Warren native’s book recounts WWII escape

The latest World War II book from Warren native Timothy M. Gay (WAHS ’72) tells the true story about how American nurses and medics were rescued from Nazi-held Albania in the winter of 1943-44. SAVAGE WILL: The Daring Escape of Americans Trapped Behind Nazi Lines (NAL-Random House Penguin) recounts how a 26-person medical team – half of them female nurses – plus an air crew of four on a flight from Sicily to Italy to pick up wounded Allied soldiers got caught in a violent storm. After being hit by enemy antiaircraft fire, their transport plane was forced to crash-land in German-occupied Albania.

Twenty-seven of the young Americans spent two months dodging German patrols, hostile guerillas, and blinding snowstorms before finally making their way to a rescue boat. One week into the ordeal, three of the nurses got separated when the Germans attacked the town in which they were being hidden. The three nurses spent an extra two-and-a-half months in Albania before finally being freed though an intelligence operation almost as audacious as the Argo rescue of the Iranian hostages 36 years later. Before the nightmare finally ended, it would involve President Franklin D. Roosevelt (who insisted on daily briefings), the Allies’ two leading special ops agencies, the British Balkan Air Force, the 12th and 15th U.S. Army Air Forces, the Army Air Force’s public relations command, two future movie stars (Sir Anthony Quayle and Sterling Hayden), and hundreds of gritty Albanian Partisans, who risked everything to hide and feed the American castaways.

Noted World War II historian Marcus Brotherton calls SAVAGE WILL “Argo meets Ernest Shackleton during World War II’s darkest days.” Fellow historian Alex Kershaw says that the book is “a wonderfully entertaining and moving story of survival, heroism, and escape, one of the best to emerge from World War II.”

Savage Will is Gay’s fourth book and his second volume on World War II history. In 2012 he published Assignment To Hell (also NAL-Penguin) about five great combat correspondents, including Walter Cronkite and Andy Rooney. Assignment To Hell was nominated for a Pulitzer, a Bancroft, and an American Book award. Satch, Dizzy, and Rapid Robert, Gay’s book about interracial baseball before Jackie Robinson integrated the big leagues, won the 2010 Sporting News-Society for American Baseball Research Book of the Year.

Savage Will is available on Amazon.com and wherever fine books are sold. Visit www.timothymgay.com.

Gay is the son of Mrs. Anne H. Gay, formerly of Warren, now of Warrenton, Va.