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From John Kennedy, U.S. Naval War College Museum
Nov. 2, 2012

Hell Above Earth, by Stephen Frater, was the topic of discussion at the Oct. 25 Eight Bells Lecture hosted by the U.S. Naval War College Museum.

Recently nominated by St. Martin's Press for the 2013 William E. Colby Award – which recognizes "a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs" – the book tells the story of Werner Göering, who at the age of 19 qualified as a bomber commander in the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Though an exceptional pilot, Göering’s loyalty was suspect, as he was the nephew of Herman Goering, chief of the Luftwaffe.

Unknown to Goering, the FBI had approached his co-pilot, Jack Rencher, and convinced him that it was his duty to kill Goering if the plane was ever to land in occupied Europe.

Out of this scenario, an unlikely bond of friendship was born.

Beginning with their flight training when they were 19 and 22 years old, and continuing during the war and for the next seven decades, Rencher never mentioned the pact he had made with the FBI … until 2005.

As an 85-year-old widower not wishing to take his secret to the grave, Rencher began to tell people. This led Frater to begin looking into the story.

Frater interviewed both men, which would inspire him to write a book as a tribute to those who served during World War II.

Without Rencher stepping forward, it is likely that the episode would have never come to light.

Frater, a native Rhode Islander, is a journalist and author and is presently a professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Rhode Island's Harrington School of Communication and Media.

For information on upcoming Eight Bells Lecture Series events, visit the U.S. Naval War College Museum’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/navalwarcollegemuseum/events.


Posted and edited by Dan Marciniak