I was asked to read “Under a War-Torn Sky” in high school by my English teacher. I wasn’t particularly excited because the font was somewhat small and it consisted of 284 pages. By the time I was a fourth of the way through the book I was trapped. The story is set during World War II. The protagonist is Henry Forester, a nineteen-year-old Air Force pilot from Virginia. Henry has wanted nothing but to fly since he was a child. He is always building airplanes and learning everything that there is to know about the sky and the clouds. Now he is the best and youngest pilot in his squadron.
In the Air Force, a tour of duty consists of twenty-five missions. If you survive all of them you are permitted to go home. Henry is on his fifteenth tour, which is known as the “make-or-break flight” because it is the average amount of missions of most Air Force bombers have before coming to their ultimate end. To start off the book L.M. Elliot, the heart crushing author of this incredible novel, provides a direct foreshadow of Henry’s future through a nightmare Henry arises from on the morning of his fifteenth mission. I thought this was a unique way to connect us to the main character. By starting off the story with Henry’s nightmare, Elliot makes the reader believe that this is happening. When Henry wakes, so do the readers.
At the beginning of the story, it seems like the big dilemma will be the crash–which we all clearly see coming– but surprisingly, the story extends further than what we expect. When Henry’s plane crashes, he finds himself wounded, hungry and without a shard of hope left in him. He wanders west from his crash site hoping that it will lead him home. He walks until he finds civilization in a French province that has been repeatedly invaded by the Germans, to his complete and utter luck, a school teacher that is part of the French resistance comes across him.
From this point on the story begins to roll forward. The French resistance has given themselves the dangerous task of hiding and aiding Americans. Henry is passed down from person to person, home to home, in an attempt to get him safely back into the United States. Women, men and children risk their lives helping Henry. Unfortunately, some are caught and terminated. After many perilous situations, the novel takes a turn for the worse and Henry is caught. Does he escape? Does he make it back home? Does he come to his ultimate demise after everything he’s survived thus far? You’ll simply have to read the book to find out.
Throughout the book, many French words are used and a direct translation of what they mean is not given. I find that it adds character to the text, but I would have enjoyed the book more if the author would have included a footnote explaining what each word meant. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful read, providing further evidence that even through the worst of times in human history good things still happen. These people who kindly, selflessly and recklessly risked their lives for a complete stranger give me hope.