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Fate, unexpected allies, betrayal,

two gold coins, and a prayer changed

the life of a young airman.

James H. Keeffe Jr., a World War II and Korean War veteran, went on his first airplane ride at the age of 10 and thus was born his life-long love of flying. Two Gold Coins and a Prayer: The Epic Journey of a World War II Bomber Pilot and POW tells the riveting story of a young airman's journey from the day of his enlistment, through his training, into battle, and beyond. His story is told with fascinating detail that allows the reader to experience all that he encounters as he bails out of his stricken bomber, is hidden in plain sight of the enemy, is eventually betrayed, taken prisoner, and sent into the German POW system.

In August, 1942, in the midst of World War II, Jim Keeffe joined the U.S. Army Air Forces and arrived at Aviation Cadet Training. On Thanksgiving Day, 1943, after months of rigorous training, he arrived in England with his crew to begin flying B-24 bombing missions. Then, on the 8th of March 1944, Keeffe's airplane is shot down over Holland, catapulting him into a world squeezed colorless by the ever-tightening Nazi fist of occupation.

Moving from safe house to safe house in the Dutch Underground, Lt. Keeffe is able to evade the enemy for five months. Then one day, he is betrayed and sent to Stalag Luft III, a German POW camp near Sagan, Germany. There he spends months in captivity and endures the rigors of a forced march to another prison camp. Keeffe takes us into the difficult life in the POW camps, which we see in unfaltering detail. When he and his fellow POWs are finally liberated in late April of 1945, we experience their joy firsthand!


He stood up in the cockpit on the pilot’s seat and pulled his rip cord. Out came his parachute, which blossomed out behind him and opened in the flames. The shock of the parachute opening was enough to yank him right out of his fighter. Instantly, the German fighter pilot went right back through the burning parachute canopy, like through a hoop of fire. (pg. 77)

* * *

About fifteen minutes after the hour the telephone rang. Anton jumped to answer it and listened for a few seconds. He immediately turned toward me and exclaimed in alarm, “Jimmy, go to your safe house. Go quickly! Marijke has been picked up!”...Later that same day, members of the Resistance located Albert Broekhuizen before he went home and told him the horrible news about his wife [and Marijke]...It wasn’t until after the war that anyone found out what happened to Mrs. Broekhuizen and Marijke. Marijke, whose real name was Hendrika Maria van der Jagt, was sent to a slave labor camp in Gross-Rosen, Poland, where she almost died...Cornelia Broekhuizen, sadly, was taken to Ravensbruck, a notorious concentration camp for women in northern Germany. She died there the 20th of February 1945. Albert Broekhuizen was hidden by the Underground and survived the war. When he made his way back to his home on Oostzeedijk, he found that it had been turned into a whore house. (pg. 155)

* * *

These girls were spitting on us and shouting at us. Some of them were swinging their lunch pails, trying to hit us with them. They were screaming at the guards in German, calling us Terrorfliegers (terror fliers)…Each of the guards took hold of both ends of his schmeisser and used it broadside to push the girls away from us. The girls finally wound up shrieking as loud as they could, some shaking their fists, and others frantically trying to reach through the guards at us, “Geben Sie uns ein! Nur eins! Nur eins! (Give us one! Just one! Just one!)” (pg. 195)

* * *

The tears kept rolling down his cheeks and his trembling jaw was clenched tight.

“Those bastards, those dirty bastards,” he finally hissed.

“What are you talking about Davy?”

“Those dirty bastards,” he growled. “Look what they did to me.”

“What do you mean, Davy, ‘what they did to me’?”

“Look what they did to my face. Look at my face, those dirty bastards.”

Davy was really shaking now.

“Davy, what are you talking about?”

“The Gestapo, the Gestapo did this to me!”

“Davy, no,” I told him. “You were a P-47 pilot, and you crash landed and got all banged up.”

“That’s a damn lie! I’m a B-17 copilot!”

Then the dam broke, and it all came out. (pg. 250)

Copyright © 2010 - 2015 by James H. Keeffe, III

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