Silver Wings, Iron Cross Discussion Questions
1) Did anything about World War II history as presented in the book surprise you?
2) Did Karl or Wilhelm remind you of any veterans you know?
3) The narration alternates between Karl’s point of view and Wilhelm’s point of view. Did this help you see how one viewed the other?
4) Did you prefer one main character over the other? Why?
5) How did the relationship between Karl and Wilhelm evolve over time?
6) In Part One, there is a scene where Wilhelm meets a retired German naval officer whose son died in combat three years earlier. When Wilhelm expresses sympathy, the old man seems not to want it. The author describes it this way:
Brandt waved his hand almost dismissively. Wilhelm thought it a strange gesture. Then the old captain looked into the fire, stared at the flames for a long time as if trying to control his emotions. Keeping all parts of his mind at battle stations, Wilhelm thought. Maybe Brandt was done with pity, long past wanting anyone’s sympathy.
Do you think this means Brandt has gotten past his grief? Or does it mean he’s still barely hanging on?
7) Is Wilhelm a traitor to Germany?
8) Wilhelm was an effective U-boat officer. Does he have things to atone for? Is that part of what motivates his actions in the novel?
9) Though Wilhelm considers himself a loyal German, he is not a Nazi. What set him apart and made him less susceptible to propaganda?
10) In the first chapter, Karl, an American bomber pilot of German descent, realizes he’s been ordered to bomb Bremen, where he has relatives. Part of him wishes he could find an excuse not to go. He’s almost hoping the airplane will break down. The author describes it this way:
Karl nudged the throttles up to 1500 RPM to exercise the turbos. One by one, he eased back the prop control levers and watched for an RPM drop to make sure the propeller governors were working. Everything checked good; Hellstorm gave him no release from the dilemma splitting his heart in two. Good hydraulic pressure, good suction, good voltages. Good Lord.
Should Karl have been more prepared emotionally? Should he have known all along this might happen?
11) Karl comes from a German-American family, and his cousin Gerhard supports Hitler’s Germany. Gerhard even tells Karl he knows people who can help him avoid the draft. Should Karl have reported his cousin to the authorities?
12) Did the novel change your views on World War II?
13) Did the novel change your views on war in general?
14) How does the novel compare and contrast with other World War II novels you’ve read?