My hesitation wasn't due to diffidence about the book, which has to rank with Serenade to the Big Bird by Bert Stiles as perhaps the most literary and introspective writing by a serving Allied aviator in WWII. Instead, I was convinced the book would be so hard to find -- it's been out of print for decades -- that listing it would be like citing an obscure heroic saga only available in the original language. What would be the point?
I myself had read The Pitcher and the Well only once before, borrowing it from a USAF Base Library in the early 1960s during my military kid boyhood. I was spellbound, but never saw the book in print again.
About a year or so ago idle curiosity and the Internet caused me to Google the title, find the book for sale from an out-of-print bookseller, and wait for it via snail mail. This time I read it from the perspective of a man too old for military service, rather than a kid too young to be drafted. It was as good four decades on as it was the first time.
The book's title comes from a medieval warning against pushing one's luck too far: "So oft goeth the pitcher to the well, that at last it commeth broken home." I think its obscurity has a lot to do with the fact that its author came from New Zealand rather than America, and did not survive his harrowing combat missions as an RAF Bomber Command navigator in Wellington and Lancaster bombers. There's not much potential for wide publicity when the author comes from a small country, is long dead, and remains anonymous to boot.
Perhaps this will change a bit now because the book has apparently entered the public domain and someone had the good sense to scan and archive the complete work online, so that it is now available as a free pdf download.
The young men of the Allied bomber fleets in the RAF and USAAF who flew against Nazi Germany in WWII suffered the highest casualty rates of any Allied military branches in the conflict. If you have the slightest interest in learning first hand how these men lived and died, The Pitcher and the Well is a must read for you.