At fifteen years old, Jack Raab is still too young to join the military. As the Second World War is winding down in Europe, Jack fears that all of the fighting will be over before he gets his chance to see action. After some consideration, he uses a fake ID card to lie about his age and enlist in the Army Air Corps. Jack makes it through training and becomes a gunner on a B-17 “Flying Fortress”. After twenty-four bombing missions and countless close calls, Jack’s luck finally runs out! When his plane is shot down by the Germans, he escapes by parachute and comes down behind enemy lines… alone, and afraid.
One thing I absolutely love about this book is the realism. Mr. Mazer served in the Army Air Corps himself, so it’s no wonder that he got all the details correct. From all the descriptions of the bomber in flight, including the snap of freezing cold air temperatures and the smell of the exploding shrapnel, you’ll probably feel like you’re strapped in alongside young Jack. Also, I really appreciated how honest the book was when it discussed Jack’s feelings. During training he thought he was invincible, and that no harm could possibly ever come to him. Eventually, after seeing some of his friends injured in battle, Jack’s demeanor became deadly serious.
Just like in real life, this story doesn’t end once Jack’s tour is over. I really enjoyed following Jack’s return home, and I could identify with the difficulties that he faced when he tried to return to his old high school. “The Last Mission” offers an outstanding view on what war really is, as opposed to what young men sometimes think it is. Even though this book contains some depictions of violence and foul language, I would recommend it without reservation, particularly to young men who might be considering a career in the armed services.