Hell Above Earth (book review)

Just when we thought historians had recorded everything worth knowing about World War II comes Hell Above Earth: The Incredible True Story of an American WWII Bomber Commander and the Copilot Ordered to Kill Him. Stephen Frater has penned a riveting account of what has to be one of the strangest buddy stories of the war. As the Eighth Air Force began its storied bombing campaign over German-occupied Europe, the FBI received word that American-born pilot Werner Goering was the nephew of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Göring. Authorities assigned a copilot secretly ordered to kill Goering if their plane was ever forced down for any reason. The Bureau worried not just about Goering’s sympathies; even if he remained loyal to the United States, his capture would present an unacceptable propaganda coup for the Germans. Copilot Jack Rencher faced all the challenges of military aviation and hazards of war, and he did so with the knowledge that he might have to shoot the aircraft commander he had grown to trust and admire. As Frater puts it, Goering became “his leader, his friend, and his target.” Decades after the war, one more bizarre twist of history lay in store for Werner Goering. I won’t give it away here, but Frater uncovered an unexpected coda to the story he researched. Anyone with an interest in aviation or World War II history will enjoy his fascinating account.


  1. Stephen Frater, author of HELL ABOVE EARTH on April 10, 2012 at 8:12 am

    Thanks for taking the time to do this. It’s much appreciated.
    Very best,

  2. Henry Kim on February 15, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    The Goering family has to be among the strangest people during World War II. While Hermann Goering was a top Nazi, his nephew was US (Army) Air Force, and Werner’s younger uncle, Albert Goering (Hermann’s brother) was an anti Nazi activist who used his brother’s name to subvert the Nazi regime and helped dissidents out of the country (and eventually became a wanted man for it.) There is a fascinating recent book about him too! ( http://www.amazon.com/Thirty-Four-Will-Hastings-Burke/dp/0956371205/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1360976677&sr=8-1&keywords=thirty+four )

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