Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Hell Above Earth

Hell Above Earth

The Incredible True Story of an American WWII Bomber Commander and the Copilot Ordered to Kill Him

Stephen Frater

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

"After the twists and turns in Goering's many missions, Frater finishes with a stunning revelation . . . the author delivers an exciting read full of little-known facts about the war. A WWII thrill ride." - Kirkus Reviews

The U.S. air battle over Nazi Germany in WWII was hell above earth. For bomber crews, every day they flew was like D-Day, exacting a terrible physical and emotional toll. Twenty-year-old U.S. Captain Werner Goering, accepted this, even thrived on and welcomed the adrenaline rush. He was an exceptional pilot—and the nephew of Hermann Göring, leading member of the Nazi party and commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe.

The FBI and the American military would not prevent Werner from serving his American homeland, but neither would they risk the propaganda coup that his desertion or capture would represent for Nazi Germany. J. Edgar Hoover issued a top-secret order that if Captain Goering's plane was downed for any reason over Nazi-occupied Europe, someone would be there in the cockpit to shoot Goering dead. FBI agents found a man capable of accomplishing the task in Jack Rencher, a tough, insular B-17 instructor who also happened to be one of the Army's best pistol shots. That Jack and Werner became unlikely friends is just one more twist in one of the most incredible untold tales of WWII.



The thundering ships took off one behind the other. At 5,000 feet they made their formation. The men sat quietly at their stations, their eyes fixed. And the deep growl of the engines shook the...


Praise for Hell Above Earth

“This story resonates today because it's not about the people--it's about the war. [Hell Above Earth] leaves a lingering taste of what it was like and at the same time, the feeling that we will never truly understand it.” —Washington Independent Review of Books

Hell Above Earth is a riveting tale that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. It not only tells of the dangerous missions that bomber pilots and crews had to endure, but has an added twist of mystery and intrigue.” —WWII History Magazine

“A meticulously researched and brilliantly reconstructed tale of truth and treachery that's as riveting as it is heart stopping . . . Truman Capote may have coined the phrase 'the nonfiction novel,' but Stephen Frater has mastered it as well.” —Providence Journal

“The riveting true story of a World War II bomber pilot and the co-pilot who received orders to kill him…After the twists and turns in Goering's many missions, Frater finishes with a stunning revelation…the author delivers an exciting read full of little-known facts about the war. A WWII thrill ride.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Stephen Frater has told the story of action well . . . His tale is alive to the end, describing the bombing crew's hell above the earth and concluded with a most unexpected twist.” —The Oklahoman

“Although I've read quite a lot about the Eighth Air Force, none brought home the sacrifices the men made in such vivid detail as Hell Above Earth. [Stephen Frater] occasionally allowed his narrative to veer into the moderately crude language that was part and parcel of the airmen's lives. Hell Above Earth . . . will give readers new appreciation of the sacrifices of ‘The Greatest Generation.'” —Cozy Library

“This is history at its best.” —Seattle PI

“The statistics in Hell Above Earth alone are mind-boggling, let alone its story . . . Blow-by-blow description of numerous combat clashes, narrow escapes, and costly battles . . . One has to put on the work boots and wade in.” —Deseret News

“...Still, none of the stories could have prepared me for Stephen Frater's mesmerizing new work, Hell Above Earth. From the title of the book to the final, riveting chapters, Frater spins a tale with a twist that grabs the reader and never lets go . . . By delving deeply into the lives of Goering and Rencher, Frater helps the reader understand the circumstances that drove two men from totally different backgrounds into the same cockpit. He chronicles the directions their lives took once the war was over. Part buddy story and part courage under fire, Hell Above Earth is a remarkably compassionate account of a friendship cemented in battle -- that was one comrade's bullet away from being compromised if the mission called for it.” —San Antonio Express

“Just when we thought historians had recorded everything worth knowing about World War II comes Hell Above Earth. Stephen Frater has penned a riveting account of what has to be one of the strangest buddy stories of the war . . . Anyone with an interest in aviation or World War II history will enjoy his fascinating account.” —Tom Young, author of The Mullah's Storm and Silent Enemy

“Stephen Frater has uncovered one of the greatest and most ironic surprises of World War Two . . . A riveting book, every bit as exciting and unusual as Operation Mincemeat, and demonstrating that there are still things we don't know about WWII.” —Michael Korda, New York Times bestselling author of Hero and With Wings Like Eagles

“Hang onto your hats for this doozy of a 'truth-is-stranger-than-fiction' story. Packed with comprehensive historical details, memorable characters, and sometimes gruesome battle description, this immaculately researched tale intertwines the story of two friends--one secretly ordered to kill the other--with the history we all need to know about WWII and its aftermath. More than anything, Hell Above Earth sears into our collective imaginations the profound bravery of the men who flew in bombers, risking everything for duty, honor and country.” —Christina Olds, daughter of Robin Olds and co-author of Fighter Pilot

“For once here is a book with a subtitle worthy of being called an "untold story." Stephen Frater has skillfully fashioned a real, hitherto untold tale, the background of which is the air war over Europe in World War II, the immigrant experience, the American dream, and a bit of the Wild West…Frater, as few others have done, has managed to convey both the heroism and the terror of the men who flew the bombing missions over Germany. But all the while, he keeps his eyes and ours on the unfolding story of pilot Werner Goering and his best friend and co-pilot--and designated assassin--Jack Rencher. Altogether a riveting tale of men at war.” —Marshall De Bruhl, author of Firestorm: Allied Airpower and the Destruction of Dresden.

“As the son of a B-17 pilot in the 303rd Bomb Group and one who has devoted his life to the legacy of the famous Hell's Angels since 1997, the Werner Goering / Jack Rencher relationship was one of the first things that intrigued me . . . Mr. Frater does a remarkable job of telling this fascinating true story--a story I thought I knew well--with a most unexpected twist.” —Gary L. Moncur, 303rd Bomb Group "Hell's Angels" Historian

“From the opening salvo of words, Frater excites and entices. The core story and its surprise ending give us a glimpse of Fate's tickle twists. Multiple tangents tell the horribly brutal history of the ‘heavies,' the B-17s Flying Fortresses of the Mighty Eighth Air Force (Army Air Corps), in the flak filled skies over Germany--1944-45. I would expect to see this story on the silver screen in the near future.” —John Del Vecchio, author of The 13th Valley and For the Sake of All Living Things

“One of the most bizarre stories of the air war over Europe has finally been told in full. Stephen Frater follows American pilot Werner Goering, Nazi leader Herman Goering and co-pilot Jack Rencher in a story of unlikely friendships, unusual loyalties, and breath-taking revelations that readers will find impossible to put down.” —Rob Morris, author of Untold Valor: Forgotten Stories of American Bomber Crews over Europe in World War II

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Stephen Frater

STEPHEN FRATER was a staff writer and columnist for the New York Times subsidiary The Sarasota Herald-Tribune. His articles, biographical features and military themed nonfiction book reviews have been published nationwide. He is currently an adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island's Harrington School of Communication and Media. He lives in Rhode Island and Florida.

Stephen Frater

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Griffin

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