Tailspin by John Armbruster
A rookie social studies teacher overhears a conversation about a World War II tail gunner who survived a four-mile fall from the sky. It turns out the tail gunner, Gene Moran, lives just a few miles up the road. The teacher, John Armbruster, will have to wait sixteen years to hear this story. That’s nothing. Gene’s children waited six decades.
When the elderly Gene finally shares his saga, John has no idea of the wounds he’s reopening. Stories of burning bomber planes cartwheeling through the German sky and mortally wounded friends screaming for help are only the beginning. Gene reluctantly gives up memories of his transport on a hell ship and his six-hundred-mile forced march in 1945 as Central Europe becomes a continent of death.
As John records three years of interviews with Gene, his wife, Carmen, fights her own war against cancer. Carmen loses this battle. John must continue uncovering Gene’s story of survival and struggle as he himself confronts life as a grieving single father to two young sons.
Tailspin is more than a war story. It’s a story of two men’s separate journeys confronting extraordinary grief and loss. It’s a story of resilience.
Paperback, 442 pages