Sid Seid on the right
Dave McIntosh on the left
Mosquito Fighter/Fighter-Bomber Units of World War 2 (page 58)
Martin W. Bowman
Some book reviews found on Amazon…
This one by Theodore A. Rushton
Perhaps it comes from living next door to Americans, but Canadians have a knack for staring tragedy in the face and remembering something to laugh about afterwards. It’s little wonder that many of the funniest modern comedians, from John Belushi to Peter Jennings, are Canadians.
World War II produced “the greatest generation,” says Tom Brokaw, who wasn’t there. Dave McIntosh was there, flying 41 combat missions in the navigator’s seat of a Mosquito night fighter, and he calls it “the scardest generation.” It takes common sense to be afraid; fear is often the one element that provides the extra margin of caution needed for survival.
It helps explain why the 24 Mossies of 418 Squadron achieved the highest scores in RCAF history, with 105 aircraft destroyed in the air, 74 on the ground, 9 probables, 103 damaged and 83 V-1s destroyed. Not bad for planes built of Ecuador balsa, Alaska spruce, Canadian birch and fir, and English ash, often by furniture makers. The twin engine Mosquito had a crew of two, but it carried the same weight of bombs as a B-17 and could fly at 400 miles an hour.
Granted, McIntosh volunteered for the RCAF. He schemed to get into 418 City of Edmonton squadron, which flew night intruder missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of Canada’s highest awards for valor. He wasn’t looking for a safe and comfortable seat to sit out the war. Most veterans who’ve been in actual combat have little to say; those who do talk often emphasize the humor. One of their favorite songs had the lines, “When the compass course is west, that’s the time that I love best” — in other words, heading home, away from the enemy. It’s little wonder he took until 1980 to write this book.
It’s a different kind of war memoir. Americans brag, Brits keep a stiff upper lip, Germans are betrayed heroes, Russians are ‘zhlobi’ — crude and uncouth. Canadians are like hockey players in a power play on the goal — all of the above, and then some. It has the same mood as ‘The Corvette Navy’ by J. B. Lamb, the loneliness of fighting men who are trivialized by everyone not in combat. Only the Canadian military trains “zombies.” There’s a common feeling the government compromises anything to avoid upsetting anyone on the home front — an attitude American soldiers didn’t acquire until the Vietnam.
Sidney Seid, a San Francisco Jew who joined the RCAF before Pearl Harbour, was the driver (pilots were never called pilots) for McIntosh. Seid loyally stayed with the Canadians even though he could have doubled his pay by in the US forces. It wasn’t an easy life. McIntosh tells of one crew that spent its ops circling off the coast of Holland, afraid to cross into enemy territory, faking complete combat reports including targets visited, burning bombers, fires, weather, the whole thing. It was one way to cope with the terror of facing the enemy.
Canadian aircrews flew operations, or “ops.” The American “missions” sounded too much like a crusade. On one occasion, on night ops over Holland, McIntosh and his driver suddenly heard a English voice in their earphones, “Waggle your wings . . . or you’ll burn.” The driver waggled. Wildly. “OK, son” the voice added. A British night fighter had found them in the dark; had they been caught by a German plane, they wouldn’t have heard the bullets hit.
No wonder McIntosh was scared. But, as he told an army friend just back from the D-Day landings, “At least when I’m shot at I can run away at 400 miles an hour.” His friend replied, “Hell, that’s nothing, you should see me.” Yet, for more than 41 ops — if they were chasing Buzz Bombs, or only went a short distance over Europe, it was only half an op — they went back again and again.
Any veteran will sympathize. Non veterans can only wonder how they did it.
McIntosh, who became a Canadian Press reporter after the war, presents a vivid story of the deadly realities of war. It’s too good of a story ever to be made into a movie; but then, life is generally far better than any movie. So is this book.
By Ken Scheffler
This book ranks among the best–Farley Mowat’s “And No Birds Sang”, included–about a Canadian’s experiences during the Second World War. It is, however, not always a light-hearted account, and by no means a glorification of war. As is readily clear, McIntosh–like many of his peers–was not an overly enthusiastic participant, yet undertook his duty with much courage. Terror in the starboard Seat is a fine testament to this courage as well as the sacrifice that so many made in order to rid the world of Naziism.
By A Customer
This book kept me up until 4 in the morning, laughing, crying. It’s got it all. RCAF navigator McIntosh wrote with pathos and honesty. He puts you right inside the Mosquito with his Jewish/American pilot, with whom he had a kind of Butch & Sundance relationship, all that same kind of loyalty and snappy reparte. This is one of the best WWII books I’ve ever read. Just like with a great suspense novel, you’ll find yourself really whipping those pages over. And yet, I was sorry it had to end.