Author Interviews

Silver Wings, Iron Cross

From air combat veteran Tom Young comes the explosive saga of two enemy combatants—an American pilot and German U-boat officer —united by fate in an epic fight for survival . . .
World War II Lieutenant Karl Hagan earned his wings the hard way. But when his plane is shot down behind enemy lines, he’s forced to make the hardest decision of his life: trusting the enemy.
Oberleutnant Wilhelm Albrecht wore his Iron Cross with pride. But when his U-boat is attacked in a devastating air raid, he abandons ship and finds an unlikely ally: the pilot who bombed him.
From the smoke-filled skies over Europe to the fire-blasted waters of a Nazi naval base to the battle-scarred German countryside, the American and the German must form an uneasy truce if they hope to survive. It is November of 1944. The tides of war have turned. Allies have taken back France, and German troops have retreated. But for Karl and Wilhelm, the war is far from over. Each must be prepared to lie for the other, fight for the other, or die with the other. But their short-lived alliance won’t truly be put to the test until they reach the end of the line—inside a POW camp . . .
Thrillingly tense, blisteringly authentic, and emotionally powerful, Silver Wings, Iron Cross is an unforgettable novel of World War II that’s sure to become a classic in the field.

Tell me a little about your book 

Silver Wings, Iron Cross is a historical novel set in World War II. The action begins late in the war, in November of 1944. The book features two main characters: a U.S. bomber pilot from a German-American family, and a German U-boat officer who has become disillusioned about the war and Nazi leadership. Fate forces these two enemies to form an uneasy alliance—and eventually a friendship—when they try to survive together as the Third Reich collapses around them.

What is the backstory behind “Silver wings, Iron Cross”?

As I began envisioning Silver Wings, Iron Cross, two long-term interests merged. I grew up hearing my grandfather’s stories from World War II. He served in the legendary Eighth Air Force as a mechanic on the B-17 Flying Fortress. He was a huge influence in my life, and his stories fired an interest in military aviation that eventually led me into the service.

Also, in college, I became an avid scuba diver, and I dived on several WWII shipwrecks off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Most were freighters and tankers torpedoed by U-boats. Every good novel needs a twist: what if two enemies from these vastly different corners of the war were forced to survive together?

Is there one short story from your book you would like to share?

(I’ll share a story about an experience that helped inspire the novel. I wrote the following piece about diving on the wreck of a German U-boat during my college days. That experience fired my interest in the Battle of the Atlantic, which figures in Silver Wings, Iron Cross.)

Twenty-six miles off Morehead City, NC, the dive boat pitched and rolled. I fought seasickness as I pulled on my scuba gear. Everything gets harder when you’re trying not to lose your lunch; even strapping on fins becomes a struggle. I screwed the regulator onto my air tank. Cracked open the valve and watched the pressure gauge spring to 3000 PSI. Finally, with mask, fins, weight belt, and everything else in place, I rolled over the side and splashed into the swells.

The seasickness went away as soon as I hit the water. I followed my buddy and the other divers down the anchor line. The water grew darker and the light dimmer as we descended. My eyes adjusted to the depth. Every few feet, I swallowed so that my ears would pop and adjust to the depth, as well.

She materialized as if a film director had ordered a dissolve to a new scene. On the bottom, at a depth of 110 feet, lay the U-352, a German submarine sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Icarus on May 9, 1942. Of her 48 crew members, 15 perished. The survivors spent the rest of the war as prisoners.

I explored the U-boat for every minute the time-depth tables allowed. Amid amberjack hovering around her conning tower, I tried to imagine the battle that sent her to the ocean floor. The hiss of air flowing through my regulator and into my lungs reminded me of my own frailty. If the regulator failed, my chest would start to burn for air in a place where none existed. It became very easy to imagine the terror a sailor might feel if trapped in that steel hull as it filled with water. 

Suddenly the past was no longer a faraway country. It was something real, right there in front of me, and I wanted to know more. Decades after that dive, my interest in the WWII Battle of the Atlantic found expression in my novel Silver Wings, Iron Cross

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

Neither, actually. For me, plot and characters form at the same time. When I first started writing, like many beginners, I’d begin a project by thinking, “I want to write an aviation novel.” Or “I want to write a novel about Afghanistan.” Or “I want to write a novel about growing up on a farm.” But all that stuff is just background and setting. You have to get those things right, of course, but that’s not where you start. You begin by understanding that all fiction is about CONFLICT. So, you start by asking yourself, “What in my character’s world has gone wrong?” Or, “What inciting event has upset my character’s life?” Or maybe, “What would my character like to PREVENT?”

What books would you recommend for a Junior Officer ready to go to his or her first operational command?

I’d recommend The Meditations by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. The book is essentially a set of notes to himself on leadership and philosophy. As one historian put it, the reign of Marcus Aurelius was a rare moment when one of the most powerful men in the world was also one of the wisest.

Why is reading important for our Military and/or the Nation?

Reading is essential for military members at all levels. The Greek historian and general Thucydides put it best. He said: “The society that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by fools.”

What are your favorite books to give — and get — as gifts?

I like to give people books they would enjoy but may not have known about. For example, I’m an airline pilot, so I know a lot of pilots. I like to give them, or at least recommend to them, books such as Stranger to the Ground, by Richard Bach. Many people know about Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but they don’t know about his other books. Also, being a history buff, I have a lot of history-minded friends. History buffs tend to be well-read, but I find that a lot of people don’t know about The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. Not only was Grant a great general; he was a heck of a writer. He was funny, too. From time to time, his sense of humor comes out in his memoirs.

What else do you want your readers to know?

I love the outdoors; I like to hike, hunt, and fish. My wife and I also like to take our boat out on the Potomac River and watch the eagles and ospreys. For me, the best way to unwind is to connect with nature.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I think I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I could read. Strangely enough, I can’t remember NOT wanting to write. It’s like an addiction, but a beneficial one.

Purchase Silver Wings, Iron Cross Here

Tom Young served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Air National Guard. He has also flown combat missions to Bosnia and Kosovo, and additional missions to Latin America, the horn of Africa, and the Far East. In all, Young logged nearly 5,000 hours as a flight engineer on the C-5 Galaxy and the C-130 Hercules, while flying to almost forty countries.

Young’s military honors include the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. Young retired from the Air Guard in 2013 after more than twenty years of service. In civilian life, he spent ten years as a writer and editor with the broadcast division of the Associated Press. Currently, he works as an airline pilot based at Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C. Young holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Young’s well-received military adventure novels include Silver Wings, Iron Cross; The Mullah’s Storm; Silent Enemy; The Renegades; The Warriors; and Sand and Fire. Learn more at

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