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The San Joaquin Siren, An American Ace in…

The San Joaquin Siren, An American Ace in WWII's CBI

by William M Behrns

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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I finished The San Joaquin Siren by Bill Behrns on Tuesday night. I'd started reading it on...Sunday? It was a quick read, is what I'm trying to say. It is a memoir by William Behrns, who was a pilot in WWII, flying in the China, Burma, India (CBI) theater. I don't think I ever really paid much attention to the fact that troops were stationed in that area of the world during World War II.

Behrns takes the reader briefly through his early childhood to his decision to become a pilot. He describes how he got there, and then how he started flying in the Army Air Corps. He takes us through his training and finally his time in the CBI theater during WWII.

I don't read much non-fiction, but I do try to work some in every now and again. This book was a Kindle e-book I won from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I was glad of the chance to read some more non-fiction. While the subject matter was interesting, however, I found the book only okay. Mr. Behrns co-wrote the book with Kenneth Moore, but even the assistance of a more skilled writer couldn't disguise the often diary-entry, rote recitation of facts that made the book less than engaging at times. Behrns basically took us day to day through his time in the CBI theater, by listing a date, then telling us what happened on that date, including names of those involved and facts regarding the mission. I was lost sometimes by the extensive use of military and aeronautical jargon. I know next to nothing about planes or the Army, so sometimes a little explanation of terms or abbreviations would have been nice.

Overall, I'd give it two out of five Whatevers. Maybe those with a military or aeronautical background might enjoy the book more. I think it could have benefited from better editing or a more nuanced writer. Recommended for airplane buffs and those who have a strong interest in WWII. ( )
  Lexi2008 | May 31, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The San Joaquin Siren, an American Ace in WWII’s CBI by William Behrns with Kenneth Moore
Growing up during World War II, most children had their favorite airplane, and the favorite, by far, was the P-51 Mustang. It was mine too, but, at the time, I did not know about the P-38 Lightening. If I had, I think it would have been my choice. P stands for Pursuit, and in many ways was like the fighter planes of today. I have been trained as a pilot, and if I could fly any plane I wanted now, it would be the Lightening. With two engines, the pilot’s pod slung between them, and a lot of fuel, it was the best bomber escort of its time.
The San Joaquin Siren was a P-38 Lightening and her pilot was William Behrns. However one doesn’t step lightly into one of these and fly off to do battle. Their pilots were special people, and still are. Captain Byrnes is one of these. He was born very small, in fact, by many people’s estimations too small. He credits his growth into a normal sized and athletic boy to having been raised on goat’s milk, and, apparently, a lot of it. He was keen of eye and had good reaction time… the right stuff by the standards of the day.
Captain Byrnes story about his flying in the China Burma India Theater is not a memoire; it is an encapsulation of how to become an effective fighter pilot. His language is not highly technical as he takes us through all elements of his training and performance. That language is captivating. I felt as though I was learning how to fly as he did. Have I become a better pilot for having read this book? I think so, at least in my head.
A lot of the book’s substance is about missions: the kind of flying, the opposition, and turning the circumstances into victory if single missions can be described that way in a major theater of war. It is unquestionably an adventure.
Byrne’s voice is matter-of-fact, but not like that of the airline pilot. His is engaging. It made me want to be with him and to experience what he did. I felt my hands and feet on the controls and the feedback they provided and think that many readers will as well. It is not the kind of book where the end of a mission was a convenient place to stop reading. I wanted to know what was coming next.
Captain Byrne left the military with four “kills” to his credit, one short of being named an Ace, although he had shot down a fifth enemy plane but had no way to confirm it, nor did any Allied unit. More than fifty years would pass before Byrne would be encouraged by his co-author and friend, Kenneth Moore, both to see if there was some way the Japanese could confirm his kill, thus making him an Ace, and to write his story. A Japanese researcher was able to confirm the fifth kill and Byrne was inducted into the Society of Aces nearly sixty years after the fact.
Toward the end of the writing, Kenneth Moore became ill, and his wife, Tina, stepped forward to help finish it and to see that it was accepted for publication. I am very glad she did. ( )
  michaelgibbons | Jun 7, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Received this eBook courtesy of the Early Reviewers programme - thank you to the authors and publisher.

I enjoyed reading the book, the detailed story of the author's training as a fighter pilot was excellent.

His descriptions of the planes he was instructed in, how the training progressed, and later the next level of training on more complex aircraft was very good.

His goal (and the effort) to become a P38 Lightning fighter pilot really shows how nice that plane was; for someone interested in WWII vintage aircraft, this book is a good read.

Later in the book, his actual missions flying in the CBI theather are less detailed, unfortunately. That is an area I haven't read about, and could have been developed a bit more.

I agree with some of the comments on another review about the extent of time used in pursuing credit for his 5th confirmed kill; while he deserved the credit, and it gave him 'Ace' title, it's a bit too long in the book in my opinion.

Thank you! ( )
  yann2 | Jun 5, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The balance between training / learning to fly and combat was about right, and I especially enjoyed the chapters covering his early flying. Many WWII memoirs dive straight into combat, rather than showing you the "nitty-gritty" details of how they learned to get into the air, and more importantly, come back down safely. I liked Mr Behrns' descriptions of life as a pilot-cadet, particularly his inadvertent trip to Davis-Monathan AFB.

Another thing that struck me in this memoir was how reliant pilots of this era were on the mechanical reliability of their aircraft. It is clear in this book that treating your aircraft badly could be fatal, particularly with regard to the engines. It wasn't enough to worry about the Japanese shooting you down, a badly tightened fuel hose could kill you as easily. Bill's overnight stay in the jungle gave a taste of what it would have been like to be downed in the wild. I'd imagine that he was pleased to be rescued the following day. My great-uncle worked on the Burma Road, as a PoW, and it was no picnic.

All in all, this memoir held my interest, and I will go back and read it again. I am grateful to the pilot for having written it, and salute his bravery, and compassion. A good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in either military or aviation history. ( )
  Dr_Doom | May 13, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is an autobiography of a young man who grew up in the Depression and became a WW2 fighter pilot in the CBI theater. If either period interests you, it is well written and a fast, fluid read. However beyond this the author [and his ghost writer] have no special insights or unusual experiences. So it is worth an ebook price but is probably not a book you will choose to read twice. It is especially flat on getting a feel for the CBI beyond snakes and monkey feces. ( )
  agingcow2345 | Feb 26, 2012 |
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