Book Review

Project Zebra: Roosevelt and Stalin’s Top Secret Mission to Train 300 Soviet Airmen in America By M. G. Crisci

A unique World War II story, Project Zebra: Roosevelt and Stalin’s Top Secret Mission to Train 300 Soviet Airmen in America by M.G. Crisci, is the non-fiction account of a rather recently de-classified mission that was launched to help end World War II. The project was a collaboration of President Roosevelt and the Kremlin of Russia, Stalin. Russia knew Hitler would eventually engage in war with Russia because they did not support his efforts. They were not prepared to deal with the German army and it came sooner than they were able. In a historical moment, given Russia’s dislike of America and America’s dislike of Russia, the two decided to work together against a worse situation; Hitler’s Germany. The Russians saw the Catalina, a war plane able to land on water owned by the U.S. and saw this as potential to win the war. The book details how that plan went into effect, how Russian aviators were sent to America to learn to fly these planes, and how these planes did help Russia to effectively aid in winning the war against the Axis Powers.

This is such a unique account and the author has done a tremendous job with finding information and talking to those who have first or second hand accounts of what the project was really like. The book is beautifully written and details small pieces of information such as the Russian soldiers going to get ice cream or shopping in a meaningful way that was engaging to read. I enjoyed the way that the book started at the beginning of the project and told how it was brought into existence and that the author discussed the lives of the soldiers after the war as well. The personalities of the soldiers also came through very clearly so it was easy to picture them and develop an interest in their characters, which is often hard in a non-fiction war account. The writing is very professionally done as an excellent research source and well edited as well.
I would have loved to have seen more pictures or even some of the de-classified files on this project. There’s not much else to criticize with this book.

In a time when all eyes in our nation seem to be turned to Russia, this book is a very intriguing read. Even at the time of this book there was distrust of Russia, yet the account stands as witness that we are able to put aside our differences to work through things and that we may not be as different as we believe. Since this is a more recently de-classified project that is not well known, this is a very informative and well written account of how America and Russia were able to work together during World War II and succeed. Not overly technical in nature, yet very factual, readers should enjoy the pace of the story and find it easy to follow as well be able to use it as a resource material. To sum it up, the book is well written and serves as a groundbreaking resource for this particular account of history.

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