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Under The Wire Hardcover – 1 Apr 2005

4.9 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press; First Edition, First Printing edition (1 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593054083
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593054086
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 623,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A story of bravery in the face of brutality, of comradeship, of a never-say-die attitude; and running through it is a sense of humour that cheers up the grimmest situation" (THE TIMES)

"A life of adventure that will inspire and astonish... Ash is a writer who makes his readers feel as if they're right there beside him through it all" (HOMER HICKAM, author of THE ROCKET BOYS)

"A remarkable story... brilliantly told and with all the authentic sights, sounds and smells of the World War 2 prison camp" (TONY RENNELL, author of THE LAST ESCAPE)

"Well written and exciting... in this remarkable book...there are passages...that make the reader want to stand up and cheer" (CHARLES ROLLINGS, author of WIRE AND WALLS)

"An astonishing tale - totally spellbinding. I always knew Bill Ash was a special guy but never realised how special... Perhaps his greatest achievement was to emerge from the horrors of the war with his faith in ordinary people enhanced" (ALAN PLATER) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The remarkable wartime adventures of an American Spitfire pilot, legendary escape artist and 'Cooler King'...

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've read a lot of autobiographies and the 'I did this, I did that' factor can be pretty tiresome unless you are totally fascinated by the author. The fact is that I quickly forgot that 'Under the Wire' was an autobiography - it is so much more than 'just' a story about a man who becomes a fighter pilot, gets shot down and tries to escape. But it is story that makes this book so amazing: all at once it manages to be incredibly moving, heart-warming, hilarious, disturbing and inspiring - and it seems incredible (and often an injustice) that all this could have happened to one person. To come out the other side of these experiences with the deep love for people that Bill Ash clearly does have, just goes to show what an amazing human being he must be. You might say that he can only blame himself for the scrapes that he got into - he is clearly healthily obsessive with standing up to bullies (from playgrounds in depression hit America to nazi thugs bullwhipping women refugees), and it makes you wish that you had the guts to be by his side doing the same. Above all, I think that this book should give you hope - no matter how bad times are, the kindness of people will always find a way. Eternal thanks to Bill and our forbears who fought for a free world.
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Format: Paperback
Being ex-forces, and in my 40's, the daring-do books about the SAS and the Gulf Wars have been high on my agenda. I happened to see 'Under the wire' and thought "I'd give it a go". My opinion - absolutely brilliant! I couldn't put it down. A few years ago people applauded 'Chris Ryan' (or whatever his real name is) for his dramatic 'The one that got away'. I'm sorry Mr Ryan, in the hero stakes you're not in the same league as William Ash and his POW colleagues. These guys are the real un-sung heroes, I had no idea about life behind the wire in WWII apart from what I've seen on television (evidently not that accurate). I'd love to know what became of more of the characters in the book (particularly Jimmy 'Dixie' Deans), but most of all I'd love to meet Bill Ash, shake him by the hand, and know I've met one of the most inspirational characters that ever walked this earth.
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Format: Hardcover
When I began reading UNDER THE WIRE, I expected a story of heroic "derring-do", recalled with a sort of misty, stiff-upper lipped nostalgia by a Grand Lion in the winter of his remarkable life.
Instead, I got so, so much more.
Bill Ash's life is remarkable by anyone's yardstick. From his earliest childhood in Depression-era Texas, he was a hero, ready and eager to take on any bully. While America watched as Europe fell to a maniacal Hitler, he made a decision to personally take on the biggest bully in modern history.
Remarkable? Brave? Courageous? Yes, all of these adjectives describe the heroic life of Bill Ash.
But his life, and his story -- told so extraordinarily well by Ash and his co-writer, Brendan Foley -- is also funny, human and a lesson in living one's life with heart and a true moral compass.
There is as much Huck Finn and Jack Kerouac in Ash's war stories, as there is John Wayne.
Like all great tales of history, UNDER THE WIRE does more than offer adventure after adventure (and WOW, what adventures Bill had!)
The book offers a sense of the times, a sense of the politics, insights into the dangers, the choices, the cat-and-mouse existence of a Prisoner of War.
Bill played cat-and-mouse with the Third Reich, and did it brilliantly.
And I have never read an adventure story with so much genuine humor!
UNDER THE WIRE is a glorious tribute to the sort of person we long for, but never really see anymore: a true hero.
And it's a great, entertaining read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Texan Bill Ash crossed the border into Canada in 1940 to escape a life of poverty as a jobless hobo. Partly out of principle and partly to get enough to eat, he volunteered for the RAF - an action that cost him his citizenship because the US was staunchly neutral at the time. He came to Europe and saw combat as a Spitfire pilot in the RAF.
Shot down in 1942, he spent the rest of the war in prisoner of war camps where he rubbed shoulders with many of the fifty servicemen who were to be murdered by the Gestapo in the aftermath of the Great Escape. Ash made numerous escape bids of his own, and became so familiar with solitary confinement that he is said by some to be the model for Steve McQueen's "cooler king" character in the film The Great Escape.
This book is another in a crop of memoirs penned by veterans of World War II in their twilight years, but it is exceptional in several ways. Ash is candid about his motives for fighting; he reveals hot-headed fury at those who had started the war, something unusual in a generation of writers who tend to censor the emotional content of their work. Never afraid to reveal his feelings, Ash is always witty and ironic: he has a dry and humorous style, and while this book is thoroughly modern and easy to read, it evokes wartime life as vividly as if it were yesterday.
I recommend this riveting book, which compares favourably with Jeffrey Wellum's recent masterpiece First Light.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the years between 1945 and around 1960 there appeared a swathe of 'What I did in the War' and 'Heroic Event' biographies including many that were turned into successful movies including 'The Dambusters', 'Cockleshell Heroes', 'Reach for the Sky' and 'Sink the Bismarck' among a great many more. 'The Great Escape' and 'Enigma' which followed later were partly fictionalised versions of others as was the TV series 'Colditz'. Over the following decades, the numbers of similar books pertaining to WW2 grew fewer but others relating to more recent wars continue to appear.

As the numbers of surviving WW2 participants is now growing increasingly smaller a few more of this ilk are beginning to appear, sometimes from long-lost diaries and other written records, and 'Under the Wire' is a recently published story of one of the many experienced pilots and volunteers from the USA who offered their services to the Allies to aid Britain at a time of its greatest need - it then stood alone as the sole defender against Nazi intentions towards total European domination.

Bill Ash is not a name previously known or mentioned as one of the many known WW2 heroes. He volunteered for the RAF in 1940 and flew Spitfires, possibly the most iconic aircraft of its day, and was shot down in 1942 and captured by the Germans having been betrayed. The book is the story of that portion of his life including periods of torture, being sentenced to death as a presumed spy, reprieved but later sent to the infamous Stalag Luft III where he encountered Douglas Bader (the subject of 'Reach for the Sky') and several of those actually involved in the real 'Great Escape'. He, himself, was involved in several escape attempts.

The book is the story of just five years of one man's life.
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