A distant, long stare. That's what William 'Ox' Abraham brought back from World War II, according to his nephew Forrest Fegert. Now Fegert is filling in the rest of the story in his new book "Belly of the Beast."
"In my free time, I started researching and thinking back to when my Uncle was here and the looks on his face when I asked about the B17s," says Fegert.
Abraham enlisted in the Army Air Corp on his 18th birthday and trained to become a belly gunner. Abraham spent countless missions over Germany from inside the ball turret on the underside of a B17G.
"He would pivot it up and rotate 360 degrees," Fegert demonstrated with an image of a ball turret drawn on a piece of paper. It's a ball shaped compartment with two 50 caliber machine guns sticking out. Abraham would fly for hours with his body stuck in a cradle-like position, hunting down German attack planes.
"It's going to be the smallest guy. You've got to be pretty little to fit in there, " says Amy Russell, director of the Barksdale Air Force Base Museum. A replica B17G sits on B.A.F.B. museum grounds.
Fegert's Uncle Ox was the chosen 'smallest guy' of his troop in the Army Air Corp.
"He was a Gold Glove Boxing champ. His mom and dad were against violence and didn't want him doing that," adds Fegert. He adds Uncle Ox's parents certainly were shocked to hear he had decided to enlist in the Army Air Corp.
However as Fegert grew up, he would often ask his Uncle Ox about his time at war. He says his Uncle would never talked about it.
"I think it was too emotional."
Fegert was so moved by his Uncle's role in the war, he wanted to write a book about it. But he was immediately challenged by a lack of information.
"He was the inspiration for the book. But this book goes down a road he did not go down," says Fegert.
After much research and ongoing calls to numerous other B17 and B52 pilots who flew in World War II, Fegert decided he had his road map for a book. He would write an historical fiction novel.
"I started talking to a B17 pilot in Michigan who was on a 304th Bomb Group, known as the Cocktail Kids," add Fegert, describing how he meshed his Uncle's life in the war with other fictional events. In the book, Abraham's character is shot down, but that never happened to him.
Fegert says despite his Uncle's inability to talk about the hell he went through in war, he somehow wanted to convey the imagery and the stories of bravery that were rampant during World War II.
"They took to the heavens to find hell over Germany," says Fegert, reading an excerpt from his book, a letter to the readers.
Fegert continues, "I hope their story of courage, gallantry and valor lives through all generations."
Fegert expects his book, "Belly of the Beast," to be released on Amazon in the next few weeks.
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