Why Millville, New Jersey?
As I was writing the original drafts of America Under Attack, I decided that I needed an air base that was near to both Washington, DC, and New York city, but not actually in either city. Remembering that southern New Jersey is still basically agricultural, and its topography is conveniently flat, the area seemed perfect. So, I created a fictional town and base, and actually wrote several chapters about them until it suddenly occurred to me to see if such a base could have existed. To my surprise and delight, there was Millville Army Air Field, within 50 miles of my fictional base! It served as ‘America’s First Defense Airport’ until the perceived threat of invasion faded, and then became a bustling training center for pilots learning how to attack targets both in the air and on the ground.
I had the delightful experience of traveling to Millville, NJ in October of 2009, and spent an entire day at the wonderful Millville Army Air Field Museum – I recommended it! I was treated exceptionally well, got a professional tour of the exhibits there, and was honored to interview two of America’s WWII heros, Captain Bill Rich, and Sergeant Bill Hogan.
Captain Rich was a P-47 pilot who actually instructed aerial gunnery at Millville before being sent to Europe to join the 8th Air Force. He flew P-47s in the 62nd squadron of the 56th Fighter Group with famous ace Gabby Gabreski. He encountered the advanced German jets, the AR-234 and Messerschmitt ME-262 on several occasions. Toward the end of his career, he flew the then brand-new Lockheed P-80.
Sergeant Hogan had a widely varied experience in the Army, being trained first as an armorer, then a gunner. He was, like most American bomber crew members, cross-trained in multiple jobs, including as a flight engineer and navigator. He was assigned to a B-17 unit, then reassigned to B-24s. Initially flying out of North Africa, his unit later was based in Italy. On a mission over Neustat, Austria, his bomber was shot down, and he was sent to a hospital in Austria, then to Germany, near Stutgart, and finally spent the remainder of the war as a POW at Stalagluft 4 In Poland. The transfer of POWs across national borders was a violation of the Geneva Conventions, conveniently ignored by his captors.
I regret that space limitations prevented any significant inclusion of these men and their exploits in America: Under Attack.