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The Crew — Dec. 1, 1943

November 27, 2016

By Eileen P. Duggan

On Dec. 1, 1943, my father didn’t die. But the rest of his B-17 bomber crew did. And he spent the rest of his life trying to fulfill the purpose for which he was spared.


B-17 bomber A/C 229794, a.k.a. Mizpah II, in flight

The crew of Mizpah II, officially aircraft No. 229794, of the 322nd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bombardment Group (known as the Ragged Irregulars), 8th Air Force, was based in Bassingbourne, England, during World War II. 2nd Lt. Les Duggan Jr., my dad, was the co-pilot of the crew with whom he had trained in Washington state and Oregon. As the end of 1943 drew near, the 322nd was training Lt. Harry Hollinger to pilot his own crew. His trial run would be a combat mission to Germany with Mizpah II and other aircraft. On Dec. 1, Lt. Duggan sat out so Hollinger could fly.


Lt. Lester W. Duggan Jr.

The mission target was Leverkusen, Germany, but over Vossenack, the formation of bombers and fighters met enemy fire. The Mizpah II was one of five planes that were lost that day at Vossenack, three of them with the 322nd Squadron.

It was the thick of WWII, and the Western Allies were making bombing runs over Germany, in efforts to put an end to the Nazi regime’s numerous grave misdeeds. On Dec. 1, 1943, the 91st Bomb Group sent three squadrons including 28 aircraft to assist in a bombing raid of a chemical works plant at Leverkusen, then were diverted because of cloud cover to a secondary target at Solingen. The Mizpah II was one of those bombers. Although the crew referred to their plane as Mizpah II, in honor of a previous Mizpah that ditched at Stuttgart three months earlier, the 91st labeled it as a no-name B-17G, serial No. 229794. The plane was piloted that day by Leonard (Andy) Anderson and trainee co-pilot Hollinger.

Also on the mission was the Wheel ’N Deal, co-piloted by 2nd Lt. Robert Dickson, who happened to be Hollinger’s best friend. Incidentally, Dickson also was substitute pilot flying with a crew not usually his own. While forming up over England, Dickson’s and Hollinger’s planes were mixed up in the planned formation, when another bomber had to abort from the mission.

When they neared the target, flying at about 26,000 feet, the American B-17 bombers attracted 40 to 50 German Luftwaffe Focke-Wulfs on their tail. For about 20 minutes from 1140 and 1200 hours, the Flying Fortresses had no fighter escort. During this period,

For the rest of the story, see the Essays section at right.

Joining a local author pack

November 3, 2016

cover imageLater this month, I’ll be joining dozens of other St. Louis area writers at an annual Local Author Open House sponsored by the St. Charles City/County Library District to support local authors and provide readers with an opportunity for some early Christmas shopping for books for both children and adults.

I’ll be signing and selling copies of “The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players” from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17. The event will take place at the Spencer Road Branch Library, 427 Spencer Road,
 St. Peters, MO 63376. Entry is free, but registration is encouraged for a refreshment count: or call (636) 441-0522.

If you go, please stop by my table as you shop for holiday gifts that make a lasting impression — no batteries needed. Send friends, too!

Hope to see you there!



“U. City’s Bravest and Kindest” on sale

July 2, 2016

helmet008 copyMy long-form feature article, “U. City’s Bravest and Kindest,” is 100 percent off through the month of July on Smashwords during the 2016 Summer Sale.

Smashwords is a distributor of independent eBooks, providing readers an opportunity to discover new voices in all categories and genres of the written word.

“U. City’s Bravest and Kindest” tells the true story of the University City Fire Department’s 50-year friendship with an elderly developmentally challenged newspaper vendor. The depth of devotion of the firefighters to George inspired the community after George was stabbed early one morning in the U. City Loop.

Visit and choose the sale coupon code at checkout.

For a preview, see this page.

The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players is here

April 19, 2016

My novel is now available in paperback from the Rocking Horse Publishing website and St. Louis area bookstores The Book House and Left Bank Books. Left Bank will ship almost anywhere for 99 cents. The Kindle e-book and paperback are available at Amazon.

The story follows four music majors at a community college, where a manipulative professor tries to spin average students into late-blooming Juilliard-bound prodigies.

Lynnéa, Erin, Holly and Austin form close friendships despite the fact that two of them study piano with the incompetent and predatory Professor Elbert Wayne Dickson, despised by the other two. When the professor is murdered years later, the friends reunite at the cemetery, meet the detective investigating the case and finally learn the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

For more about the story and the characters, see this page under the Fiction menu.

Thanks to Gerry Love for the fabulous back cover photo, taken at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Maryland Heights, courtesy of Pat Sonnett and Judy Malzone at Steinway.

I will be signing books and talking about the connection between music and writing from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 28 at the Maplewood (Missouri) Public Library, 7550 Lohmeyer Ave. (next to the high school and behind the pool), 63143.

The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players now available in e-book

March 30, 2016

cover imageThe Kindle edition of The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players is now available. For those of you (like me) who prefer paper, the print book is on the way, hopefully to be available in local bookstores such as Left Bank Books and The Book House. More details and other locations to follow.

New St. Louis Symphony CEO settles in, aims to draw in a wider audience

October 21, 2015
Marie-Hélène Bernard Photo by Ursula Ruhl

Marie-Hélène Bernard
Photo by Ursula Ruhl

Marie-Hélène Bernard officially took over as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s president and chief executive officer on July 1, but already she’s immersed herself in the St. Louis community.

Since she arrived, she’s absorbed an impressive amount of information about the St. Louis area, the local institutions, the people and the orchestra itself with lightning speed — the tempo at which she talks.

Read the whole story, an expanded version of the original recently published in the West End Word, here.

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***The new stuff on Versatiliosity isn’t always on the front page. Check out these other recent offerings from the sidebar:

Terrell Carter called as Webster Groves Baptist’s first African-American pastor

Terrell Carter, the new pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church, is a true Renaissance man. He’s a painter, carpenter, construction manager, community activist, former police officer, blog writer and the author of three books published in the past year. And, of course, a pastor with three related degrees.

Read the rest here.

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Thought-provoking Slices of St. Louis History from Julius Hunter: New book tells the story of Priscilla & Babe

Author and broadcaster Julius Hunter has long been enthralled with telling the history of St. Louis, especially the hidden details of the city’s untold stories. Now he’s turned his attention to two former slaves who became millionaire madams in St. Louis’ red light district in the Victorian age.

Read the rest here.

An acceptance at last

June 25, 2015

Writers get used to rejections. We get so used to them, we start to expect them. At least I do.

I’ve been pitching novels since 2000 and freelance nonfiction articles much longer than that. I keep a tracking chart of every query I send out to agents and publishers on each piece. As the rejection letters, post cards and emails roll in, I enter each one on my chart. It’s a process of elimination thing — one down, 900 to go. These days most of the rejections — if you even get one — are in emails. There also are many nonrejection rejections, which I label as “presumed dead” on my tracking chart after getting no response for a few staff logo2

When I see that subject line “re: Query …,” I know it’s another elimination to check off my chart.

Until one day last month. I was on deadline for a newspaper article, so when I saw the telltale subject line, I didn’t open it right away. No need to rush to read another form rejection when I had an article to finish — one that would actually be published and generate dinero.

After I had made my deadline, I finally opened the email. The first sentence just did not compute: “I’ve read your manuscript and I’d love to offer you a publishing contract.” Details about the royalties, price of author’s copies and timing followed.

I read it several times to be sure. Then I put on my Reeboks, slung my water canteen over my shoulder and took a walk. While I walked, I called my sister to tell her the good news:
My novel, The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players, will be published in spring 2016 by Rocking Horse Publishing, a small press based in St. Louis. There’s a guide to the book and the characters under the Fiction section at right.

This is my 2010 National Novel Writing Month novel that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. Since completing the first draft in December 2010, I’ve tweaked and revised and polished and proofed. I’ve had beta readers give suggestions and comments and sent queries to 67 agents and 12 publishers.

Far be it from me to promise success if you just keep at it and keep trying. Many writers, maybe most, never, ever get published no matter how hard they try. Maybe the book isn’t good or maybe it’s great, maybe publishers are afraid to take a chance on a book that may have a limited market. Maybe they want to avoid a hot-button topic (remember The Help, reportedly rejected by more than 60 agents?). Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, not querying the right agent or publisher at the right time.

In any case, I’m glad I stuck with it and kept sending out those queries.

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