A U.S. fighter pilot captured by the enemy. A father determined to rescue his son. One of the most remarkable and moving true stories of faith and perseverance to come out of World War II.
October 6, 1944. Twenty-year-old Army Air Corps Second Lieutenant David “Mac” Warren MacArthur was on a strafing mission over Greece when a round of 88-mm German anti-aircraft flak turned his P-38 Lightning into a comet of fire and smoke. Dave parachuted to safety as the Lightning lived up to her name and struck the Adriatic Sea like a bolt of flames. In minutes, he was plucked from the water—only to find himself on the wrong end of a German rifle pointing straight at his head.
Dave’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Vaughn MacArthur, was a chaplain with the 8th Armored Division of Patton’s Third Army when he learned of his son’s capture. He made it his personal mission to find him. For the duration of the war, as Dave was shuttled from camp to camp—including Dachau—his father never stopped searching. Then in May 1945, Vaughn’s last hope was Stalag VII-A in Moosburg, Germany. Through the barbed wire fence, he cried out his son’s name. Incredibly, out of tens of thousands of POWs, one of them, squinting into the sunlight, turned and smiled.
Father and son spent the next two weeks together celebrating, a forever cherished memory. Over the next twenty-five years, Dave would go on to honor his father on rescue missions of his own, becoming a highly decorated and genuine American war hero. In both Korea and Vietnam, Dave would carry with him the legacy of a great man who gave everything to save his son.
An inspiring, harrowing, and unforgettable chronicle of love of family and love of country, Lightning Sky is a timeless testament to extraordinary lives in extraordinary times.
I couldn’t find information about R. C. George, although his website does contain photos of the MacArthur family.
I bought “Lightning Sky” because of the P-38 on the cover, although there is precious little about combat in one. In fact, Dave MacArthur didn’t even fly one until he arrived in Italy for combat, which is where my uncle, Daniel S. Wilson, was based 75 years ago. They served in the same 14th Fighter Group, based at the Foggia Airfield Complex near San Severo, but in different squadrons–at about the same time.
The book opens and closes with MacArthur’s military service in Korea (also Vietnam), but the bulk of the story is about his experiences as a POW of the Germans during the waning months of the European war. The most fascinating part was that his father, Vaughn MacArthur, served as a frontline Army Chaplain with the 8th Armored Division at the same time, and kept searching for where his son was being kept. They were eventually reunited, right before VE-Day.
Dave MacArthur had just been returned to the States that June when a telegram arrived about his father’s loss. Vaughn MacArthur died in an accident June 9, 1945, age 45, in the Czech Republic. He is is buried at Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France, which is where my uncle, P-38 pilot Daniel Wilson, is also buried–along with over 10,000 other young Americans.
There are extensive Endnotes in the book, but not one photograph except for the one on the cover. A fascinating chapter in WWII history.