On a cold December day in 1943, Claudio “Steve” Carano’s B-17 bomber was shot down over the Dutch coast on the return flight to England. Thus marked the beginning of his 18-month incarceration in Stalag 17b, the camp made famous in the Billy Wilder film and in the televison show Hogan’s Heroes.
During his confinement Carano secretly kept a journal in his Red Cross blank book, filling it with meticulously penned entries and illustrations. It takes the reader deep behind the notorious wire fence surrounding the prison and into the world where men clung to their humanity through humor, faith, camaraderie, daily rituals and even art.
Not Without Honor threads together the stories of three American POWs — Carano; his buddy Bill Blackmon, who was also at Stalag 17b; and John C. Bitzer, who survived the brutal “Death March” from northern Germany to liberation in April 1945.
At times the journal reads like a thriller as he records air battles and escape attempts. Yet in their most gripping accounts, these POWs ruminate on psychological survival. The sense of community they formed was instrumental to their endurance.
This compelling book allows the reader to journey with these young men as they bore firsthand witness to the best and worst of human nature.
Kay Sloan first saw Carano’s handwritten and illustrated journal when she was visiting family in Florida. The Carano family lived nearby, and Sloan’s sister was looking at it. Sloan became intrigued with the journal and decided she had to know more about it and Carano. Later on she came across the accounts by Bitzer and Blackmon and decided they had to be included in the book.
Sloan is a novelist, poet and professor of English at Miami University in Ohio. Among her books are The Patron Saint of Red Chevys, a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection, and The Birds Are on Fire, winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize.
The book has a foreword by Lewis H. Carlson, professor emeritus of history at Western Michigan University and the author of We Were Each Other’s Prisoners: An Oral History of World War II American and German Prisoners of War. In his foreword he writes that “these narratives are moving testimonies to human endurance.”