Four Who Dared

Inspiring Stories of Canadian Airmen in the Second World War

Reviewed by Dave Baxter

Posted November 19, 2020

A double review with

The four men profiled in Kenneth B. Cothliff ’s book Four Who Dared are far from household names. Their stories, however, are reminders of the shared experiences of the more than one million Canadians who fought during the Second World War.

Cothliff, an author and aviation enthusiast, delves into the lives of Reg Lane, Jim Moffat, Steve Puskas, and Bill Gracie. The Canadian airmen didn’t know each other, but their lives are connected through their wartime experiences — each of them flew with the RCAF in Bomber Command.

The book is split into four parts, with each section exploring the life of one combatant — including his background and the path that led him to war. Cothliff also looks at the training programs that prepared these men for conflict.

Detailed descriptions, in many cases drawn from the airmen’s own diaries or writings, paint a picture of the dangers and the fear that came with combat. Of the four profiled airmen, only three returned home after the war. Bill Gracie was killed in battle.

In Joey Jacobson’s War, Peter J. Usher uses diary and notebook entries, as well as letters sent to friends and family members, to tell the story of young Jewish-Canadian airman Joey Jacobson. He was sent to serve in Britain’s Royal Air Force as it began a bombing campaign against Germany during the same war.

Usher’s book often reads like a first-person account, and it shows how family relationships endured during challenging times. However, like Gracie’s story, Jacobson’s ends with his death in combat.

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This article originally appeared in the December 2020-January 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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