Missing Sticks
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A novel featuring the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne Division on D-Day

D-Day - Normandy - behind Utah Beach. Just after midnight the drop began. Come dawn, 18 C-47s and their paratroopers were missing. What could have the missing troopers accomplished if they had landed safely and engaged the enemy?

MISSING STICKS tells one story.

Over four hundred C-47 Dakotas carried the Screaming Eagles through the darkness and into a thick cloud bank that night. One load of pathfinders crashed into the English Channel. Planes were seen to explode in midair. Others crashed and burned past all recognition, probably due to ground fire. Just before dawn, the initial glider serials slammed between the hedgerows, into trees and each other. Come dawn, eighteen planes, each carrying a stick of fifteen to twenty paratroopers, were missing. I have listened to and read accounts written by and about the paratroopers and glidermen, and their aircrews, and wondered who the missing men were. What could, what would the missing men have done if they had made it safely to the ground? This is a novel about those missing men, their buddies and the friends and enemies they met on the ground on June 6th, 1944.

Missing Sticks is a fictional account of a handful of those missing men, representative of those declared casualties in real life. Each character, every story is a figment of my imagination, but I hope a reflection of the diverse men who flew into the darkness and danger over Normandy that fateful night. I have attempted to make the people and the actions as realistic as possible, stealing bits and pieces of events and personalities from the accounts of the many who participated, and merged them in my mind.

If you have been around combat you know that not every man is brave. Not every man is a hero. Everyone makes mistakes. However, in the fire of battle, a handful of heroes is forged as bravery overwhelms the fear that naturally keeps us from harm.

I hope the Screaming Eagles in this novel are true to the real Screaming Eagles I have known, talked to and read about over the years, with all their faultsóand all their bravery.

This novel is the resultóa tribute to the Screaming Eagles who disappeared into the darkness. - J. M. Taylor

Missing Sticks, 4th edition is now available at Amazon in trade paperback and Kindle formats

Order through your local book store using the title and  ISBN:  MISSING STICKS: 978-1-879043-29-9

or from the many eBook outlets with the ISBN: 978-1-879043-24-4


Book of the Month July 2009MISSING STICKS won the EPIC Award for best Historical Fiction for 2010, the Military Writers Society of America's Book of the Month for June, 2009, Second Place in the Tampa Writers Alliance 2008 WordSmith contest (behind Taylor's First Place winner, Gulf Winds) and Honorable Mention in the Florida Writers Association 2009 Royal Palm Literary Awards.

 

 

 


LTC William Bennett, USA Retired, led me to a video about the D-Day operations, battlefields and museums that does an excellent job of capturing the dangers facing our troops that day.

"D-Day in Color," a longer documentary that cover the events leading up to D-Day and the invasion can be viewed HERE.


 “Off the Shelf”

Book Reviews

 Missing Sticks

J. M. Taylor

Reviewed by Bill Bennett

Local author John Taylor, current Vice President of the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the 101st Airborne Division Association, always enjoyed listening to the stories of Association’s World War II veterans. Though that generation is fast passing from today’s scene, the events they lived through remain among the most challenging in the history of warfare. John served with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and, so, felt a special bond with these veterans in particular.

After retiring from the Army, John indulged a life-long desire to write action and adventure thrillers. His work, Gulf Winds, won First Place in the Mystery/Thriller category of the Florida Writers Association 2007 Royal Palm Literary Awards Contest. He has also written Lost Key and Desert Winds.

Inspired by the stories of veterans of the Greatest Generation, John was inspired to try his hand at historical fiction. In Missing Sticks, John plays “what if” with history. On D-1, 5 Jun 1944, 432 C-47 aircraft took off from England to drop 6,600 paratroopers of the 101st over the Cotentin Peninsula. Four hours later, the paratroopers were to be reinforced by glider troops from 51 gliders. John had heard stories of C-47s being shot out of the sky or crashing into the channel. His research revealed that 18 sticks of paratroopers never made it to their drop zones. John asked himself, “What if some of those 18 sticks had made it to the continent? What stories could those soldiers tell?” He set out to tell those stories as they might have been.

Missing Sticks picks up the stories of several fictional characters on the missing C-47s. Last minute exits out of the aircraft. Near misses with falling aircraft. Crash landings into water. Glider landings. John’s story covers all the possibilities. For these sticks with their human cargo, what could go wrong did go wrong. On the ground the situation barely improved. Nonetheless, John’s account shows the resilience and resourcefulness of the American paratrooper.

Initially this book seems to be a collection of vignettes as John picks up the threads of the lives of his characters on this most momentous of nights. However, it is not long before the reader realizes that there is a pattern. The threads are soon woven together to portray a portion of the tapestry that was that most chaotic night. Characters come together, fight together, die together, and survive together.

John’s roots in action adventure and crime writing soon become apparent. Story line and plot twists there are and they will surprise you, pleasingly so.

Missing Sticks is an easy and enjoyable read. The situations are so realistic that the reader must remind himself that this is, indeed, fiction. If you like military history, WWII especially, you will enjoy this work. If you additionally like crime or action adventure stories, you will be doubly enthralled. The reader may not learn much of grand strategy or operational art from this work, but the mechanics of flying a glider or jumping a T7 parachute are there for the visualization. This is a good story well told. I enjoyed it. I recommend it.

© 2011 William C. Bennett


Military Writers Society of America Review

You need to constantly remind yourself this is a work of fiction while reading MISSING STICKS. First of all it reads like you are there; this event really happened.  A segment of the Airborne that was supposed to be the early attack force went missing, and there has been conjecture and theory as to why. What takes place in this fictional story is what author J. M. Taylor envisions might have occurred. In a C-47 over France with the 101st Airborne, going into France on the night before the D-Day invasion, someone screws up. What results is the dropping the troops at the wrong time/in the wrong DZ and into a hostile environment, with all sorts of early warnings for the bad guys (Germans/Nazis).
 
Reading MISSING STICKS has the reader ducking live ammo and running with the combatants for your life. This is a very believable story, from its authenticity of surroundings to its dialog between airborne soldiers.  The latter generates true concern from the reader as to which characters will live or die, and that makes the telling of this story all the more real. At the end of the story, I wanted everyone to get back to their unit and then to get home after the war.
 
I really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to others. Readers who served or lived through WWII will especially appreciate the kinship in this story (Iím a student of WWII, lived through it, and had a cousin and uncle who both served). I loved this masterful and powerful FICTION, with itís short, easy to follow chapters and very detailed, concise maps, positioned strategically throughout the story.

Review by Larry Purcell, Military Writers Society of America (June 2009)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our younger generation honors our WWII vets at a Zephyrhills Reenactment, February 2009. These Reenactors authentically represents Item Company, 3d Battalion, 506th PIR.

 

 

 


 

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