Personal experience inspired David Westheimer to write Von Ryan's Express. The Houston-born writer had served with distinction in World War II as a B-24 navigator (Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal) and had been a prisoner of war in both Italy and Germany. His fictional recreation of the tension, fear, and absurdities of the situation bring suspense and sharp humor to this story of unlikely heroism.
Westheimer is the author of twelve novels, the first of which–Summer on the Water–was published in 1948. A graduate of Rice University, he worked for the Houston Post before turning his attention to writing full-time. His novels include Watching Out for Dulie, The Magic Fallacy and in 1970 a sequel to Von Ryan's Express called Von Ryan's Return. Westheimer's 1965 novel My Sweet Charlie became a play and, in 1968, an acclaimed television film. Westheimer continued to serve in the Air Force Reserve, holding the rank of lieutenant colonel when Von Ryan's Express was published–and he returned to the Houston Post briefly to write a column after the book was finished.