For some reason, I had gotten the idea into my head that adventure stories of soldiers trapped in enemy territory was a thing of the past. Those sorts of things just don’t happen anymore; at least, not since World War II or so…..
Wrong! In this autobiographical account written especially for children, Captain Scott O’Grady relates the six hazardous days which he spent behind hostile Bosnian lines – in 1995!
As a child, Captain Scott O’Grady fell in love. He fell in love with speed and adventure. And he participated in any form of them that he could find: car racing, skiing, roller coasters and finally flying. He settled on the last as his passion and, after earning his pilot’s license and attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, he signed on to the United States Air Force in the summer of 1989.
Six years later, on the morning of June 2nd, Scott was ordered to fly a sortie over Bosnia, which was engaged in a petty war with Croatia. It was the mission of Scott and his partner, Basher Five-Two and Basher Five-One, to patrol the area and shoot down any aircraft they found illegally flying there. As Scott writes,
“In the early afternoon of June 2, 1995, as I sat in my F-16, ready for takeoff from Aviano Air Base in northeastern Italy, I had no idea what fate had in store for me. I could never have imagined that in the next six days I would have my plane shot out from under me with a missile, run for my life as soldiers hunted me down, eat leaves and ants to survive, make friends with a couple of cows, and be rescued by the United States Marines. And that was only part of my ordeal. Afterward I would call it the adventure of a lifetime. Maybe that’s an understatement. It was the adventure of two lifetimes.” [pg. 1]
While flying their mission, Scott was shot down by a Bosnian missile. He ejected from his burning F-16 and landed in enemy territory. The enemy instantly sent out soldiers, trying to capture him, while he had only the energy to stumble into the brush and hide himself. And thus began the tantalizing six days. Each day he followed the same routine; hide during the day, travel a bit at night, eat a few leaves and bugs, and send out radio signals in the hopes that friends would detect them. And on the sixth day, a friend did hear. They established contact and later on that night, Scott was rescued by members of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He was safe. At last.
I loved the appreciation Scott expressed for his father.
“The trust my dad showed in me by putting me in control of the plane was as important as the thrill of piloting it. As wild and headstrong as I could sometimes be, my parents, particularly my dad, rarely lost their patience. And they never lost their faith in me.” [pg. 31]
“When I thought back on my life, I had never really had any heroes – except one. It was a pretty big exception. The person who encouraged me, stood by me, sacrificed for me, and taught me the importance of self-reliance was my dad. I thought I was the most fortunate kid in the world. And he would always be my hero.” [pg. 125]
Captain O’Grady uttered quick prayers throughout the course of the book. After being rescued he writes,
“When the chaplain finally came to visit, I prayed with him, and then I wept. I had truly been humbled during my ordeal; it was God who had kept me alive the last six days.” [pg. 120]
Yet on other occasions he refers to circumstances and occurrences as being ‘lucky’. He also mentions that he attended Catholic schools and at one point calls upon “every saint and apostle [he] knew for protection”. He prays to Mary once.
Captain O’Grady is in the United States Air Force and obeys the commands of NATO. He is patriotic to the point of nationalism, speaking with approbation of the war in Vietnam, Abraham Lincoln, and his Commander in Chief, Bill Clinton. However, these points do not dominate the book.
I thought that this description of the events in Europe was particularly interesting.
“The Triple Nickel took turns with other NATO pilots – Dutch, Italians, French, and British – in patrolling the skies over Bosnia. Our Job was to keep all military aircraft of the fighting factions – the Serbs, the Muslims, and the Croatians – out of the skies so that they couldn’t hurt each other with air strikes. We were not there to take sides, but if necessary, we were to use our weapons to enforce this ‘no-fly zone’. Neither the Serbs, the Muslims, nor the Croatians wanted us there. They would just as soon have shot us out of the air so that they could fight their own war. But NATO had decided we were needed, and all of us in the Triple Nickel took our duty seriously.” [pg. 2]
On page 29, Scott comments that as a boy he took “heavy doses of Dungeons and Dragons”, a fantasy video game.
A section of pictures is included in the middle of the book; one of them shows Scott dressed in a Batman Halloween costume when he was four.
‘Heck’ is used once.
Conclusion. A very interesting story about a very brave man. The few problems are there, but they are nothing that can’t be worked around. Read in conjunction with Born to Fly.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret