A New Book Written By World War II Pilot Shares The Danger And Honor Of His Military Service

When Jack Colman was a boy living in the city of York, England, he dreamed of flying airplanes.  He finally got his chance when just after his twenty-first birthday in 1940 he joined the Royal Air Force.  Not long after retirement from the insurance business in the 1980s, Colman wrote a book about his wartime exploits when he was stationed in Iceland with the Coastal Command during World War II.  Published by his son, Richard, in December 2017, the book covers the time between his enlistment to his participation in the Battle of the Atlantic late in 1943.

The Battle of the Atlantic was fought from the beginning of the war in 1939 to the very end of the war in the European Theatre in 1945.  The goal was to protect the Allied shipping routes from North America to Great Britain.  Merchant ships brought in food, raw materials for factories making armaments, troops, tanks and army vehicles.

Had the Germans taken control of shipping in the North Atlantic it is quite possible that the Axis Powers would have won the war.  Certainly, the D-Day invasion would never have happened.  Great Britain would very likely have been starved out and forced to surrender.  Churchill himself considered the German U-boats to be the biggest threat to the country: “… the only thing that ever really frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril.”

German U-boat U-14.
German U-boat U-14.

Along with mines, ships, and aircraft, U-boats were responsible for the loss of three million tons of Allied shipping between June and December 1940. In October of 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy destroyer USS Reuben James, while escorting a British convoy, was hit by a German torpedo from the U-552 submarine and was destroyed. The USS Kearny was also torpedoed that same month by the German U-boat U-568 but survived to reach the safety of Iceland.

President F.D. Roosevelt was still being pressured by those who thought the United States should not be involved in the European war and he was not able to declare war on Japan until December 8, 1941. Soon after, Hitler declared war on the United States.

Colman’s book Liberators over the Atlantic speaks of his interest in the different aspects of aviation.  He also details the numerous dangers involved such as flying missions in atrocious weather conditions and the particular challenges navigating over the North Atlantic.  Their job was to seek out German U-boats and destroy them, along with escorting convoys, protecting them from the U-boats and aerial attack.  Colman describes the common mechanical problems of the Lockheed Hudson and B-24D Liberator aircraft he flew, the time he crashed an airplane into the sea, avoiding U-boat fire, and running dangerously low on fuel over German territory.

B-24 Liberators
B-24 Liberators

According to his son Richard, “Jack was a quiet man, possibly shy and so his account is not one of self-aggrandizement, boasting, exaggerated bravery or smugness at mastering the necessary skills of flying and navigation.  It is an account of a young man learning about the adult world and falling in love and marrying while he could, a man who wanted to fly from the age of ten, who enjoyed and was fascinated by the mechanical and technical skills of flying and navigation; skills which he was conscientious in acquiring.  He was aware that life might be short.”  “Aside from this introduction, the epilogue, end matter, and the background historical information regarding the Battle of the Atlantic, this book is entirely the work of my father, Jack Colman.”

Colman also served in the Eastern Theatre of WWII, flying de Havilland DH98 Mosquitos, a small two-man aircraft and Bristol Type 156 Beaufighters, a heavy aircraft used mostly for night bombing raids.  Richard Colman has stated that the events in the Far East will be revealed in another book, providing Liberators does well in sales.

Liberators over the Atlantic by Jack and Richard Colman was published by Fonthill Media and is available in both hardcover and a Kindle version.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE