In today’s fast-paced world, not necessarily intentionally, we tend to dismiss those of an older generation. When I was in the military, I often found myself being given advice by those who came before me. Sometimes, it was something useful. I would use these gems in future situations. Some of the best stories I ever heard were the guys who went to Desert Storm.
Much of what they did was unheralded and often it was an important contribution to the overall mission. In my fascination with history and finding those rarely told stories, I’ve found hundreds of them. Many brave men and women did missions that didn’t give them medals and deserved photo ops. Those endeavors threaded that invisible needle to ensure the proper outcome. One of those stories where these men and women, most of them deceased, finally got their recognition, was the WWII veterans of native Filipino descent who fought for America. One of those being my grandfather. In Garth Ennis, PJ Holden, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Rob Steen’s brilliant The Stringbags, we find out about another ragtag crew whose exploits may have saved the world.
We are taken to 1940, where crews of young men in the British Royal Navy were flying what is then considered an artifact, the Fairey Swordfish, also known as Stringbag, because of its simplistic structure. As we meet the crew of one these flying wonders, Archie, Ollie, and Pops, whose banter and camaraderie make an easy lane for cohesion and the long missions just a bit shorter. They are soon tasked with Operation Judgment, as Britain is hanging on to the forwarding operating bases by skin of their teeth, and the lone nation at the time fighting against Nazi Germany and looking to keep the ground at Malta, as this particular crew volunteers to scout, a mission that could mean their ultimate fate. At They soon find they could are outnumbered but if can take out one of their vessels, they can tilt the odds in their favor, as they soon catch heavy fire from one of the Italian Battleships, which they responded with a torpedo, taking out the Taranto, and soon the rest of the Stringbag squadron would take out the remaining fleet of the Regia Marina. As glory did not last long, eventually the German Blitz hit London and all of England was under attack from the “axis of evil”, as the UK sought some type of victory, as the expansion of Nazi Germany into England seemed almost imminent. Soon, the German Navy became a powerful force at sea, as we find Archie, Ollie, and Pops, flying U Boat patrols, but are soon tasked with a covert mission to escort the Ark Royal, one of the best aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy. As the crew lands on the Ark Royal, they soon find out that the HMS Hood, one their battleships had been blasted in half by the German Battlecruiser, the Bismarck. Soon our heroes take on two missions to destroy the battleship, one which was unsuccessful but the other, landing a crucial blow, which our protagonists’ plane did not survive but they did, and would lead the way for the rest of the squadron to ensure it was the Bismarck’s final voyage. Soon Germany would need to shore up its more vulnerable territories, which lead Hitler to recall three of their Battle cruisers, going the fastest route, through the English Channel. Of course, the Royal Navy guessed this would happen, and in February 1942, would deploy Operation Fuller, but rattled by the success of the Japanese fleet, they would need the fearlessness of the Stringbag squadron. By the book’s end, this would be the last mission of this crew, as they would not survive this mission, which was a complete failure, leaving only five survivors.
Overall, a book that is very much a throwback to the war movies of yesteryear, which gives these unsung heroes their proper day in the sun. The story by Ennis is funny, relatable, action-packed, and well developed. The art by the creative team is simply breathtaking. Altogether, a story that will make you want to go watch movies like Midway, to remember the heroism of those who fought despite the odds.
Story: Garth Ennis Art: PJ Holden, Kelly Fitzpatrick, and Rob Steen
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy