‘Never So Young Again’ is a book written back in 1943 by Dan Brennan. It is one of the books I inherited from my father some years ago. Finally, a couple of weeks ago I got around to reading it.
My father’s copy is a second edition from 1944 but I don’t know if he bought it or was given it then or a year or years later. It is a story about an American guy who volunteers to join the RAF early on in the Second World War before the United States enters the conflict. To sum up, he completes a tour of 30 operations and then, at the end of the book, he finds himself being transferred to the US air force as his country is now in the war.
It is partly a love story as Mack falls in love with an English girl, Diana, but it is more about why certain young men from abroad came to Britain and joined the war before their own countries entered the fighting. And perhaps it is mostly about how these young men coped with the loss of their friends and colleagues. The only way was to forget them while they, the living, fought on but once the war was over, to remember them and never to forget them.
The story is written in an unusual style in that the narrator, Mack, speaks not as ‘I’ or ‘he’ but as ‘you’. It takes a bit of getting used to but it becomes quite hypnotic after a while and it has the affect of dragging you into the story, literally by using ‘you’.
The descriptions of the flying are very accurate as Dan Brennan served in the RAF and USAF. In fact, his wartime experiences are really those he puts Mack through, although I don’t know if there was a ‘Diana’ in the real version.
As my father was in the RAF and completed some 45 operations I found the book very interesting and very revealing. It gave me an insight into how my father might have coped with similar situations and gave me a picture of what he went through on the ground in the bases and in the air. I don’t know how he and the other men did it all.
The love story in the book has a rather unconvincing conclusion. It’s a little ‘corny’ and cliched. Another, more believable, version could have been written and still brought about the same conclusion. That’s my only criticism of the story.
Dan Brennan wrote 40 novels and had a British and US best seller in 1946 with ‘One of Our Bombers Is Missing’. He was a highly decorated tail gunner, flew 80 missions with the RAF and USAF then became a news reporter and highly published outdoor sports writer. Many of his stories after the war appeared in Sports Afield, Field and Stream, Argosy and other magazines. He stayed on in England for some time before returning to Minneapolis where he became somewhat notorious for his ‘potboilers’ and war books.
In later years his writing appeared in the L.A. Times, in particular a piece picking out the inaccuracies in the movie Memphis Belle. He married Helen from South Africa and they had five children. He met Helen during the war when she was a WAC Battery commander in London. Dan died in 2002.
You can find copies of this book, maybe others of Dan’s, on eBay. His bestseller, I believe, can be bought from an American publishing company.