Award-winning author of World War II aviation history books to speak at Detroit Lakes library on Nov. 9
Wadena-area resident Paul Sailer, who has written two books about World War II aviation history, will be at the Detroit Lakes Public Library on Wednesday, Nov. 9 for a 10:30 a.m. presentation about his books, his own experiences as a Vietnam War helicopter pilot, and how those experiences inform his writing. This presentation in honor of Veteran's Day is free and open to the public.
DETROIT LAKES — Though he currently lives on a tree farm in rural Wadena with his wife, Dianna, author Paul Sailer is a native of the Frazee-Perham area.
He grew up listening to his father's stories about his friend, Don Beerbower, a famous World War II airplane pilot who was killed in action when he was just 22 years old. His father was himself a veteran, having served as a chemical warfare officer with the Air Force.
"I'd had an interest in him (Beerbower) since I was a boy," said Sailer in a recent interview. "Because of that, I wanted to be a military pilot."
He achieved that goal. "I flew helicopters for the 20th Engineer Brigade in Vietnam,” Sailer said, “flying over 900 hours of combat support missions.”
In 1998, Sailer met Beerbower's widow, who told him about her husband’s bravery during the war, and his record-setting number of aerial victories. Realizing that he wanted Beerbower to be remembered as the war hero that he was, Sailer set out to write his story.
After years of research and interviews with Beerbower's former colleagues, Sailer published his biography, titled “The Oranges Are Sweet.” That book went on to win him the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame's Writer of the Year award.
But he wasn't far into the research for writing that first book when he realized he wanted to write another, about the exploits of other memorable World War II figures like Wah Kau Kong, Beerbower’s well-liked wingman, who died protecting a straggling bomber aircraft as it tried to return to England from Germany — sacrificing himself to save the 10 crew members inside the bomber. Or Beerbower’s college friend and fellow Army Air Forces cadet, Glenn McKean, who was tragically killed in a crash during pilot training. Or Maria Koehler, who spent her teenage years living in Nazi Germany before marrying a Minnesota man and relocating to rural New York Mills, where she still resides.
In all, 10 of these previously-unknown stories were included in Sailer's second World War II book, "I Had a Comrade: Stories About the Bravery, Comradeship, and Commitment of Individual Participants in the Second World War,” which was published in 2016.
Sailer will be discussing both of these books, along with his own experiences as a Vietnam helicopter pilot, during a Wednesday, Nov. 9 presentation at the Detriot Lakes Public Library. The 10:30 a.m. talk is free and open to the public.
"The experiences that veterans go through don't change a lot from one war to the next," Sailer said, adding that his own memories of flying over battlefields in Vietnam enabled him to write about Beerbower's exploits in an authentic, realistic way.
Though the Nov. 9 presentation is intended to be in honor of Veteran's Day, Sailer said the library will be closed on the actual date — Friday, Nov. 11 — as it is an official federal holiday. It will be his first time presenting there, he added.