How the Story Was Told – The Authors

LeeTrimble

Lee Trimble was born in 1950, the son of Captain Robert M. Trimble. Lee worked in research and development on lasers, electronics and semiconductors, and has been a scientific writer and reviewer for scholarly and professional journals.

All his life, Lee was fascinated by his father’s World War II service as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot, and as a boy he loved to hear the tales of Captain Trimble’s adventures during his 35 combat missions in the skies above Europe.

But Lee had no idea that Robert Trimble’s war service had a whole other dimension to it, about which he never spoke. More than 60 years after the war, as an old man, Robert happened to let slip that he had served in Russia in the last months of the war. He was reluctant to talk about it, but Lee pressed him for details. Over the following months, what had begun as an unintended slip soon became a handful of anecdotes, and the anecdotes connected together into a story and an extraordinary vista of Captain Robert M. Trimble’s previously unreported six months of covert service between the end of his combat tour and his final return to the United States.

That story – based on Robert’s own account, backed up by Lee’s research among official documents, history books and eyewitness testimony – is told in Beyond the Call – the amazing true story of a lone American pilot’s covert mission to rescue POWs on the Eastern Front.

Lee recalls:

Slowly, piece by piece, the story began to come out. A story bottled up for decades must be hard to tell and keep straight …Some things he struggled to recall, but most were as vivid in his mind as the day they happened. And so were the emotions.

It was an incredible story – literally incredible. A story of a mission in Soviet territory; a mission so secret that even the OSS had to keep a distance from it because of the diplomatic furor that would blow up if the Soviets knew about it. As a cover, they had picked an innocent bomber pilot and sent him out to a US base in the Ukraine. From there he was sent into Poland.

His task: to rescue Allied prisoners of war set loose by the Soviets. He had to help them survive and get them to freedom. He was sent beyond the protection of his own side, beyond the call of duty. He helped not just American POWs but slave laborers and concentration camp survivors; all the lost souls of Poland learned to seek out the American captain.

Anyone else hearing Dad’s story might have thought the old man was delusional. But he was my father, and I’d known him to be a straight shooter all his life. … Dad brought out his cigar box of remaining war memorabilia. I was surprised at what we found in that box. A passport issued by the United States Embassy in London in January 1945, for travel to the USSR on “Official Business.” …There were also two medals I had never seen before—a French Croix de Guerre and, at the very bottom of the box, a letter from the Russian government, dated 1996, with a commemorative medal awarded for participation in the “Great Patriotic War.”

I was stunned … "I’ll be damned," I thought. "The old man had a big secret …"

Lee Trimble, preface, Beyond the Call

Robert M. Trimble 89 years bw

Robert Trimble aged 89

That box of memorabilia was just the beginning. Lee recorded his father’s account, studied it, and began researching the background. And at every turn, every piece of evidence he could find seemed to confirm Robert's story. The POWs smuggled out of Poland in a salvaged bomber … the atrocities … the confrontations with Soviet secret police … and aspects of the story Robert Trimble had never even spoken about, such as the stand-off he helped provoke which nearly led the United states and the USSR to the brink of war.

Robert Trimble April 1945

Captain Trimble at Poltava, Ukraine, in 1945

The old man had had a secret all right. Now that secret, locked away for over six decades, is told in full in Beyond the Call.

“A riveting, tense, and ultimately satisfying account of his father’s heroic effort.” Booklist Online

Robert Trimble passed away in 2009, in his 90th year. Lee, having decided that his father’s story should be turned into a book, realized that he would need help if he was to do it justice. He found a suitable collaborator on the far side of the Atlantic, living in East Anglia, not far from the air base from which Captain Trimble flew his combat missions in 1944.



jeremy_dronfield_prof_medJeremy Dronfield is a British novelist, biographer, and academic researcher. He has been called "a gifted, original writer" (Sunday Telegraph) and has a special interest in World War II aviation. Among his many books is the critically acclaimed The Alchemist’s Apprentice (Headline, 2001), described as a "captivating metaphysical mystery and an otherworldly love story" by the Sunday Times, and the novel Burning Blue (Headline, 2000), the story of a fictional American pilot in World War II, which The Times called "Suspenseful and incisive work … brilliant.”

Having previously written the fictional tale of a remarkable US 8th Air Force B-17 pilot, Jeremy was thrilled and honored to be invited to write the even more amazing true story of a real-life pilot and his extraordinary mission. “Of all the books I’ve written or contributed to in my career, Beyond the Call is the one I am most proud of, and I feel privileged to have my name on its cover.”

Find out more about Jeremy Dronfield’s books and writing at jeremydronfield.com or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Content © Jeremy Dronfield and Lee Trimble 2015