Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey
of a World War II B-24 Bomber Pilot and POW by James H. Keeffe III Appell Publishing
reviewed by Dennis D. Bailey
"This didn't look good at all. The feeling of dread thickened and I felt a knot form in my stomach. The sound of our footsteps seemed far away."
Thrown by circumstance into the crucible of World War II, James A. Keeffe, Jr., an American B-24 bomber pilot shot down over Holland, tells his story, with marked aplomb, of the arresting heroism and fighting courage of those around him. As told to his son, this wartime memoir takes the reader from the heady days of American flight training, to the flaming blasts and human loss of air-to-air combat against the Luftwaffe in the European theatre, to the Dutch underground secreting downed Allied pilots to safety at great personal peril of the local citizens. No fairy tale, Keeffe writes of betrayal and eventually takes the reader inside the wire of the same German prison camp made famous in the film, The Great Escape, with its absolute brutality and inhumane degradation. Through it all, the story is told with a wonderful flair for detail and understated emotion. It is in the immediate details of Keeffe’s recollections that the undeniable nobility of the human spirit touches the reader. Eventuality, the story reaches the end of the war with American Sherman tanks rolling into the hellish Stalag to the cheers of the emaciated prisoners.
Keeffe took the detailed recollection of his father and added an excellent documentary framework of photographs, portraits, maps, and photocopies of important papers. This book stands as a solid, proven first person account of the widespread courage of those forced under the boot heel of Nazi Germany, from the oppressed northern European citizenry to the imprisoned Allied soldiers. By showing us the price the courageous individuals paid to regain freedom, together the father and son Keeffes illuminate the incredible and noble effort demanded and expended to secure that freedom.