Lightning Down

Tom Clavin

An American fighter pilot doomed to die in Buchenwald but determined to survive.

On August 13, 1944, Joe Moser set off on his forty-fourth combat mission over occupied France. Soon, he would join almost 170 other Allied airmen as prisoners in Buchenwald, one of the most notorious and deadly of Nazi concentration camps. Tom Clavin’s Lightning Down tells this largely untold and riveting true story.

Moser was just twenty-two years old, a farm boy from Washington State who fell in love with flying. During the War he realized his dream of piloting a P-38 Lightning, one of the most effective weapons the Army Air Corps had against the powerful German Luftwaffe. But on that hot August morning he had to bail out of his damaged, burning plane. Captured immediately, Moser’s journey into hell began.

Moser and his courageous comrades from England, Canada, New Zealand, and elsewhere endured the most horrific conditions during their imprisonment… until the day the orders were issued by Hitler himself to execute them. Only a most desperate plan would save them.

The page-turning momentum of Lightning Down is like that of a thriller, but the stories of imprisoned and brutalized airmen are true and told in unforgettable detail, led by the distinctly American voice of Joe Moser, who prays every day to be reunited with his family.

Lightning Down is a can’t-put-it-down inspiring saga of brave men confronting great evil and great odds against survival.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

“We were young, hotshot pilots, and the reason they send 20-year-old kids to war is because with youth comes a sense of invulnerability.”

The incarceration of 168 Allied Airmen in Nazi concentration camps was not a story ever reported. Most were unwilling or unable to talk about it. They were pushed to “move on and forget.” I’ve always been proud of veterans and America but this book shook me to the core. 

I don’t read a lot of biographies. I find the writing to be too different and usually, too somber. While this book started out that way, I later found myself completely immersed, absolutely horrified and utterly heartbroken.

I’m going to leave a few quotes from the book because there are no words that would adequately share my feelings;

“…an inadequate army of living corpses ..”

“.. almost limitless horror operated by monstrous people.” 

“Buchenwald discipline was famous for being so intolerable that few could bear up under it for very long.”

Koch wanted to “increase the amusement capacity” so would routinely order several prisoners to be locked in a cage with a bear where they were “torn to shreds”   His wife would kill whom she wanted and often ordered strip searches while her friends pointed and laughed. Prisoners were sexually abused and often later killed. 

There are some atrocities too much for me to even refer to in my review. If you read this, know that it is written with respect for those involved.  It is a meaningful story of lives lost, lives given, torture, degradation, and so much more.

Not only did it tell of the atrocities, but of the amazing hope. Growing up, my dad had us watch a movie multiple times. It was called The Great Escape. I remember at a young age being captivated by what these men did. I did not know it was based on true stories. Those stories are from the men in this book. One man is also rumored to be the model for the famous 007 James Bond movie and book series.

“When we saw those Stars and Stripes rise…it carried with it the meaning of almost all that is precious in this life— family, security and most of all freedom.”

My heart hurt while reading this story and hurt for quite some time after. Writing this review brings back that hurt but admiration for these men and all involved. I will forever remember this story.

Content Summary: Very high for violence and atrocities in detail. minimal language, torture, abuse, war atrocities, degradation, sexual abuse, and more.

Thank you to St. Martins Press for gifting me this book and opening my eyes to more than I’ve ever realized.

The book releases November 2, 2021.

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 


  1. Great review! I will have to take your word on this one. I cannot physically or mentally handle reading these accounts. I am grateful for the men and women who went through these atrocities so that we can live in freedom. I have many war veterans in my family. And, they do not talk about it either.

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