by Jim Proebstle
World War II Conspiracy Inspires a New Novel
It has been more than 65 years since Japan’s surrender marked the end of World War II. But there are still many secrets yet to be revealed, including what brought down the military transport plane being flown by a young pilot from Minnesota.
In Fatal Incident (Emerald Book Co., $23.95, May 2011), a new historical fiction novel by Jim Proebstle, a scenario for the real-life crash of an Army Air Transport Command (ATC) aircraft is revealed. To this day, the cause of the 1944 crash in Alaska’s Mount McKinley Range remains a mystery. No bodies were recovered and none of the 20 people onboard the ill-fated flight were ever heard from again. The novel explores the possibility that a conspiracy involving espionage was to blame for the crash.
The story begins in Depression-era Minnesota with young Nick Morgan and his soon-to-be bride, Martha, soaring high above the clouds over Mankato, Minn., in a plane piloted by Nick. They are excited by where life will take them.
Once married and with the war on, Nick leaves Martha, now pregnant, behind in 1943 to become a pilot for the Army’s ATC in Alaska. While he’s away, the evident stress on their marriage reveals itself through their personal communications in postcards, letters and the few furlough trips home.
The extensive military presence in Alaska serves as a strategic defense position against Japan, as well as the perfect Lend-Lease exchange location for U.S. built P-38’s with Soviet pilots in support of Russia’s war with Germany. This opens the door for espionage through a complex network of Russian listening posts.
Alaska’s uncharted landscape also occupies the attention of high-level Manhattan Project scientists in New Mexico as a possible alternative site for testing the atomic bomb. Nick and his co-pilot, Red Johnson, are tapped for classified flying duty for the brass from Los Alamos as they secretly explore test site options in the remote Yukon Flats area.
All the while, Vladimir Dubisskiy, an entrenched NKVD agent coordinating Lend-Lease aircraft movement in Alaska, is spearheading a plot to steal the United States’ top secret atomic bomb design documents and test site development plans for Alaska. The Soviet hijack scheme fails with the crash of Nick’s plane on March 17, 1944.
When search crews finally reach the crash site in about the most inhospitable place in Alaska – an 11,000 foot uncharted section of the McKinley Range – several bodies are found, but many are also missing, along with the classified Manhattan Project documents.
“Fatal Incident challenges us with the possibility that we have never been presented with a complete set of facts surrounding this crash and disappearance of all onboard,” said Proebstle.
In his review of the book, New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger of the Cork O’Connor series said, “Jim Proebstle has written a unique and compelling story, a true event cloaked in the fabric of fiction. Though much of Fatal Incident is speculative, every consideration is grounded in rock-solid fact. This narrative works on so many levels that it doesn’t matter whether or not you accept Proebstle’s conclusions concerning the mystery at the heart of the story. Either way, you’ll enjoy a hell of a good read.”
“Brimming with intrigue, espionage, and romance, Fatal Incident is a captivating story of determination and grit set against the backdrop of WWII. Jim Proebstle does a formidable job developing his characters while constructing a chillingly believable story peppered with brilliantly unexpected twists and turns,” said award-winning mystery writer Marilyn Jax, author of The Find and Road to Omalos.
“Fatal Incident is a heart-pounding tale of espionage, suspense, love, geopolitics and heroism capturing a Soviet Union attempt to steal United States secrets of the atomic bomb. I recommend this book to everyone interested in World War II mysteries,” said Bob Bao, author and editor of the MSU Alumni Magazine
Jim Proebstle is new on the scene as an author. His first novel, In the Absence of Honor, was released in August 2008, and has received positive reviews and industry awards.
He and his wife, Carole, call northern Minnesota home for the summer months. Deer Park, IL is their permanent residence, close to their two children and five grandchildren.
Proebstle received his B.A. and M.B.A. from Michigan State University and remains a loyal Spartan. His corporate career in sales and management prepared him to form Prodyne, Inc. – a management consulting firm in which he is still active.