In The Shadows Of War: An American Pilot's Odyssey Through Occupied France And The Camps Of Nazi Germany

  • Manufacturer: Henry Holt And Co.
In a small village in France during the fateful summer of 1944, three disparate lives converged in an unlikely secret alliance. Just after D-Day, Colette Florin hid downed American bomber pilot Roy Allen in her rooms above the tiny girls' school where she taught. While concealing him not only from the Germans but from her neighbors in the small village, she was drawn deeper into the clandestine world of the regional underground. There she met the local leader of the resistance: Pierre Mulsant, a young Frenchman trained by the British secret service who had parachuted into France in the spring of 1944. Drawn from extensive interviews, letters, and archival documents in Britain, France, Germany, and the United States, In the Shadows of War tells their interrelated stories, following these three fascinating people from their Resistance activities in rural France, to Paris and captivity by the Gestapo, to Germany and Buchenwald concentration camp. It is a human story of love and loss, of courage and sacrifice by ordinary people who did not make policy or formulate strategy but whose lives were profoundly altered by war.

Customer Reviews

The best book I've read in years, April 7, 2003
By Richard E. Hourula

"In the Shadows of War" is a triumph on numerous levels. First it's one helluva story. The true adventures of Roy Allen, the US pilot shot down over France in June 1944, are remarkable. Moreover, Childers is a skilled writer. The reader will feel transported to France and Germany in 1944-45. The experience of being an Allied pilot, of hiding from the enemy, fearing for one's life, suffering horrible depravations and barbarity are vividly presented. The bravery of the French resistantce fighters is inspiring as the cruelty of the SS and Gestapo is frightening. Concentration camps are not so much described as guided through. The forced march during a snowstorm from one POW camp to the next is similarly endured.
The central character, Roy Allen, is cast as a heroic figure, with an indominable will to survive, all the while doing the right thing. (How Childers tells Allen's story apparently without ever having met him is also a noteworthy acheivement). But it is also evident that there were many Roy Allens who served the Allies in WWII.
"In the Shadows of War " also has a strong supporting cast. Most especially, Colette Florin the school teacher who risked her life to hide Allen in her apartment. Childers wisely takes the time to fully introduces and present Florin and the rest of the "cast."
This book will not just have appeal to World War II buffs. Anyone who likes a cracking good story and appreciates good writing will be drawn into the "Shadows of War."

A Gripping Account of Heroism and Tenacity, February 12, 2003
By Dr. Eugene J. Bass

Thomas Childers, a most distinguished professor of history and scholar, has written a gripping true account of an American aviator whose B17 was shot down over occupied France shortly after D-day in 1944. No work of fiction could approach the compelling story of Lt. Roy Allen who was rescued by members of the French resistance and was ultimately the victim of Nazi orchestrated treachery. Protected by a French schoolteacher, her family and friends, in a rural and forest region populated by patriots, his need to return to combat led to months of a hellish existence in the prisons and camps of France and Germany.
Professor Childers writes in a style that is very readable as was his earlier book "The Wings of Morning" and I found it very difficult to put "In The Shadows of War" down. It is definitely an outstanding read!

History That Reads Like A Novel., April 19, 2003
By John P. Rooney "John"

"In The Shadows Of War" by Thomas Childers. Sub-titled: "An American Pilot's Odyssey Through Occupied France And The Camps Of Nazi Germany". Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2002. This book is so well written that it reads like a novel, with suspense building up as you turn each page.
Will the B-17 pilot, Roy Allen, escape from his badly damaged aircraft? Will he be captured by the Germans? Or be rescued by the French Resistance? The French get to him first and he is assigned to a hiding place in a small village. The young teacher, Colette Florin, hides him as they all await liberation by the Allied Armies coming from the Normandy Beaches. But the Allies are delayed by fierce fighting that Summer of 1944, and Roy Allen decides to leave the relative safety of Colette Florin's rooms above the girls' school. He wants to travel to occupied Paris to reach the Resistance pipeline to get him out of France. It was here that the "novel" aspects began to overwhelm me. I said to myself that I would not write it that way; it would be more realistic if the American flyer stayed with the French teacher in the so-called "Golden Cage" and wait for the Allied Armies. Then I saw the photo section (between pages 240 & 241), and I was reminded that Roy Allen actually existed! He was NOT a fictional character. Nor was Colette. They, along with Pierre Muslant, lived and struggled in wartime France. Pierre Muslant was a member of the French Resistance who was to help Roy escape via Paris. Along with Roy, Muslant was captured and died in Buchenwald, so there is only a sketch of him, not a photograph. The excellent writing along with the actual story of this adventure made it almost impossible to put this book down. Just remember, as you read the book, it is fact, not fiction.

searing account of life on the run and in Buchenwald, March 26, 2003
By Daniel Ford

I'd give this book 6 stars if the software permitted! Childers has created a searing account of an American airman's life on the run in occupied France, in the hands of the Gestapo, and in the stinking hell of Buchenwald concentration camp. As others have pointed out, the identity of the French resistants can be confusing, as their code names change with different missions, but all you need bear in mind are Colette the schoolteacher, Pierre the secret agent, and Roy Allen the American pilot--their are the "three lives" of the sub-title. Note that the sub-title of the published book is different, as is the photo of the Lysander on the dust jacket. -- Dan Ford

Roy Allen, a personal friend of my family, October 16, 2004
By Marie Hazzard Smith

When I was growing up as a young child, Roy Allen and his wife May were very dear friends of my parents. I remember he and May would spend time with us on my parents boat. Roy was always a jokester and made everyone laugh. Now that I am grown, I was extremely excited to find out that there was a book writen about his story. I had no idea of the difficult experiences that he had. Knowing him with his great humor, who would have thought! I can't put this book down, reading each page makes me want to turn to the next so that I can learn to know Roy. I can't wait to see the movie on T.V. - Marie Hazzard Smith

GRIPPING ODYSSEY, January 2, 2005
By john melsheimer

i must say i am not the most advid reader in the world but when i bought this book i could not put it down. this book has it all, great adventures rich with texture and amazing characters!
there are many subplots to this book which also help advance the story to a wonderful ending. what a great movie this book would make and the fact that it really happend makes it even more compelling. thomas childers is a wonderful rich story teller. thanks for a great read!

A MUST READ!!, December 2, 2007
By Don Graeter "dgraeter"

I just finished this superb work a few moments ago. Warning: once you start, you will not be able to put this book down.

As others have said, this is a true story which reads like a finely crafted work of fiction of the historical "thriller" genre. The constant tension is palpable as our heroes, the downed American airman desperately seeking help in occupied France, the young, small town schoolteacher who decides to risk all to hide him, the brave French Resistance fighter, all attempt to evade capture and death at the hands of the Nazis. That's all you need to know. Treat yourself...get this book and find out what happens to them. As the story draws to its end, you will truly care. I promise.

I love stories of the WWII era in occupied Europe and have read many, both history and fiction. Alan Furst's works of fiction are good, especially the earlier ones. Robert Ryan's works, The Blue Noon and Early One Morning, are both superb. They are based on actual events and real persons, with additional fictional characters inserted. A central "real" character in the latter, race car driver Robert Benoist, appears briefly in The Shadows of War.

Airey Neave's They Have Their Exits is a thrilling true memoir of escape from a Nazi prison camp. Neave also appears briefly in Ryan's The Blue Noon. Clare Francis' Night Sky is by far the best fictional work I have enjoyed of this genre.

All these books are excellent page turners. If you only read one, however, read In The Shadows of War. Whether you are interested in WWII and/or clandestine operations in occupied Europe or not, you will love this book and be moved by it.

I first encountered Thomas Childers in his excellent courses for The Teaching Company. His full history of WWII and his course on Hitler's Empire are excellent. Childers is a highly regarded U. of Pennsylvania professor of history. I recommend those works as well.

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