History Read-Along: Gunner’s Run, Chapters 4-6

Ready for more historical fiction? We’re reading and discussing chapters 4, 5, & 6 of Gunner’s Run by Rick Barry. If you’re still reading, no worries… We don’t have any major spoilers (without warnings) in this blog post, just some extra history to go with the story!

Chapter 4 – Extra History

Let’s talk about parachutes. A couple weeks ago a friend and I were questioning the history of parachutes. When did they come into existence? When did military pilots start wearing them? Since there’s a parachute in this chapter, I thought it might be fun to share some of the history we learned…

The first successful (and recorded) parachute jump took place in 1797, though mankind had been sketching and experimenting with the idea of parachutes and falling safely from the sky for centuries. However, the type of parachutes we usually think of (with a rip-cord to open them) were under development by the end of World War. In 1919, the first premeditated jump from an aircraft with a parachute occurred and new possibility for thrills and military deployment opened.

An example of WWII era parachute

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, parachutes were tested and became a little more reliable. Militaries started experimenting with and training airborne troops (paratroopers). By World War II, it was standard practice for combat pilots and bomber crews to wear parachutes to give them the best chance of survival if they were shot down.

Chapter 5 – Extra History

There were 1,100 prisoner of war camps in Germany during World War II. These are distinctly different than concentration camps. Prisoner of war camps, as they name suggests, held Allied troops, though the conditions were often less than ideal or strictly harsh in some facilities and forced marches were not uncommon during the final period of the war.

For Allied airmen and flight officers captured by the German, there were special POW camps called “Luftwaffe Camps” which were operated only by the German air command. Generally speaking, this afforded better protection and better conditions for the captured pilots and crews. (Warning – Spoiler: Jim does not actually make it to a POW camp, but that would have been his destination.)

All Allied POWs were supposed to try to escape, and during the course of the war, quite a few daring attempts and successes were accomplished. Maybe sometime we should do a whole series on POW prison escapes?!

Chapter 6 – Extra History

The story mentioned some genius ideas and tools in Jim’s adventure. For Allied troops in POW camps, a variety of tools and maps appeared from humanitarian aid groups – often hidden or disguised in common items or games.

Check out this video for an example:

How It’s Written

The pacing in Gunner’s Run is fast and perfect for Young Adult adventure genre. It manages to weave religious themes into the conflict and use them for character building without “writing a sermon.” Perhaps it comes across differently to you, but in my opinion, this book manages to balance its religious views with good character growth (in the story plotting sense of the term, here) and adventure.

Personally, I admire this part of the story’s writing a lot. I sometimes struggle to keep my own historical fiction stories “moving” so I’m taking lesson as I’m reading.

Your Historian

Miss Sarah

About Sarah Kay Bierle

I’m Sarah Kay Bierle, historian, editor, and historical fiction writer. When sharing history, I try to keep the facts interesting and understandable. History is about real people, real actions, real effects and it should inspire us today.
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2 Responses to History Read-Along: Gunner’s Run, Chapters 4-6

  1. Meg Groeling says:

    All was well until Jim somehow ended up on the ceiling like an upside-down spider. He was in a cell–a cell is pretty small, usually. No one heard him breathe? No small bit of dangling debris gave him away? I think this stretched the truth–a lot for me. I will keep reading–maybe Spider Boy will have more adventures–or maybe things will calm down and get more realistic.

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