Book review: Two Gold Coins and a Prayer

We get a lot of books at General Aviation News that are memoirs of pilots. “Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW” is one of the most enjoyable reads that I have had in a long time.

IMG_2466 The book details the exploits of James H. Keeffe Jr., a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. The book was written by his son, James Keeffe III, but told in the first person, as if we are listening to the elder Keeffe tell stories at the airport.

In a style reminiscent of Ernie Pyle, Keeffe begins his literary journey in Seattle as a young man in the Civilian Pilot Training Program in the early days of World War II. By 1943 he was copilot on a B-24. He describes training in detail, including his relationships with other soldiers and their experiences.

Keeffe’s airplane was shot down during a mission over Holland. With the help of the Dutch underground he managed to avoid capture for several months as he was passed from safe house to safe house. Several times he narrowly missed capture. Reading these scenes will put you on the edge of your chair. The book includes details on the fate of the people who risked their lives to shelter him. Some survived the war, some did not.

The book takes many twists and turns. For example, when Keeffe thought he was about to escape to France, he was captured and interred as a prisoner of war in Stalag III, the camp where there was a mass escape of Allied prisoners. This was portrayed in the movie “The Great Escape.”

Keeffe arrived several months after the incident and describes how the Germans cracked down on the captives. The hardships endured by these men will bring tears to your eyes. When the camp was liberated at the end of the war, you share in the soldiers’ joy.

This book is a must read for anyone with an interest in the plight of downed airmen during World War II. It will be especially poignant to those who had a loved one who served in World War II but didn’t share their experiences before they went West.

“Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW” is available from Appell Publishing at and online booksellers.

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