After completing a tour of duty (thirty-five missions) in B-17s, Bert Stiles transferred to a fighter squadron. Just four months later he was killed in action on an escort mission to Hanover, Germany, on November 26, 1944. Stiles' book was written in the period between his two tours. Serenade to the Big Bird portrays the tragedy of war, and specifically the loss to the world of a fine, sensitive, talented writer who had only a short time to prove his merit. He died at twenty-three.