Under the Wire - the story of William Ash

Received an email from the author this morning. Thought you guys should know about this book. Always happy to get another vet's story in the limelight. ;)



Notice of a new WWII book you or your family might like.


I'm a London-based author and spent the last few years helping one of America's greatest unsung heroes of WWII, William Ash, put together his wartime autobiography UNDER THE WIRE, which has just been published in USA and Canada.


Bill, who just celebrated his 88th birthday, is probably the greatest living US prisoner of war escape-artist of WWII. Born in Texas, he joined the RCAF in 1940 and flew Spitfires until shot down in 1942. He then became a serial escape artist, attempting 13 PoW-camp escapes - cutting through the barbed wire, climbing over it, or tunneling under it before finally escaping for good.


When the book came out in the UK a few months ago, it became an instant best-seller, but somehow it has been almost completely ignored so far by the media in North America. The only thing we can do to get Bill and his book the recognition they deserve in the US and Canada is to turn to the internet and people who care about WWII and the people who fought it for us. So I would be very grateful if you would forward this note to anyone who you think might like the book or help to spread the word that it is out there, available at most good bookshops or online at Amazon


I have sent this note as a one-off to individual email addresses from my favorite WWII/aviation/history websites, forums and guestbooks, but would really appreciate it if you could spread the word to anyone who you know cares about WWII and keeping the spirit and history of the 'greatest generation' alive for future generations. It is in the bookshops now.



Sincere thanks,


Brendan Foley



Book Details:

US/Canada edition:

UNDER THE WIRE by William Ash and Brendan Foley

Published by Thomas Dunne Books (St Martin's Press)

ISBN: 0312338325


UK/Rest of world edition:

UNDER THE WIRE by William Ash and Brendan Foley

by Bantam Press, (Transworld Publishers)

ISBN: 0593054083


Comments from authors:

‘What a splendid book! A young Texan brought up in the middle of the Depression who pulls himself up by his boot straps, thereafter hikes to Canada to fly Spitfires for the Brits while America is still neutral. Just as the U. S. enters the war, he is shot down, and another exciting and terrible episode in his life begins. Living under terrible conditions he makes several attempts to escape until he finally succeeds in saving himself and many of his fellow POWs. This is a moving and heroic story of a young man who overcomes all obstacles with a sense of humor and succeeds in the end. Hollywood should snap this book up in a flash. Buy it, read it, enjoy it.’


Charles Whiting, author of Hero, Life and Death of Audie Murphy




‘An astonishing tale - totally spell-binding. Bill Ash makes Steve McQueen look like Jim Carrey. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to emerge from the horrors of the war with his faith in ordinary people enhanced. That's the real heroism of the man, and of the book’.


Alan Plater, writer of Last of the Blonde Bombshells, The Beiderbecke Trilogy




‘Bill Ash is an old-fashioned hero whose exploits should be read not just by adults, but by children everywhere. Not just because they would learn a lot about the Second World War, but also because they would be inspired. This is a story of bravery in the face of brutality, of comradeship, of a never-say-die attitude; and running through it is a sense of humor that cheers up the grimmest situations.’


Heather Nicholson, The Times (London)




‘Readers may be familiar with Stalag Luft III as the German prison camp that was the setting of the movie The Great Escape. Ash was a real-life prisoner there during World War II, and he spent most of his time there trying to escape. He was a "cooler king," a real-life version of the Steve McQueen character in the film. For Ash, unlike his fictional counterparts, life was not a lighthearted adventure. His entry into Occupied France was via an airplane crash, he was tortured by the Gestapo, he watched his friends and fellow prisoners gunned down while attempting their own breakouts. Like Paul Brickhill's Great Escape (the book on which the movie was loosely based) and other WWII lemme-outta-here stories, this memoir is full of excitement and drama. Fans of escape literature will eat it up’.


David Pitt, American Library Association




‘Bill Ash has led a life of adventure that will inspire, astonish, and sometimes even amuse the readers of this memoir. It also fills in many gaps in the history of World War II including the day-to-day activities of the splendid pilots who fought the Germans to a standstill in the skies above Britain. Crawling out of Depression-era Texas with ten cents in his pockets, a world to explore, and the cockiness of a born daredevil, Ash joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot just in time to help fight the air war over Britain and France. It was a time of courage and pain, and of wild celebrations of life amidst the prospects of imminent death.


Ash escaped death in the skies only to find himself in a German POW camp. How he and his fellow prisoners resisted their captors is the true story behind such fictional sagas as Stalag 17 and The Great Escape. Ash is a writer who makes his readers feel as if they're right there beside him through it all. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the escapades of Bill Ash during World War II. Readers who like stories of wild and magnificent adventure are going to love this book!’


Homer Hickam, author, Rocket Boys/October Sky, The Ambassador's Son




‘A remarkable story of one man's refusal to give in to his captors, brilliantly told and with all the authentic sights, sounds ands smells of the World War II prison camp.’


Tony Rennell, co-author of The Last Escape




'Under the Wire' is a well-written and exciting memoir of wartime captivity that is packed with incident and vividly recreates the oft-neglected early days of Stalag Luft III and the now forgotten mass escape from Oflag XXIB, Schubin - a sort of dress rehearsal for the famous Great Escape. The author himself is one of the great unsung heroes of the Second World War, as are some of those whose adventures he records in this remarkable book. It also makes a refreshing change to read a memoir by someone who is politically literate and knew exactly what he was fighting against and what he was fighting for.’ There are passages in this book - particularly those concerning the political awakening of POWs and their determination to create a better post-war world - that make the reader want to stand up and cheer. ‘


Charles Rollings, author of Wire and Walls, Wire and Worse




‘Under the Wire is everything I would expect from a memoir by Bill Ash -- fast-paced, exciting and moving, but also colored by his mischievous sense of humor. He has a real gift as a storyteller -- the characters and events come off the page as if we were meeting and experiencing them ourselves. Bill Ash was one of the great escape artists of the Second World War, and always managed to put himself in the center of the action. He endured a lot, but never lost his essential humanity and zest for life, something that comes through very strongly in his book. That's what makes Under the Wire such a joy to read -- getting to know the irrepressible Ash and reliving his adventures with him.’


Jonathan Vance, author of A Gallant Company: The Men of the Great Escape




‘Under The Wire is an introspective and instructive look at the indomitable spirit to escape from World War II German prison camps possessed by men like American fighter pilot William Ash. Beaten, starving, freezing or sick, they were relentless in their quest to force German troops to hunt them and thus not be available for other fronts, and to get home themselves to fight again. From hard times in Depression-era Texas to flying Spitfires against the Luftwaffe to Gestapo torture chambers, Ash's memoir is thoughtful, deep, and poignant for a fighter pilot, almost dreamlike sometimes in its obscurity and wistfulness. But reality always returns in the grim details of camp life, the wily and ingenious methods of escape, and the stories of brave and courageous men and their break outs. Ash has a humor and incitefulness that adds to the history. His book is a testament to man's deep-seated yearning to be free.’


Robert Wilcox, author of First Blue




‘Under the Wire is a revelation in World War Two history. A true story of fighter pilots, few in number but among the first to take a stand against the destructive powers of the Nazis in their bid to enslave and rule the world. Under the Wire tells it like it was. Here is a true, honest-to-God historical account in the first person of Bill Ash, Spitfire fighter pilot and escapologist. Everyone should read this bit of history brought to light.’


Donald R. Burgett, author of The Road to Arnhem and the Screaming Eagles series

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

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