Searching for literary buried treasure? YOU’VE FOUND IT!
That’s what I felt like when I discovered this book. It is a real treasure in World War II writing. I was going through some old boxes and discovered this among my late father-in-law’s Louie L’Amour and Zane Grey books. Dick used to enjoy westerns, but being a WW II veteran, I believe he must have had some inside information on this book and added it to his collection.
During WW II there was a high percentage of young men that enlisted or were drafted into the armed forces. These were men from all walks of life, all regions of the country, all education levels, and all professions. It’s not surprising that many of them were journalists or writers. Several of them became award winning authors. One such writer/B-17 co-pilot was Bert Stiles. Stiles wrote this brilliant book about his experiences. He wrote before going to England, while off-duty in England, and he wrote between his bombing missions. Unfortunately, Stiles didn’t survive the war, but his mother copyrighted his memoirs, letters, and journals in 1947, and she published them in this book in 1952.
Serenade to the Big Bird is captivating, almost haunting writing with artistic scene and character development. Had Stiles survived the war, I’m confident that his name would be a household word and synonym for excellence. This is one of those books that you can’t put down – a remarkable literary achievement. Serenade is written in a matter-of-fact, casual, slang-infused manner, as if Stiles was simply talking to himself and reflecting his own personal thoughts. After all, that’s what it was… somewhat like a diary, and it is a precious one at that. Stiles wanders down many roads including education, politics, dating (dames), friendships, the horror of war… he spends a good deal of time questioning the bombing and feeling guilty about it.
Born in Denver, Colorado, August 30, 1920, Stiles entered Colorado College in 1938. He majored in journalism and wrote many anti-war articles for The Tiger, the college newspaper. He went on to write articles accepted by Saturday Evening Post, Liberty, and American magazines. While in England, he wrote articles for the London Daily Mail, and for the Army Air Corps. Stiles always wanted to pilot a fighter plane and he eventually became a pilot of a P-15 and he escorted bombers. But on November 26, 1944 he was shot down over Hanover. Stiles was posthumously awarded the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart. He has left us a true treasure in literary excellence!