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Pilot's biography well received

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Paul Sailer, author of biography "The Oranges Are Sweet," points to Major Don Beerbower's hometown of Hill City, Minn. on a map.1 / 3
Sailer's book"Oranges Are Sweet" won 2012 Writer of the Year Award from the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.2 / 3
Photo provided Don Beerbower, left, receives the Silver Star in France in July 1944 from Lieutenant General Lewis Brereton.3 / 3

Wadena resident Paul Sailer's biography of World War II pilot Major Don Beerbower is taking off.

"The Oranges Are Sweet" won the 2012 Writer of the Year Award from the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame on April 28.

"I found it a very moving experience," Sailer said. "It was an award given by those involved in aviation, and for me being a former Army helicopter pilot, it was very gratifying to know that this book was well received by them."

Sailer has had several book signings, among the latest being at Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisc. and the University of Minnesota - Duluth.

Past signings included Willmar, Alexandria, Fergus Falls, Detroit Lakes, Park Rapids, Wadena, Perham and Aitkin.

In the last six weeks of 2011, "The Oranges Are Sweet" was the top-selling title at Bookworld in Baxter.

On June 2, Sailer will be one of the authors and speakers at the second annual Affaire de Arts in Wadena.

Laura Spilman at the Wadena City Library said Sailer will start off the day by speaking at 11 a.m.

She added that Sailer's book is available in the Kitchigami Regional Library system.

Wadena County Historical Society is selling copies of the book as well.

Director Rose Bakke said the title has been there since it was published in November, and has been well received.

Sailer began researching for the book in 1998, started the actual writing in 2007 and finished spring 2011.

He published the biography in November 2011 through Loden Books, a company he and his wife founded with the desire to write the book the way he wanted. Printing was done at Bang Printing in Brainerd.

The book chronicles the life of Beerbower, a major American ace during World War II. It also focuses on the home front with his wife in Hill City, Minn.

"World War II was a total war. It included all segments of society, unlike the current war that we're involved in that only includes those who volunteer to go into the military," Sailer said.

The book's title is a reference to a code used by fighter pilots in Beerbower's squadron.

"I just thought it was important that their deeds and their sacrifice be remembered," Sailer said.

Beerbower lived in Wadena briefly as a toddler when his father worked as a butter maker at Farmers Equity Creamery during the early 1920s.

"The book has historical significance for those interested in aviation history," Sailer said. "It has a number of interviews with pilots that flew with Major Beerbower, it includes his diary, letters and other reports."

He added that there were original photographs in the book.

Sailer also consulted the Minnesota Historical Society, Wadena County Historical Society and other museums and research agencies. Additionally, he has a personal connection to his subject: Sailer's father went to the same school as Beerbower and knew about the pilot since he was a child.

Along with primary sources, Sailer, who served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971, drew from his own life experiences in aviation and the military when writing the book.

"This is a book about young people. Those involved in World War II were only a couple of years older than those graduating from high school this spring," Sailer said. "I think the example of the young people in the 1940s is a good example for the young people of today because they also face international problems, such as the war on terror."