Lucky 666: The impossible mission that changed the war in the Pacific by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
“A fast-paced, well-researched…irresistible” (USA TODAY) World War II aviation account of friendship, heroism, and sacrifice that reads like Unbroken meets The Dirty Dozen from the authors of the #1 New York Times bestselling The Heart of Everything That Is.
It’s 1942, just after the blow to Pearl Harbor and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, and the United States is reeling. A group of raw US Army Airmen travels to the embattled American Air Base of Port Moresby at Papua, New Guinea. Their mission: to protect Australia, to disrupt the Japanese supply lines, and to fly perilous reconnaissance runs over the enemy-held strongholds. Among the men are pilot Captain Jay Zeamer and bombardier Sergeant Raymond Joseph “Joe” Sarnoski, a pair of swashbuckling screw-ups whose antics prevent them from being assigned to a regular bombing crew. Instead, they rebuild a broken-down B-17 bomber from spare parts and christen the plane Old 666.
One day in June 1943, a request is circulated: volunteers are needed for a reconnaissance flight into the heart of the Japanese empire. Zeamer and Sarnoski see it as a shot at redemption and cobble together a crew and depart in Old 666 under cover of darkness. Five hours later, dozens of Japanese Zeros riddle the plane with bullets. Bloody and half-conscious, Zeamer and Sarnoski keep the plane in the air, winning what will go down as the longest dogfight in history and maneuvering an emergency landing in the jungle. Only one of them will make it home alive.
With unprecedented access to the Old 666 crew’s family and letters, as well as newly released transcripts from the Imperial Air Force’s official accounts of the battle, Lucky 666 is perhaps the last untold “great war story” (Kirkus Reviews) from the war in the Pacific. It’s an unforgettable tale of friendship, bravery, and sacrifice—and “highly recommended for WWII and aviation history buffs alike” (BookPage).