Chapters 1–4

Set during World War II, this novel tells the story of a pilot who attempts to find his way home after his plane is shot down.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. surly
    unfriendly and inclined toward anger or irritation
    In his mind, Henry heard the distant growl of his father: Do something, you idiot. The surly voice slapped him into action.
  2. strafe
    attack from above with machine guns or cannon fire
    A German Messerschmitt zoomed past to strafe the bomber’s cockpit one last time.
  3. lurch
    move abruptly
    With a choking gasp, Henry lurched up.
  4. mirth
    great merriment
    Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence.
  5. sanctity
    the quality of being holy
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
  6. beeline
    the most direct route
    The missions had been teeth-gritting beelines to targets, dogged all the way by men shooting at them.
  7. chide
    scold or reprimand severely or angrily
    “Get your fingers out of my pie, you sneak,” Lilly chided.
  8. mortified
    made to feel uncomfortable because of shame or wounded pride
    Henry was mortified to feel himself blush.
  9. nonchalant
    marked by casual unconcern or indifference
    He tried to seem nonchalant. “To tell the truth, Sarge, that picture kills me, because she looks so ladylike. What I love about Patsy is that she’s no sissy. She’s a real spitfire. We could use her fighting the Germans.”
  10. flak
    artillery designed to shoot upward at airplanes
    If thick clouds and enemy flak forced them to fly at 24,000 feet—four and a half miles up—the temperature inside the bomber’s open bays could be thirty below zero.
  11. sultry
    attractive and suggesting hidden passion
    Billy was peering into a tiny mirror hung next to a sultry photograph of movie star Rita Hayworth.
  12. glut
    supply with an excess of
    Out there, the ground crews were loading bombs and fueling the aircraft. If it wasn’t mechanically perfect, a B-24 loaded with 2,000 pounds of bombs and glutted with gasoline was a flying deathtrap.
  13. sacrosanct
    treated as if holy and kept free from violation or criticism
    The ground crew and their work were sacrosanct for everyone.
  14. slog
    walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
    “Hey, didya hear Lord Ha Ha last night?” asked Henry’s navigator, Fred Bennett, as they slogged across the mud-washed base.
  15. unnerve
    disturb the composure of
    Broadcasting in English almost every night, Lord Ha Ha was a Nazi trying to unnerve the British and American fliers.
  16. fleeting
    lasting for a markedly brief time
    And he was startled and mad with himself that for a few fleeting seconds Billy’s crude comment had sent Henry imagining Patsy in a vivid, not particularly respectful way.
  17. volatile
    liable to lead to sudden change or violence
    That was the kind of threat his Dad would have made. Henry had always promised himself that he’d never be like his volatile father.
  18. bolster
    support and strengthen
    “I mean it. You’re the steadiest copilot I’ve ever seen.”
    Henry nodded, bolstered.
  19. beau
    a man with whom one has a romantic relationship
    Half the base was sweet on her, especially Paul. But she had a beau in the 303rd, flying B-17s.
  20. flourish
    a showy gesture
    The S-2 pulled back the curtain with a flourish.
  21. bearing
    a rotating support placed between moving parts
    “Your target is a ball-bearing plant. Without ball bearings, Messerschmitts can’t fly, Rommel’s tanks can’t roll.”
  22. turret
    a self-contained weapons platform housing guns
    He squeezed through the compartment where the engineer operated the turret guns.
  23. hydraulic
    moved or operated or effected by liquid
    Following Dan, Henry continued down the list, checking the brakes, and the electrical and hydraulic systems. They tested flaps, throttles, gears, deicers, and generators.
  24. throttle
    a valve that regulates the supply of fuel to the engine
    They tested flaps, throttles, gears, deicers, and generators.
  25. convulse
    shake uncontrollably
    Overloaded with 500-pound bombs and almost 3,000 gallons of fuel, Out of the Blue shuddered and convulsed as she roared along the airstrip.
  26. gauge
    measure precisely and against a standard
    Flak came in bursts of four. Each explosion sounded like a huge door slamming. The first shot generally gauged the bombers’ altitude for the gunners down below; the second shot measured air speed. The third and fourth usually hit dead on or close to it.
  27. barrage
    the heavy fire of artillery to saturate an area
    This barrage would only last a few miles. The real flak would hit when they were over the target.
  28. relentless
    not to be placated or appeased or moved by entreaty
    They were Air Marshal Hermann Goering’s most elite Luftwaffe squadron. They were absolutely the worst fighters to encounter—precise and relentless.
  29. reverberate
    ring or echo with sound
    Out of the Blue reverberated with Jim’s frantic shooting. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat.
  30. evasive
    avoiding or escaping from difficulty or danger
    The bomb group took evasive action. It swung itself in the opposite direction from the fighters’ roll, hoping the maneuver would throw them off target momentarily.
  31. drab
    a dull greyish to yellowish or light olive brown
    Finally, Henry could make out the colors of olive drab and yellow.
  32. hobble
    hamper the action or progress of
    Several planes near them were hit severely enough to drastically slow their engines or hobble their navigation.
  33. intern
    deprive of freedom
    Switzerland was neutral. The Swiss interned Allied and German crews alike who landed there.
  34. debriefing
    a meeting in which someone reports on a mission or task
    “Remember to report that at debriefing,” said Dan.
  35. centrifugal
    tending to move away from the middle
    Henry knew it was only a matter of a minute, seconds maybe, before her nose would go down. Then she'd start spinning, generating a centrifugal force that would lock all of them inside until she exploded.
  36. billow
    become inflated
    Henry pulled the cord. His chute billowed open and jerked him up into a float. He was cocooned in a cloud.
  37. spire
    a tall tower that forms the superstructure of a building
    If he were over a town, or a river, or a forest, he’d be in trouble. His parachute could drag him under water and drown him; trees and church spires could lynch him.
  38. plume
    anything that resembles a feather in shape or lightness
    Dan’s parachute turned inside out, blown by the backwash of the Messerschmitt. Instantly, Dan plunged toward earth, a worthless plume of white canvas streaming above him.
  39. futility
    uselessness as a consequence of having no practical result
    Blinded by anger and grief, Henry didn’t think about the futility of trying to shoot down a plane moving at such speed with a handgun.
  40. bramble
    any of various rough thorny shrubs or vines
    He staggered to a bramble, stuffed the chute into its roots, and covered it with muddy snow.
Created on February 18, 2020 (updated February 20, 2020)

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