Muirhead, John (G.) 1918-
Muirhead, John (G.) 1918-
PERSONAL: Born May 21, 1918, in Quincy, MA; son of Robert Bruce (an engineer) and Margaret (Little) Muirhead; married Jean L. Donaldson, December 16, 1944; children: Susan. Education: Bethlehem Steel Apprentice School, 1937-41; attended a university extension course, 1938-41. Religion: Unitarian.
ADDRESSES: Home—86 Cheryl Lane, Hanover, MA 02339.
CAREER: Bethlehem Steel/General Dynamics, Quincy, MA, supervisor of structural design in shipbuilding, 1945-73, special assignments in production engineering, 1973-83; retired, 1983. Writer. Military service: Army Air Force, 1942-45, served in Europe, became lieutenant; cited for Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with clusters, European Theatre of Operations (ETO) Campaign Ribbon, Ploesti Campaign Ribbon, unit citation.
Those Who Fall (nonfiction), Random House (New York, NY), 1987.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel and essays.
SIDELIGHTS: John Muirhead's 1987 memoir, Those Who Fall, is an evocation of the years he spent in the Army Air Force during World War II in Europe. Muir-head returned from that war to spend the next four decades as a maritime engineer in Massachusetts. Retired in 1983, he turned his hand to writing, recreating his experiences as a combat pilot who flew thirty-five missions, including bombing runs over the Ploesti oil fields and over Germany. Shot down in 1944. Muir-head spent the rest of the war in a Bulgarian prisoner of war camp, surviving two harsh winters and scarce rations.
Muirhead describes all this with "searing detail" in his "remarkable memoir," a critic for Publishers Weekly noted. The same reviewer found Muirhead's writing "restrained, somber, yet often lyrical." Further praise for Muirhead's debut book came from Paul Dean, a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times Book Review who compared Those Who Fall with other classic war books by Erich Maria Remarque, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, and Michael Herr. Dean found Muir-head's "perfect chronicle" to be "one flier's mounting struggle to find some glory, some honor to what he did during World War II." For Walter J. Boyne of the Washington Post Book World, Muirhead "writes with power of flying and fighting and of the bitter seasoning that terror gives to the crushing boredom of war." Boyne also felt that Muirhead's memoir is a "unique air-war book, free of [the] chin-up gallantry that characterizes so many of the type." Tom Ferrel, writing in the New York Times Book Review, also praised the memoir, noting that the "battle stuff has been keenly drawn, the terror and desperation, some of it quiet, are as real as can be." Ferrel went on to commend Muirhead for having the "courage to trust his memories."
Muirhead told CA: "A lifelong devotion to good books led me, after my retirement, to attempt an account of my war in 1944."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Muirhead, John, Those Who Fall, Random House (New York, NY), 1987.
Booklist, January 1, 1987, review of Those Who Fall, p. 6.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1986, review of Those Who Fall, p. 1709.
Library Journal, January, 1987, review of Those Who Fall, p. 84.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 26, 1987, Paul Dean, review of Those Who Fall, p. 1.
New York Times Book Review, February 15, 1987, Tom Ferrell, review of Those Who Fall, p. 30.
Washington Post Book World, March 1, 1987, Walter J. Boyne, review of Those Who Fall, p. 6.