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William H. Wheeler

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Colonel William H. Wheeler, USAF (ret.) “was a B-17 pilot stationed at Bassingborn, UK, when he was shot down over Schweinfurt, Germany, on his 24th mission. He spent 21 months in Stalag Luft III. He is the author of Shootdown: A World War II Bomber Pilot's Experience as a Prisoner of War in Germany.


According to the book description of Shootdown: A World War II Bomber Pilot's Experience as a Prisoner of War in Germany, “After completing pilot training in July 1942, Lieutenant William Wheeler was assigned to a heavy bombardment group to be trained as a bomber pilot. In March 1943 he flew overseas as an aircraft commander of a B-17 combat replacement crew where they joined the 91st Bomb Group at Bassingborn in England for combat duty. Wheeler was held as a prisoner of war for 21 months in Stalag Luft III after being shot down on his 24th mission over Schweinfurt, Germany, in August 1943.

Shootdown: A World War II Bomber Pilot's Experience As a Prisoner of War in Germany
William H. Wheeler  More Info

Shootdown brings the story of Wheeler and his crew to life as they are forced to abandon their blazing Fortress after failing to extinguish a fire caused by enemy aircraft. Describing the first horrible days of lost freedom, the author gives a vivid look at the despair and depression of captivity. He suffers the lonely wretchedness of solitary confinement, the relentless interrogation, and the trauma of being locked in a body-packed boxcar for three days. Determined to escape from the moment he hit the ground in Germany, Wheeler became involved in several escape attempts, but none were successful.


In April of 1944 the author joined a cadre of officers to set up a new POW compound, where he was selected to be a block commander responsible for 150 officers. This experience became the most challenging, yet rewarding, experience of his military career. His real test of leadership began on a cold wintry night in January 1945 when the Germans hurriedly evacuated 12,000 Allied POWs within the sound of the Russian guns.”

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