The Wars of Myron King

A B-17 Pilot Faces WW II and U. S.-Soviet Intrigue

  • Author(s): McDonough, James Lee
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2009-11-30
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Hardcover - Cloth: Price $32.95 | Buy Now

“McDonough brings such passionate perspective to this amazing and heretofore largely unknown story that it’s nearly impossible to put down.”—James R. Hansen, prizewinning aerospace historian and bestselling author of First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong

When Myron King of the U.S. Army Air Corps arrived in England in 1944, he fully expected to fly dangerous bombing missions over Nazi Germany. What the twenty-three-year-old lieutenant had no way of predicting, however, was that he would spend his last months in Europe entangled in a bizarre affair born of the mounting tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. Ultimately, King faced three wars: the monumental conflict between the Allies and the Third Reich, the nascent Cold War, and a personal battle with the military brass to clear his name after enduring a grossly unjust court-martial.

This book presents an engrossing account of King’s early life and wartime service as part of the 401st Bombardment Group, U.S. Eighth Air Force. As a child growing up in New York and Tennessee, he was thoroughly captivated by the young field of aviation and dreamed of becoming a pilot. Attending college when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he realized his boyhood ambition by enlisting as an Air Corps cadet. After completing flight training two years later, King and his crew flew a B-17 bomber across the Atlantic to join their fellow airmen at a base near the English village of Deenethorpe—doing their first battle not with German fighters but with a raging storm during the Greenland-to-Iceland leg of the journey.

Once settled in Great Britain, the King Crew flew twenty missions from November 1944 through February 1945. It was on their last flight to Berlin that enemy fire crippled their plane and forced them to land in Poland amid the Russian forces that were advancing on Germany from the east. There events took a decidedly strange turn as King became embroiled in an incident involving a young stowaway and the increasingly complicated relations between the United States and Stalin’s regime. Scapegoated in the episode, King would leave the Air Corps with his honorable record severely soiled—a wrong that would take years to undo.

The Wars of Myron King is more than just a rattling good true-life adventure story. Based on a wide array of published and primary sources, including trial transcripts and interviews with King, the book offers a unique view of the experience of air combat, the intertwining of politics and military justice, and the complex circumstances that inaugurated the Cold War.

James Lee McDonough is professor emeritus of history at Auburn University. He is the author of ten books, including Shiloh—In Hell Before Night, Stones River—Bloody Winter in Tennessee, Chattanooga—A Death Grip on the Confederacy, War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville, and Nashville: The Western Confederacy’s Final Gamble. This is his second book on a World War II subject.