In the Shadows of War An American Pilot's Odyssey Through Occupied France and the Camps of Nazi Germany

Thomas Childers

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Trade Paperback

464 Pages



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It should have been a milk run, an easy mission over France just after D-Day. Little or no resistance was expected, but on June 14, 1944, less than 100 kilometers southeast of Paris, the Eighth Air Force Flying Fortress went down in flames, and bomber pilot Roy Allen found himself parachuting to safety, but separated from the rest of his men.

A young woman named Colette Florin hid Roy in her rooms above the tiny girls' school where she taught in Jouy-le-Châtel, a small village in the Département Seine-et-Marne. Concealing him not only from the Germans but from her neighbors as well, she was drawn deeper into the clandestine world of the French underground. The leader of the resistance in the region was Pierre Mulsant, a young Frenchman trained by the British Secret Service. Roy immediately recognized him as a natural leader, a man of energy and skill who inspired those around him. But despite Pierre's warnings and the admonishments of Colette and her family, Roy decided to leave the village and try to make it home to his pregnant wife.

Smuggled into Paris by the resistance, Roy was betrayed weeks later by undercover Gestapo agents. Considered a "terrorist" by the Germans, in August 1944 he was shipped on a nightmare train journey with 166 Allied airmen not to a POW camp but to Buchenwald concentration camp. A harrowing three months later, he was finally transferred to a POW camp in Silesia, just in time to be marched through a blizzard by his German captors to escape the onrushing Russians. Next came stays in camps at Nuremberg and Moosburg outside Munich. Liberated at last by Patton's army in April 1945, Roy's journey was still not complete. He could not rest until he had determined what had happened to Colette and Pierre, and so before making the trip home to the United States he traveled to Jouy to find out the truth.

Drawn from extensive interviews, letters, and archival documents in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, In the Shadows of War relates this unforgettable story of a personal odyssey through one of the most brutal and horrific conflicts in world history. It is a profoundly moving human drama of love, courage, and sacrifice—and an insider's history of Europe during World War II unlike any other.


Praise for In the Shadows of War

"A masterful example of nonfiction brought to life."—The Washington Post Book World

"Childers is a master of the art of bringing history to life without sacrificing accuracy . . . Under his hand, three 'ordinary people' in extraordinary circumstances achieve nobility."—Chicago Tribune

"So richly are these characters drawn, so taut is the drama of this masterful book, that I was swept along, as if reading a novel. Childers' portrait of war and love is gripping, evoking whole worlds with the shrewdest eye, the boldest colors. This is a haunting book, a page-turner of the highest order, history at its very best."—Doug Stanton, author of In Harm's Way

"This is an extraordinary, gripping book, an exciting 'novel,' but one deriving from details both resourceful and responsible, remarkably adhering to the highest standards of scholarly truth. Readers wondering what the Second World War was like when it was by no means won, in the fall and winter of 1944-1945, will be illuminated by Childers's superb writing about loyalty, fear, and betrayal. A book to treasure always."—Paul Fussell, author of Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War

"Using military archives, private papers and interviews as well as memoirs and firsthand accounts, Childers gives us an extensive, pointed cross-section of the war in France from the perspectives of those who knew the stakes, and acted."—Publishers Weekly

"This is a thrilling chronicle of three ordinary young people who did extraordinary things under the intense pressure of war and clandestine resistance . . . Childers illustrates the constant fear, shocking betrayals, and often-random brutality that characterized their environment. This outstanding true-life thriller combines the best elements of espionage novels and wartime memoirs, and is a treasure for both scholars and laymen who appreciate a superbly told story."—Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



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Thomas Childers is the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of four previous books on World War II, including The Wings of Morning. He lives in Media, Pennsylvania.
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  • Thomas Childers

  • Thomas Childers is the Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of four previous books on World War II and National Socialism, including Wings of Morning. He lives in Media, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia.