Ever wonder what it was like be on one of those bomber planes in World War Two? Not the Hollywood version, but what it was really like to go up against the Luftwaffe, say, maybe fifty times?
The book Tomorrow’s Promise will give you a first-hand account of that and so much more.
For young Ed Kofke, joining the United States Air Force at the tender age of eighteen seemed like an adventure. He kept a detailed diary of his experience, from the day he left home until he finally returned years later. He directed the entries to his future children, and that served to make the record of his experiences even more personal and engaging.
I was given a copy of the book because I know one of his sons personally. I meant to browse through it, just as a courtesy. However, I was immediately sucked in by Ed’s writing style—he’s not a professional writer by any means, but he certainly was a talented storyteller.
Tomorrow’s Promise is the perfect title for this book. There were many factors that kept Ed going throughout his tour of duty—his family and friends back home, his faith in his religion, and later on, the love of his life, Ruthie. But holding fast to the idea that he was going to be around long enough to tell his story to his future children was arguably the strongest factor that kept him going. It can be heard in the way he recounts his daily life as a tail gunner, and later a Sargent. The quote that follows is fairly typical of the life and death situations he and his crew faced on every one of those fifty missions (edited for brevity):
“The ten fighters turned and came at us with everything they had. Bill shouted he was almost out of ammo. That was depressing but my report was worse—there’s another group of fighters behind us. I tried to break the tension and asked the other gunners how much ammo they had left. I wish I hadn’t. They all had enough for about one more pass. They asked about mine, thirty seconds left, I told them. We knew this was the end.
‘Here they come’, I shouted. I opened my turret doors in anticipation of Lt. Shoe hitting the alarm bell. The fighters came screaming in, flames shooting from their wings, looking like hell fast approaching. The sight was formidable. I wished I had time to say something to the guys, like ‘I’m glad I knew you’, but that seemed corny. Anyway, we’d be in heaven together shortly.
Then the unbelievable happened! An ME-109 exploded into a ball of flame some 300 feet from us. No one had fired! Life became a possibility again. P-38 Lightnings were fighting for our lives, dogfighting the Germans all over the sky. I can’t explain the feeling I had, kids. A feeling of euphoria came over me…I wanted to cry I was so happy”.
This collection of diary entries reads more like an actual novel. There was humor, and many heartwarming moments, followed by the terror of the atrocities of war. Ed doesn’t hold back much, describing details in a way that makes you feel like you’re there right along with him. He and his crew on the Shoo-Shoo Baby (the name of their plane) flew fifty missions, most of them dropping bombs on the enemy and being shot at in return. They managed to complete all fifty missions without losing one crew member, which is quite an accomplishment.
But even after fifty missions, the war wasn’t over. After returning home triumphant, Ed re-enlisted for another tour. By this time, I was fully invested in this young man’s life and how it was unfolding. I also knew that the book was dedicated to his family and mentioned “Ruthie, the love of my life”, so it was also sort of a throwback version of the television show “How I Met Your Mother.” Every time he met a woman, he wrote to his “kids” that perhaps he had met their mother. But the real story of how he and Ruthie got together was one of my favorite parts of the book! He meets Ruthie at a department store early on in the book, and this scene is about a year later (also edited for brevity):
“Well, I was halfway through the store when I glanced toward the hosiery department. Something caught my eye, and it wasn’t the hosiery. I noticed a clerk behind the counter with long wavy black hair. It was Ruthie, the girl I met before I went overseas.
We greeted each other and were both surprised. We talked for a few minutes…kids, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something attracting me to this girl. Even when she frowned, she looked beautiful.”
It still took most of the book to find out what happened between them, but it was worth the wait. I felt like I was one of those kids, anxiously waiting to see who my mother would be.
Even after the war was over, it had taken a toll on Ed, just as it has for countless vets and continues to this day. I’ve always had respect for those who put their lives on the line for us, or who work to ensure our freedoms. Now I have a deeper understanding of their experiences, and my respect has increased dramatically. How Ed overcame his reaction to what he had experienced and how he went on to lead a productive, happy life, is a testament to the courage of our vets, and the strength of the promise of a better tomorrow.
This book would be great for anyone doing research on World War Two, or that era, such as writers or history buffs. Anyone who had relatives who lived during the era or have served, may find it of interest, as well. It certainly wasn’t boring, and I found myself looking forward to reading the next entry to find out what happened to Ed and his crew. The book features photos and other documentation, as well as an interesting, engaging story.
Note: This book is a personal account, and therefore not professionally produced and edited. The author was a person of his era, and his opinions reflect the times and his culture. However, it is still easy to read, and Ed Kofke strove to keep an open mind about what was going on around him.
Copies can be obtained through Amazon, by clicking here. If you would like a personalized copy signed by the author’s son, Bruce Kofke (he prepared the book for publication), you can visit the website at www.tomorrowspromise.net or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Personalized copies are often sold at a discount, as well, so it is worth reaching out to Bruce if you are interested.
I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in World War Two, that era, or who likes reading real-life personal stories or memoirs. It’s heartwarming, eye-opening, and enjoyable.