good war story and I definitely did not have a hard time connecting with the characters! Definitely worth the read
What a wonderful read! I truly didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. Buzz has such an amazing ability to intertwine the factual truth with his fictional creativity. There came a point where I was researching for the back story of Al Lycoming only to learn that he was part of the fictional story line. I really enjoyed the Egon character and how he was incorporated into Operation Tidal Wave. The epilogue was a great close to this novel, don't skip it!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.