Beyond the Call News

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The B-17 is 80 years old today

Today is the 80th anniversary of the maiden flight of the prototype B-17 bomber, one of the most successful and numerous warbirds ever built. On July 28, 1935, Boeing "Model 299" took off for the first time, piloted by Boeing test pilot Leslie Towers, the first of 12,731 built.

800px-Boeing XB-17 (Model 299)

Boeing Model 299, the B-17 prototype, in 1935 (via Wikipedia)

The plane was immediately dubbed the "Flying Fortress." Contrary to popular belief (and Wikipedia), this was not because of its multiple machine-guns. At the time, the United States was pursuing a policy of isolationism, and the new B-17 was conceived as a defensive weapon, a coastal anti-shipping/anti-invasion bomber – hence a flying coastal fortress.

800px-Boeing Y1B-17 in flight

Y1B-17 in flight (via Wikipedia)

In practice it was used for offense. In World War II, thousands of Flying Fortresses flown by thousands of crewmen (including pilot Captain Robert M.Trimble) dropped over 640,000 tons of bombs on German targets. Luftwaffe pilots dubbed it the "fliegendes Stachelschwein" (flying porcupine) because of the bristling defenses.

Documentary now online

“Beyond the Call: America’s Last Hope,” the documentary of the book, is now online.

Written and edited by Jeremy Dronfield, it features interviews with Lee Trimble, archive audio of Robert Trimble talking about his secret mission, archive footage, and extracts from the Beyond the Call audiobook.

Putting this together has been a real labour of love – almost as much as the book itself. Telling the highlights of the story, vividly illustrated with sound and footage, it makes a perfect complement to the book.

Beyond the Call documentary trailer

The trailer for the upcoming Beyond the Call documentary is now on YouTube. The documentary itself will be online in a few days.

Written and edited by Jeremy Dronfield, the full documentary features interviews with Lee Trimble, archive audio of Robert Trimble, archive footage, and extracts from the Beyond the Call audiobook.

Watch the trailer here or on YouTube.

Beyond the Call exclusive audiobook excerpt!

By exclusive courtesy of Recorded Books, our audiobook publisher, you can listen to the first excerpt from Beyond the Call, performed by actor Donald Corren.

This excerpt comes from Chapter 8: “Kasia.” In it we find Robert embarked upon his mission to rescue liberated prisoners of war from the freezing wilds of Poland. At this point, Robert has learned the full horrors of the war on the Eastern Front and the plight of ex-POWs and refugees. And in the midst of the horror he finds himself thinking of home…


Excerpt from Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield, read by Donald Corren. Excerpt courtesy of Recorded Books.

Trimble Poltava 02 cropped

Captain Robert Trimble at Poltava airbase, Ukraine, February 1945.

Eleanor and Carol Ann during wartime

Eleanor Trimble at home in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, early 1945.


Interior of women’s barrack, Auschwitz.

Follow us here or on Twitter or Facebook for further exclusive extracts. If you can’t wait, download the audiobook of Beyond the Call now from Amazon or Audible.

Audiobook CDs arrive


We’ve just received the first advance copies of the audiobook on CD. It’s an impressive 9-disc set.


The book is read wonderfully by actor Donald Corren. It’s a terrific experience for any writer when you hear your words performed by a real actor.

As yet, this CD version – scheduled for release in June – is only for schools and libraries; we’re hoping that there will be a general release later. Meanwhile, you can get the audiobook in downloadable format from Amazon or Audible.

The miracle of the 400 Frenchwomen


For all his selfless deeds in Poland, saving the lives of hundreds of Americans and other Allied ex-prisoners of war, Captain Robert Trimble received only two official awards; neither was from his own government.

Aside from the US medals he received for his service as a bomber pilot (Air Medal, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross) the award he was most fond of was the French Croix de Guerre, which was given for – as he expressed it – “rescuing 400 French girls”. And yet the medal lay hidden at the bottom of the old cigar box in which he kept his war mementos – never spoken of, never revealed to his family. The story of how he won that medal was tied up with a lot of heartache and trauma, and the secret mission he had been ordered never to talk about.

Robert Trimble April 1945

And yet, in spite of the darkness, it was the only episode during his three months on the Eastern Front which afforded him a sliver of amusement – merely the thought of how overwhelmingly, flatteringly grateful those girls might have been if he’d actually met all of them (“they’d have smothered me with kisses!” he chuckled, recalling the incident). Perhaps fortunately, he met only a few of them. Most of his dealings were with an enigmatic young woman whom he knew only as Isabelle. Her tragic, harrowing story left a mark on him in which there was no humor at all.

Beyond the Call featured in UK Daily Mirror

Hot on the heels of the review feature in History of War magazine, this weekend, Beyond the Call was given a 2-page feature in the UK’s Daily Mirror national newspaper. It’s a terrific article, which focuses on Lee’s relationship with his dad and the discovery of the story of Robert Trimble’s POW rescue mission.

You can read the article in full online: Amazing story of WW2 hero who went beyond the call .

Mirror Beyond the Call feature

Great UK review in History of War

History of War magazine has given us a terrific review.

Trimble was a man defined not by his outstanding heroics in the war but by the humility he displayed afterwards . . .

The book . . . paints a fascinating picture of the difficult relations between the US and Soviets in the closing days of the war . . . It’s as if Europe hasn’t been saved at all, rather that it’s preparing for a new conflict altogether . . .

The individual rescue missions make for edge-of-your-seat reading too, particularly one story in which Trimble smuggles 400 French women out of the country in a daring rendezvous . . .

Overall, it’s captivating stuff, detailing one man’s courage in a seemingly impossible situation – a brilliantly told story of a true unsung hero.

An Air Force veteran reviews Beyond the Call

Two new reviews of Beyond the Call just in. For the upcoming April issue of the UK’s Military History Monthly, “The inspiring tale of a hitherto unknown true hero – a story worthy of a Hollywood movie.” (Watch this space – that could be happening.)

And on Task & Purpose, a US website devoted to military veterans’ affairs, former US Air Force officer Jason Nulton gives us an enthusiastic and touching write-up.

It isn’t often you come across a story that hits you in the head with a two by four. But this one does just that through this riveting story about one veteran’s heroic cloak-and-dagger activities behind Russian lines during the twilight of the Second World War.

. . . "Beyond the Call" is a true and vivid portrayal of war illustrating that what veterans endure after coming home isn’t much different today than it was in World War II. On a finer scale, it sheds light on a little-known chapter of the world’s greatest calamity in modern times, and begins to apply vibrant color to the roots of the Cold War and the problems returning veterans face. Robert Trimble’s story, however, isn’t just a story about war and geopolitics. It’s personal, and it reminds us freedom has come at a monumentally high cost that our grandparents’ generation paid for in blood.

It means a lot to get such a review from a military veteran who is the son and nephew of World War II veterans.

Mission of mercy


A tale of POWs and Cossacks, a hero flying by the seat of his pants, and an act of mercy that almost caused allies to go to war with each other . . .

Continuing our series “Beyond the Call 70,” marking the 70th anniversary of Captain Robert Trimble’s mission to rescue POWs in Soviet-occupied Poland, we return to the day 70 years ago today when a storm was brewing between United States Army Air Forces Eastern Command and the Soviet authorities.

The cause of the storm was Captain Robert M. Trimble. That day, March 17, 1945, he had just flown in to Poltava air base at the controls of a patched-up B-17 bomber with a group of starving and desperate American and British ex-POWs whom he’d smuggled out of Poland disguised as airmen.

From Robert’s point of view, this had been an act of natural mercy, but to the Soviet authorities – if they ever found out about it – it would be seen as an act of defiance, possibly espionage, and a political betrayal. It could even be the cause of a diplomatic incident . . .

Content © Jeremy Dronfield and Lee Trimble 2017