“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).
Bob Drury is the author/coauthor/editor of nine books. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Men’s Journal, and GQ. He is currently a contributing editor and foreign correspondent for Men’s Health. He lives in Manasquan, New Jersey.
Tom Clavin is the author or coauthor of sixteen books. For fifteen years he wrote for The New York Times and has contributed to such magazines as Golf, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader’s Digest, and Smithsonian. He is currently the investigative features correspondent for Manhattan Magazine. He lives in Sag Harbor, New York.
“A fast-paced, well-researched account of a B-17 bomber—known as Old 666—its crew, and a courageous flight . . . Drury and Clavin skillfully blend Old 666’s flight into the larger picture of Pacific Theater warfare and give gripping accounts of combat flights. The result is a story that history aficionados will find irresistible.” —USA Today
“The authors deliver a great war story.” —Kirkus Reviews
“In June 1943, Zeamer and Sarnoski volunteered for the heartbreaking ‘impossible mission’ that forms the core of this remarkable account of friendship and bravery. Authors Bob Drury and Tom Clavin not only tell the inspiring story of these two young airmen, they also provide a cogent, absorbing analysis of the air war in the Pacific. Lucky 666 is highly recommended for WWII and aviation history buffs alike.” —BookPage
“A vivid slice of war history that WWII buffs and anyone who admires true acts of heroism will find riveting.” —Booklist
“An entertaining popular history that will appeal to fans of adventure-style World War II stories.” —Library Journal
“We think of World War II aviation as a supremely bureaucratized, controlled effort of men and planes. But here is a tale of bomber pilots—maybe the last untold story of that great war—that instead involved individual initiative and extraordinary courage. Lucky 666 is a thrilling narrative about the ingenuity that it took to win the war, about a ‘Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight’ of aviators who built their own B-17 out of junkyard parts, and then went on to fly one of the most memorable, effective missions of the Pacific campaign. The result is a book that reads like The Dirty Dozen meets Unbroken. I particularly admire the gritty details here about WWII aviation. Superb!” —Rinker Buck, author of The Oregon Trail and Flight of Passage